National Sea Monkey Day: The Surprising History of the Tiny Brine Shrimp

Every year in mid-May, a little-known holiday rolls around for a very specific set of pet owners. National Sea Monkey Day is—unofficially—May 16, in celebration of the tiny aquatic creatures that have only been around for a little over 60 years.

Sea monkeys, originally called “Instant Life,” were invented in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut. Von Braunhut was also the creator of other popular toys marketed specifically to children through comic books, according to the Los Angeles Times. Money von Braunhut made from his Sea Monkey invention and other creations partially went to the white supremacist group the Aryan Nations, The Washington Post reported years into his inventing career.

The little creatures have tails that resemble that of a monkey’s—hence the name, according to Live Science. They’re translucent and slight three eyed creatures that breathe through their feet, an exciting pet for kids.

Sea monkeys are actually simple brine shrimp. The shrimp lay dormant eggs that can go without water and when they are added to water, they come alive. A patent for the brine shrimp says that once the eggs are rehydrated and come out of the cysts that contain them, they are exposed to nutrition and grow larger until they’re visible.

A documentary on the sea monkeys, produced by CNN, details that sea monkeys are similar to a magic trick. Though the directions for the sea monkeys specify that water needed to sit with the purifier solution for 24 hours before the eggs could be added, the eggs actually are in the same mix with the water purifier. The catch is that monkeys are just too small for the first 24 hours for anyone to see. The second packet, however, contained blue dye to help make the monkeys more visible.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment on Sea Monkeys.

brine shrimp Sea Monkeys a popular children's pet is actually brine shrimp. United States Geological Survey

Join the Discussion