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Artemia (Brine Shrimp)Profile: Melissa Taylor Photography: seamonkeymania.com (Used with permission.)
Size and Appearance: Brine shrimp are almost invisible when first hatched, but can be seen by children and adults with good eyes or a magnifying glass. One of the most amazing things about them is that they come in egg form and usually hatch within minutes to a day of becoming wet. They sort of look like incredibly tiny feathers with eyes. Don't confuse these with larger aquarium shrimp--they swim, not walk, and do not look similar.
General Requirements: You can purchase a name-brand kit in many craft and toy stores. Some of these have themes that make them especially fun for children. However, it's also possible to find nondescript brine shrimp hatchery kits in pet stores. Don't look in the live pet section . . . but instead down the aisle for fish food (eek!). Either way, they are inexpensive to keep as pets, with basic kits costing around $10 and usually coming with all that's needed except water. Make sure any kit you purchase comes with food--hatcheries made for breeding them for fish food may not. The upkeep is minimal.
Lifespan: Artemia may reproduce and their environment can live/regenerate for a year or more; both of my batches lived several months.
Responsiveness to Caretaker: The responsiveness of the owner is usually what varies the most. Some owners name their individual shrimp, but others view the entire habitat as a "pet."
Quantity: Artemia live happily in groups, and the eggs are sold together in packets, so there's no reason not to have a bunch. They will also reproduce, so there will be many different sizes in a typical brine shrimp community.
Notes of Interest:
Links: For being such a small pet, brine shrimp have a huge fan base! Try Captain's Universe: Artemia Salina (www.captain.at/artemia/) for information on the non-name-brand shrimp, or Sea Monkey Mania (www.seamonkeymania.com) for information on the name-brand brine shrimp. There is a slight difference between the two; the name-brand ones are a hybrid. Name brand products can be seen at and obtained from: Discover This (www.discoverthis.com/seamonkeys.html).
Hermit CrabsProfile: Jenn Borgesen Photography: Vanessa Pike-Russell
Size and Appearance: Hermies range in size from dime to football depending on age. A number of different species are currently available, but the most commonly sold hermit crab is Coenobita clypeatus--the Caribbean crab. For more information on species and variations go to: www.crabstreetjournal.com/modules.php?name=Species
General Requirements: Adequate housing care is neither expensive nor time consuming, but quite specific. A preliminary set up can be purchased new through many chain pets stores for less than $45, though many of the required items can be found in a basement or at local garage sales! A typical set up would include a five gallon glass aquarium, glass lid, substrate (gravel/sand), food, water dishes, and sponges. Additional supplies include under the tank heater, lighting, cuttlebone, water treatments and climbing and "play" materials, such as cholla wood or cork bark. Another popular addition to the tank is a variety of shells, as hermies need to change their "clothes" in order to grow.
Lifespan: With proper care and environmental control the hermit crab lifespan can exceed five or more years in captivity. In the wild, hermit crabs have a lifespan of 30+ years.
Responsiveness to Caretaker: While they are nocturnal (night time) creatures, hermit crabs quickly adapt to human interaction. Hand feeding, bath time, and tank remodeling all help increase the level of activity in the hermie tank. Larger hermit crabs can be put in a hamster ball and have been known to follow owners, or another household pet around the house! We had a ping pong sized Ecuadoran crab named Mika who would follow our golden retriever around the house in his crab ball and settle in next to Mulligan for warmth!
Quantity: Hermit crabs are definitely social creatures who prefer to live in large crab-munities of up to 50 hermies. I recommend no less than two, but be forewarned, hermit crabs can become an addiction. Owners are know to add to their crabbytat regularly.
Notes of Interest:
Links: More information and great hermit crab fun can be found at the following websites: CrabStreet Journal: Caresheets (www.crabstreetjournal.com/modules.php?name=Caresheets), Land Hermit Crab Owners Society (groups.yahoo.com/group/hermies/), Epicurean Hermit (www.epicureanhermit.com), and Study Hermit Crabs (users.tpg.com.au/users/vanessap/hermit/lessons/).
* Only your allergist can determine what is truly allergen-free for you and/or your child. The animals in the above profiles are fur- and feather-free, but that doesn't mean they will necessarily be allergen-free for all individuals. This website and participants in this article are not responsible for reactions that take place as a result of owning any pet.
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