Last summer we ran a story announcing Ocean Nutrition’s European pricing for their newly introduced Sep-Art line of Artemia (Brine Shrimp) cysts and supporting products. What we didn’t tell you then was that we were working on testing out this product, and seeing if it lives up to the magical hype and claims. We’re officially begging Ocean Nutrition North America to bring this to market! Here’s why:
Hatching brine shrimp, and separating the baby shrimp from the shells and unhatched eggs, has always been somewhat of an easy, yet annoying task. The problem is that the cysts and shells are undigestible, which means if baby fish ingest them, numerous problems could develop. To date, the most convenient solution was to decapsulate the eggs – basically a process of chemically burning off the outer shell, leaving the embryo intact for rehydration and “hatching” while eliminating shells from the equation. DIY decapsulation can be tricky to learn, and commercially available decasuplated eggs (that can be hatched) are not easy to come by.
Now we have a third option. The premise of Sep-Art is very simple. Brine shrimp eggs are coated with a substance that makes the cyst shell be attracted to magnets. Passing the harvest water across/over a strong magnet causes any shells or unhatched eggs to be drawn to the magnet and trapped, separating them from the baby brine shrimp.
I’ve been personally using the Sep-Art Separator, and Sep-Art Artemia Cysts, for months now. The brine shrimp produced are fantastic; I’ve used them with both freshwater and marine fish. I’ve run my AquaMedic Plankton Reactor as my primary hatcher, using not only the Sep-Art cysts but pitting them against classic brine shrimp eggs as well as my long time favorite, the hatchable decapsulated eggs available via SeahorseSource.com. With over half the canister of Sep-Art cysts now gone, I’m really scratching my head about what I’m going to do once it runs out!
The separator is easy enough to understand; what I recieved included a plastic cup with a heavy magnetic base, along with a small sachet of Sep-Art Artemia Cysts.
How strong is the magnet? Check out this video demonstration:
The premise is simple. You hatch these brine shrimp eggs just like any other egg.
The beauty is in the harvest. Generally speaking, 24 to 36 hours later I have to shut off the air feed to the plankton reactor. In about 5 minutes time, unhatched cysts sink to the bottom. The shells of hatched cysts float. And the lower portion of the hatching vessel fills with newly hatched baby brine shrimp nauplii. Time to set up the separator.
Time to harvest. Note the drain tube filled with unhatched cysts, as well as the unhatched cysts resting on the base and sides of the cone-shaped bottom.
The separator fills with a concentrate that’s mainly newly hatched brine shrimp along with unhatched cysts. My plankton reactor holds roughly 5 separator’s worth of water. However, since the brine shrimp gravitate towards the bottom of the reactor prior to harvest, I get the bulk of them in the very first cup.
There are two very important notes I must add. Too often, I turn off the air feed to allow the separation in the hatchery/reactor to occur, but then get distracted by some other project. Afterall, who wants to sit for 5 minutes and just watch eggs sink and float? Well, if you wait too long the shells all float to the surface and effectively prevent gas exchange; the net result is that if you leave this sit for a couple hours, you’ll easily kill everything you just hatched out. I’ve done it too often, and it’s very frustrating.
That said, harvesting brine shrimp cup by cup is time consuming. Since the water trickles out of the reactor at a relatively slow pace, I’m often enticed to go do something else for a minute…during which time I’ll forget about the water draining and wind up with some, or all, of the freshly hatched brine shrimp now on my basement floor, save whatever remained in the separator cup! I haven’t found any real good solutions to these issues of time, and if there was any drawback to this process, it is the investment of time it takes.
Yes, we’re not yet done with the time, because once you’ve harvested a separator’s worth of water, cysts and baby brine shrimp, you must once again let it sit for 5-10 minutes while the cysts sink or are drawn to the magnetic bottom. Look closely at the bottom of the water portion (not the first division at the top, but the second in the upper-middle of the blue portion of the separator).
After giving things a minute to settle out and get trapped, you simply pour off the liquid and baby brine shrimp.
And the unhatched cysts and egg shells remain trapped on the magnetic base of the Sep-Art Separator.
What you wind up with is 99.9% pure baby brine shrimp.
Check out this short video by Ocean Nutrition showing the magnetic separation in action!
As mentioned prior, I get MOST of the brine shrimp on the first pull from the plankton reactor; most aquarists might call it a day, throw out the rest and leave it be. Me? No. I’ll sometimes turn the hatchery back on and throw some RotiGrow, RotiGreen, or Selcon into the plankton reactor and let it go another 12-24 hours, causing the brine shrimp to molt and enrich, and presumably also giving unhatched eggs another chance to hatch out. I then repeat the harvest process again, now getting some larger baby shrimp for older fish.
Other times I’ll harvest the entire plankton reactor on the spot, because I like to get every last baby brine shrimp out of it. Of course, all those reminders I mentioned earlier about forgetting to harvest, or forgetting that it’s actively draining, mean that even if I don’t botch the first cup’s worth of harvest, I often do flood my basement with the rest of what was in the hatchery!
There are two main questions that anyone who needs to hatch brine shrimp is bound to ask – what are the hatch rates, and what are the costs? Well, I’ve not calculated the hatch rates, but that is perhaps because these cysts vastly outperform the standard brine shrimp eggs I have on hand. They also vastly outproduce what I can get from a typical portion of decapsulated eggs.
When it comes to costs, it’s potentially difficult to answer. As we reported last summer, it is possible that the 200 gram container of cysts sells individually for the current equivalent of $137 USD. For comparison, 227 grams of the most expensive brine shrimp eggs at BrineShrimpDirect is only $36. That would mean the Sep-Art eggs cost almost 4 X more than the best regular eggs. Is it worth it? Well…I’m willing to say *maybe*. Afterall, you have to consider how quickly you’re going to use these brines shrimp eggs and what the actual cost is. At the current rate I’m consuming these Sep-Art cysts, my cost per day is probably only $0.50.
It is safe to say that these Sep-Art brine shrimp eggs/cysts, if they were available, would probably be the most expensive option on the market. However, our friends at Ocean Nutrition Europe emphasized that European pricing structures are fundamentally different than US pricing structures – “When we buy pants in Europe they cost 90 euro, while the same pants from the same brand in the US cost only 29 USD. Our tax system, costs and all related to this, make the cost structure in Europe and the US completely different.” So while the European pricing translates into what seems like insanely high USD, perhaps the pricing would be completely different in the US. Or perhaps not.
I’ve found myself looking at other seemingly “expensive” products in the past, and later on saying “you know what, it seems expensive, but it’s actually cheaper when you do the math”. I’m not sure I can quite make this argument here, but certainly you ARE getting a better brine shrimp for the money. While it might sting to pay $137 for 200 grams of Sep-Art cysts in the US, I *might* do it if I found myself working with a “premium” regular egg and finding it coming up short in comparison (my current brine shrimp eggs/cysts are standard, nothing special, I have yet to do a “premium” head-t0-head).
Overall, the Sep-Art product consistently produces the cleanest, shell free results out of any brine shrimp I’ve ever worked with. The hatches “feel” abundant for the volume of cysts I set up. The hatch water is always clean and doesn’t smell, meaning I have no qualms about storing the concentrated brine shrimp and hatch water in my refrigerator where they’ll last for a couple days. Frankly, I rarely even bother to rinse the nauplii before feeding anymore; I’ve simply not had the bacterial issues I’ve seen with other eggs.
Ultimately, this is a product I really want to see available in the US though I hope the pricing isn’t quite as astronomical as EU pricing might suggest. Anyone who needs a consistent supply of quality live baby brine shrimp could really benefit from this system. Please, Ocean Nutrition, bring Sep-Art to North Americal…make it so!
Sep-Art Video Demonstration from Ocean Nutrition Europe
Sep-Art at Interzoo
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