Artemia salina, Fish feed

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Code: o202
Latin name: Artemia salina
Family: Crustacea
Common names: Artemia salina, Artemisia salina, Brine shrimp, Sea monkeys, Fish feed, Live fish bait, Fairy shrimp
Occupational allergen
An occupational allergen, which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
Artemisa salina, also know by the names listed above, are important organisms found in salt ponds and saline lakes. Artemisa salina belong to a genus of Crustacea (crawfish or crayfish), the Anostraca (Fairy shrimps). They are more closely related to zooplankton than to true Shrimp and are found worldwide in saltwater. But unlike their marine relatives, Brine shrimp live only in bodies of saltwater that are isolated from the ocean, i.e., salt lakes and brine ponds. They thrive in extreme environmental conditions such as high salinity and temperature, where predators cannot survive.

Brine shrimp reproduce in 2 different ways. Fertilised eggs can develop directly into free-swimming nauplii under favourable conditions. Under unfavourable conditions (high salinity, low moisture, low oxygen), eggs are surrounded by a thick shell and deposited as cysts that remain inactive and in stasis for up to several years. Once placed in water, they hatch within a few hours, and grow to mature nauplii and then through about 15 moulting stages, called instars, to the adult length of around 1 centimetre in as little as 8 days. Under optimal conditions, Brine shrimp can live for several months and reproduce at a rate of up to 300 nauplii or cysts every 4 days.

Brine shrimp have 3 eyes: 2 compound eyes with photoreceptors, and 1 primitive naupliar eye, which is lost as the organism grows bigger.
Brine shrimps have been widely used for many years both by commercial and amateur fish breeders as fish food. Their rapid reproduction, and other characteristics such as their ability to remain dormant for long periods, have made them invaluable in scientific research.

A hybrid of Artemia salina, Artemsiia nyos, are sold as novelty gifts, most commonly under the marketing name Sea monkeys. Artemia nyos, also known as Mono Lake brine shrimp, are found only in Mono Lake, in Mono County, California.

Numerous fish and crustacean species and some insects, as well as several species of waterfowl (gulls, avocets, flamingos, etc.), regularly prey on Brine shrimp.
Unexpected exposure
Artemia salina are often used in laboratory studies for bioassays, including lethality assays; for general toxicity assessment; for detecting phototoxicity in plant coumarins; and for detecting the presence and toxicity of mycotoxins.
No allergens have yet been characterised.

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
Brine shrimp may uncommonly induce symptoms of occupational allergy in sensitised individuals (1).

A 27-year-old patient who kept fish and suffered from asthma was shown to have strongly positive skin-specific IgE tests for Chironomus and Culex larvae, as well as several kinds of Crustacea species, such as Daphnia and Brine shrimps (1).

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Dietschi R, Wüthrich B. 'Aquarium' allergy: bronchial asthma caused by polyvalent sensitization to various components in fish food [German]. Hautarzt 1987;38(3):160-1


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.