Sea monkeys taught me a series of valuable lessons in my youth although I did not learn actually recognize the lessons until years later. As a pre-teen I always wanted sea monkeys. I would look at the ad and marvel at the little creatures the ad promised. I was a little confused because it said ‘monkeys’ and the picture did not look like a monkey but never mind. (I also thought ‘gorilla warfare’ was a bunch of primates with guns so…)
The sea monkeys looked like so much fun. It said so right there in the ad- a bowl full of happiness bringing smiles right into your home. They can even be trained and cared for by a six year old. I was much better and brighter than a six year old. Yes, sea monkeys were the perfect pet for me. The problem is I did not have a job. So I asked my folks for the buck thirty to send for my new pet sea monkeys and they said no. I was crushed. How could they? Ok, Plan B… I could save some money that I get from this or that chores or find in the newspaper coin slots or whatever and then I could send off for my new aquatic friend but… then surely mom and dad would see me having so much fun and know I disobeyed them so that was not going to work. I had to come up with a new plan. As time passed I continued to long for my see monkeys. The called to me from the picture. The happy little sea monkey family being observed by the land loving family full of smiles. I dreamed of one day being in the ad myself.
As time passed, I was able to make my own money, and being allowed to spend it as I wished, I sent away for my sea monkeys. I waited and waited for what seemed like forever. Finally they came and I set everything up and…
…fast forward to this:
This is what a sea monkey looks like. Uh, nothing like the cute little creatures in the ad with their smiles and crowns and hair bows and strategically hidden genitals. With the heck was this?
Come to find out sea monkeys are a species of brine shrimp. Sort of copying Ant Farms from 1956, Harold von Braunhut created the sea monkey phenom in 1957. Initially called “Instant Life”, Harold von Braunhut changed the name to “Sea-Monkeys” in 1962. The new name was based on the supposed resemblance of the animals’ tails to those of monkeys.
It was a pretty clever system. A colony is started by adding the contents of a packet which was labelled “Water Purifier” to a tank or bowl of water. This packet contains salt and some brine shrimp eggs. Then in 24 hours, you added the contents of a packet labelled “Instant Life Eggs” which contained more eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, some food and sometimes a dye. The Sea-monkeys that hatched from the original eggs seem to appear instantly. Like magic!
So what of the picture on the ad and the actual appearance of the sea monkeys? According to an article in Mental Floss written by Erin McCarthy – “The naked, pot-bellied humanoid creatures with crown-like head ornaments don’t resemble actual brine shrimp at all. Von Braunhut hired comic book artist Joe Orlando—who would later go on to become vice president of DC Comics and associate publisher of MAD magazine—to draw the 1950s-esque humanoid creatures.”
So what was this big lesson I learned? Truth in advertising. I learned that sometimes somethings are too good to be true. I learned that sometimes my parents actually knew what they were talking about. I learned that sometimes little boys can be disappointed. And I also learned that nature is amazing. I learned that brine shrimp are beautiful. I learned that entrepreneurship is alive and can change the world. All these things make me smile.
These days the packaging is different. There are kits and accessories you can get for your little water pets yet the basics still stay the same and yes you can still teach them tricks. What tricks? Well, they are attracted to light so if you shine a flashlight into the tank they will go to the light and for some reason they will be attracted to your finger if you run it along the edge of the bowl or tank. Yep. Not quite jumping through hoops but they are shrimp after all.
If you would like to know more about sea monkeys, please visit SeaMonkeyWorship.com. (It is always good to have a hobby right?)
Have you ever had sea monkeys? Share your thoughts in the comments. Would love to hear from you.
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