The Wonderful Wacky World of Sea-Monkeys

Advertisement for Sea Monkeys in 1971
Flickr Roadsidepictures

If you grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, you most likely had an unusual pet. Sea-Monkeys became a popular option for those that wanted a real live pet that was easy to care for. You could even purchase them through the mail and have them delivered to your home, which was uncommon in those days. Despite the name, Sea-Monkeys aren’t actually monkeys but a species of brine shrimp. They wanted to create a shrimp that was big enough for children to see and thus market to them and their parents. You might be wondering, are Sea-Monkeys actually real animals? They truly are!

After purchasing, all you had to do was add water to the Sea-Monkeys and watch them come to life. They were packaged dry so that they could go into a state called cryptobiosis, a type of extreme hibernation that happened when they were either frozen, dried out, or deprived of oxygen. They were able to essentially come back to life when they were back in their normal environment, in a tank of water. While marketing ads boasted that the Sea-Monkeys could be trained because they could follow light, it was just a fun ploy. The tiny shrimp aren’t actually smart enough to truly be trained.

The history of Sea-Monkeys

sea monkey advertisement

Flickr Strange Adventures #231, July-August 1971

The idea of Sea-Monkeys as pets was created by a toy maker named Harold von Braunhut. He noticed that brine shrimp were being sold in pet stores as fish food and realized that they could actually make a great pet for children. He worked with a marine biologist named Anthony D’Agostino to create the specific type of brine shrimp that were later sold as Sea-Monkeys. At first, they were marketed as Saskatchewan brine shrimp. However, Harold often lovingly referred to the creatures as Sea-Monkeys and changed the marketing materials in 1964.

Not long after, sea monkey advertisements were everywhere. Their popularity came in part to a comic book artist named Joe Orlando, who was hired to create the entertaining ads. In the ’60s and ’70s, Sea-Monkeys and comic books formed a relationship where readers were given an order form for sea monkeys in their comics. Joe later became the vice president of DC Comics.

Whatever happened to Sea-Monkeys?

sea monkey

Wikimedia Commons

Sea-Monkeys were not just a trend as pets for children but truly became woven into our pop culture. Many shows including The Simpsons have referenced the tiny shrimp and there was even a television show called The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys starring Howie Mandel and featuring some iconic stars such as the late Gilbert Gottfried. It focused on three Sea-Monkeys that were enlarged to human size and how they comically navigated our world. The show only aired for 11 episodes in 1992.

So, what happened to these beloved creatures? Eventually, the hype ran out and Sea-Monkeys became less and less popular as new technology and fads arrived. While their popularity faded, the Sea-Monkeys haven’t gone away forever. You can still order them online and have them delivered to your home. While they aren’t advertised in comic books anymore, the original company does still run ads here and there. Amazon sells sea monkey kits that come with special aquariums but you can also still buy them from the original retailer here.

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