Sea-Monkeys: The Amazing Mail Order Pets

Picture this: the year is 1957 and inventor Harold von Braunhut is looking for the next big thing following Milton Levine’s ant farm success just one year prior. He struck on the idea of packaging a mix of nutrients and chemicals that when combined with tap water would create the ideal environment for brine shrimp to thrive. Initially sales were terrible until he started advertising heavily in comic books under the name “Instant Life” (later changed to the now famous Sea-Monkeys).

“They can even be trained.” Yeah…right.

Although this advertising campaign and rebranding lead to moderate financial success, the longevity of the shrimp left much to be desired and customers were growing frustrated that their “sea-monkeys” really lived to see a second month of life. To this end Braunhut channeled profit into biological research to produce ever hardier versions of his product. Major breakthroughs occurred in 1970 and 1995 and were so successful that packaging now guarantees the shrimp will live at least 2 years.

Eventually his company partnered with ExploraToy and took “Sea-Monkeys” to the next level. There was a time when Sea-Monkeys had its own television show and line of videogames. They’ve even been sent to space on two separate occasions.

There was a time when no childhood could be called complete without one of these on your nightstand. (I would argue that time still hasn’t past.)
Of course reality often didn’t match expectations or advertising.
Over the years there have been many reinventions and redesigns to the base aquarium.
And the shrimp have also undergone changes to make them hardier.
Branding got a little crazy but many people feel the nostalgia factor makes Sea-Monkeys timeless.
The rigorous comic book advertisement campaigns kept the product alive and well for years.
Even today you can still purchase Sea-Monkey products in toy stores or online.
Its come a long way from its humble beginning of a small packet of eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, food, and dye.

For a more in depth look at these little guys check out the video below.

And check out this vintage ad from the 70’s!


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