opae ula tiny pet shrim how to info

Micro Aquariums

Opae- Ula Micro Aquariums  
DIY inspiration & Supply

What's Opae' Ula? Opae' Ula is Hawaiian for ("Red Shrimp") A.K.A. Volcano Shrimp, referring to the mysterious little shrimp many people appropriately call the "Hawaiian Red Shrimp".


Scientifically known as (Halocaridina Rubra) ~ A truly amazing creature. These are not little amebas or larva’s of some sort like the Sea Monkey’s you may have owned as a pet when you were a child. They are a true shrimp. Although they are tiny, upon close examination one can see they are perfect little shrimp in every detail from their tiny pincers to their long whiskers and beady little eyes.

They are very similar to the better known Cherry Red Shrimp with the exception of being much smaller as well as much hardier and easier to care for.


These are not just some gimmick that will sit on your counter for a week or so until they die like the little plastic cubes of fish you may have seen for sale. An Opae' Ula Micro-Aquarium in your home or office will bring you ENDLESS hours of enjoyment, relaxation and conversation.

Just have a look into their mystical little world, as you observe them everything else seems to just fade away. They swim, graze, groom and even perform flips and freefalls all the while in perfect social harmony. There's never a fight, collision or stealing of another’s meal. Their color while most of the time is a bright red, changes with their mood to white, orange or pink. It's truly a magical little world of which you will want to visit often for years to come.

Create your own micro-aquarium with healthy, happy, long lived pets.

The ultimate unique gift idea. These tiny ocean animals give an under the sea ocean view of an ocean reef teeming with sea life through the looking glass. The perfect decor  for the office or home. These exotic pets are truly amazing tropical fish crustaceans. No other animal will thrive in such a small little micro-aquarium without heat or filtration or with such minimal care.

opae ula tiny pet shrimp micro aquarium
Here are some examples of what can be done with these cool little creatures and some imagination.

Opae-Ula aquarium living desk lamp art sculptures.

An animal friendly open top systems for easy cleaning, toxic gas release and beneficial feeding.

A functional piece of original living art. These mysterious sculptures are indeed intriguing. The glowing sphere and tranquil movement of the shrimp pulls you in and captivates you while the outside world and all of it’s stress fade away.

Simple to care for and can be left alone for long periods of time for those extended vacations. The perfect pet uniquely displayed in an original one of a kind sculpture.

Concept: Inspired by "Riven" (the Myst game series) It's all about visually stunning - relaxing & soothing with a mysterious, futuristic yet ancient look. The details (shrimp, light, coral & texture) stimulate concentration while the subtle movements, colors and soft glow steal it away ~ Mesmerization.


If you're interested in creating your own sculpture, Micro aquarium, this detailed step by step how-to "Concrete Sculpting Guide" teaches you all of the processes from building a detailed armature to installing a light. For the micro aquarium, I used a waterproof 12v light to avoid shocking somebody and mounted it inside the lid. The lid rests on a clear piece of plastic (drilled for ventilation) that sits atop of the globe and the light is inside an additional, smaller void above the clear plastic window.  The cord is not seen through the glass as it is hidden in the support pipe.

The 6” hand blown glass aquarium has a removable lid for feeding and easy cleaning. The rounded walls of the orb give the micro shrimp the perfect endless environment while magnifying the tiny creatures within for better viewing.

opae ula tiny pet shrimp micro aquarium
opae ula tiny pet shrimp micro aquarium
Opae Ula Care Guide
Containers & Water

Any container will do, Just make sure you use Brackish Water. To make brackish water you will need some sea salt, not to be mistaken for table salt.


Purchase some aquarium sea salt and a hydrometer and some distilled water. Pour some distilled water in a bowl and add a small amount of sea salt. Mix it in and let it dissolve for a few minutes before giving it one last stir. Now fill your hydrometer and check the reading.  you want a Specific gravity of around 1.015 or Salinity of around 20-21. Keep adjusting by adding salt or distilled water until you get it just right.

You will need to maintain the water level in your micro aquarium due to evaporation. The water will evaporate but the salt will remain in the water so you just need to occasionally top it off with plain distilled water.  


If you have a lid be sure there is some way for gases to get out. Some containers have lids with seals that can be removed.

You may be able to create a vent on other lids by placing dot shaped dabs of clear silicone on the container's rim and letting them dry to hold the lid up a centimeter or so.

If you don't have a lid you will simply need to add water more often to replace the evaporated water.

opae ula tiny pet shrimp micro aquarium
Live Pet Shrimp

Halocaridina rubra ~ "Opae Ula" Hawaiian Volcano Shrimp) These fascinating, tiny little micro shrimp are incredibly hardy eliminating the need for a pump, filter or heating system keeping the maintenance minimal.


Their natural environment is a diluted salt water solution called brackish water created by volcanic activity. Lava flows into the ocean cutting off pockets of water from the sea creating pools. Rain water runs down the mountain into the pools diluting it into a brackish water.

In a small sealed container Opae Ula may only live a few years, however in a container with access for feeding and gas release, these tiny little pet shrimp have been known to live 20 years! I currently have shrimp that I've kept for over 12 years.

opae ula tiny pet shrim

Choose a location free of direct natural light to reduce algae growth. Artificial light is great for lighting up your display so you may want an outlet nearby for a desk lamp or mini spotlight. Choose A place where they can be easily viewed close up, (preferably at eye level) and won't be bumped by kids or kitties or receive direct drafts from windows or doors. A lighted curio cabinet is ideal!

position them in a place where the temperature remains between 60F and 80F, without any fast fluctuations such as near a heater.


Ocean chill dried organic Spirulina Is the perfect food. It's a whole food source loaded with ocean trace elements, antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients and 92 different minerals.  Micro-Shrimp can go for extended periods without being fed as they live on algae within the environment. However they will greatly benefit and thrive with regular feeding and it’s fun to watch them eat. The highly nutrient rich feed keeps shrimp more active, brighter, happier and healthier.

Opae ula can live for several years living off the algae inside a micro-aquarium however to successfully achieve this you will need to keep them in enough natural light for ample algae to grow which will cover the glass and your view until you move them to a darker location to decrease the algae growth. Indoor algae has a poor nutritional value and the balancing act of enough light for optimal viewing and feeding can be quite a challenge. It’s a lot of fun to watch them eat and inexpensive to buy premium Opae-Ula feed.

WARNING: Proper feeding can not be stressed enough! Overfeeding is the number one cause of dead shrimp! Over feeding will pollute the water and kill your shrimp! Let the shrimp settle into their new home for a couple of days before feeding. Cut off the sharp tip of a toothpick to use as a scoop and just get tiny bit of food on the end. Tap the toothpick on the glass so the food falls onto the water's surface, never pour directly out of the jar into the Micro-Aquarium. You want just a thin layer of dust (not a pile) on the water's surface covering about a 1inch area per shrimp. If the food piles up when you drop it on the water, you must wait until it spreads to a thin dust to know how much is actually there. For example, if your Micro-Aquarium contains five shrimp and the water surface is 5x5 inch you will dust the whole surface, or 10x10 inch, half the surface, etc. Only feed about every three days and only if the surface of the water has been eaten clean 24 hours prior to feeding again. Keep in mind that after the aquarium has time to establish the shrimp will find algae in the tank to eat as well as what you add to it.

If you're not into the whole idea or maintenance of hand feeding, though many enjoy the process, there is a great and simple alternative.

"Marimo moss balls"

Marimo moss balls are a beneficial and decorative addition to your pets home. Not only do they do well in brackish water but they also absorb and remove toxins from the aquarium. The shrimp will graze of the healthy living spherical farm at their leisure without any need to worry about feeding.

opae ula food pet shrimp feed

Real Sea Coral can be hand carved to fit inside the aquarium. It gives the Micro Shrimp a place to sit, hide and molt (shed their old shell).

Another excellent choice of coral is what I call "Black Twig Coral" which is a sea fan. It is hard, inflexible and brittle. What makes it such a great choice though, is if you soak it in water overnight, it turns into something like rubber. It can also be pruned into just the size and shape you desire. I managed to stuff the piece in the round ball (pictured above) through a 1/4” inch hole! It greatly adds to the mysterious ambiance that these cool little pets already create.

opae ula tiny pet shrimp micro aquarium

The led lighting consumes almost no energy, they are incredibly long lasting, bright and put off less heat. A bright white led bulb beautifully illuminates the environment with a natural daylight color. If your micro aquarium will not accommodate a light, a carefully positioned mini spotlight will do the trick.

Cleaning & Maintenance

The trick is finding the right location without to much direct natural light. although they do need a source of artificial light. If it does get excess algae growth, just pour the water and shrimp into a separate container, clean your Micro-Aquarium and replace the contents with new water. A small piece of screen is the best way to catch them which can simply dipped into the water to release them. Add plain distilled water to replenish for evaporation.

Is It Cruel?

All of my Opae Ula systems are vented for gas release, feeding and water additions to easily maintain optimal living conditions and health of the pet shrimp.

I believe creatures under stress will not lay eggs, carry eggs full term and hatch eggs which become delicate larva then tiny babies and slowly grow into adults. In fact from my experience, conditions have to be ideal for them to reproduce. I have a Micro-Aquarium that contains less than 60 OZ. of water in a 5-½“ glass sphere. The water has not been changed in years and in fact very little has ever been added because while it does have vents to release gas the lid prevents most evaporation. It has not been cleaned in almost 2 years and is beautifully clean while there are tiny visible specks of green algae on the coral for them to graze between feedings. There are 30 shrimp in this tiny unit! I feed them regularly and carefully for which they REGULARLY reward me with eggs which they successfully raise to almost full size adults at which point I move the babies out. They seem to keep reproducing as long as they are not overcrowded.

They are not on the endangered species list and if they are headed that way raising them in captivity is an excellent way to help prevent such a catastrophe.

This is my view. I respectfully allow you to choose your own.