Does this ad look familiar? Many ads similar to this one appeared in the comic books back in the fifites? Well, I certainly remember it. In fact, I actually ordered a package of them. And, like many other American kids of that era, I was sorely disappointed when I discovered that they didn't look anything like monkeys.
Sea Monkeys were first marketed in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut as Instant Life, though Braunhut changed the name to "Sea-Monkeys" on May 10, 1962. The name "Sea-Monkeys" was chosen because of their playful behaviour. Braunhut is also the inventor of X-Ray glasses.
For many years, they were known for their exaggerated advertisements and packaging, which featured smiling anthropomorphic creatures who bore little resemblance to their true appearance. Underneath these pictures, which appeared on large numbers in comic books during the 1970s, was a disclaimer that stated, "Caricatures shown not intended to depict Artemia." The present disclaimer on the package states, "Illustration is fanciful, does not depict Artemia nyos."
Sea Monkeys were bred for their larger size and longer lifespan, making them more suitable as pets than the original breed of brine shrimp. The U.S. Patent 3,673,986 granted in 1972 describes this as "hatching brine shrimp or similar crustaceans in tap water to give the appearance of instantaneous hatching."
Other companies have distributed pets/toys along the Sea-Monkey model, including one by Wham-O, and "The Swarm", a product from Dr. Jordan's Formulae. In the late 1970s to early 1980s, sachets of "Sea Monsters" were sold in 25-cent gumball machines at A&P supermarkets. When added to water, the packet's contents provided the eggs, salt and nutrients to hatch the brine shrimp.
More recently, an Australian company, Little Aussie Products, has marketed "Itsy Bitsy Sea Dragons", with a different brine shrimp species.