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7 pet fads through the decades

Oct. 3, 2013, 1:54 p.m.
Sea Monkeys

Photo: Toys R Us

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Sea Monkeys, 1960s

Brine shrimp may seem like an unconventional pet, but when you market them as “frolicsome” and attention-craving humanoids that live in a magical pink castle and are prone to “clowning around” and performing tricks, naturally guileless kids are going to clamor over Artemia, a genus of teeny-tiny crustaceans that wear lipstick and do back flips on command. (And especially if the kids' parents deprived them of guinea pigs, goldfish and German shepherds.)

Conceived in the late 1950s by mail-order novelty impresario Harold von Braunhut, Sea Monkey kits were originally introduced as an aquatic alternative to the Ant Farm. It wasn’t until the early 1960s when von Braunhut switched the name of the miraculous kit from “Instant Life” to Sea Monkeys, that kids, particularly kids wooed by a barrage of Joe Orlando-illustrated adverts in comic books, began to pay attention.

The Sea Monkey fad is one that never really faded away as Sea Monkey habitats and supplies (Cupid’s Arrow Mating Powder, anyone?) are still very much available.