By Diane Ako
Have you seen Happy Feet 2? There are two characters, Will and Bill, both krill. I like them more knowing that the dreamy Brad Pitt and Matt Damon voiced them.
So when I added nine new pets to add to my menagerie- tiny red shrimp called opae ula, farmed on Hawaii Island- I named them all The Wills & The Bills. I don't know who is who. It's OK. It's not like they come when called.
I've been seeing these shrimp for years and wanted them, but never bought them because it seemed like more clutter in my house. Finally, I ran out of self-discipline and bought a starter kit.
I bought a small cup (nine for $7) and a bottle of brackish water. At home, I dug up a large glass vase and had fun designing my own little undersea world.
The shrimp have been promoted for years as no-fuss, self-contained ecosystems. The sun fosters algae growth in the tank, which feed the shrimp- or so the marketing pitch goes. I used to see them in some stores in totally sealed glass spheres- maybe so the water wouldn't evaporate, or maybe so you couldn't mess it up even if you tried.
I did some web research and read that some think it's torturous to keep them that way. Here's what one website advises: "The truth is that these shrimp are slowly *starving to death*, *suffocating* and being *poisoned* in those containers, due to lack of food and oxygen, and the accumulation of shrimp waste." Another website suggests feeding the opae some spirulina or decomposing termites to supplement the not totally nutritious algae diet.
If it's true, it makes me sad. Based on this, I ran out and bought The Wills & The Bills powdered spirulina at the health food store. This now makes them the most expensive pets because this bottle cost as much as a large bag of dog food. I fed them the tiniest amount and they seem to like it.
The Wills & The Bills now live on my kitchen counter where we all enjoy their company at meals! (Not for meals.)
...Who knows anything about opea ula? What do you think of them as pets? What do you think of the instructions to never feed them?