Small Talk

The Wills & The Bills

January 25th, 2012

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?

7 Responses to “The Wills & The Bills”

  1. kuunakanaka:

    aloha Diane:

    next time i'll get shrimp instead of fishes for our bowl.

  2. galekaminari:

    Pretty cool, Diane! Leave it to you!

    Kung Hee Fat Choy!

  3. Kage:

    I had some years ago before it became all the rage. They died after a few months... 🙁

    It was in a sealed sphere and came with 5 shrimp, 1 snail and a bunch of algae. Supposedly when the algae was gone there was microscopic algae in there that the shrimp would eat.

    Then my brother bought me another one as a housewarming gift. The cat thought it was a toy and rolled it off the table.:( *again*

    I swore to stay away from them after that. 🙂

  4. Maiki:

    I've seen the spheres before and thought it was a great idea... in concept. But, alas, life is probably more complicated than that- I'd love to hear of somebody keeping their "ecosystem" alive and healthy for a year! Will and Bill can always be honored guests in our regular aquarium, though. There is plenty of algae and Nemo and the boys can chase 'em for excercise!

  5. kuunakanaka:

    aloha Diane:

    i bought opae ula on Sunday. now i'll go and get some spirulina 4 them 2 eat. what i like about them so far is not having to wash the bowl or change the water.

  6. jules:

    You never fail to surprise me Diane! Too cute, the Wills and the Bills! I don't think I could mother shrimp especially after a depressive attempt to mother a cactus plant that only required a teaspoon of water a week!

  7. Titus:

    I received seven as part of an elaborate centerpiece at my grand-nephew's first birthday party. (Of course, the party theme was Under the Sea.) After a year, five of them passed away, but three are still very lively. They seem to enjoy eating algae, and I have only added distilled water to their habitat, per the instructions that came with the centerpiece.

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