Sea monkeys are a hybrid breed of brine shrimp called Artemia NYOS, invented in 1957 by Harold Von Braunhut. These brine shrimp were marked as "instant life" and sold using illustrations of anthropomorphic shrimp doing various human-like activities, although they rarely do anything on their own. The product was heavily marketed in the 1960s and 70s, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture. This is a link◊ to the real-life original ad for sea monkeys. This trope is about all of the fictional sea monkey-like brands that show up in media.
Common traits of these expies include:
- Being advertised as some sort of primate species, like sea humans for example, but never as actual sea monkeys, as those are a brand name. They will also never be called "sea-men", unless the show goes for an intentional Double Entendre.
- They are often marketed as instant life where you have to add water for them to move.
- Being advertised in comic books.
- Being depicted as anthropomorphic shrimp doing human-like activities.
- Sometimes actually being able to do human-like activities and starting their own society.
- Sometimes instead of being brine-shrimp, they are depicted as being monkey-like.
Examples using fictional brand names:
- One Red Dwarf Smegazine strip has "Space Monkeys" which, due to having become irradiated, now turn into large pink mischievous creatures when dunked into the water.
- Not named, but at the pet convention in The Boss Baby, Tim and the title character have a conversation next to an aquarium full of tiny aquatic figures that look just like the ones in old "Sea Monkey" advertisements.
- In Frankenweenie, Bob conducts electricity into his "Sea Creatures" which turn into small monsters that resemble a cross between a monkey and the Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.
- One Bones episode has Hodgins using "Sea Chimps" in one of his experiments.
- An episode of Wizards of Waverly Place has Alex and Uncle Kelbo receive a package of "Sea Chimps" in the Wizard Mail. Of course, being a magical pack of Sea Chimps, it floods the room they're in and turns the two of them into human-sized sea monkeys, leaving them to be rescued by the rest of the family.
- Parodied in Journey to the Savage Planet, which has an ad for a toy called the "Micro-Mills Mall Monkeys Plaza," which, instead of brine shrimp, uses miniature (i.e., "stands comfortably on a fingertip") human clones and an Arcology the size of a large coffee table.
- The Sea Monkees of Kingdom of Loathing are humanized brine shrimp, with characters based off of Sea-Monkey ads, and live in a castle inspired by the default Sea-Monkeys tank. They're also a dual Shout-Out to The Monkees. They're a friendly tribe of Unscaled Merfolk, contrasting with the hostile Mer-Kin, who antagonise not only the player, but the sea-monkees themselves as well.
- In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, Roger is pressured by a salesman during his visit to a space station into buying some space-monkeys. He uses them later to create a distraction, which ends up destroying the station.
- In the 3-2-1 Penguins! episode "Lazy Daze", Jason wants to borrow money from Michelle in order to buy some sea chimps.
- The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Mack Salmon's plan in "They Came from Down There!" revolves around selling Sea Chimps (that look just like the ones on the box!) as well as growing genetically altered larger Sea Chimps to cut up for meat.
- In Arthur, a flashback scene from "Arthur Sells Out" has a four-year-old Arthur and Buster buy Sea Squirrels after seeing a commercial for them on television. When they play with the Sea Squirrels, they turn out to be just a pink ball floating in a fishbowl. Arthur then says, "That doesn't look like a squirrel, it looks like something my baby sister spit up!" and throws the Sea Squirrels in the garbage. At the end of the episode, when Muffy buys the Dark Bunny: Revenge of the Moomies video game that Arthur was trying to buy, only to find out that the game is absolutely terrible, Buster's criticism of the game is "The Sea Squirrels were better than this!"
- One episode of My Goldfish is Evil featured "Sea Dudes", which despite promises of being fun and educational, were an absolute bore for Beanie. Admiral Bubbles later uses a transmogrifier on them to create an army of giant sapient shrimp to assist him in taking over the world, only for them to overthrow him.
- In the My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "Synch or Swim", after Jake's denied entry onto his middle school's synchronized swimming team, he decides to order some "Sea ''Simians'," thinking that they're distant relatives to his species. Adam then tries telling Jake that there's no way he's Sea Simians, pointing out how they're technically brine shrimp—when Jake and their other friends question how Adam could know this, Adam explains that, unlike Jake, [Adam has] had Sea Simians before and admits that he found them to be pretty boring. He also admits to Jake and the others that he ended up flushing his Sea Simians down the toilet after they died.
- At the beginning of the Pepper Ann episode "Carmello", Pepper Ann and Milo are watching their glasses with Sea Apes in them. Pepper Ann comments that they "Sure don't look anything like they do on the package."
- Phineas and Ferb features the titular step-brothers using growth elixir to turn the "A-Primes" (short for Aqua-Primates) human-sized. Like the Sea-Monkeys, the A-Primes are depicted as having a whole civilization.
- An episode of Rugrats had Tommy and Chuckie being sad at their "Sea Monies" being stuck in a fishbowl, so they smuggled them to the beach in Stu's cooler and helped release them into the ocean. Earlier in the episode, Didi declares them to be an educational toy, while Stu grumbles at how much money he had to pay for "a bowl full of reconstituted brine shrimp".
- The Simpsons: The Couch Gag of "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" has the family as "Sea Monsters", which are green brine shrimp.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Season 12 episode "King Plankton" has SpongeBob with an aquarium (despite the fact that they're already underwater) of "sea chimps" (who are depicted as actual chimps) that he wants Plankton to watch. They are actually shown to have a civilization.
- In the South Park episode "Simpsons Already Did It", one of the main plots focuses on Cartman's Sea People developing their own society after exposure to semen.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Love Letters", Steven gets "Sea Pals" in the mail, and intends to set them free into the ocean.
- The Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "The Undersea World of Fifi" (narrated by a Mock Cousteau Fifi La Fume) features Elmyra going on a deep-diving exploration to find "C Monkeys". They are shown as purple finned aquatic monkeys on par with the size of actual monkeys.
Examples using the actual Sea Monkey brand name:
- In The Secret Life of Pets, some of the flushed pets include sea monkeys, who were flushed away because they didn't look like the ad.
- The Homestar Runner Halloween episode "Mr. Poofers Must Die" has The Poopsmith dressed as one of the package art-style sea monkeys for this episode's costume, continuing his recurring sci-fi theme of costume choices. Interestingly, he's specifically dressed as one of the female ones.