Every kid, at some point in her development, will begin to demand a pet. Of course, they often mean they want a puppy, there’s one hitch with that: dogs poop. Also, you can’t leave them home alone for a couple days or bring them into work or school for show and tell. You can’t buy a batch of puppies in stasis off the internet, then reanimate them by adding water. Fortunately, there are pets that can be ordered online for under $20 and raised in the home.
Triops are charming, miniature, three-eyed sea monsters known as dinosaur shrimp. Their fossil record goes back to the late Carboniferous, 300 million years ago, and they are thus considered living fossils. When the eggs are dry, they enter a state of suspended animation. Once they get wet, they hatch. So, hatching the eggs is as simple as adding water. Kits are available on a variety of websites.
If your kids would like a pet that they can raise and then free into the wild in a dramatic gesture, then perhaps butterflies are a better bet. Butterfly kits are available online, and contain a mesh garden and larvae. Kids then watch the butterflies metamorphose and then set them free wherever they could survive, be it in a house with many houseplants, or outside on a summer day. Nothing quite says ‘warm and welcoming home’ like a butterfly infestation.
If you ordered your first pet from the back of a comic book, then you likely had sea monkeys as a child. These little mustached brine shrimp hatch from their eggs within two days of being placed in salt water. Sea monkey kits are available online for under fifteen dollars, and include food and the special brine mix that allows for long survival. Sea monkeys don’t look like the superhero mermaids that were portrayed in the old comic books. They are in fact quite small, but their Dali mustaches are luckily nearly as long as their bodies.
The technical terms for their feats of zombie-ism are cryptobiosis and anhydrobiosis, meaning that all metabolic activity has stopped. This is a remarkable adaptation that allows eggs to wait for a sufficient amount of rain to hatch. A variety of plants, crustaceans, and insect are capable of cryptobiosis. Most alarmingly, there is a species of frog that remains frozen underground all winter, thawing out in spring. In the case of the frog, his body produces an antifreeze so that cells are not damaged by ice crystals. This frog is not available for sale, I am sad to say.
You can order ants online. They cost less than $5.00. This fact says something about the state of e-commerce. They serve two purposes: to feed to a pet lizard, or to keep as pets. They can be placed in an ant farm, where they proceed to structure their environment. Two forms of ant farm are available: the kind with sand and the kind with gel. Sand farms are the classic variety seen in every kids’ room from an eighties movie. Nowadays you can buy a farm with colored sand layered into a rainbow, and watch as the ants disrupt the harmony and mix the sand as they dig. Gel farms come in a variety of colors, and some are lit from below to create a nifty effect.
A variety of other bugs are available for purchase online. You can start a ladybug farm at home, so long as the temperature is conducive to shipping the bugs. I grew up in a house with a ladybug infestation, so I can tell you that they gravitate toward sunny, south facing windows. They also die without much mess or fuss. A ladybug carcass is tan and crunchy, and can be dusted off an old Afghan without leaving a mark.