6 Things You Didn’t Know About Aquarium Shrimp

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Nov. 26, 2018
6 Things You Didn’t Know About Aquarium Shrimp

Image via iStock.com/bdspn

By Robert Woods of Fishkeepingworld.com

Aquarium shrimp have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They add a new, fun element to aquariums and come in a range of colors and sizes.

Many people think they are difficult to look after, but shrimp are pretty easy to care for once you know how.

We’re going to take a look at six interesting things that you didn’t know about aquarium shrimps!

1. Some Shrimp Act as Cleaners for Other Fish

There are many aquarium shrimp types. Some species of shrimp are cleaners, such as Lysmata amboinensis. This species of shrimp “dances” to attract fish by waving their antennae around. They then go into the fish’s open mouth to clean off bloodsucking parasites. The Pacific cleaner shrimp is one of the most popular aquarium shrimp, and they are very entertaining to watch as they go in and out of the fishes’ mouths.

2. Shrimp Will Eat Anything

Shrimps are scavengers and spend most of their time in the wild eating anything that’s fallen down to the bottom of the water bed. They are opportunistic omnivores, which means they will eat both plants and animals, whether they are dead or alive.

As larvae, they don’t have much choice about where they are carried to with the water current, so they will eat whatever is floating along with them, which is usually plankton (microscopic plants and animals).

As they grow, they’ll also eat algae, dead and living plants, worms (even decaying worms), fish, snails and even other dead shrimps. Shrimp in a fish aquarium will feed on algae growing in the tank and also will clear up any leftover bits of fish food.

3. Shrimps Carry Their Eggs

Unlike most fish, which either lay eggs or retain eggs inside the body to give live birth, shrimps carry their eggs on the underside of their body. A shrimp carrying eggs is known as a berried shrimp.

The female will release sexual hormones into the water when she is ready to breed. The male will then find her and deposit his sperm onto the female, who passes the eggs underneath her tail.

The eggs stay there, constantly being fanned by the shrimp’s tail until they are ready to hatch.  Fanning helps to provide them with oxygen—just like adult shrimps need oxygen, so do the eggs. They also fan their eggs to keep them clean and ensure that mold and bacteria don’t grow.

Their eggs are usually visible to our eyes and are quite fascinating to see. Some shrimps, such as cherry shrimp, are extremely easy to breed in aquariums, whereas others, such as amano shrimp, are much harder.  

4. Certain Species Are Nocturnal

There are certain species of shrimps that can be added to the aquarium and will most likely never be seen in daylight hours. The Lysmata wurdemanni, also known as the peppermint shrimp, are a nocturnal species that hide out all day in the nooks and crannies in rocks and caves and come out during the night to feed.

So why would anyone want to include these shrimps in their aquarium if you don’t get the benefit of watching them? Peppermint shrimp are well-known for eating unwanted and pesky aiptasia anemones, which are a common problem in saltwater aquariums. They have the ability to sting and they multiply rapidly, so having shrimp that eat anemones solves that problem.

5. They Molt as They Grow

Beginner fishkeepers often think they have dead shrimp lying on the floor of the aquarium. These often aren’t actually dead shrimp; they are the shrimp exoskeletons that the shrimp have shed. An easy way to tell whether it’s a shell or a dead shrimp is that dead shrimp tend to be pinkish in color, whereas a shell will look almost exactly the same as a living aquarium shrimp.

Molting is a necessary process that shrimp must go through numerous times as they grow. When they are young, shrimp will shed their skin around once a week.

As soon as they have shed their shell, they are very vulnerable because their new shell is quite soft in the beginning. They usually hide away for the following few days until their shells have hardened.

6. They Are Brilliant Swimmers

While their primary mode of moving around is walking, shrimp are actually really good at swimming in the aquarium. This is not the typical type of swimming that we’re used to seeing in fish (because shrimp have no fins), but shrimp are able to move around quickly in the water.

They are best at swimming backwards. These arthropods can propel themselves backwards by flexing the muscles in their abdomen and tail quickly. They move their abdomen towards their body, and this projects them quite quickly through the water. They can also swim forwards, albeit more slowly than they’re able to move backwards, by using the limbs on the underside of their body.

We hope these fun facts have helped you to see how diverse and unique shrimps are. Shrimp in aquariums offer a number of benefits, such their ability to add color and keep the tank clean, plus they are easy to care for.

Facts about aquarium shrimp

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