Ghost Shrimp – A Complete Guide – Care, Diet, Facts

Ghost shrimp, or glass shrimp, are a unique addition to aquariums across the world.

A freshwater crustacean, the ghost shrimp is an easy, affordable, and unique species. This makes them a great addition for both beginners and experienced fish keepers.

It’s important to understand what a ghost shrimp needs in a home aquarium. To provide them with this, research and knowledge on their requirements is necessary.

About Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp are a North American crustacean. They are a hardy crustacean that adapt to many environments.

Today, we use the term “ghost shrimp” for a variety of shrimp. This article focuses on the freshwater Ghost shrimp belonging to the Palaemonetes family.

Ghost shrimp were first described in 1850. They are often considered pests in the natural environment. In aquariums, however, they are popular for cleaning up their surroundings. Many aquarists consider them beneficial.

Whether keeping them for show or as feeder fish, ghost shrimp are popular among fish keepers. Their multiple uses make them a popular addition to many.

Appearance

Oftentimes, people add ghost shrimp to shake their home aquarium’s ecosystem up. Ghost shrimp’s translucent shell makes them popular among aquarists looking for a unique addition. This trait is how they got their name.

This clear color helps ghost shrimp hide from predators.[1] As a popular prey item, ghost shrimp’s ability to blend in with their background is a vital adaptation.

This translucency allows viewers to see the details of their internal systems. Many favor them in show tanks due to this unique appearance.

Patterns

Sometimes, ghost shrimp have colored dots on their upper side. This isn’t a sign of dimorphism or illness. These dots are simply individual difference.

Antennae

Ghost shrimp have two sets of antenna, a long and a short. These antennae allow them to detect toxins in the water[2].

Their antennae are also used for pairing and competitive interactions. Little more is known about antennae use in social interactions. [3]

Body Parts

Ghost shrimp have a clear carapace, or hard protective shell. This shell defends the shrimp’s softer body parts. They shed their carapace frequently as they grow.

In front of the carapace is their rostrum, a long extension between their eyes.

Behind their carapace are six pleopods, or “swimming limbs”. The last limb connects to their tail.

In the middle of the tail is the telson. Under the telson are four segments that form the tail fin.

Dimorphism

The ghost shrimp is a dimorphic species, meaning that the males and females look different. This dimorphism among males and females  makes it easy to distinguish the two sexes.

On average, ghost shrimp grow to around 1.5 inches, but females grow to be larger.

Females have a green saddle pattern on their ventral side, or underside.

Tank Requirements

Before choosing to buy a ghost shrimp, you have to make sure that you’re ready to bring them into your home. The first stage is ensuring correct tank quality.

When choosing the size of your tank, five gallons is the smallest appropriate size. Many ghost shrimp owners choose to house their shrimp in ten gallon or larger tanks.

Before introducing your shrimp, you need to ensure that their habitat’s water is prepared. The tank’s water must cycle through to allow good bacteria. This bacteria helps to regulate harmful compounds.

Being accustomed to freshwater rivers, ghost shrimp do well in moving water with crevices and plants to hide in. It’s important to provide them with a similar habitat in their home aquarium.

Ghost shrimp will eat debris from plants, as well. This helps add variation to their diet and helps keep your tank clean. Ensure plants are strong enough to survive the ghost shrimp feeding on them.

Rocks and decor can provide hiding spots for ghost shrimp. This is important, especially after they’ve shed their carapace. During this time, ghost shrimp can be vulnerable. These hiding spots also add diversity to your ghost shrimp tank.

When designing a tank keep your ghost shrimp’s activity in mind. Ghost shrimp are bottom dwellers. As bottom dwellers, they will spend a lot of time in and on the substrate, or ground material.

To lessen the chances of damage through burrowing, consider sand or fine gravel. Larger materials may damage the shrimp. Their sensitive antenna is especially vulnerable. This more fine material also prevents leftover food from sinking out of shrimp’s reach.

Ghost shrimp can handle a wide range of temperatures. Their water is best kept between 65 and 82 degrees.

To ensure that your tank is the proper temperature, you should place a thermometer within it. Placed away from the heater, you can ensure that your tank is the proper temperature for your ghost shrimp and other fish.

Monitoring pH balance is important. PH, or potential of hydrogen, is the measure of acidity in the water. Ghost shrimp do best in pH levels between 7.0 and 8.0.

Ghost shrimp should also have a flow of water to mimic their natural environment. This can be achieved with a filtration system or air pump.

Keep an eye out for excess pollutants. Too much food, fish, or poor maintenance in an aquarium can lead to excess ammonia and nitrate levels.

You should clean your tank weekly and perform partial regular water change.

If your ghost shrimp are feeder fish, their maintenance can be less strict.

Social Behavior

Ghost shrimp are generally calm crustaceans and do well with other animals. However, this nature can make them prey to fish added to your tank. Due to this, they should only live with small, passive species. Some good fish to house them with include characins, loaches, and small barbs.

When considering potential aquarium mates, consider the size of their mouths. You should avoid including any fish who can fit a shrimp in their mouth.

A common household fish to stay away from is the beta fish due to their aggressive nature. Other fish with aggressive reputations should be avoided, as well.

While you can house ghost shrimp together, it’s not necessary. Ghost shrimp are not social animals and can live alone.

Ghost shrimp do well with other shrimp species. They can be housed with snails, as well.

There should only be three or four shrimp for every gallon of water. Keep in mind the room other fish are taking up, too. It’s a good idea to start with less. You can add more shrimp as necessary.

Breeding

If you have a breeding tank, you should expect for ghost shrimp to reproduce a lot. Ghost shrimp are generally easy to breed and can reproduce a lot of offspring. It’s for this reason that ghost shrimp are often bred as feeders, or shrimp that will be fed to other animals.

If purchasing your ghost shrimp, know where they’re from. While many farmers breed ghost shrimp for home aquariums, they’re also commonly used as bait. It’s important to buy your shrimp from a breeder focused on your need.

You’ll need a breeding tank to grow your ghost shrimp population. A breeding tank should have males and females. As mentioned, ghost shrimp’s sex can be identified by their larger size.

The breeding process occurs when females produce eggs. Female ghost shrimp produce eggs every few weeks. These eggs will appear as 20-30 dots on the female’s legs. Within a few days, the male should fertilize the eggs.

When a female is berried, or bearing eggs, move her to a breeder tank. If you allow the eggs to hatch in the main tank, they will become food for other animals.

It should take about three weeks for the eggs to hatch. When the eggs hatch, move the female back to the main tank. If kept in the breeder tank, she will eat the young.

Transporting shrimp can be stressful and aquarists should be mindful to handle the situation with ease.

A sponge filter is the only appropriate filter for a breeder tank. Other filters risk sucking the fry, or young fish, in.

While you should still provide hiding places, a breeder tank can have less sediment and plants. The larvae can feed on small amounts of fine particle food.

When they’ve grown legs, you can feed the ghost shrimp the same as the adults. At five weeks, the shrimp should be large enough to move to the main tank.

Diet

Ghost shrimp are omnivores. The term omnivore is used for animals that eat both plants and animals.

As scavengers, glass shrimp will feed on uneaten food. This nature helps keep algae levels down in the tank. By scavenging uneaten food particles, ghost shrimp will naturally clean your home aquarium.

Overall, ghost shrimp will eat anything that they are provided. This includes most store bought products. Ghost shrimp will also eat debris in their tanks.

When choosing your ghost shrimp’s diet, keep in mind that the crustaceans spend most of their time on the bottom of their tank. Food that sits on the surface may be difficult to get to before other fish. Providing food that sinks, like pellets, is best.

When feeding your ghost shrimp, keep in mind their small size. One pellet of algae can feed multiple shrimp. Overfeeding fish can lead to health and water quality issues. Overconsumption has also been linked to death in ghost shrimp.

If you’re looking to supplement your shrimp’s diet, you can add calcium to support your ghost shrimp’s carapace.

Keep in mind that copper is toxic to ghost shrimp. Before adding decor, food, or medication to their tanks, always look at the ingredients.

Life Span

Ghost shrimp only live for around a year. This lifespan can vary based on care, individual, and breeding specificities. They are often used as feeder fish due to being an easy, affordable species to breed.

Poor breeding conditions can cause them to have high mortality rates. It is not uncommon for ghost shrimp to die shortly after the stress of transporting them to their new tank.

This is why it’s important to understand where your ghost shrimp are coming from and what they were bred for. Do not purchase feeder fish for show tanks. An aquarium ghost shrimp that was raised as bait might not live as long. This is due to being raised in poorer conditions. Ghost shrimp being raised for show tanks are cared for better.

Despite their short lives, ghost shrimp will molt, or shed their shell, often. As ghost shrimp grow, they become too large for their shell and must shed it accordingly. There is no structured frequency to how often a ghost shrimp molts. It depends on how fast your shrimp eats and grows.

When ghost shrimp shed their old shell, they are vulnerable to attack. In home aquariums, more active fish might cause damage to a vulnerable ghost shrimp.

Having plants or decor is important. This ensures that ghost shrimp have a place to hide. They will seek these areas when they are vulnerable.

Diseases

While ghost shrimp can withstand a lot, they are prone to diseases.

One common disease seen in ghost shrimp is called “vorticella”.[4] Vorticella looks like a white growth and the carapace. This can be dissolved by adding salt to the tank.

Ghost shrimp are often susceptible to bacterial infections. Bacterial infections can easily be seen in ghost shrimp. Due to their clear appearance, an infection is easily spotted. Inflammation due to this infection appears pink in ghost shrimp. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done.

It’s important to constantly check in on your ghost shrimp. By monitoring their behavior, appearance, and eating habits, you can catch onto illness. The chance of your shrimp getting sick unnecessarily can be assisted by providing a healthy diet and clean habitat. Certain treatments or medications can be administered, if needed, as well.

Are Ghost Shrimp Right For Me?

Whether it’s your first tank, or you’re adding to a larger collection, ghost shrimp make a great addition for almost every home aquarist.

While ghost shrimp aren’t a difficult animal to take care of, it’s still important to understand what they require. Providing them with the proper tank and diet is important. This article was designed to set you up for success when you become the owner of ghost shrimp.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20150611-the-top-10-see-through-animals

[2] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10236244.2012.699644

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *