Main menu


Ghost shrimp see through shrimp for your tank

Ghost Shrimp: See-Through Shrimp for your Tank

Commonly sold as feeders for predatory fish (many smallish puffers love them by the way), these US Gulf Coast natives are worth a closer look for peaceful tanks with small fish or those with non-predatory habits. They have been suggested on Internet message boards as algae eaters. More...In my experience this is a bit of an exaggeration. They are omnivorous, and will eat some soft algaes (but no filamentous/thread/hair algae) if there is no flake or small pellets available, but prefer to compete with their finny tankmates for normal aquarium fare. Between meals they will scavenge the tank, making a group of these inverts one of the more efficient selections for tank cleaners, at least where uneaten food is concerned. They are not at all limited to the bottom of the tank. They will forage all over the rocks, driftwood, plants, and even the glasses of the tank sides.
In the US, these creatures are caught along the Gulf Coast in marshes, rivers, and less-than-marine bays. Originally seasonal (they are really common and easy to harvest seasonally), they are now captured at peak and kept in holding ponds and vats for off-season stock. For me they do best in at least slightly hard to hard and somewhat alkaline water. They do withstand long-term exposure to softer water; so don't fret about whatever your tank conditions may be, possibly unless you are breeding them. In tanks with non-threatening tankmates, these shrimp seem to be active almost 24/7. In a multi-shrimp tank I seem to see activity whenever I look. With threatening tankmates, they will be largely nocturnal in my experience. I have poor results with these shrimp with my larger Synodontis cats which are nocturnal. They jump or climb out of the tanks -- whether being chased, or just being spooked by being brushed by catfish whiskers in the night I do not know. I can imagine this happening with other nocturnal fish, e
There seem to be at least two and most probably several species of Ghost Shrimp carried by local fish stores in the US as feeders. The two main divisions I find hard to tell apart. One is true freshwater (FW), but will withstand brackish water without problems. The other is brackish to marine, but will withstand FW for extended to indefinite periods.
The real FW Ghost Shrimp breeds readily in tanks, the female attaching fertilized eggs to her swimmerets after a fresh molt. The eggs may have been stored in her body following mating until time for molt, but these events tend to follow one another closely. The female carries these with her until they hatch, fanning her swimmerets periodically to clean and oxygenate the eggs, which individually are fairly large. Development of the eggs/larvae can be seen as darkening of the eggs as the enclosed embryos mature.
When the female releases the larvae, they are individually tiny, but visible. They are almost miniatures of the adults. They can take fine fry food such as Liquifry or the finest powders or even newly hatched baby brine shrimp. However, for they do better with live foods available in their tank and live baby brine supplements after a few days. The adults (along with any fish in the tank) will consider the babies as sushi, so survival is likely only in the most heavily planted tanks, or in isolation tanks. If you set a tank for hatching with a near-term female carrying eggs as the only inhabitant, watch her and remove her as soon as possible after the fry are released. She will have no objection to cannibalizing her own offspring. Heavy planting here as well gives more refuge, and a richer source of infusoria for the fry to graze. The length of time for the eggs to develop to hatching is variable with temperature. Three weeks from the last molt seems about normal at temperatures in the mid to upper 70s F. For
Masses of Java Moss are a wonderful nursery -- these harbor loads of infusorians and provide plenty of refuges at the same time.
The other common Ghost Shrimp, the brackish/marine type, also breeds in captivity, but the "fry" are quite different from the adults, true larvae, tiny even in relation to their FW kin, and live free-floating in brackish to marine water, drifting with the plankton eating the tiniest plankton. They go through multiple molts and life cycle stages during this period, so are extremely difficult to raise in captivity. They live this free-floating existence for many days to weeks before they come to resemble the parents and settle out of the water column to an adult life style. If you have seen both types of females carrying eggs on their swimmerets, the difference is obvious. The brackish/marine forms have tiny, tiny eggs and many, many of them. The eggs of the FW form(s?) are much larger and even to aging eyes can be seen as individual eggs (well, on occasion with the help of a magnifying lens).
Both these shrimp are all but transparent. Their shells are clear, their muscles very nearly so. The hindgut contents are clearly visible. If they have been grazing algae, then get a colored-flake food meal, before too long a dividing line in the color of the hindgut is noticeable. Once they die, or if they are ill or severely stressed to near-death, they become translucent white. Sometimes they even turn pinkish (usually after death), as do boiled edible shrimp and lobsters after death. When they grow, as with other crustaceans, they shed their external skeleton and harden a new larger one. In very soft water they sometimes have trouble shedding the old exoskeleton, occasionally becoming trapped in the partially shed shell. They or their con-specifics frequently but not always consume the cast-off shell (recycling). They are agile swimmers, and in common with many relatives, can snap backward at great speed from a startle reflex snap forward of their tail.
Adding saltwater liquid iodide supplement is controversial, but as I have experienced molt death issues with some shrimp without this supplement, I tend to use it for any tank where I am attmpting breeding shrimp.
Due to their seasonal low prices and ready availability, these are fascinating creatures for early forays into invert keeping. They can inhabit any size tank, but for watching a dozen or so of them on their own, a 15-gallon tank is near ideal, a ten will do for a smaller group. The fine particles at the bottom of your used-up flake food containers are ideal staple food. If your area is iodine-deficient, adding a few drops of marine/reef iodine supplement every month would not be bad, especially if you have experienced molt problems with your shrimp as mentioned before. An alternative would be a teaspoon or so if marine mix per month in the tank to serve the same need. If you want to try your hand at planted tanks, these are perfect inhabitants for the novice invert or plant keeper. It you have will power, hold off on tankmates other than possibly MTS snails or Otocinclus cats. The Ghost Shrimp are not nearly as good at algae clearing as are Amano shrimp, but they cost a tiny fraction of the price of an Amano,
This article originally appeared in AquaSource magazine. It has been edited for The Puffer Forum.