Ghost shrimp are small invertebrates. You may also find them referred to as glass shrimp, due to their clear coloring.
Reaching only 1.5 to 3 inches in length, they are mostly translucent with a colored spot on the tail. This spot varies in color from yellow to orange.
They have a segmented body with ten sets of legs. While available to purchase in many retail stores, they are frequently wild-caught or explicitly bred to be feeder fish.
For the best ghost shrimp care, when kept as pets or to breed, you need to know their exacting requirements for water parameters, diet, lighting, and heating needs and more. And that is what this article is about.
If you’re looking for something that’s pretty low-maintenance, and even a little exotic, ghost shrimp can be an excellent choice for your tank.
And if you’ve been wondering just what goes into successfully keeping them, this is the article for you.
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Overview and Statistics
Let’s begin with a brief overview of the breed profile, and the most essential points of their care.
|Common name(s):||Ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, grass shrimp, blue banded ghost shrimp, Florida ghost shrimp, guinea floating shrimp, ivory shrimp, palenque floating shrimp, Paraguay ghost shrimp|
|Scientific Name(s):||Palaemonetes paludosus|
|Adult Size:||2 inches|
|Minimum Tank Size:||10 gallons|
|Typical Tank Setup:||Finer sand or gravel suitable for burrowing, plants|
|Tank Level:||Bottom dweller|
|Water Conditions:||Freshwater, 68-85° F, KH 3-10, pH 6.5-8.0|
|Tank mates / Compatibility:||Small, peaceful fish like the Cory Catfish, Otocinclus catfish, and other small shrimp-like Bamboo Shrimp.|
The ghost shrimp can be a fun addition to your freshwater aquarium. They are generally inexpensive to purchase, will live for more than a year, and are fun to watch. Their unique look will add some character to your tank.
They are burrowers and will need a fine sand to spend their time in. You’ll want to avoid any large aquarium stone. You’ll also need to make sure they aren’t placed with large fish—they may be seen as more of a tasty snack rather than tank mates.
They are respectable scavengers and can help keep your aquarium free of fish food that’s settled on the bottom and in the substarte. They will not make an appreciable difference in algae growth, however.
While you may be able to house more than one together, they are prone to aggressive behavior during breeding season. You may also find they fight if living quarters become overcrowded.
They have translucent bodies with a spot of yellow or orange at the center of their tail. Females are usually larger than males and have a green saddle along their underside.
There is frequently a prominent ridge at the top of the tail. The female also carries the eggs, which may be visible when fertile.
They are thinner and more slight than some of the other freshwater shrimp you come across. Their shells are also significantly softer.
The ghost shrimp has two sets of antennae. One set is long while the other is short. They also have a segmented body with six different sections.
Ten sets of legs are used as their primary way of moving around their environment.
Behavior and Temperament
They are generally solitary. As opportunistic eaters, they will eat smaller fish andcrustaceans—including smaller specimens of their own kind. They can be kept in groups if their tank is large enough, but don’t require the company of others and can be kept on their own.
While not generally combative or aggressive, stressful tank conditions can encourage such behavior. As a best practice with ghost shrimp care, allow any changes to their aquarium setup to be implemented gradually, and always avoid overcrowding.
Active, busy creatures, they spend their time burrowing, swimming, scavenging, and creating networks of tunnels.
Habitat and Tank Requirements
To successfully keep them in your aquarium, you’ll want to create a hospitable living habitat.
The following questions and answers will help you establish a proper environment for them.
What Size Tank do Ghost Shrimp Need?
They need a minimum of five gallons to call their home. A tank of any size larger than five gallons will be suitable.
Water Type and Parameters
They fare best in a tropical freshwater tank setup and prefer water to be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the temperature, the more quickly they will grow and the more likely they will be to reproduce.
For non-breeding purposes, 75 degrees is an excellent temperature for their tank. When making changes to their environment, make sure to allow for gradual change. Whether you’re changing the water temperature, replacing tank water, or altering the pH level, it’s best to do so slowly.
Their required pH is 6.5-8.0. Neutral pH will help keep them in optimal health, with good coloring and reproduction rates. In general, conditioned tap water works well for them.
They are sensitive to both ammonia and nitrates. You should take care to keep your water as nitrate- and ammonia-free as possible. Test regularly during tank cleaning to make sure your water has appropriate levels of both.
While ghost shrimp can help keep a tank clean, you will still need to provide new water every week. For optimal wellness, remove 30 percent of the water each week and replace with fresh water. Allow the new water to reach the same temperature as the existing tank to prevent any shock.
What Substrate Should Be Used?
As they are burrowers, they require a small grain substrate they can easily manipulate. A sand or fine aquarium gravel will suit them well.
For best viewing, consider a black substrate or background. It sets off their translucency well and makes observing their habits easier.
They are relatively clean. They leave a minimal footprint of their own on the ecosystem of a tank and can provide some upkeep through their scavenging work.
While they can tolerate currents, they may be sensitive to fluctuations in the water. Light water flow from a gentle filtration system should not bother them.
To provide the best environment, opt for a sponge filter when your tank houses only ghost shrimp. They create minimal waste and help maintain the cleanliness of the tank. Sponge filters are the perfect solution for small shrimp that can be hurt or killed by other filtration systems.
If you keep your ghost shrimp with fish, though, you won’t want to compromise cleanliness. If you have especially dirty tank inhabitants, go ahead and opt for something more heavy duty. Remove young and small individuals from the main tank until they’re of an appropriate size to minimize loss.
They have no special lighting requirements. Standard aquarium lighting is perfectly acceptable.
Plants, Decorations, Swims, And Open Spaces
Offering the best ghost shrimp care means providing them with plenty of hiding spaces. Small individuals will be vulnerable to both fish and larger of their kind who are known to practice cannibalism. All of them will be vulnerable to bigger fish in the tank. Hiding spots are critical, to providing a healthy ecosystem for them.
Especially after molting, when they have a new, underdeveloped shell, they benefit from protective spaces. Live aquarium plants are a great addition to a tank for them. Not only will plants provide hiding opportunities, detritus and dead plant matter will provide a food source for the population.
How Many Ghost Shrimp Can You Have Per Gallon?
You may keep as many as 10 per gallon of water. However, the more you choose to keep, the more carefully you need to watch for overcrowding.
Insufficient space can lead to aggression among the community. For best results, evaluate how your particular ghost shrimp have adapted to their space and existing tankmates before adding more to the mix.
Diet and Feeding
They are omnivores. While they will eat discarded fish food and scavenge along the bottom of the tank, they will also eat algae and dead plant matter.
While they are happy to help maintain the cleanliness level of the tank, providing the best care will involve giving them nutritious, commercially available food as well.
What Do They Eat in the Wild
They are scavengers and will eat whatever food source they come across in the wild.
This includes plant matter, debris, and also other marine animals. They will both hunt for susceptible prey and clean up any carcasses they come across.
What You Can Feed Them at Home?
Shrimp pellets or algae wafers can be a good food source. You will also want to offer them calcium to ensure their shells are strong and healthy.
What Human Foods Can They Eat?
As omnivores, they are happy to eat many foods we might find on our plate. Just because they can eat human food doesn’t mean they should, though.
While the majority of human foods won’t give any nutritional benefit to your shrimp, boiled vegetables can. You need to make sure the vegetables are quite soft and can break apart easily. It can be a great way to offer some variety in their diet.
How Often Should You Feed Them?
Plan on feeding twice daily for optimum health.
Only provide them with as much food as they’ll eat in one to three minutes. Extra food won’t be consumed and just serves to impact and dirty the tank’s environment negatively.
Video: A Close Look at the Ghost Shrimp Feeding
In this short video, you can see a ghost shrimp feeding right up close. Pay attention to the fascinating way you can see their internal organs moving as they feed.
Any Special Care Requirements?
Ghost shrimp care is straightforward and uncomplicated. Generally speaking, they are hardy and low maintenance. They don’t usually have any special care requirements other than maintaining their preferred water temperature.
A clean aquarium, with the required substrate, live plants, and a water filtration system, will provide them with adequate housing. Just keep an eye on nitrate, ammonia, and copper levels for a healthy population.
You’ll also want to make sure your shrimp aren’t exposed to the chemicals in medicine made to treat fish diseases. Always check for a label that warns against use with invertebrates and separate ghost shrimp from fish during treatment.
Compatibility With Other Fish
They can be housed with other fish. You will need to closely monitor the size of the fish who share the tank and their predatory behaviors.
If the shrimp are too small, they may become prey. And if the companion fish are too large, they may hunt and eat them.
You should avoid placing them with aggressive fish. Goldfish, crayfish, frogs, turtles, and cichlids will all make quick meals out of them. Non-aggressive and peaceful community fish, like the cory catfish, can be a good choice for a shared tank.
Betta splendens can be successful tankmates, though that will depend on the individual betta and their aggression level.
For best results, introduce fish to an already established community. There will be safety in numbers for them, and they will be comfortable in the space, with knowledge of existing hiding spots.
If you’re looking to house your ghost shrimp with other shrimp, the red cherry shrimp, vampire, bamboo, and crystal reds can be good options.
Can You Keep Multiple Ghost Shrimp Together?
Yes, they may be kept together. As long as an effort is made to keep the population at a comfortable number for the size of the tank, aggressive behavior should be minimal.
The very small and young should be housed separately, though, as they will likely become victims to the larger ghost shrimp.
They are readily available in chain pet stores. Costing just a dollar or two, they are frequently sold as feeder fish for larger fish.
If you are buying them to be a long-term fixture in your home aquarium, you’ll want to stay away from feeder fish tanks. ‘Feeders’ are frequently less healthy and haven’t been kept under optimal conditions.
If you’re looking for quality ghost shrimp to become permanent tank members, consider sourcing directly from a breeder. The quality and health of a breeder’s stock will be far superior.
When selecting your shrimp, make sure to choose one that’s clear. If there are some in the tank that are an opaque white color, you may want to avoid purchasing from the same aquarium. A white look to their bodies can indicate illness. In case it’s communicable or a result of water conditions, it’s best to avoid these.
If you cannot find them for sale locally, you may source them online and have them shipped out. A quick Google search will reveal numerous sellers.
Breeding Them at Home
They are generally easy to breed. Water temperatures on the warmer end of their preferred water temperature can encourage breeding behavior.
Thanks to their translucent form, a female carrying eggs can easily be spotted. This “berried” shrimp should be removed from the tank and away from other fish and shrimp.
Once in the water, the young are too small to catch and will be quickly eaten by the other inhabitants in the tank, so you will want to move them into a ‘nursery tank’ on their own.
Interesting Facts and Trivia
- Their natural habitat is in ponds, lakes, and streams—they can be found as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Florida, with appearances in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma as well.
- They can move backward very quickly—this is usually their escape tactic when they are endangered.
- The translucent bodies of the ghost shrimp give you a view of their inner workings—you can even watch them process and digest the foods they eat.
- They can be found in the wild in almost 50 different countries.
- The shed skin can look like a dead shrimp.
- In the wild, tiny crabs will make their home in ghost shrimp burrows.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Eat Ghost Shrimp?
Yes, they can be eaten. However, it’s not recommended you collect them from any old aquarium to eat. If you plan on raising them to eat, then you must approach your tank as a livestock ground.
You will need to monitor very closely everything you introduce to the tank, including plant matter, water, and any provided foods. You should also be aware that freshwater crustaceans carry more contractible diseases to humans than their saltwater counterparts. Always cook ghost shrimp thoroughly to avoid transmitting any diseases.
Can Ghost Shrimp Live With Bettas?
Yes, they can make good companions for betta fish. If a betta is especially aggressive, it may attack and eat them. Generally speaking, though, in a large enough space, the betta will occupy its own space while the ghost shrimp keeps to itself.
Do They Eat Poop?
No. While they do make excellent tank cleaners for leftover fish food and detritus, they will not eat fish waste. Regular tank cleaning is still required.
Are They Sensitive?
This isn’t a question that has a one-word answer. Ghost shrimp are quite tolerant. You have quite a bit of leeway when it comes to your tank setup. In that way, they are hardy and easy to care for—even for the beginner keeper.
They are, however, sensitive to abrupt changes in their living conditions. Suddenly turbulent waters or an extreme increase or decrease in temperature or pH can cause distress. Care should be taken to ensure all environmental changes happen slowly, so your shrimp population transitions well.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Plants?
Yes, they will eat plants—as long as the plants are dead or dying. They will not bother your living aquarium plants. They eat dead plant matter, detritus, and algae to help keep your tank clean.
How Long are They Pregnant?
Once you can see the eggs, ghost shrimp have an incubation period of approximately 21 days. In the beginning, these eggs will be green. The eggs will become larger and change to a murky green-brown further into the incubation period.
During the final phase of incubation, these eggs will become clear. If you can see tiny eyes, those babies are about to be dropped.
Around day 18 of incubation, plan to move your pregnant female into isolation. Once the new fry have been dropped (you’ll know because the female won’t appear to have anything inside her abdomen), return her to the original tank.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see the babies. When they first make their appearance, they are the size of a pinhead. Maintain appropriate pH levels and water temperatures. If you have an established tank, your fry will sustain themselves on microorganisms.
How Many Babies do Ghost Shrimp Have?
They typically begin with 25-30 eggs. This will likely not accurately reflect the number of young you will end up adding to the population, though.
The larvae have very small mouths and may have difficulty finding food they’re able to eat. It’s not uncommon to lose them to starvation. If not properly separated from the others, you can also expect to lose the fry to larger shrimp and fish.
Java moss can be used successfully to provide nourishment for new fry. You may also try some commercially available baby shrimp food.
How Often do They Molt?
Unlike a mammal shedding its coat seasonally, a ghost shrimp molts when it needs to grow. Their protective shell won’t grow with them—the solution is to shed that skin and develop a new one that can accommodate their larger body.
As long as they are eating well and continuing to grow, you will see them experience molts. It’s important to remember that directly following a molt, they will have very little protection and will be extra vulnerable.
Make sure your ghost shrimp has access to proper hiding spots and calcium, for a strong, new, exoskeleton. Expect it to take 48-72 hours for their shell to harden.
Whether you’re an experienced fishkeeper or just starting out, the ghost shrimp can be a fun addition to your home aquarium. They’re hardy enough to survive beginner mistakes but have enough preferences that the inexperienced can increase their skill set. They are attractive, interesting, and can provide nice visual variety in a tank.
They are more than just a visual novelty, though. They work hard to keep your tank clean. A few ghost shrimp can help your aquarium maintain optimal health. As long as you have at least five gallons for them to call home, they’ll be happy to set up shop for you.
We hope we’ve given you the information you need to begin your own journey with ghost shrimp care. Have you kept them before? What’s been your experience? We’d love to hear how they’ve done in your fish community. Leave us a note below.
Happy fish keeping!