Ghost shrimp, also sometimes known as grass or glass shrimp, are notable for their translucent bodies that let you see all their inner workings.
They’re not exactly flashy, so they’re often overlooked by fishkeepers. But these little guys are always grazing on algae and various detritus, so they make great tank cleaners!
As one of the easiest freshwater shrimp to look after, they can make a great addition to a tropical tank for beginner and experienced fish keepers alike.
The problem is that they’re small and many larger fish would only see them as a tasty snack. That doesn’t mean they can’t be kept in a community tank, however, it just means you need to be careful about their tank mates.
If you want to know more about ghost shrimp and how to care for them, read on.
- What Colors and Variations Do They Come In?
- How Big Do They Get?
- How Long Do They Live?
- History, Origins and Development
- Are They Easy or Hard to Keep in a Home Aquarium?
- Ghost Shrimp Care Considerations
- Diet and Feeding
- Aquarium Setup
- Tank Size and Shape
- Video: A Close Look at the Ghost Shrimp Feeding
- Tank Mate Compatibility
Although the true ghost shrimp is the species Palaemonetes paludosus, the name may be used by pet stores and aquarium supply stores to describe a number of similar translucent species.
Therefore, you may find some variation between different specimen that have been sold as ghost shrimp. That said, these variations may be almost indistinguishable to the hobbyist.
What Colors and Variations Do They Come In?
Some people would describe ghost shrimp as transparent, but more accurately they’re translucent, as they tend to have some other hues to them.
They generally have a sort of misty grayish color. This can vary from very light gray to quite dark, but never a solid color; you’re always able to see through them.
Often they’re slightly mottled and can have tiny green or brown spots and dots on them.
Some varieties have red or orange bands on their front legs and/or feelers. There are fishkeepers who say those with red or orange bands are more aggressive, but this is only anecdotal evidence, so take it with a rather large grain of salt.
How Big Do They Get?
The size of a ghost shrimp depends on age, but the average size of a fully grown adult is 1.5 inches. They can, however, reach up to 2 inches in length.
How Long Do They Live?
Unfortunately, it’s not too uncommon for them to die within a few days of being introduced to a new aquarium, so be careful and acclimate them gradually, if possible.
If they settle into their new tank well and are properly cared for, they have an average lifespan of around one year.
However, they have been know to live for up to two years under the correct conditions.
History, Origins and Development
As stated above, many pet stores will sell any old translucent species as a ghost shrimp, but for the sake of clarity, let’s assume that we’re talking about the glass shrimp Palaemonetes paludosus.
This is a freshwater species native to the United States. Its natural habitat is on the east of the country and is found in ponds, lakes and streams as far south as Florida and as far north as New Jersey. It’s also found in the states of Colorado, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, where it is thought to have been introduced.
In the wild, they survive in temperatures anywhere between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, those kept in aquariums tend to be acclimated to tropical temperatures so you probably shouldn’t try to keep them in a cold water tank.
Unlike some species, for instance goldfish or bettas, ghost shrimp haven’t been deliberately bred to be developed into new and novel varieties. In fact, not much attention is really paid to breeding these critters to type, as they’re generally sold extremely cheaply as feeders for larger fish.
Are They Easy or Hard to Keep in a Home Aquarium?
They are known for being hardy. They’re considered one of the easiest types of shrimp to keep in a home aquarium, as they’re less sensitive to poor conditions, or to fluctuations in temperature and water condition.
Because they’re scavengers who feed on algae, dead plant matter and other waste, they actually prefer a tank that’s not excessively clean.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to keep the conditions perfect and the tank in tip-top condition. It just means you have a little bit more room for error, which is important for someone new to fishkeeping.
They can make a great starter shrimp to learn the ropes with before moving on to other varieties when you’re more confident.
Ghost Shrimp Care Considerations
As you now know, they are fairly easy to keep, so they don’t have many special care considerations beyond your average creature in a tropical aquarium.
We’ll go on to talk about this more later in this article, but it’s important to consider what other creatures you’re housing your ghost shrimp with. Any large fish will eat them, so tank mates must be selected carefully.
If you do keep them in a community aquarium, you have to be very careful when treating fish for diseases. Medicines you add to the water that are perfectly safe for fish can be fatal for shrimp. Anything containing copper is a big no go.
Because they eat dead plant matter, they prefer to be kept in an aquarium with at least some live plants. As well as being a good food source, it also gives them a place to hide and hang out.
Diet and Feeding
If there’s one thing they aren’t, it’s fussy eaters! These critters will eat almost anything that’s on offer.
In a well-established tank that’s not routinely scrubbed completely clean, there should be enough algae, dead plant matter and other detritus to keep their stomachs full.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed them at all, however. Although, if your ghost shrimp have tank mates, they’ll probably eat whatever they’re eating.
Fish flakes, fish pellets, shrimp pellets, algae wafers: they’ll happily eat it all. That said, it’s a good idea to feed a brand that contains calcium, as it’s important for healthy shell growth. They’ll also eat soft vegetables such as blanched peas or boiled zucchini.
Not only is it fun to watch them eat, you can also see the food making its way through their digestive systems, which is pretty cool.
Like most aquatic pets, ghost shrimp need a specific tank setup, water parameters and so on in order to thrive. We’ll give you an overview of what you need to keep them healthy and happy in the next few sections to follow.
Tank Size and Shape
Ghost shrimp are only small, so they don’t need a huge aquarium to thrive. They can happily live in a tank as small as five or ten gallons, but the size will depend on how many you want to keep.
Too many kept together in a small tank could start to act aggressively toward one another.
They’re great additions to community tanks. Most people don’t keep them alone in a tank but, as ever, you need to be careful not to overstock your aquarium. All creatures contribute to the bio-load of a tank, so if you overstock there will be too much waste and this will create an unhealthy environment.
If in doubt, ask your local aquarium supply store or the manufacturer of your aquarium what the correct amount of inhabitants is for whatever size tank you own.
As for tank shape, they don’t seem to have a particular preference. However, spherical bowl type tanks are thought to be stressful for their inhabitants.
Filtration is definitely needed for any tank with ghost shrimp. They don’t like to have a water change of more than 30 percent. And, if you only changed 30 percent of the water without a filter, you couldn’t maintain a healthy environment as there would be too much water in the tank.
These creatures are known to enjoy some movement to the water, so any flowing kind of filter is best. One where you can adjust the strength of the current is ideal.
You could also add a bubbler to increase the movement of the water, as long as it’s suitable for the tank’s other inhabitants.
Ghost shrimp sift through the substrate to find food. They also like to burrow, as it helps them to feel secure. To facilitate this you’ll need to provide a sand substrate or a very fine gravel (though sand is probably best).
While it’s in no way a requirement, their translucent bodies look particularly striking against a black or very dark substrate.
Since they have no specific lighting requirements, standard aquarium lighting is fine.
Most fishkeepers light their tanks for about 10 to 12 hours per day with LED lights; normally whatever lights came with the tank.
That said, they love a well-planted aquarium, so you may find you need more powerful lights and to run them at least 12 hours per day to keep the plants thriving, though it might take some trial and error to find the sweet spot.
Unlike some aquarium creatures that are highly sensitive to temperature and need to be kept within a range of one or two degrees, ghost shrimp are a bit more versatile and can be kept at almost any temperature in the tropical range. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to tank mates.
You can keep their aquarium at any temperature between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
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.
Tank Mate Compatibility
If you’re interested in keeping your ghost shrimp in a community tank, you’ll need to know what kind of tank mates they can have.
Of course, large fish or other critters aren’t going to be good tank mates as they’d eat them without a second thought. So, definitely do not house them with tank mates like goldfish, cichlids, frogs, turtles, discus or angelfish, to name but a few.
They get on well with other shrimps of similar sizes, including bamboo, vampire and cherry red varieties.
Snails such as mystery snails, ivory snails, ramshorn snails and gold Inca snails are also good choices.
If you definitely want to keep your ghost shrimp in a tank with fish, you need to choose small, peaceful fish as tank mates. There aren’t many fish that fit this category but good examples include cory catfish and otocinclus catfish.
Although not generally known to be especially peaceful, bettas will generally leave ghost shrimp alone, so they’re another one of the few fish it’s safe to pick as a tank mate.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if you have a species in mind to mix in a community tank, ask an expert (or at least the internet) if it’s a good choice.