Ghost Shrimp Care Guide

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp, also known as glass shrimp, daggerblade grass shrimp and Mississippi grass shrimp are all members of the Paleomonetes genera of shrimp. Species include kadakensis, paludosus, pugio and others. Ghost shrimp are among the most abundant macroinvertebrates living in the Atlantic and Gulf coast estuaries. Ghost shrimp are similar to crayfish in body form, but much smaller.

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Ghost shrimp grow only to about 1.5 inches at maturity. They have a slender, transparent body. Sometimes the shrimp have a yellowish tint. The rostrum or “beak” on top of the head of the shrimp, has 6-8 saw-like teeth along the top edge. The first two pairs of legs of ghost shrimp have pincers. The first set of crayfish pincers are larger, like lobster claws.

Paleomonetes play a very important role in the natural food chain in the estuary. Ghost shrimp transfer “energy” up the food chain. That is a fancy way of saying ghost shrimp are a favorite food for larger carnivorous fish, birds and mammals.

Ghost shrimp are very popular in the aquarium hobby. Some aquarists use ghost shrimp as a live food for large, predatory fish. Others keep them in planted and community aquariums. Ghost shrimp make excellent starter shrimp for someone getting into shrimp aquariums.

Ghost Shrimp

Natural Habitat

Ghost shrimp inhabit a wide range of aquatic biotopes. They can survive a temperature range of 41°F to 100°F in the wild.  Paleomonetes shrimp are found living in freshwater and highly saline estuaries. They can thrive even when there are wide swings in salinity. Biologists have found ghost shrimp living in salinities ranging from 0 ppt (parts per thousand) to as high as 55 ppt. As a reference, seawater has a salinity of 35 ppt. Overall the average salinity range is from 0 to 36 ppt.

The shrimp tend to thrive in well-oxygenated waters. But researchers find that Paleomonetes can survive brief exposure to almost water with almost zero oxygen levels. In low-oxygen conditions, The shrimp will even climb out of the water to get some air, then jump back into the water.

Ghost shrimp are considered very tasty food to many fish, birds and mammals. In the wild, ghost shrimp are found living among reeds, logs, branches and submerged aquatic plants. The shrimp prefer slow-moving water. The cover protects them from  high water flow and predators. They are most comfortable climbing on plants and other structures, looking to scavenge food.

Ghost Shrimp Care

Aquarium Requirements

If you’re setting up a dedicated shrimp tank or “shrimpatorium,” you are probably going to be keeping more than one shrimp, but no fish. The idea shrimp aquarium is in the range of five to ten gallons. You can also add a group of ghost shrimp to a community or biotope aquarium containing shrimp-friendly fish. The shrimp like to pick at the gravel and prefer smaller grains to sift through, looking for bits of organic matter and other foods.

Paleomonetes don’t have special water chemistry requirements. But like all aquarium life, maintaining a stable temperature and water free of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are important. Even low levels of these pollutants will stress your shrimp. Long-term exposure to ammonia or nitrite will weaken the ghost shrimp’s immune system, which result in disease problems.

Ghost shrimp can be kept in a pH range of 6.5 to 8.2. Water hardness and alkalinity (carbonate hardness) are not critical. A range of 3 to 12 degrees is acceptable. If your water has low alkalinity, the pH may tend to drop to the acidic pH range over time. Alkalinity stabilizes pH. Natural acids produced by the break-down of fish waste and biological filtration neutralizes alkalinity. If the alkalinity drops to less than 3 degrees, the pH could suddenly drop below pH 6.0. Test pH and alkalinity every week or two to keep a close watch on these important water chemistry parameters.

Water Changes

Water changes, made every three to four weeks, will usually replenish alkalinity and stabilize the pH. Set the aquarium heater to maintain a water temperature of 70 to 85°F. An aquarium thermometer is helpful for making sure the heater is keeping the water temperature at the desired set point.

Ghost Shrimp Water Chemistry Conditions

pH:6.5 – 8.2
General or Total hardness:5 – 10 degrees
Alkalinity or carbonate hardness:3 – 10 degrees
Water temperature:70 – 85°F (21 – 30°C)
Ammonia & Nitrite:0.0

Water Filtration

Ghost shrimp are not strong swimmers. They don’t like strong currents unless they have a place to escape the flow. You will probably see your shrimp periodically exploring a high flow area, but they don’t want to be continually battered with a stream of water. If your plans are to set up a dedicated shrimp tank, a simple hang-on-back (HOB) filter will be ideal. A HOB power filter will keep the aquarium clean and provide adequate water flow that won’t disturb the shrimp. The filter cartridge should contain activated carbon to remove odors and adsorb dissolved organics.

If you’re adding the shrimp to a larger aquarium, consider a canister filter. A canister filter will provide more mechanical filter media like filter sponges, along with activated carbon and sometimes optional biological filtration media. Mechanical filter media traps and hold solid particles, helping the water stay clear. The biological filter media provides a place for beneficial waste-degrading bacteria to live. No matter what type of filter you choose, be sure to service it once a month. A dirty filter cartridge will still flow, even when clogged.

Most aquarium filters are designed to allow water to bypass the filter media if it becomes clogged. This safety feature ensures the filter still pumps water, even if the media are clogged with sludge. The sludge will decompose inside the filter if not replaced frequently. Decomposing organic matter releases algae-promoting nutrients, like phosphate, into the water. This can stimulate green water blooms and algae growth on the glass, gravel and ornaments. Maintain the filter and your water will stay clean and clear.

Ghost Shrimp Aquarium Lighting

You’ll have several options for lighting your ghost shrimp aquarium. You can keep the shrimp in dim or bright lighting. Some nano aquariums come with a tiny light that will provide a small level of illumination. You’ll want a brighter light if raising aquarium plants.

There are two types of aquarium lighting:

  • Fluorescent
  • LED

Fluorescent light fixtures are common and have been used for over 30 years. However, modern LED lighting fixtures are gaining in popularity. Here’s what you need to know about both kinds of lighting. Basic fluorescent aquarium lights come with a plastic lid and light fixture. It works as an aquarium cover, lid and a light. Most fluorescent bulbs are designed to bring out the artificial colors of bright aquarium gravel, plastic plants and ornaments. This is great if you’re going for the fantasy look.  If you want to grow live aquarium plants, look for daylight-style fluorescent lighting. Also know that fluorescent bulbs degrade over time. The bulbs gradually dim over a period of 9-12 months. You’ll have to replace the bulbs to maintain the same level of illumination year after year.

LED aquarium lights use very little energy, produce less heat and last for many years. Many LED aquarium light fixtures do not come with a typical “hood” system. The LED fixture is placed above the open-top aquarium. This provides a clean look and recreates that “sunlight shimmer” as the light is refracted through moving water. The LED light will have adjustable mounting legs that straddle the ends of the aquarium frame. Some fixtures even have a built-in timer. You’ll also find upgraded LED light fixtures that have more LEDS for better light coverage. This is important when you have a deep aquarium or are focused on raising live plants.

Ghost Shrimp Photo

Aquascaping The Ghost Shrimp Aquarium

Ghost shrimp love to climb on live and plastic plants, driftwood, and pebbles. If you build a cave or overhang, the shrimp will cling to it, hanging upside down. Smaller-sized gravel is appreciated. Ghost shrimp like to sift through small grains of sand and gravel. Ghost shrimp don’t like to be startled. They’re known to dart right out of the aquarium when scared. Move slowly when working inside the aquarium. Aquascaping essentials for ghost shrimp include:

  • Aquarium-safe rocks or resin structures for climbing and hiding
  • Live or plastic plants for climbing and exploring
  • Driftwood branches
  • Fine or small-sized gravel
  • Optional glass top

Feeding

Ghost shrimp feed on a variety of live foods that live in the aquarium. These include small worms, plankton and algae. Ghost shrimp don’t eat aquarium plants. They forage on the plant surface, picking off tiny bits of algae and other microscopic life they find tasty. Grass shrimp are detritivores.  That means they like to pick and scrape the gravel, rocks and drift wood, looking for pieces of nutrient-rich organic matter.

Ghost shrimp will help clean your aquarium! You can feed your shrimp flakes, pellets and algae discs. They’ll snatch and eat the tiny pieces of food. You’ll be able to see the food particles inside their clear body. Live Java moss is an idea natural feeding station for ghost shrimp. The moss provides a protective environment for tiny live foods to. The shrimp will explore the moss, eating the live foods that live inside.

Ghost Shrimp Compatibility

Expert shrimp-keepers have rated ghost shrimp as compatible with other dwarf shrimp including:

  • Bamboo
  • Bee
  • Blue pearl
  • Crystal
  • Red cherry
  • Yellow
  • Sakura
  • Red Rili
  • Snowball
  • Tiger
  • Amano

Ghost shrimp can be kept with non-aggressive tropical fish. Any fish large enough to swallow a shrimp should be avoided. Juvenile “aggressive” fish, even though they are small, can bite and try to eat a shrimp even though it is too large to swallow. Most community tropical fish like angelfish, platys, mollies, swordtails and even dwarf cichlids are friendly toward ghost shrimp.

Breeding Ghost Shrimp

Breeding ghost shrimp is not difficult. You will need to provide a dedicated breeding aquarium if your shrimp are normally in a community aquarium. This is because the fish will eat the baby shrimp. The water conditions should be as described in this guide. A sponge filter or air stone is recommended as “safe filtration” for baby shrimp. Create dense cover with live plants or moss.

Place four or five shrimp in the tank. If there is a pair, they’ll breed. Just before mating, the female shrimp molts. The pair will mate about seven hours later. The green, fertilized eggs are carried under the female’s body. The eggs will turn clear as they mature and ready to hatch. When the eggs hatch, the larva will hide in the dense cover, protected from the other shrimp. Eventually you see them crawling around, looking like tiny fully-formed shrimp.

Ghost Shrimp picture

Final Thoughts

Ghost shrimp are great for getting into shrimp keeping. They’re great for the peaceful community aquarium too. If you’ve got a planted aquarium ghost shrimp will help keep the plants free of algae. If you’re looking at shrimp tanks as a new hobby or want to expand your existing aquarium experience, be sure to check out the world of ghost shrimp!

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