Ghost shrimp in aquarium

Ghost Shrimp Care: Tanks, Diet, Breeding And More

Ghost Shrimp, also known as Glass Shrimp, is a popular freshwater crustacean. They’re easy to keep and readily available at local aquarium stores, meaning they’re an appealing tank edition to beginners and advanced aquarists alike.

Ghost Shrimp are small, growing to a maximum of 1.5 – 3 inches in length. They are transparent, with a yellow-orange spot in the center of the tail. 

They are commonly used for two roles – food for larger fish and highly effective tank cleaners. They’re excellent additions to community tanks with other small, non-aggressive fish.

In this guide, we cover their care, ranging from tanks to diet to breeding and more.

Recommended Ghost Shrimp Care Items:

Ghost Shrimp Overview

Ghost shrimp are originally from North America and were first described in 1850

‘Ghost shrimp’ is the common name used for a few different varieties of shrimp. Generally speaking, they belong to the Palaemonetes family. Within the family, there are a number of different sub-species. However, you’re not likely to get this level of detail at your local aquarium store; most fish stores just use the common name ghost shrimp or glass shrimp.

Most shrimp available in stores today are reared in farms versus harvested from the wild. If you’re searching for ghost shrimp as long-term tank cleaners, we recommend trying to ask whether the shrimp you’re evaluating were bred as feeder fish or for home aquariums. Feeder fish are usually kept in less than ideal conditions and therefore more likely to be stressed and sick, which you want to avoid adding to your tank.

In an aquarium, ghost shrimps are excellent scavengers. They will clear up uneaten food and keep algae levels under control. They are well-known for their cleaning prowess. Their transparent bodies and frenetic food-searching behavior make Ghost Shrimps an interesting addition to any aquarium.

They can function in a group or as solo shrimp although if you want to breed them, you’re going to clearly need a group.

Ghost Shrimp Appearance

As you might guess, it is hard to see ghost shrimp as they’re mostly clear and transparent in color.  This transparency helps them evade predators. It also allows the inner workings of their body, such as food digestion, to be visible. This makes them a unique addition to any freshwater tank.

This species has two pairs of antenna, one long and one short. These antennae are sensory organs that detect tactile or chemical information such as toxins or food in the water. 

The ghost shrimp have a carapace, or a hard protective shell that encases the softer, more vulnerable parts of the shrimp, for defense. They also have a beak-like extension, otherwise known as a rostrum, in between their eyes.

ghosty shrimp against black background

Behind the carapace, they have six flexible abdominal segments with their limbs that help them swim. The sixth abdominal segment connects to the quintessential shrimp tail fan.

Different species can have different colored dots on their backs. Most species will have a reddish-orange spot. They’re small shrimp and only expected to be about 1.5 inches when fully grown. Females are typically larger than males.

How long do Ghost Shrimp live?

Glass shrimp have short lifespans. On average, in good conditions, they will live about a year. If they’re bred as feeder shrimp, they will likely have an even shorter lifespan. Feeder fish are typically housed in rough conditions, which means they’re under stress for most of their lives. Stress will greatly impact the longevity of the animal so sometimes even under perfect conditions, ghost shrimp raised as feeder shrimp will perish soon after purchase.

Ghost Shrimp Molting

Although ghost shrimp have short lifespans, your shrimp will molt regularly as they grow and outsize their previous shells. If they’re eating a lot, they’ll grow quickly and molt more frequently.

When your shrimp shed their old shells, they will be vulnerable to injury until their new shell hardens. You don’t need to worry about the shrimp when they molt; however, do pay close attention to them, especially if you have active fish in the tank who might bump into them. Your shrimp will take precautions during this time and try to hide to avoid any issues.

When you find an extra shell sitting at the bottom of the tank, you’ll probably assume it is a dead shrimp. However, look closer to see if the interior is hollow. If it is, your shrimp has molted. Feel free to leave the old shell in the aquarium as other critters in your tank will use it as a food source.

How big do Ghost Shrimp get?

This species small. Under ideal conditions, they will max out at about 2 inches in length.

Ghost Shrimp Temperament

Ghost shrimp are peaceful creatures which makes them good candidates for community tanks. Care must be taken when selecting tank mates because larger fish might enjoy a ghost shrimp snack if given the chance. 

They are also active shrimp and will spend a lot of their time on the hunt for leftover food and algae. This makes them active, inquisitive, and curious pets. Because they’re peaceful and inexpensive, they can be a good option for a child’s shrimp or community tank.

Ghost Shrimp Care

We will explore the basics of shrimp care, including tanks, feeding, breeding, ideal tank mates, and more.

Ghost Shrimp Habitat

Ghost shrimp typically live in rivers or lakes where there is flowing water, fine sediment, and plenty of spaces to hide. These elements are important to consider when designing your aquarium. The goal when creating any aquarium should be mimicking a fish or shrimp’s natural environment. It will help keep your creatures’ stress levels low. 

ghost shrimp in planted tank

What is the best tank for a Ghost Shrimp?

These are small critters. They don’t require a ton of space and can be kept in relatively small environments. We recommend 5 gallons as the bare minimum although 10 gallons or 20 gallons is preferable. Although it feels somewhat counterintuitive, larger tanks are typically easier to care for, as they’re easier to keep stable water parameters and don’t require as frequent water changes.

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      How many Ghost Shrimp can go in my tank?

      Plan on keeping a max of 3-4 glass shrimp per gallon, although this amount will depend on the level of other animals in your tank. For example, if you have a 10-gallon aquarium, you could have anywhere between 30-40 shrimp if you tank had no other inhabitants.

      Generally speaking, shrimp have a smaller biological load than fish. If you have questions about your stock levels, start with less shrimp and slowly work your way up after testing the water parameters.

      Ideal Glass Shrimp Water Conditions

      These shrimp are not too picky about their water conditions. The most important element for the shrimp’s longterm happiness is consistency; it is better to have consistent conditions versus always chasing the perfect temperature.

      They will thrive in standard tropical aquarium conditions. Below are their ideal water parameters:

      • Temperatures: 65 to 82ºF
      • pH: 7.0 to 8.0

      Glass shrimp also do best with lightly flowing of water. Nothing special needed here as the appropriate level can easily be generated by the filter or an air pump.

      You will want to keep an eye on ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Overfeeding, overstocking, and insufficient water changes can skew the levels, threatening the health of your tank.

      To maintain stable water conditions, we recommend testing your water with this Aquarium testing kit. This is the easiest way to keep track of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. 

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        What to put in your Ghost Shrimp tank

        The most ideal ghost shrimp tank will mimic their natural conditions. Think of flowing bodies of water with lots of hiding places created by organic matter, rocks, and roots twisted together at the bottom.

        What is the Best Type of Substrate for Glass Shrimp?

        Ghost shrimp’s appearance pops when kept in a tank with black aquarium gravel or substrate. For the same reason, they’re also flashy looking in tanks with a black background. The shrimp are more easily visible against black. We also recommend keeping them in a tank with a mature substrate because it will have more natural food for them to scavenge.

        How Much and What Kind of Lighting do Ghost Shrimp need?

        Standard aquarium lighting will be just fine. We don’t recommend keeping on the lights 24/7, as that does not reflect their natural habitat. Therefore, aim for 8-12 hours of light per day.

        What Kind of Filtration do Glass Shrimp Need?

        Because of their small bio load, you can get away with a sponge filter or HOB filter. HOB power filters are an excellent option because they will give you good water circulation. Additionally, an air pump with a fine air stone will create a wall of tiny bubbles to help with water circulation.

        Decorations

        Your ghost shrimp are small and will want places to hide. We recommend rocks or pieces of driftwood to create a natural environment with plenty of nooks and crannies. Good hiding place selection equals less stressed shrimp which equals a longer life and less likely to get sick, so it is a win-win for everyone. 

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          Plants

          Similar to your decorations, ghost shrimp appreciate natural aquatic plants. We recommend plants like the Java Fern, Amazon Swords, or Java Moss. But they will pretty much be happy with anything you choose. Plants help improve the water conditions while also providing hiding spaces and a natural food source. But don’t worry, your shrimp won’t chomp your plants.

          Glass Shrimp Potential diseases

          Important notice: we are not veterinarians at Aquarium Friend so the information below should be used for general awareness only. If you are concerned about the health of your shrimp, consult a fish and shrimp health professional immediately.

          The most common reason for your shrimp getting sick is an unsuitable and unhealthy environment. Shrimp are most frequently infected with fungal and bacterial infections in an unhealthy environment. Another reason that your shrimp might get sick is if you purchase other shrimp with a disease and release them into your established tank. This is how parasites can spread among shrimp.

          Common shrimp diseases include Vorticella, Scutariella Japonica, muscular necrosis, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and chitinolytic bacterial disease. All of these diseases can result in the death of your shrimp so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

          When treating any shrimp tank, be careful of the medications that you use. Some medications contain high levels of copper, which is toxic to shrimp. Read the label and choose a safe medication for invertebrates.

          Ghost Shrimp Feeding 

          Ghost shrimp are easy to feed; they will pretty much consume anything you put in front of them including flakes, pellets, and algae wafers. They will happily clean up your excess algae, plant detritus, and leftovers from their tank mate’s meals. Because of this, your ghost shrimp will happily scout your tank for their next meal.

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              Sinking pellets are the easiest way to ensure your shrimp get food, as flakes will likely be picked off by your mid and top-level swimmers.

              Feed them sparingly – one algae pellet will easily fuel a tank containing many shrimp. You want to avoid overfeeding your shrimp 

              You can also consider using calcium supplements to ensure their shells are strong.

              Do ghost shrimp eat moss balls?

              Moss balls, also known as marimo moss balls, are a type of algae similar to cladophora algae. They do not function like most aquatic plans and will do little, if anything, to improve water quality. That being said, shrimp like to snack on them because they house micro fauna that shrimp eat. We are talking really tiny organisms for your shrimp.

              One warning with marimo moss balls – they can introduce algae into your tank so be mindful of this before introducing them in an established tank.

              Ghost Shrimp Tank Mates

              This is a peaceful and easygoing community tank member species. That being said, it doesn’t mean they’re compatible will all other species. Their small size makes them vulnerable to being eaten by larger tank mates. They can also get bullied by more boisterous fish.

              Examples of good tank mates could be:

              These fish are definitely no-go’s with your ghost shrimp, unless you’re planning on turning your ghost shrimp into snacks:

              Glass Shrimp Breeding

              Ghost shrimp are generally easy to breed in ideal conditions with limited stress. Their ease of breathing is one reason why they are commonly used as feeder fish. They’re prolific, easy breeders which means a cheap source of food!

              You will need a breeding tank in order to be successful. Use a sponge filter in your breeding tank, or else the babies will get sucked in the filter. We also recommend a thin layer of substrate and some live plants if you can manage it. These plants will serve as a good food source to the young shrimp. A little algae is also helpful. This should go without saying, but you need both male and female ghost shrimp to be successful in your breeding endeavors.

              Every few weeks, your females will produce eggs. You can recognize the eggs by looking for green dots under her tail. You will see somewhere in the range of 20-30 green dots. Once you see the eggs, give her a few days so the males have a chance to fertilize the eggs.

              After that, you will need to move the female to the breeder tank before the eggs hatch. Once the eggs hatch, immediately move the female back to the main tank, or else she will snack on her babies. We recommend giving the babies about five weeks to mature and grow before attempting to move them back into the main tank.

              How to Sex Ghost Shrimp

              Female ghost shrimp are most easily recognized when mature because they are larger than the males. Additionally, they usually develop a green saddle underneath their body.

              Do ghost shrimp die giving birth?

              Given that ghost shrimps have a short lifespan, it makes sense that some people might think that they have one shot at breeding before death.

              However, ghost shrimp do not die directly after laying eggs. They can breed multiple times in their lives.

              Can Ghost Shrimp mate with other shrimp?

              Ghost shrimp are a particular species of shrimp. Although also shrimp species, other types of shrimp such as Cherry, Amano, and Vampire shrimp may be similar, it is not possible for them to interbreed. There are no cherry ghosts in the our future unfortunately.

               Ghost Shrimp FAQs

              Do ghost shrimp die easily?

              Shrimp tend to be slightly more sensitive that fish, which makes them more likely to suddenly die off. This is further compounded by the fact that ghost shrimp are often raised as feeder food, which is typically associated with high-stress and less than ideal living conditions. Both of these elements are a recipe for a quick shrimp death. Other issues include improper water parameters, presence of copper or lead in your aquarium, water heaters, overfeeding, and overstocked tanks.

              Will ghost shrimp clean my tank?

              Yes, ghost shrimp will happily clean your tank! They’re excellent scavengers and will clear up uneaten food and excess algae levels. Their cleaning prowess will help to keep your tank looking clean. Scavenging is their main job so expect to see them busy throughout the day.

              What are ghost shrimp used for?

              Ghost shrimp have three primary roles: as feeder shrimp, as scavengers, and as pets. Ghost shrimp are an excellent food source for both freshwater and saltwater fish. As scavengers, they are omnivores and will consume algae, detritus, and left over food, helping your tank stay clean. Lastly, they’re prized pets because of their transparent appearance that reveals their inner organs. This cool presentation makes them especially popular in kids’ aquariums.

              Conclusion

              Now that you’ve learned just about all there is to know when it comes to caring for ghost shrimp, you should be able to decide for yourself if they’re a good fit for your aquarium.

              Ghost shrimp are unique, energetic, and peaceful freshwater shrimp. They’re great scavengers and will keep your tank sparkling. They’re also an excellent choice as feeder shrimp for larger fish. They’re easy to breed which makes them popular with kids and people trying to produce their own fish food. They don’t need a ton of space and they’re easily available at local fish stores, so they also make excellent choices for beginner aquarists. 

              What has been your experience with ghost shrimp? Have you successfully kept any ghost shrimp for longer than a year?

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