vampire shrimp in tank

Vampire Shrimp Care: Types, Tank, Diet And More

The Vampire Shrimp is an increasingly popular freshwater shrimp. They’re peaceful tank members, live longer than most other shrimp varieties, have a unique filter-feeding style, and are heftier than other shrimp, adding a new aesthetic to your tank.

Their care is relatively straightforward but it is still important to be educated when preparing to have Vampire Shrimps in your tank. As long as you know how to care for them properly, you will be set-up for success. However, if you’re planning to breed them, it is important to understand breeding is difficult.  So don’t get your hopes up too high around reproduction.

Below, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about Vampire Shrimps. We’ll review their tank requirements, diet, lifespan, and breeding. Spoiler alert – all of it is pretty easy so enjoy!

Recommended Vampire Shrimp care items:


What is a Vampire Shrimp?

The Vampire Shrimp (scientific name: Atya gabonensis) originates from Western Africa and South America. This freshwater shrimp lives in coastal areas where there are dense mangrove roots or other vegetation. The Vampire Shrimp is endangered and on the threatened species list. they are harvested only in small quantities in West Africa, particularly in Northern Nigeria, which makes them difficult to obtain for hobbyists.

The Vampire Shrimp is a shrimp of many names including Viper Shrimp, African Fan Shrimp, Giant African Filter Shrimp, and Gabon Shrimp. With a name like vampire and viper, one would think these snails are aggressive, carnivorous creatures who will prey on their tank mates. Not much could be further from the truth. They’re peaceful creatures and will spend most of their time hiding, preferring to emerge during the twilight and nighttime hours. They also don’t prey on other animals in your tank, as they’re a species of filter shrimp that use their fan hands to catch tiny food.

Their name originates from their preference for nighttime activity and the spikes on their feet that are said to resemble vampire fangs. 

As such, they won’t be your most entertaining shrimp inhabitants but they do bring their own unique beauty. Vampire Shrimp are filter feeders and eat the granular microorganisms from the water column. Their hands resemble fans, which they use to collect food dispersed throughout the water. This proclivity of using their fan hands earned them the name “fan feeders.’ 

The Vampire Shrimp is a good choice for a planted tank. They’re shy and need places to hide, so planted tanks typically provide plenty of areas for them to retreat. They’re also peaceful and won’t attack the other inhabitants.


Vampire Shrimp Appearance

Vampire Shrimps are large in comparison to most other freshwater aquarium shrimp. Most are about 2 to 3 inches in length. Some Vampire Shrimp can get up to 6 inches long, making them giants in the shrimp world. Vampire Shrimp are also heftier and stockier than other shrimp, almost resembling a crayfish. Both their length and girth make them powerhouses.

Their size allows them to be easily observable by humans, especially their distinct features. The most notable is their hair-like fans on their arms. They use their fans to capture food. You will see them lifting their fans up and waving them around to capture microorganisms in the water for consumption.

Vampire shrimp with its feeding fans

On their legs, they have bumpy points with a single larger point on the bottom of their legs. These bumps help the shrimp stay put in heavy currents and running water.

There is a lot of color variety within this species, and most individual shrimps change color several times throughout their lifetime. Most Vampire shrimp are a light blue-gray hue. However, this color can morph to deep blue, white, reddish-brown, or even pink! Their color is largely dependent on their age and environment, with darker environments typically producing more intense colors. Additionally, their color fades and becomes less vibrant with age. Older Vampire Shrimps tend to be more brown in color.

They also have long antennae that help them find their way around in the aquarium. This is especially helpful as nocturnal creatures.


Vampire Shrimp Lifespan

In ideal conditions, the average lifespan of the Vampire Shrimp is five years. They are one of the longer-lived shrimp species. In the wild, they can live up to 10 years.

Like other shrimp species, their environment has a direct correlation to their longevity. Ideal conditions equal a longer life, while stressful, less than ideal conditions can shorten their lifespan greatly. 


Vampire Shrimp Size

Vampire Shrimps are large. Most are about 2 to 3 inches in length. Some Vampire Shrimp can get up to 6 inches long, making them giants in the shrimp world. Vampire Shrimp are also heftier than other shrimp.

Vampire shrimp in an aquarium tank

Vampire Shrimp Care

When planning for aquatic creature care, the best plan is to try to create an environment that mimics their natural environment. Vampire Shrimp need a well-maintained environment that meets their needs in order to have a long and healthy life. These shrimp do best in natural-looking habitats filled with dense vegetation.

Below are some important care guidelines, including tank size, water parameters, and plant suggestions to keep your Vampire Shrimp healthy.


Vampire Shrimp Habitat

Tank

The ideal Vampire Shrimp tank size is at least 20 gallons. We recommend this size due to their fan feeding. These shrimp rely on microorganisms and plant detritus in the water as their primary food source. Larger tanks have more space for plants and more volume of water for microorganisms, so you’re more likely to create an environment with sufficient food. Additionally, filters can be too efficient in smaller tanks, stripping the environment of sufficient microorganisms for your Vampire Shrimp.

Additionally, we recommend a 20 gallon long tank if possible. The extra length on the bottom of the tank provides more bottom space for the shrimp to roam. This also gives you an opportunity to create multiple hiding spots for the shrimp while keeping the top part of the aquarium open for other fish.

Our recommendation: Aqueon 20 gallon long

Our Pick
Aqueon Aquarium 20 Gallon Long
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Water Conditions

Vampire Shrimp are somewhat flexible with regard to their water parameters. However, more important than the parameter is the stability of that parameter. You should always try to maintain stable water conditions. For example, If you introduce them to water that is 80°F, try to maintain that water temperature versus letting the temperature fluctuate throughout their preferred range. 

Vampire Shrimp share similar water parameters as tropical fish, making them an ideal candidate for a community tank. Here are suggested water parameters:

  • Temperature: 75° – 84° F (24° – 28.8° C)
  • pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • KH: 3 – 10 dKH
  • Ammonia: 00 ppm
  • Nitrite: 00 ppm
  • Nitrate: 20 ppm

Vampire Shrimp require a moderate water current in order to feed using their fans. The proper current can be achieved by adding a second pump in the lower section of the tank.

Vampire Shrimp also need water that is rich in oxygen.

In order to maintain stable water conditions,  we recommend testing weekly with this Water kit. It is important to make sure the nitrogen cycle is working properly in your tank.

API Aquarium Test Kit
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What to put in their tank

Substrate

We recommend starting with a layer of sand substrate. Sand is soft and suitable for digging. Gravel could injure the shrimp’s delicate feeder fans, so it’s best to avoid it as it will cause feeding complications, which will stress your shrimp.

Filtration

Vampire Shrimp require a moderate water current in order to feed using their fans so don’t shy away from filters that will create water flow. The proper current can be achieved by adding a submersible second pump in the lower section of the tank. Aim the pump to the side to circulate the water. External canister filters are an option for your tank as well.

You want continual movement in your tank but you don’t want the current so strong that it stresses your shrimp.

Decorations

Make sure to add rocks and driftwood to the bottom of the tank. The goal is to create small pockets and crevices for the shrimp to hide and escape if it is feeling shy. Caves are also a good idea.

Our Pick
Rocks for Aquascaping and Aquariums

What We Like

  • They add to the aesthetic of your tank
  • They help provide places for your aquatic critters to hide
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Plants

Vampire Shrimps do well in habitats filled with dense vegetation. This mimics their natural habitat and provides a natural food source for them with plant detritus. Therefore, you should use live plants instead of plastic ones with Vampire Shrimp.

There is no one particular plant that is required so it is advised to mix it up to provide both a varied environment and food source. Amazon Sword, Java Fern, anubias, and hornworts are all good options. Get creative!


Vampire Shrimp Potential diseases

Molting

While not a disease, molting is an important part of Vampire Shrimp ownership to understand, as they’re particularly vulnerable to disease while molting. 

About every two months, your shrimp will molt. A new shell grows under their current shell. The outer shell will eventually crack and the Vampire Shrimp sheds the old, cracked shell. The new shell underneath is softer and offers less protection, so it can be a dangerous time for shrimp.

In general, you should be careful with maintenance and tank cleaning during molting. It is advised to wait until after the shrimp have molted. 

Don’t worry about immediately removing the old shell, as the shells provide nutrients and minerals to the tank. Because the Vampire Shrimp shells are harder and heftier than other shrimp’s, they’re not commonly ingested. You can remove the shells after they have been sitting around for a few days.

Most shrimp will hide for a few days after molting to stay away from potential danger.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections are the most common issues. Spores sneak into the closed aquarium environment and negatively impact your tank and inhabitants. Both situations can result in the death of your shrimp.

Parasitic Infections

The most common parasite is Vorticella, which usually enters your tank through new plants and rock purchases. When your shrimp ingests the plant matter via fan feeding, they’re ingesting the parasite simultaneously.

Disease Treatment

Most fungal, bacterial, and parasitic diseases are treatable. However, avoid using copper-based medicines, as they are fatal to shrimp and other invertebrates. Choose invertebrate-safe medications that are copper-free.


Vampire Shrimp Feeding 

Your Vampire Shrimp feed themselves! They’re self-sufficient little creatures. Being nocturnal, these shrimp will start feeding once the sun sets. They will position themselves in the tank that is near the water flow and extend their fans into the current to catch food. They’re essentially fishing for food although it can sometimes look like the shrimp are waving their arms. 

Even though they’re self-sufficient, you can provide some supplemental feeding as well. Crushed-up fish flakes or shrimp pellets can work. However, powered food products are even better, as the particle size is much smaller and easier for the shrimp to catch using their fans. Spinach powder, powdered fish fry food, and phytoplankton are all good options You will need to add the food upstream so it gets carried downstream into the waiting fans of your shrimp.

Sera Micron Nature - Fry Food
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Ideal Tank Mates

Vampire Shrimps are peaceful creatures, which makes them an ideal community tank mate. Additionally, this species does very well with other shrimp. Even though they’re giants compared to other popular dwarf shrimp species, they aren’t aggressive, meaning all can co-exist peacefully. 

You should avoid pairing these shrimp with any aggressive fish species. Cichlids, Goldfish, and other semi-aggressive fish species could attempt to eat your shrimp, which is not cool, especially for a threatened species. It will also stress out your shrimp which will shorten their lifespan. Stick with peaceful small fish. Here is a good mix of potential tank mates:


Vampire Shrimp Breeding

Breeding Vampire Shrimp in captivity is challenging at best. Not impossible but it is also not very practical. It’s a difficult process that’s usually not worth the trouble.

Most of the shrimp sold in stores are wild-caught. Large-scale breeding methods are difficult, even for established facilities with tons of experience.

When Vampire Shrimp breed, the young go through several larval stages. Vampire shrimp larvae take a long time to develop into juveniles, and this process is only successful in saltwater. Then, they will need to be gradually moved to freshwater with any mistake in timing resulting in the death of the shrimp.

This environmental switch is nearly impossible to recreate in captivity without multiple tanks and expert-level knowledge of when to make the transition. As such, we recommend avoiding breeding as your attempts will stress your shrimp.


Vampire Shrimp FAQs

Do Vampire shrimp eat fish?

No, Vampire shrimp don’t eat fish. Their diet consists of plant detritus, uneaten fish food, algae, and edible microorganisms floating in the tank that are too small to be seen.

Do vampire shrimp eat algae?

Yes, Vampire shrimp eat algae. They consume algae through fan feeding in the water currents, not eating the algae directly off of surfaces like a snail or pleco might.

How long do vampire shrimp live?

Vampire Shrimps live about five years in captivity, which is much longer than most other freshwater shrimp species.

Are Vampire shrimp aggressive?

No, despite their names, Vampire Shrimps are not aggressive. They’re a shy species that can be a great addition to a community tank, as they will not go after the other fish and shrimp. That being said, they do prefer peace and quiet, so they will often hide to get alone time. Too much activity in the tank can stress them out.

Do Vampire Shrimp get along with Betta fish?

Because of the sheer size of Vampire shrimp, your Betta and shrimp should get along fine, assuming their tank is large enough for the both of them. Betta fish can have a reputation for picking on and eating shrimp but because the vampire shrimp is on the large end of the size scale, there should not be issues.


Is this the correct shrimp for your aquarium?

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

Vampire shrimp are peaceful and calm community tank members. Despite their aggressive name and large size, they’re shy creatures who prefer to spend most of their daylight houses hiding. They can live in harmony with both shrimp and fish tank mates but avoid aggressive and overly boisterous fish who will pick on your shrimp.

If you can accommodate their water flow needs for proper feeding, they can make very beautiful additions with their crayfish-like bodies and stunning range of colors.

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