Invertebrates: Shrimp

Shrimp are a unique addition to the reef aquarium, especially for young children or curious friends.  Be advised that shrimp regularly shed their outer skin, the exoskeleton, in a process called molting.  This exoskeleton is usually indistinguishable from the actual shrimp, so it may appear that the shrimp died.  Once the exoskeleton is shed, the shrimp’s new skin is very soft and makes the shrimp vulnerable to predators.  Because of this, the shrimp hides for a few days.  Allow a few days for the shrimp to reappear if you find a molt.
Pistol Shrimp (possibly a rock alpheid):  Reef Safe
This hitchhiker on a coral is reef safe for the most part.  They tend to dwell inside rock rather than tunneling as much as other pistol shrimp, but they may be a threat to some worms living in the sand/rocks.  Also, these are much more secretive than other pistol shrimp.  Once I placed mine in my aquarium, I never saw it again, but I could hear it clicking away.
Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis):  Reef Safe
Cleaner shrimp are awesome to have in a reef tank.  They set up a “cleaning station” in a nice spot, where fish will literally line up for the shrimp’s services.  I have seen up to six fish waiting paitently for the shrimp.  Once the fish arrives at the cleaning station, the fish does an elaborate “dance”  to let the shrimp know that the fish won’t eat the shrimp.  If the shrimp accepts the risk, the shrimp jumps on to the fish and begins to pick dead cells and parasites off the fish.  The shrimp may even clean inside the fish’s gills and mouth.  When the fish is clean, the shrimp jumps back onto the rock, the fish swims off, and the process starts all over.  Although the shrimp picks off parasites, cleaner shrimp are not a 100% effective means of controlling marine ich (cryptocaryon irritans) or other parasites.  Also, use caution in providing a cleaner shrimp in an aggressive species tank.  Even though many reefers have success, food comes first in an aggressive tank.

Sexy Shrimp (Thor amboinensis):  Reef Safe

These beautiful shrimp are best housed in a nano-sized reef aquarium as their small size makes them disappear quickly in larger aquariums.  The “Sexy Shrimp” is named for the swaying motion of their abdomen as they walk.  In the wild, they are commonly found amongst anemones for protection, but in the home aquarium they will simply hang out amongst corals instead (as seen below).  They also travel in groups, so three or more is recommended.  Although the photo below shows a yellow clown goby with a Sexy Shrimp, I do not recommend housing them together as the goby is known for making a dinner out of the Sexy Shrimp (hard lesson learned there). 

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus):  Reef Safe
This Tiger Pistol Shrimp has entered into a symbiotic relationship with this mated pair of high-fin gobies (photo below).  The gobies have better vision and warn the shrimp of danger approaching.  Meanwhile, the shrimp is an excellent live-in maid and handyman service for the gobies.  The shrimp creates elaborate burrows out of small shell and rock pieces and constantly digs.  The shrimp and gobies then live in the burrow for protection.  I suggest that rockwork be placed directly on the glass instead of on top of the sand so that the burrowing will not upset the rockwork.  Also, provide adequate rocks and shells for the shrimp to use, otherwise, a prized coral may become the newest wall-hanging for the burrow.

Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus):  Reef Safe

The Banded Coral Shrimp is a decorative shrimp for the reef aquarium that is known for regulating the quantity of bristleworms.  They are very attractive with the red and white banding and long antennae.  These shrimp can be aggressive toward other Banded Coral Shrimp, so they should be housed singly or in a true mated pair.  They are also the mortal enemy of the Arrow Crab, so do not house these together either.

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