Saltwater Shrimp

a Saltwater Shrimp walking across the bottom of the aquarium looking for food

What is white, purple, orange or yellow and possibly red all over? Well if it is in a saltwater tank it could be a Shrimp with your name on it. Shrimp are a great addition to any saltwater aquarium. Not only are they an interesting addition to an otherwise dull home, but they are also fascinating to watch. 

Saltwater Shrimp are tiny crustaceans that are native to tropical waters. They are usually found in large schools, and are commonly used as food for larger marine animals such as crabs and lobsters. They are usually kept in community tanks, but can be kept individually as long as they receive enough food. They are very easy-to-care-for, and will not harm other fish in their tank. 

Saltwater Shrimp always seem to be doing something interesting, and often it’s cleaning up your fish tank. They are omnivores, meaning they eat plants and smaller animals. They’re great for helping to keep algae from getting out of control in your aquarium. They’re also scavengers, meaning they will consume decaying matter that would otherwise pollute the water. They’re hardy creatures, which is why they are the perfect choice for beginners. 

Even if you only add them to your tank for added coloring, they are a great addition to any aquarium. Shrimp add a ton of color and are very interesting to watch. They will do a lot to promote a healthy and clean aquarium.  It’s easy to fill your tank with a few dozen and let them crawl around on the bottom of your tank while your fish are swimming around above them.  These little guys add color and beauty to any tank.

They are very easy and inexpensive to care for, requiring little maintenance. Saltwater Shrimp tend to be more expensive than their freshwater cousins. On the low end some can be bought for $5 to $10 each, and on the high end some sell for well over $50 each.

Saltwater Shrimp Information

  • Average Length: 1.5 – 2 inches
  • Scale Colors: White, Red, Purple, Orange and Yellow
  • Attention Needs: Low
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: Yes!
  • Good with Other fish species: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Health Concerns: Intestinal nematodes, Rust Disease and White Spot Syndrome
  • Average Life Span: 3 – 7 years

Physical Appearance of Saltwater Shrimp

a Saltwater Shrimp foraging for food

With over 2,000 different species of Saltwater Shrimp, they have a wide variety of colors and patterns. While not all species can live in an aquarium, many Shrimp species are bred and available for saltwater fish tanks.

Harlequin Shrimp are a popular species that has a cream-colored body with several fluorescent spots. There are two varieties of the Harlequin Shrimp, the central and east Pacific variety with pinkish-purple spots and the Indian Ocean or western Pacific variety with brown or blue spots. 

Another commonly kept Saltwater Shrimp is the Red Skunk Cleaner Shrimp. These are known for being a cleaner Shrimp, eating parasites from the skin of other organisms.  They have bright red bodies with a bright white stripe running down the middle of their back. 

Then there is the Camel Shrimp, another popular type that you’ll find in many aquariums. The easiest way to identify them is by the unique hump on their back near their tail. They have cherry-red bodies with several white stripes on the body. Camel Shrimp have an upturned beak which is the reason why they are also called Hinge-Beak Shrimp.

Saltwater Shrimp are small decapods, or creatures with 10 legs on their body. They are invertebrates which means that they do not have a backbone. 

They are known for having long narrow bodies. A hard and thick shell covers their upper body which is called the carapace that surrounds their gills. 

Saltwater Shrimp have a pointed beak-like nose at the front of their head. They have two pairs of antennas on the head, one short and one long set. The longer antennas can sometimes even be twice as long as their length. These antennas help them sense movement in the water.

Temperament of Saltwater Shrimp

Most Shrimp are nocturnal creatures who hide during the day. They generally come out to feed only at night or when the aquarium lights are turned off. When they are first introduced to a tank, they can be difficult to spot. Until they are comfortable in their environment they will spend most of their time hiding. Gradually they will start coming out in the open once they get used to the tank.

a close up of a Saltwater Shrimp

They are active and non-aggressive. Most tend to get along with other Shrimp and fish species. Some types like the Harlequin Shrimp can be territorial. They can become aggressive with other Shrimp species and even some fish. We recommend keeping Harlequin Shrimp alone or in pairs of two.

Camel Shrimp are generally sociable and like to be in groups of at least 6.

An interesting behavior of species like the Red Skunk Cleaner is that they are fish cleaners. They will set up a cleaning station and will wait for a fish to come. Once a fish comes to the cleaning station, they will eat the parasites, bacteria and dead tissue on their scales to clean the other fish

Best Habitat for Saltwater Shrimp

In the wild they are found in many different locations, with many different types of water conditions. Because the different Shrimp have adapted to very different water temperatures, you’ll need to decide which species will best go with your ideal fish setup. The water temperatures, rocks, plants and other decorations will be determined based on the type of Shrimp you are adding to your tank.

Tank size

Most Saltwater Shrimp get between 1.5 to 2 inches long, and a 10-gallon tank is large enough for a group of them. If you want to build a community tank with other fish, then consider a larger tank big enough to handle all the other fish.


a Saltwater Shrimp walking across the bottom of the aquarium

Different Saltwater Shrimp species have different temperature needs. Camel Shrimp need slightly cool water kept between 64 and 77°F while Harlequin Shrimp need warmer water between 82°F to 89°F. If you plan to get a type not listed here, check with your local fish store to find their temperature needs before setting up the tank.

Water Hardness, Specific Gravity and PH

The pH should be in the range of 8.0 to 8.4 and water hardness between 8 to 12 dGH. The specific gravity should be in the range of 1.023 to 1.025.


There are no specific lighting requirements for the Shrimp. Standard aquarium lighting should be used to maintain a natural day and night cycle. This is best for most fish because in the wild this is what the fish expect and it will help them behave more naturally.


Create plenty of hiding spots by adding caves, plants and other decorations. These decorations will create places for your Shrimp to hide during the day and keep them feeling safe. It will also provide a secure place for mating pairs to breed

Tank conditions

a Saltwater Shrimp walking across the bottom of the aquarium

Some species may need supplements to stay healthy. Camel Shrimp and Skunk Cleaner Shrimp need iodine supplements because it helps them molt their exoskeleton. Before you buy any Shrimp for your tank you should find out if there are any specific needs for their species. Once you know what they are, you can make sure that any supplements are added as needed.

Tank Maintenance

Saltwater Shrimp have a difficult time handling rapid changes with salinity and water temperature. The temperature and pH level should be monitored regularly. Test the water quality with a saltwater testing kit to monitor the tank conditions like ammonia, nitrate, nitrites and salinity. High levels of these compounds can be harmful to most things living in your aquarium. 

Because Saltwater Shrimp will eat uneaten food in a tank as well as other decaying plant matter, they don’t need large water changes done to their tank. A weekly water change of 10 to 15 percent should keep the level of dissolved compounds in control, but always use test kits to verify. The new water being added to the saltwater tank needs to be prepared by adding a salt solution to the water and letting it stay overnight. The mixed solution can then be added to the tank the next day.

Best Tank Mates for Saltwater Shrimp

a close up of a Saltwater Shrimp

The small size and your Saltwater Shrimp’s nonaggressive nature ensures that they will not attack other fish. Shrimp are easy prey for many larger fish so they should only be kept with other nonaggressive fish who will not eat them. 

Ideal tank mates for Shrimp are:

While different species of Saltwater Shrimp can also be kept together, it slightly varies based on the specific type. For example, the Harlequin Shrimp are territorial and we recommend that they be kept alone or in multiple pairs of two. Once they establish a pair, these Shrimp will spend all their time together.

Camel Shrimp are one of the most sociable species and can be kept in large groups. They do best with a minimum of 6 in their group. Before adding different types of Shrimp, find out about the compatibility of individual species to prevent them from behaving aggressively with each other.

There are some popular saltwater fish that people love to have, but are known to eat Shrimp. Never keep them with Lionfish, Puffers, Damsels, Hawkfish, Pufferfish, Wrasse, Crabs or any other larger and aggressive fish.

Health Issues

Saltwater Shrimp generally are not affected by parasites or other diseases that commonly affect saltwater fish. They can still get a few diseases that are known to infect crustaceans. Common diseases in Shrimp are:

Rust Disease

Rust Disease is a fungal infection that affects many species of saltwater fish. It’s caused by the fungus Saprolegnia, which is found in most saltwater environments. The disease can be identified by the reddish-brown spots on the affected fish’s skin and fins. In severe cases, it can cause death if left untreated.

Rust Disease is spread through contact with infected fish or water, as well as through the introduction of contaminated food or plants. It’s important to quarantine any new fish before introducing them into an existing tank. Quarantining them will help prevent the spread of the disease to the fish you already have.

White Spot Syndrome

Marine Ich, also known as White Spot Disease, is a common parasitic disease that affects saltwater fish. It’s caused by the ciliate protozoan parasite and Cryptocaryon irritans, which attach themselves to a fish’s skin and gills.

Marine Ich is very contagious and can spread quickly through an aquarium. It’s often introduced into an aquarium through new fish or contaminated equipment. Poor water quality and stress can also weaken a fish’s immune system, making them more susceptible to the disease.

Symptoms of Marine Ich

Symptoms of Marine Ich include:

  • White spots on the skin and fins of infected fish
  • Rubbing against objects in the aquarium

As the disease progresses, fish can become lethargic and lose their appetite.

Feeding Saltwater Shrimp

colorful fish flakes

Saltwater Shrimp are generally scavengers that eat waste materials like uneaten food and dead organic matter inside their aquarium. They will help keep your fish tank clean. While most Shrimp are scavengers, some are also omnivores and will need to be fed along with your other fish. 

Saltwater Shrimp are not picky eaters, allowing you to give them a variety of different types of food. They can be fed frozen foods, algae flakes, fine pellets, frozen plankton, chopped prawn, cockle meat or crustacean larvae. They can also be fed live food like adult Brine Shrimp or Mysis Shrimp. 

Some species of Saltwater Shrimp, especially the Harlequin Shrimp have specific feeding requirements. They will only feed on Asterina Starfish, an aquarium parasite that grows on coral. Harlequins will also eat the parasites, helping protect the coral in your tank. For Harlequin Shrimp kept in non-reef tanks, starfish can be purchased from the fish store and fed to them. Another option is to breed the starfish in a separate tank and grow all the starfish needed to feed your Harlequin Shrimp. 

Camel or Skunk Cleaner Shrimp are fish cleaners that are known to feed on dead tissue and parasites on a fish’s body. Not only do they get a meal out of this, but the other fish are usually more healthy because of it.

It is recommended to feed non-scavenging Shrimp once a day.

Related Questions:

How do Saltwater Shrimp Breed?

Saltwater Shrimp start breeding after they get about 3 to 4 months old and right after the female Shrimp molts. Shedding their exoskeleton enables them grow which helps them with carrying eggs after breeding. After molting the female Shrimp will release pheromones, a hormone that signals the male Shrimp that she’s ready to mate. Once a pair mates it will take a few hours for the eggs to fertilize. After the eggs are fertilized, the female Shrimp transfers them to her abdomen. Within a few days the eggs will develop and be released by the female Shrimp. Not long after the eggs hatch and release larvae. A single Shrimp can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs.

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