July 23

Ghost Shrimp Care Guide: How to Care for Ghost Shrimp

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No, Ghost Shrimp are not fish. People often ask, is Shrimp a fish? Now you have the answer!

Ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, or eastern glass shrimp is a species of freshwater crustacean. They are often found in the southeastern United States region. Because of their easy care routine, they are quite popular with fish keepers to diversify tropical aquariums containing non-aggressive fish species. They can be efficient tank cleaners or fodder for large fish.

Their body shape completely changes the entire aesthetic of the fish tank. Plus, their activity and active lifestyle make sure that you always have something pretty to look at. That’s why Ghost Shrimps are a perfect addition to a tropical fish community. 

However, ghost shrimps aren’t for the sentimental folks. Their life span is just 1 year, in which they mature and die. This is also what makes them so affordable. You can easily get a 1.2 inches ghost shrimp for less than a dollar. Bigger 1.5 inches ghost shrimp cost anywhere from $1.2 (on eBay) to $2.5 (on Amazon). 

Ghost Shrimp Overview 

Best Quality Ghost Shrimp

Originally, ghost shrimps came from North America. First written accounts of their use in home aquariums date as far back as 1850. Generally speaking, ghost shrimp is a common name for different shrimp varieties. Freshwater Ghost Shrimp is the most popular one. It belongs to the Palaemonetes family. In this article, we will be focusing on freshwater Ghost Shrimp. 

While there are several different species of Ghost Shrimp, fish stores use the popular name Ghost Shrimp instead. It is more common and less confusing. 

Today, Ghost Shrimp are available all over the world. Most of their population is farmed as fodder or for home community aquariums. Fishermen commonly use them as bait, but their wild population can cause problems for the fishing industry because of their role as pests in aquaculture. 

Ghost shrimps are an excellent scavenger. They are always on active duty. They work throughout the day, clear up uneaten food and keep the algae levels down. So, they make your life as a caretaker much easier. 

You don’t even need them in a group. A single Ghost Shrimp will work just fine in the aquarium. Just be careful when you purchase one. Make sure you know whether they are bred as fodder or for home aquariums. Feeder Ghost Shrimp get poor treatment. So, they may not survive for a full year.

The Appearance of Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp Appearance  Part of the reason what makes them so attractive is their appearance. Ghost shrimps are clear and transparent in color. You can view the inner organs of their body as they process food. A clear appearance also helps them evade predators. Male Shrimps are normally smaller in size than female Shrimp. 

On their face, they have a pair of antenna – sensory organs that detect information about food and water. Then there is a beak-like extension – known as rostrum – between the two eyes. Their soft body parts are encased in a hard protective shell called the carapace. Behind the carapace, there are 6 flexible abdominal segments. 

Ghost Shrimp Lifespan and Molting 

As we mentioned earlier, a Ghost Shrimp can live for as long as a year. Their lifespan varies depending on the place of origin and the individual itself. 

Because they’re easy to reproduce and come fairly cheap, breeders keep them in high-density communities with poor filtration mechanisms. That’s why they have poor health and most of them die during transport. It’s fairly common for Ghost Shrimps to die within a few days of starting their new life in a tank, even if the aquarium is healthy. 

Even then, Ghost Shrimp molt frequently. As they grow and become too big for their previous shell, they shed their old shell and develop a new one. However, the development of a new shell takes some time. During this period, they are particularly vulnerable to boisterous fish. Make sure your fish tank has enough plants or crevices for Ghost Shrimp to hide and take refuge. 


    Most homeowners panic once they come across a molted shell on the sediment. They assume it for a dead Ghost Shrimp. Take a closer look, and once you see the hollow interior, it will become clear that it’s just a discarded exterior. Your Ghost Shrimp must be hiding somewhere in the plants. 

    Once you come across a discarded shell, don’t remove it. Nothing is useless in the ecosystem. Other shrimps use the discarded shell as food. 

    Ghost Shrimp Molting Process 

    Ghost Shrimp molting is a rather quick process. It takes nearly 10 to 15 minutes to complete. In the pre-molting stage, they grow very fine skin inside the exoskeleton. It is called the hypodermis. The Shrimp utilizes calcium and other minerals from the skeleton and water to produce hypodermis. Once it has developed enough, it gets visible. 

    When you see your Ghost Shrimp changing color from transparent to milky white, it’s the hypodermis that’s slowly transforming into an exoskeleton. At this stage, the Shrimp starts filling up their shell with water. Once it has enough water, the exoskeleton starts to crack from the neck. The Shrimp bends into a U shape and wriggles to remove the old exoskeleton until it completes the molting process. 

    Ghost Shrimp Size, Shape & Appearance 

    Like every other living species, the size and shape of Ghost Shrimp depend on age. Generally speaking, Shrimps grow to a length of about one and a half inches. As for the width, the size is usually about the diameter of a pencil eraser (i.e. 6 mm) once fully grown. Their appearance is more streamlined and thin in comparison with Amano Shrimps

    Moreover, they have a little hump in the middle of the length of their tail. Take a cursory look, and they look a lot like a little crayfish. On a closer look, you start seeing the differences. One major difference is the pliability of their outer shell and the size. Their shells are softer than crayfish, and it shows in their appearance.  

    Ghost Shrimp Antenna 

    As we mentioned earlier, Ghost Shrimp have pairs of long and short antennas. The rostrum of the antenna is right between their eyes. The carapace region lies behind the rostrum. You can see the inner workings of its organs in this carapace area. Their long slender front legs are attached to the bottom of the carapace.

    Then there are six abdominal segments behind the carapace. These segments form a sort of flexible covering. The third and fourth abdominal regions form a pointy area together. You can also see the tiny transparent swimmerets under these segments. These swimmerets flutter back and forth as Ghost Shrimp moves through the water. 

    A female shrimp keeps its eggs under abdominal segments that lie nearest to the carapace. 

    Abdominal Segments 

    All six abdominal segments connect to the tail. The tail is made of flexible segments. Unlike abdominal segments, the tail segments are very thin and flat. Telson lies in the middle of the tail. Under it, four segments make up the uropod. It expands and contracts if needed. 

    On the edges of the uropod, there are fine filaments called fringes. Fringes also appear across the edge of swimmerets. In case of a dangerous situation, the Shrimp quickly flaps its uropod. This allows the Shrimp to move backward at a very high speed. A single thrust is enough to get it out of danger. 

    Color Range 

    Ghost Shrimps are transparent in color on a cursory glance. Look closer, and they appear a little on the translucent side. While their body is generally very clear, there’s a hint of grey. Some shrimps are further adorned with little green dots. Overall, their color range is from light greyish to a translucent dark grey. Whatever the case, you can easily see through their body. Their internal organs, especially the digestive system, is pretty easy to spot. And this is one of the most attractive aspects of this organism. Some Ghost Shrimp may also have green dots on their torso and orange rings on their forelegs and feelers. 

    Ghost Shrimp Care and Tank Requirements  

    Ghost Shrimp Care

    Ghost shrimps are a freshwater species. They live in the lakes and rivers. Besides freshwater, these sources have fine sediment and enough crevices to help them hide in case of danger. Therefore, consider this factor when you are designing your aquarium. As they are pretty small, you can keep them in a small space. 5 Gallons is a bare minimum, and you can keep 3 or 4 shrimps per gallon without any problem. 

    However, consider the number of other plant and fish species in the tank. We suggest starting with fewer Shrimp and slowly increasing the number. Make sure there is an abundance of live plants such as java-moss, hornwort, and Cabomba. Shrimps even utilize the debris from these plants as an additional resource of food. Just make sure your plants are firm in the base. Otherwise, they won’t survive nibbling from shrimps. 

    Tank Size For Ghost Shrimp 

    There is no particular requisite when it comes to tank size for ghost shrimp. They can be kept in smaller 5-gallon tanks or larger. If your tank is small, make sure you know all the tank’s limitations, such as limited surface, low water volume, etc. Don’t overstock. Too many Ghost Shrimp in a small area can make them aggressive towards each other.

    Shrimps may be smaller, but they do contribute to the biological load of the tank’s ecosystem. Overstocking can also cause bad water and create an unhealthy ecosystem for the organisms. That’s why we suggest following the usual fish stocking rules for community tanks.

    Ghost Shrimp Habitat & Water Parameters 

    As we already discussed, Ghost shrimps enjoy freshwater. They thrive in aquariums that have a continuous flow of water. Install a moderately sized HOB power filter to keep water continuously circulating. Moreover, some people use an air pump with an airstone to develop a wall of tiny bubbles. When the bubbles move, it keeps the water moving. It’s fascinating to watch the Shrimp get trapped into the current and then use their hind legs fiercely to swim out of it. Don’t worry. Shrimps are excellent swimmers, and they can easily take care of themselves. 

    Ghost Shrimp Like Live Aquarium Plants 

    Having some hardy live plants in your aquarium can be an excellent idea. However, don’t put too many plants in, as live plants shed their debris and make the water dirty. Ghosts shrimps love live plant debris and enjoy snacking through the mess. Keeping some live plants in the aquarium can serve another purpose as well: security. They provide a nice place for shrimps to explore and hide in case of danger. You can also create other hiding places with the help of rocks, caverns, and other decorations. In any case, shrimps must have someplace to sneak away and take refuge once in a while. 

    Water Parameters 

    Ghost shrimps are most comfortable in tropical community tanks. Water in these tanks has a temperature range of 72 to 82 degrees F. Some experts suggest a slightly wider temperate range than this is also okay for wellbeing. In addition, the pH of the aquarium should be neither too acidic nor basic. It should be anywhere between 7.0 to 8.0. A sudden shift in the pH can disturb the biology of the aquarium. Water should also be slightly on the harder side. As for lighting, any standard lighting setup is fine. Moreover, when treating your aquarium with medicine, be very careful. Freshwater Ghost Shrimp can be very sensitive to medicine. You should always keep nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in check. Avoid copper at all costs as it can be fatal for Shrimp. 

    Ghost Shrimp Diet and Feeding 

    Ghost Shrimp Care Guide

    Ghost Shrimps are greedy. They will snack on anything you provide them with. For instance, you can present them with pellets, algae, flakes, or any other food you can easily find in a fish food shop. 

    This is what makes them excellent for tank cleaning purposes. They will consume every excess thing they can find, including plant detritus, algae, and fish leftovers. If you have a tall fish tank, use sinking pellets to make their food easily accessible. Sure, watching a shrimp rise to the surface for catching food is hella entertaining. But, sometimes, the mid-water fish make it harder for them to catch it. 

    A single algae pellet is enough for multiple shrimps. If you add more pellets, then there’s always the risk of overfeeding. To make sure your shrimps are developing a strong shell, add some calcium to the tank every once in a while. 

    Last but not least, keep copper away from the tank. It is very toxic and can be fatal in some cases. 

    Ghost Shrimp Tank Mates 

    Shrimps are peaceful organisms. They don’t like conflict. But obviously, the same cannot be said about other fish and creatures in the tank. 

    Their gentle nature and small stature make them extremely vulnerable to be consumed by other tank mates. Therefore, only add them to a community of non-aggressive small fish. 

    Below are some of the fish and creatures that can be excellent tank mates for Ghost Shrimp. 

    • Danios: Slender danios
    • Characins: Can be hatchet or tetras fish
    • Barbs: Ones that look like cherry barbs
    • Loaches: Some peaceful loaches like kuhli and zebras can be excellent companions
    • Catfish: Tiny catfish like the corydoras

    As for fish to avoid, there’s a whole range. As a general rule of thumb, avoid adding any fish to the tank with a big enough mouth to eat a shrimp. Territorial fish are also a cause of concern. Bettas – in particular – should be avoided. 

    You can also pair ghost shrimp with other shrimp types. For example, cherry shrimp, bamboo shrimp, Amano, and vampire shrimps. You can also use snails to diversify your aquarium. 

    Breeding Ghost Shrimp 

    Green Ghost Shrimp Eggs

    If you provide a healthy environment with no dangers, then you can easily start Ghost shrimp breeding. That’s why they are usually preferred as feeder fish.  

    But, you need to get your hands on a breeding tank to grow your shrimp population. Just ensure that there are male as well as female Shrimp in your main tank. Female Ghost Shrimp are easy to spot. Once they mature, they grow to become much larger than male Shrimp. Another sign is that they develop a greenish saddle under their body. 

    Female Ghost Shrimp produce eggs every few weeks. These eggs are visible in the form of tiny green dots attached to the legs. When you see these dots, wait a few days for males to fertilize and start the reproduction process. 

    After a while, move pregnant ghost shrimp to your fish breeder tank. You have to do it before the eggs hatch. Otherwise, the nascent Shrimp will become fodder for other creatures. When the eggs hatch, move your female shrimps back to their original tank otherwise, they will start eating young ghost shrimps. It usually takes 3 weeks. 

    Install a sponge filter in the breeder tank to ensure that none of the young ones gets sucked into the equipment. Other than that, a breeder tank is just like a simple tank with a thin sediment layer at the bottom. You don’t need many hiding areas, though. Keeping a few plants and algae in there is fine. 

    Young larvae have tiny mouths. So feed them a small amount of fine particle food. Keep noticing the color of their legs. Once their legs grow to become brown, it’s a sign that they have become mature. Now, you can feed them the same food as the adults. 

    Is the Ghost Shrimp Right For Your Aquarium? 

    Of course, Ghost Shrimp can become an excellent addition to your aquarium. They are excellent cleaners and look fantastic as well. Their tiny size and easy reproduction make them pretty economical. You will need a little effort to look after them, though. Ensure there are no predators in the aquarium. 

    The shape and colors of Ghost Shrimp can change the entire aesthetic of your tank. What’s more, their active lifestyle is a joy to behold. Your tank will always have activity going on. However, they are not suitable for a tank with big or aggressive fish species. 


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