Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes) are popular freshwater shrimps that are also known as glass shrimp, eastern grass shrimp, or even feeder shrimp by some. These shrimps are very hardy species of freshwater shrimps and can tolerate a wide range of different water parameters. Despite their small size they are a little bit aggressive species and will hunt any small shrimp or fish fry that they can catch. This makes them a little bit tricky to keep in a community tank.
In this article, we guide you through all the information you need to successfully care for Ghost Shrimp.
Ghost Shrimp Overview
Ghost Shrimps are famous for their translucent white body which gave them the name “Ghost” shrimp. In the Palaemonetes family of shrimps, there are more than 30 different types of shrimps that share the same characteristics. They all are whitish and transparent and light can pass through their body.
Ghost Shrimps are endemic to the southeastern United States and can be found in diverse geological places. As mentioned, there are 30+ types of Palaemonetes that might be slightly different in shapes and colors and clarity of their body. Most pet stores usually have the Palaemonetes paludosus variant available for sale.
Because Ghost Shrimps are hardy species many fish keepers keep them in their tanks to clean their aquarium. Ghost shrimps are slightly aggressive species in comparison to Cherry shrimp which are calm and peaceful.
Unlike other shrimps in the aquarium hobby, ghost shrimps are not yet line bred to develop different variants. Almost all the ghost shrimps available in pet stores are being collected directly from the wild.
In the wild, these shrimps can be found in a wide range of water parameters and different waterways. They are usually clustering in areas where enough food is available and the water current is not very fast. The water in these areas is slightly hard and the temperature is warm and stable throughout the year.
Because they are coming from such waterways they can be a great hardy shrimp for most beginner aquarists. We always suggest this shrimp as a starting point for those who have never kept shrimps before. These shrimps are sold at much lower prices and can live and breed in most water conditions.
Ghost Shrimps are transparent freshwater invertebrates that stay small in size. Depending on the variety of ghost shrimps you get they can be completely or semi-transparent. This is their main defense mechanism in the wild. Because of their transparency, other fish can not see them easily.
The Ghost shrimps that live in darker areas or in the clear waters are usually more transparent compared to the ones that live in murky waters. This indicates that the ghost shrimp’s transparency is their defense mechanism. Other than this, they do not have any other defensive organ or mechanism.
Male Ghost shrimps are usually thinner and smaller than females. This is because the females are responsible for caring for the eggs hatch. Since these shrimps are transparent you can clearly see the female’s eggs and distinguish the males from females.
Ghost Shrimp’s lifespan is around one year. This makes them one of the short-lived species of freshwater shrimps. This also means they have a short amount of time to grow and breed so they naturally breed rapidly and in large numbers.
When aquarium temperature is cooler they tend to live a bit longer. Warm temperatures will increase their metabolism so they will live shorter but will breed rapidly when enough food is available.
Ghost Shrimp will grow to about 1.5 – 2 inches in length. Males usually grow to a maximum size of 1 inch while females get up to 2 inches in length.
Because these shrimps are usually being collected from the wild, they are usually at their maximum size and are ready to breed.
These shrimps are slightly larger than cherry shrimps both in terms of length and body mass. Ghost shrimps are chunkier than most Caridina and neocaridina shrimps.
Behavior and Temperament
Ghost Shrimp are generally peaceful species but they might get aggressive towards smaller species. They usually compete and get aggressive over food and if enough food is not available they might hunt smaller species like cherry shrimps or fish fry. But because they are small, they will not harm fish or any other large species in your tank.
Ghost Shrimps are a great cleaning crew for your tank to prevent algae growth. Because of their larger size, these shrimps will eat more and this means they will constantly look for any food that your fish missed to eat. This will result in fewer bacteria or ammonia growth in the tank. They will also eat dead shrimp, fish, snails, or plants. Any uneaten food or dead creatures in the tank will rot and cause bacteria to bloom that can infect your fish or other inhabitants. Having some ghost shrimps will balance the tank and keep it clean at all times.
Ghost Shrimp Care
Ghost Shrimps are one of the easiest types of shrimps to care for. These shrimps are low-maintenance and can live in neutral and even slightly harder waters. They are adaptable and hardy shrimps that can tolerate fewer water changes. However, they are also very vulnerable to fluctuation in the water parameters.
When keeping these shrimps you will have to make sure your tank has consistent water parameters with little to no fluctuations. When parameters are consistent, you can keep them in almost any kind of tap water as long as your tap water parameters match their ideal range.
Ghost Shrimps can happily live in 5 gallons or more aquariums. These shrimps prefer to have more surface in the tank as they do not swim like fish. They mainly walk around and swim very minimally. If you provide them with enough surface to explore you can keep more shrimps in smaller places.
Unlike fish, ghost shrimps need surface area to search for food. When you keep your shrimps in a larger aquarium you are providing them with more surface area. At the same time a larger aquarium lets you have more decorations and plants which will make even more surfaces for your shrimps.
As mentioned, Ghost shrimps need a lot of surface in the tank to be able to explore and feed on algae and biofilms. This means you will have to place decorations and plants in the tank to expand the available surface in the tank. Live plants are the best way to decorate your tank. They give your tank a natural and beautiful look while giving the shrimp a lot of surface area.
Almost any plant will do the job but our favorite plants for any tank are Java Moss, Christmas Moss, and Subwassertang. These are water column feeder plants that do not need soil to grow. They also do not need strong lighting and can live in low light that shrimps like.
If you decide to go with the plants we mentioned, then any substrate that you like will work for these shrimps. Sand is ideal but you have to be careful that no air pockets develop in the sand. The other benefit of the sand is that unlike gravel food will not sink to the bottom and snails can eat it all.
You will also have to add a few pieces of driftwood so your shrimps can eat the algae and biofilm grown on them. Driftwoods will also help you keep your tank’s parameters more stable. Just make sure not to add too much driftwood as the tannins they release will lower the pH. Ghost shrimps like to live at higher pH levels.
In the wild, Ghost Shrimp lives in oxygen-rich waters that are slightly hard. They can also tolerate slightly softer waters but they will thrive in neutral to slightly hard waters. In order for these shrimps to thrive In your tank, you will need to have similar water conditions. They also prefer to live in slow-moving waters so your tank should have slow circulation.
Since they like to live in warmer waters you will need to make sure your tank is oxygenated at all times. When the temperature of the tank is set high, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water goes low. This can be bad if you have many fish or shrimp in the tank. To solve this you will have to have your tank temperature a little lower. Lower temperature will also help your shrimps live longer which is a plus point. Having an air bubbler will also help you with oxygenating the water.
That said, below are the ideal water parameters you can keep your Ghost Shrimp in:
- Temperature: 72 – 82 Degrees Fahrenheit
- PH: 7.0 – 8.0
- TDS: 60 – 250 PPM
As mentioned above, you will need to make sure they get enough oxygen if you want to keep them at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The water current is also important for removing CO2 and adding oxygen. A slow and steady movement is enough to help your tank with gas exchange.
Ghost Shrimps are transparent creatures and light can easily pass through them. This means intense lighting can easily stress them. In the wild, they are seen in caves and under a rock when light intensity is lower. So we recommend keeping your tank’s lights low or simply using floating plants to lower the intensity of the light.
Recreating a similar shaded environment for your Ghost Shrimps will help them to feel at home and breed more often. When females are stressed they sometimes drop their eggs and the eggs will go bad.
Ghost shrimps are sensitive to changes in the water parameters so you will need to have an established tank with a good filtration system. These shrimps are coming from super clean waterways that have consistent water parameters. The water parameters rarely change swiftly and almost always stay the same or change slowly which shrimps do not notice.
When you invest in a good filter, you are giving your shrimps a stable environment that can easily handle the waste produced by the shrimps. Since these shrimps prefer to live in slow-moving water, a sponge filter makes a perfect choice for filtration. Sponge filters will not only filter the water but will also circulate the water slowly and oxygenate the water.
The other benefit of sponge filters is that, unlike other types of filters, they will not suck shrimplets in. Hang on back and canister filters will suck the baby shrimps in and your ghost shrimp colony will not grow as fast as you might expect. This is why we recommend using sponge filters for ghost shrimp tanks. If you already have a canister or hang-on back filter, you can add a sponge to the intake of the filter so it can not suck in the baby shrimps.
Common Diseases and Prevention
Despite looking so fragile, the Ghost Shrimps are hardy species that will not easily get sick. However, these shrimps are sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters. When they are under stress they tend to get sick easily. Common aquarium worms are also another risk for Ghost shrimp health. When your tank is kept poorly bacteria and worms can occur in the tank that might eventually infect your shrimps. So we highly recommend keeping your tanks maintained and clean so your shrimps do not get sick.
Ghost shrimps, like most invertebrates, are sensitive to copper. Even a low amount of copper can kill your entire ghost shrimp colony. Most fish foods are copper free but some fish medications have lower amounts of copper in them. So make sure to read the ingredients of each item before you add it to your tank.
Diet and Feeding Requirements
Ghost Shrimp eat almost anything organic. They evolved to feed on decaying matter and algae. They will live off the naturally grown algae and biofilm in your tank and will eat any dead fish or plants.
However, the number of algae grown in a tank will not be enough for these shrimps. So you will have to feed them from time to time. Most fish foods are safe to feed your ghost shrimps but it is best to provide them with plant-based foods. Having a mix of different foods ready for them will give your shrimp all the nutrients they need.
Calcium for Ghost Shrimps
Calcium makes the main element in the Ghost Shrimp’s shell. Because of their short lifespan, these shrimps will molt a lot when growing so they need a lot of calcium. They will molt about once a month and need calcium to grow their new shell. Most fish foods have low amounts of calcium but it is not enough for Ghost Shrimps.
This makes you add calcium separately to your tank. Fortunately, there are easy and simple ways to add calcium to your shrimp tank. Egg shells are one of the best natural sources of calcium you can feed your ghost shrimps. Simply, after your breakfast, let the empty eggshell dry and then grind them to become powder. You can add this powder in lower doses to your tank after each water change. If you notice your shrimps have a tough time molting you can slightly increase the amount of calcium added to your tank.
Cuttlebone is also a great source of calcium for ghost shrimps. Simply place a piece of cuttlebone in your tank and your shrimps will slowly eat it. Cuttlebones are sold online and in pet stores. They are usually in the bird section of pet stores.
Identifying Ghost Shrimp’s gender is very easy and simple. Females are usually bigger and bolder than males. Males tend to stay smaller and thinner in comparison to females.
If you have the chance to pick your ghost shrimps, you can easily see females have eggs and are buried. Simply select a few females that have eggs and a few smaller and thinner males. This will ensure you get a good mix of males and females in your group.
Ghost shrimps will usually start breeding from 3-5 months. However, most shrimps sold in pet stores are already at the adult age so you can start your breeding project right away.
Water consistency is crucial for eggs and baby shrimps to survive so you will first have to make sure you have a stable tank. Once the tank is ready, you can add your breeding group and let them get settled.
After about a month, you will see your female shrimps carrying tiny little eggs under their belly. The female will hold the eggs for another 25-35 days until they hatch. Once eggs hatch females will start another breeding cycle and you will see a lot of tiny shrimps moving around in the tank.
These baby shrimps are a miniature version of their parents and will constantly molt and grow to become adults. During this time you will have to have your tank parameters as consistent as possible as baby shrimps are super sensitive to quick changes. Having enough food for them will help them grow faster and healthier.
Ghost Shrimp are small creatures that most fish will happily hunt as live food. Baby shrimps are extremely at risk as almost any small fish and larger fish can hunt and eat them. So, if possible, we recommend keeping your ghost shrimps in a species-only tank.
There are also a few fish and invertebrates that can live peacefully with ghost shrimps. Here are our top tank mates for Ghost Shrimps:
- Malaysian Trumpet Snail
- other Types of shrimps
- Apple Snail
- Ramshorn Snail
- Nerite Snail
- Bladder Snail
- Bristlenose Pleco
The Ghost Shrimps or glass shrimps are transparent freshwater shrimps that will help you with keeping your aquarium clean and algae-free. They are one of the hardiest kinds of freshwater shrimps that can be a good entry-level shrimp for beginners. We hope by following the information available in this guide, you can create a perfect living environment for your pet ghost shrimps. If you have any questions you can always reach out to us via email or on our Instagram page.
Credits: Image from: Wesley Malherek, CC BY-SA 4.0