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Marine Shrimp Care Sheet

Marine Shrimp Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

marine shrimp

This care sheet covers a variety of marine shrimp species, including:



Scientific name: Lysmata wurdemanni, Lysmata amboinensis, Stenopus hispidus, Lysmata amboinensis, Lysmata debelius, Rhynchocinetes durbanensis, Gnathophyllum americanum, Alpheus bellulus, Alpheus randalli

Marine shrimp can play an intricate role in an aquarium’s ecosystem. Some shrimp, like coral banded shrimp, scour the aquarium for uneaten food and detritus, while other species, like peppermint shrimp, can help control nuisance anemones such as small aiptasia. Still others, like the scarlet skunk cleaner and fire shrimp, are known for setting up cleaning stations on coral reefs to assist with the removal of parasites and dead tissue from the body, gills and mouth of fish or eels, which help protect them from contracting diseases and infections. Marine shrimp love to climb on and hide in live rock caves, especially after molting. These little creatures are fascinating to watch as they scour their environment and come in various colors and patterns to complement any aquarium.


Typical appearance and behavior 

  • Shrimp make excellent crustaceans for the first-time marine aquarist
  • They come in all different colors and patterns, but they can also be transparent or a combination of color and transparency
  • Some prefer the solitary life, while others live in pairs or small colonies 
  • Many species provide great natural algae and parasite control
  • Some will form symbiotic relationships with fish, anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers or urchins 
  • The pistol shrimp has a modified claw capable of creating super-heated air bubbles they use to stun their prey



Care Difficuty Beginner to intermediate, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 6+ years depending on species
Average Adult Size 1.5 to 15+ inches long, depending on species
Diet Omnivore and carnivore, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 74-80°F
Specific Gravity 1.023-1.025



Habitat size

A minimum of 10+ gallons is recommended for small or juvenile shrimp; however, water conditions can change rapidly in smaller water volumes. A larger aquarium is recommended for larger groups of marine shrimp.

Building your habitat

  • Water health - Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Slow to moderate water circulation, based on species, should be provided to mimic water currents found in the marine shrimp's natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. The addition of a protein skimmer can aid with maintaining great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor - Provide hiding places or caves, appropriate depth of substrate based on species and plenty of décor for marine shrimp to hide and protect themselves
  • Live rock can provide a natural food source while also enhancing biological filtration



  • A well-balanced marine shrimp diet consists of:
  • Sinking pellets, dry seaweed, algae wafers, freeze-dried and frozen foods

Things to remember when feeding your marine shrimp:

  • Most shrimp will feed off algae and excess food and debris in the aquarium but will also benefit from small daily supplemental feedings
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding


Marine shrimp care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your marine shrimp healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Use of copper-based medications is toxic to crustaceans
  • The use of an iodine supplement can be beneficial during a crustacean's molting process
  • Shrimp need adequate calcium levels to build their exoskeleton; ensure proper calcium levels are provided
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease 


Where to buy marine shrimp

Marine shrimp are available for purchase at Petco online and in-store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability.




Tank mates 

  • Angelfish
  • Clownfish
  • Damsels
  • Blennies
  • Cardinals
  • Gobies
  • Butterflyfish
  • Tangs
  • Dragonets
  • Dartfish
  • Dottybacks
  • Jawfish
  • Foxface & Rabbitfish
  • Reef-safe wrasses
  • Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually
  • Some marine shrimp are not compatible with their own species unless a mated pair, along with other species of shrimp, starfish, mollusks, squid and octopuses 
  • Caution should be used when adding shrimp to a tank that contains aquatic life known to eat shrimp



Signs of a healthy marine shrimp

  • Healthy appetite
  • Even coloring
  • Sleek, non-pitted shell and legs (applicable to certain species)
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body
  • Erratic movements
  • Disfigurement
  • Missing limbs or antennae


Common marine shrimp health issues

Little is known about diseases that affect shrimp. As long as environmental conditions and food supplies are adequate, marine shrimp are fairly resistant to disease.

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueBody or surface erosion Symptoms or CausesPoor water quality; nutrient deficiency. Suggested ActionTest and treat water or perform a water change immediately; maintain proper diet; contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.
Health IssueLoss of appendage or antennae Symptoms or CausesFighting between crabs or due to an aggressive fish. Suggested ActionWill usually regenerate; an iodine supplement can help with the molting process; contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.
Health IssueParasite (Bopyrid isopod) Symptoms or CausesVisible isopod attached under the shrimp carapace; common in Lysmata shrimp. Suggested ActionTypically will not harm the host and will drop off during the molting process; contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.



  • Where can you buy saltwater aquarium shrimp? Various shrimp species can be purchased at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. Call ahead to check availability.
  • Do shrimp help clean aquariums? Shrimp are scavengers, assisting with cleaning up uneaten foods and detritus.
  • Do aquarium shrimp eat algae? Many species of marine shrimp are omnivores, consuming algae, uneaten foods and detritus.  


Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center parnter about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.