Thinking about breeding ghost shrimp? This guide will walk you through everything you need to raise ghost shrimp successfully.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- Is it hard to breed ghost shrimp?
- Are ghost shrimp a good fit for your aquarium?
- What equipment is needed?
- How to breed ghost shrimp and how to care for them
Ghost or glass shrimp, known for their translucent or clear appearance, are easy to care for, popular additions to tropical community tanks with small, non-aggressive fish. They are a useful addition to tanks because of the added benefit of being great detritus feeders, helping keep the tank clean. They are active little creatures that are either free-floating, eating, or cleaning so they ensure that there’s always something interesting to look at in your tank.
Is It Hard To Breed Ghost Shrimp?
No, ghost shrimp are relatively easy to breed in a healthy environment with limited stress. They are not too sensitive to tank conditions and only require a separate breeding tank or a net. If you want to grow a considerable population, then a separate breeding tank is better.
They undergo reproductive cycles once in about every 2-3 months (females produce eggs every few weeks, fertilization takes place in a few days, and incubation takes about 20 days).
Are Ghost Shrimp A Good Fit For Your Aquarium?
As long as there are no large, hostile, and territorial fish in your community aquarium then your ghost shrimp will be a perfect fit. They do not require extensive care or very specific tank conditions (a general tropical aquarium set up is enough).
They do best with similar sized tank mates such as small fish (tetras and barbs) that are non-aggressive, snails, and similar sized shrimp. A tank with fine grained substrate is best with carpeting plants such as moss and plenty of small crevices to hide in.
Ghost shrimp are great tank cleaners so they are always a nice addition to most aquariums.
What Are Ghost Shrimp? Overview
|Scientific name||Palaemonetes sp.; Palaemonetes paludosus (common)|
|Common name||Ghost shrimp, glass shrimp|
|Size and appearance||Up to 1.5 inches, clear, translucent|
|Lifespan||Up to 1 year|
|Minimum tank size||5-10 gallons|
|Tank set up||Tropical freshwater, fine gravel or sand, carpet plants, small crevices|
|Compatibility||Small, non-aggressive fish; snails; similar size shrimps|
Ghost or glass shrimp is the common name for different varieties of the transparent freshwater shrimp commonly sold as feeders. They are geographically diverse and were first described in 1850. The ghost or glass shrimp commonly kept in freshwater aquaria belong to the Palaemonetes family. They are great scavengers that help keep the tank clean by eating excess algae, uneaten food, and plant overgrowth.
These tiny shrimp that grow to about an inch and a half evolved to be clear or translucent to evade predators. Their clear appearance allows you to view their digestive and other inner body processes which makes them an attractive addition to tanks. Species differ by different colored dots on their back. Females grow larger than males.
They have two antennas (one long and one short) used as sensory organs to detect food, movement, or chemicals in the water.
A rostrum, similar to a beak, rests between their eyes. They have a hard protective shell called a carapace to encase their soft insides.
They have 6 flexible abdominal segments after the carapace, with a pair of swimming legs (swimmerets) or pleopods on 5 of the segments. The sixth connects to a tail with another segment called a telson after which the tail fan is attached (called the uropod).
Ghost shrimp live for about a year but their lifespan does depend on the individual’s health, their origin, and how they were kept and bred. Well kept ghost shrimp, especially those bred as pets can live up to 2 years.
Since they are cheap and fairly easy to breed, they are often bred for feeders and as bait and are kept in tanks with poor filtration and living conditions. This leads to unhealthy individuals. If you are planning to keep ghost shrimp as a pet, make sure you get them from a store that breeds them for that purpose.
Throughout their short lifespan, these creatures continue to molt regularly as they grow. The frequency depends on how fast they grow and how much they eat.
Don’t panic if you see a non-moving shell in your tank, it may just be from a ghost shrimp that just finished molting. These discarded shells need not be cleared from your tank as they can become food for other shrimp and tank inhabitants.
Make sure your tank has enough hiding places and small crevices for molting ghost shrimp to hide in so aggressive fishes or other tank mates cannot bother them during this time. After molting, their body will be very vulnerable before their shell hardens again.
What Do You Need To Breed Ghost Shrimp At Home?
- 5-10 gallon main tank
- Breeding tank
- Breeding net (alternative to a breeding tank)
- Sponge filter or fine mesh net to cover your filter (for the breeder tank)
- Air pump
- Tank furniture/decoration: plants, rocks, and small spaces to hide in
- Dechlorinated or treated water
Your main tank should be between 5-10 gallons. Though ghost shrimp are tiny, they do need at least 1 gallon of water per shrimp to thrive. You can compensate for smaller tanks with an additional half-gallon of water per shrimp. Keep any possible stressors such as aggressive or bigger fish in your main tank to a minimum and provide ample plants and hiding spaces for your ghost shrimp.
Breeding tank or breeding net
A breeding tank with a sponge filter is the best way to keep young shrimp alive. Allowing the eggs to hatch in the main tank is risky since the larvae will be eaten by adults. The sponge filter will keep the larvae and young shrimp from getting sucked into the filter. This breeding tank need not be as large or as well equipped as your main tank, just basic substrate and a few plants will do. However, a more spacious tank does help with the proper growth of young ghost shrimp.
A breeding net for your main tank can be an alternative if you do not have a separate breeding tank.
All aquariums will need an air pump to keep a good supply of oxygen in the water. Ghost shrimp benefit well from this since they are naturally found in freshwater systems with flowing water. It’s best to have an air pump for both your main tank and breeding tank.
Use a typical canister filter, box filter, or power filter in your main tank to help clean your water. However, use a sponge filter for your breeding tank to keep your young shrimp safe from being sucked into the filtration system. Filters usually intake water to clean them and young shrimp and larvae can get sucked along with the intake. An alternative would be to cover your filter intake with a small piece of sponge or a nylon stocking to protect your ghost shrimp babies.
If you do not have a second filter for your breeding tank, make partial water changes (about 10% of the volume) every day until your ghost shrimp are fully grown and you can place them back in the main tank.
Sand or gravel
Sand or fine-grained gravel is best for ghost shrimp. These are available in light or dark colors. Dark gravel sometimes causes ghost shrimp to develop some visible specks. Fill both your main and breeding tank with a light layer of sand or gravel to make your ghost shrimp more comfortable. Since they are bottom dwellers and detritus feeders, they will spend most of their time at the bottom of your tank as adults.
Tank furniture/decoration (plants, rocks, and small crevices)
Live plants and some rocks that form small crevices are perfect for ghost shrimp to hide in especially during molting as adults. Plants also provide food for ghost shrimp since they feed on fallen plant debris and other tank waste. Choose plants that have thinner and more delicate leaves such as hornwort, milfoil, and cabomba so the leaves cannot injure your ghost shrimp. Carpeting plants are also perfect for ghost shrimp.
For young shrimp, live plants such as Java moss will help trap food debris to help them feed so it is a highly recommended addition to your breeding tank.
When adding live plants, it’s best to give them time to acclimate and stabilize in your tanks (about a month). Especially in breeding tanks where younger shrimp are more sensitive to water chemistry and water parameter changes. Adding plants in breeding tanks should definitely be done ahead of adding your hatchlings.
Aquarium keeping requires treated or dechlorinated water especially if it comes from the tap. These water conditioners are easily bought in pet or aquarium stores (always check that they are copper free). At the very least, leave your tap water in a separate bucket for 24 hours, preferably with an aerator to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
How To Breed Ghost Shrimp
1. Take good care of your adult shrimp
Proper care is the first step to breeding ghost shrimp. Build a proper tank setup and feed your ghost shrimp well (but not too much). You should make sure to get high-quality starter adult shrimp from your breeder since these will be healthier and have longer lifespans. Ask your breeder or check the conditions the ghost shrimp are kept in. If they are cramped and are in an unkempt tank then those are most likely bred as feeders or bait.
Transfer new shrimp into your main tank carefully. You can place the bag they come in from the store directly into your tank for a few hours then carefully start to replace the water in the bag with water from your tank every couple of hours.
2. Check if you have both female and male adult shrimps
Once you have your ghost shrimp community acclimatized and happy, check if you have female and male adult shrimps. Female ghost shrimps are noticeably larger than male ones and can develop a green saddle on their bellies. You don’t need to have an equal number of males and females. One male is enough for up to 3 female ghost shrimps.
3. Spot females carrying eggs
If your tank conditions are right, your female ghost shrimps should bear eggs every few weeks. Watch out for bunches of greenish-grey eggs attached to the female’s legs or swimmerets. Spotting females with eggs can be quite challenging as it requires really sharp eyesight. Setting a background for your tank using colored paper or viewing from the side may help.
4. Allow the male to fertilize the eggs for a few days
Once you spot females with eggs, male ghost shrimp need a couple to a few days to fertilize them.
5. Transfer your female to the breeding tank carefully
After a few days, use a net or maybe a small basin to transfer the female ghost shrimp extremely carefully into your breeding tank. Stress from the transfer can cause females to drop their eggs. It’s good to have the main tank and the breeding tank near each other to make the process quicker.
6. Wait for the eggs to hatch
The eggs hatch after about 21-24 days. Frequently check on your female to check her progress. Tiny black dots may start to develop within each egg which eventually become the ghost shrimp’s eyes. As the eggs begin to hatch, the female shrimp will swim to the surface and flick the young off her legs a few at a time. During this process, do not disturb your female as the hatchlings should be deposited as quickly as possible for them to start feeding.
7. Transfer the female back to the main tank after
After the female completes the process of depositing her young, move her back into the main tank as she will try to eat the newly formed shrimp larvae. The tiny hatchlings or shrimp larvae will be hard to spot but you should keep adding food into the breeding tank from this point onwards.
8. Feed the young shrimp tiny food
At this point, your breeding tank is most likely well equipped to support the young ghost shrimp. It may have java moss to help trap debris for the baby shrimp to eat as well as other plants to add to their food (plant debris).
However, their diet should still be supplemented with very small amounts of special food such as microworms, “rotifer” food, baby brine shrimp, or powdered spirulina algae. You may also opt to strain small amounts of egg yolk through a fine mesh to serve as their food.
9. Transition the young shrimp to regular food as they grow
In about 3-4 weeks, the larvae will have grown some legs and will look like tinier versions of the adult ghost shrimp. These juvenile ghost shrimp can then be fed the regular fish food you give to the adults. Just make sure these are small enough for them to eat.
10. Transfer the grown shrimp to your main tank
In about 5 weeks, your ghost shrimp should be ready to transfer back into your main tank. If you have several batches of eggs and larvae in your breeding tank, you may have to move your juvenile ghost shrimp after 3-4 weeks into the main tank.
- Observe the young shrimp if they are feeding well, otherwise switch to a different type of food immediately since they can starve pretty quickly.
- If the female drops her eggs before they hatch due to the stress of the transfer to the breeding tank, double-check your tank conditions or transfer her a bit more carefully. You may have to prepare to breed them in your main tank as a last resort. Transfer other tank mates (such as fishes) into the breeding tank if this is the case.
- Transition your young shrimp back into the main tank slowly if you notice them dying after being transferred. Use the plastic bag technique usually done for new fish.
How To Care For Ghost Shrimp
Diet & Feeding
Ghost shrimp will eat most anything which is what makes them great tank cleaners. In addition to the waste, uneaten food, algae, and plant detritus in your tank; they will also eat flakes, pellets, and algae wafers available in most pet stores. Fry food also works.
Usually, one algae pellet is enough for up to 10-20 shrimp in a tank. Overfeeding can be a risk so it’s best to keep feeding to a minimum. Sinking pellets are best so they can eat some before the fish in the tank consume all of them. Additional calcium supplements will also ensure their good shell development.
Warning: do not use any medication with copper content in your tank that has shrimp or snails as copper is toxic to them
In their natural habitat, ghost shrimp live in rivers with flowing freshwater, fine sediments, and lots of cracks and crevices in river rocks to hide in. Their tank requirements should try to closely resemble these conditions to promote good health.
Since they are quite small, a minimum of 5 gallons is enough to house ghost shrimp, with about 3-4 shrimp per gallon. However, if you are keeping a community, you have to bear in mind the size requirements of your other tank inhabitants.
It’s good to keep plants such as java moss in with ghost shrimp as these plants provide places to hide in (especially during molting) and additional food for a varied diet. Choose relatively hardy plants that will survive nibbling from ghost shrimp.
Ghost shrimp are bottom dwellers and will do best in fine gravel or sand as substrate. These fine-grained substrates will not damage their antennae as they burrow. It will also keep the waste and uneaten food from getting buried too deep in the sediment allowing your ghost shrimp to clean up your tank even more effectively.
As for water quality parameters, ghost shrimp do well in general tropical aquarium setups with a temperature between 65-82°F and a pH between 7-8. All toxic substances such as ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite should be monitored and kept low. Regular water changes and a good filter will help with tank maintenance.
Ghost shrimp are not particularly sensitive to the water quality of your tank for as long as these are kept consistent. Any sudden changes in the tank parameters such as pH, for example, should be avoided since these are bad for most tank inhabitants.
Compatibility With Other Fish
Which Fish Are Most Compatible With Ghost Shrimp?
Ghost shrimp will do well with most creatures since they are quite docile and peaceful. However, since they are quite small, they are easy prey for large fish or aggressive tank mates.
The best fish you can house with your ghost shrimp would be small, non-aggressive fishes such as tetras, hatchetfish, small barbs (cherry barb), Danio, zebra and kuhli loaches, and Corydoras (small catfish).
Which Types Of Fish Should I Avoid?
In general, any fish that have mouths large enough to eat your ghost shrimp should be avoided. Certain fishes like bettas can also be territorial and aggressive and so should not be placed in a tank with ghost shrimp.
Other Compatible Tank Mates
Ghost shrimps will also do well with other shrimp species of similar sizes such as bamboo shrimp, red cherry shrimp, amano shrimp, or vampire shrimp. Snails will also make good ghost shrimp tank mates.
Is it hard to breed ghost shrimp?
No, ghost shrimp are easy to breed in a dedicated breeding tank with the correct water parameters such as clean, flowing water. There should also be no stressors such as predators in the tank to enforce an optimum breeding environment for your ghost shrimp.
How quickly do ghost shrimp breed?
Females produce 20-30 eggs every few weeks which look like little green dots attached to their legs or swimmerets. Their swimmerets paddle to provide oxygen to the eggs which should hatch in about 3 weeks. Males take about 3 days to fertilize the eggs.
Do ghost shrimp need brackish water to breed?
No, though ghost shrimp will survive brackish water, their eggs will not develop in water with a salinity between 10-20 ppt.
Do ghost shrimp eat their babies?
Yes, especially during the larval stages. A separate rearing tank can be kept for developing young ghost shrimp or a good moss cover can be provided as substrate for them to hide in. Larger tanks can also help avoid this.
How long should it take for ghost shrimp eggs to get fertilized?
Males will take anywhere from an hour to a couple of days to fertilize the egg after which the incubation is 12-14 days until they hatch. If the eggs move down further on the female’s belly then it may be a sign that they are fertilized.
Do I need to put ghost shrimp in a breeder net after birth?
If you do not have a separate breeding tank then a breeder net is a good alternative. Make sure you place it far from your filter intake to keep the larvae safe.
Should I remove the mother glass shrimp after she is done having eggs?
Yes, replace the mother back into the original tank or separate them from their young with a breeder net as they tend to eat the larvae shrimp after giving birth.
Can I keep ghost shrimp with other kinds of shrimp, like crystal red shrimp?
Yes, ghost shrimp grow to be about 1.5 inches while crystal red shrimp grow to about 1.2 inches and both are generally docile creatures so they won’t have a problem in the same tank. However, crystal red shrimp can be quite sensitive to tank conditions.
Breeding ghost shrimp is quite easy with minimal equipment needed and a relatively high turnaround. A new batch of hatchlings can emerge in about 2-3 months and females can produce eggs every few weeks. An extra breeding tank and a sponge filter is all that’s really needed apart from the usual proper tropical aquarium set up. Ghost shrimp can be bred as beautiful and active pets that help keep your tank clean and can also be used as feeders for bigger fish.
Ghost shrimp quick care guide:
Ghost Shrimp | Care & Breeding – AqauriumInfo
Field guide for Grass/Glass/Ghost Shrimp
Mississippi Grass Shrimp Glass Shrimp; Ghost Shrimp | MDC Discover Nature
General article on the different species of dwarf freshwater shrimp:
Palaemonetes – Family of Ghost Shrimp
Palaemonetes paludosus – common Glass Shrimp in America
Compatibility chart for dwarf shrimp:
Dwarf Shrimp Compatibility Chart – Tool