Cleaner Shrimp- invertebrates for cleaning your aquarium

When we think of the symbiosis on tropical coral reefs, the classic example of clownfish and their anemones often comes to mind. However, there is another model of symbiosis, which is just as fascinating to observe but much more comfortable to recreate in an aquarium. I’m talking about the mutually beneficial relationship between cleaner saltwater aquarium shrimp and fish. While numerous species of crayfish belonging to different families can rightly be called cleaners, we will focus on three very popular and relatively easy to maintain species of the genus Lysmata: Lysmata amboinensis, Lysmata debelius, and Lysmata wurdemanni.

Clean shrimp: a job in all respects

All these species of the genus Lysmata are extraordinarily beautiful animals, with bright colors and very efficient cleaning. Fish will lend themselves easily to these shrimp to be cleaned of external parasites and dead tissues. Even large predatory fish will use the cleaning shrimp without making a meal of them.

Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
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Easy to feed and maintain

Also, unlike fish known as cleaners ( Labroides spp. ), Which do not receive nourishment from any other source and commonly starve in captivity, shrimps are very easy to feed in the aquarium. They will readily accept almost all the foods offered. They are also excellent for smaller aquariums, even nano reefs, as long as stable conditions and excellent water quality are maintained.

This last point is important to remember, as in the genus Lysmata spp. , shrimp cannot tolerate unstable water conditions or accumulation of nitrates. Furthermore, being sensitive to sudden changes in water parameters, they must be acclimated very carefully and methodically to new systems.

Cleaner Shrimp will set up shop on live rock or coral outcroppings and wait for fish to come and be cleaned of ectoparasites or dead tissue. Many fish value its services so highly that they even allow the Cleaner Shrimp to clean inside of their mouths without harming the shrimp. No matter how your fish use the Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp’s services, it is easy to see why this peaceful creature is so popular amongst home aquarists.

Like other invertebrates, the Cleaner Shrimp is intolerant of copper-based medications, high nitrate levels, and fluctuating water parameters. Also, proper iodine supplementation is necessary to promote molting and growth. To supplement their diet, feed Cleaner Shrimp freeze-dried, frozen, and flake foods.

Lysmata amboinensis

Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

The Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) acts like the medic of any saltwater aquarium. In the home aquarium, the Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp requires a similar habitat and peaceful tankmates. 

Originating from the Indo-Pacific and commonly called naturally cleaner shrimp, it is globally yellow with a bright red band along its back. Running to the center of the red band there is a more showy and thinner white band. The front legs of this shrimp and the long swaying antennae are also bright white. Lysmata amboinensis is much more likely to be found in the store, and the care needs are practically the same for both.

Based on the personal experience and relationships of many other marine aquarists, Lysmata amboinensis is the best of the three listed here when it comes to cleaning her tank mates.

Lysmata debelius

Lysmata debelius

The Blood Red Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius), also known as Blood Shrimp, Fire Shrimp, or Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp, is one of the most popular ornamental shrimp in the marine aquarium hobby. The Blood Red Fire Shrimp boasts striking blood-red coloration with bright white spots and long white antennae. Depending on which region of the Indo-Pacific originates, the Blood Red Fire Shrimp may have the white dots just on its carapace or covering its entire body.

This more timid and solitary species will also clean the tank-mates and hands of aquarists, but not as reliably or aggressively as Lysmata amboinensis.

Lysmata wurdemanni

Lysmata wurdemanni is the least reliable when it comes to exhibiting cleaning behavior in aquariums, but it is still a worthy choice for aquariums. This western Atlantic dweller is among many commonly called peppermint shrimp, due to their intricate red and white stripe. I have included it on this list not only for its good looks and relative ease of care but also because it can sometimes be used to eradicate the annoying and weeds Aiptasie.

Compatibility with other fish

The cleaner shrimps can be kept with any fish that is not prone to nibble or swallow small crustaceans. Triggerfish, pufferfish, hawkfish larger, lionfish, and the like are not ideal companions.

Even though these fish take advantage of shrimp cleaning services in the wild, there is always the possibility that their predatory instincts go into action when the two are permanently confined together in a closed system.

As for their inclusion in coral reef systems, Lysmata amboinensis and Lysmata debelius can generally be trusted to leave corals and other sessile invertebrates alone. The Lysmata wurdemanni, however, may be less reliable in reef aquariums. 

Cleaner Shrimp reproduce in Aquarium

Much like freshwater shrimp, these shrimp can often carry eggs in an aquarium if you have at least one male and one female in your tank.

There are very few success stories from hobbyists who have managed to raise the shrimplets into adult shrimp before you get excited. Unfortunately, in a display tank that is not species, only you don’t stand any chance of raising them. Most will be predated on by their tank mates, some will be lost to filters and powerheads, other to corals, and those who do make it to a safe spot will likely starve to death.

Cleaner Shrimp Eggs

Dedicated hobbyists have reported managing to raise one shrimp with specialist care and foods after 150 days, so it is not a task to take lightly.

On the bright side, if your shrimps start to produce eggs and shrimplets, then every time they release the eggs or baby shrimp, your tank will get a bit of free food!

By fishexp