Many beginner tank owners will want to make their tanks vibrant and stimulating and may want to introduce one or both of these types of shrimp. When chosen carefully, and suitably looked after, they certainly do make a wonderful addition to most shrimp owner’s collections.
However, to an untrained eye, it can be difficult to spot the difference between the amano shrimp vs ghost shrimp, even though they display very different characteristics and behavior.
The first step to taking good care of your shrimp is recognizing what species of shrimp you own, and then researching how to treat that type. But don’t despair, we’re here to help.
In this comprehensive article, we will review all the major differences and similarities between the ghost shrimp and the amano shrimp, and thereby hopefully settle the great amano shrimp vs ghost shrimp debate.
We will discuss the similarities and differences in terms of physical appearance, dietary requirements, habitat preferences and much more.
If you are currently on the fence about which shrimp to buy, then this is the perfect article for you.
Hopefully, armed with this information, and knowledge of your own personal abilities and set up, you should be able to come to a rational, informed decision about whether to buy ghost or amano shrimp.
Amano Shrimp vs Ghost Shrimp
Firstly, let’s start with the very basics. Ghost shrimp and amano shrimp are two very different species of aquatic creature. The proper scientific name for the ghost shrimp is palaemonetes paludosus, though it is also frequently called the glass shrimp or the eastern grass shrimp.
On the other hand, the scientific name for the amano shrimp is the caridina multidentara, which is quite a mouthful!
It is also sometimes known as the Yamoto shrimp or the Japanese shrimp, but it’s most commonly called the amano shrimp.
Many people in the aquarium world mistakenly think these two are the same, but, in an evolutionary sense, they are not very closely related.
This accounts for the many important differences in behavior, diet and breeding practices of the two species, which we will cover soon.
Physical Similarities and Differences
Firstly, let’s stress the physical similarities and minute differences between the two types, because this is what could often trip people up and lead to them confusing the two species.
- Both the two types of shrimp are small creatures, growing up to a few inches in size, which like to occupy the bottom of fish tanks.
- They are both mostly translucent in color, and are quite shy and peaceable creatures, steering clear of any trouble or aggression.
- Their translucent body can make it difficult to figure out the physical differences between the two, but one giveaway sign is the broken line of reddish-brown spots on the skin of the amano shrimp.
- Also, unlike the amano shrimp, the ghost shrimp has the ability to distort the pigments in its skin to match the color of the background and thereby camouflage itself. This helps to protect it and keep it out of danger from lurking predators, and this is thought to be the reason behind the mysterious name of ‘ghost shrimp’.
Once you have established the subtle differences in physical appearance of these two popular types of shrimp, you should also recognize that there is notable size difference.
This is very important for potential tank owners, because it will control the size of tank you need to house these species.
In general, if you provide your shrimp with the correct diet and living conditions (which we will discuss later), you can expect amano shrimp to grow up to two inches in size.
In contrast, ghost shrimp are slightly smaller and will generally stop growing once they reach about 1 and a half inches in size.
Of course, this is an average, and variations will occur. It is important to realize that in both these species of shrimp the females will grow to be slightly larger than the males.
Indeed, this is one of the main ways of telling the males and females of the species apart, although other physical and behavioral differences between the sexes do manifest themselves.
Because of the size difference between these two shrimp types, the minimum volume requirement for the tanks is different. It is crucial that every individual shrimp has enough space to roam and feel comfortable, as well as provide for its nutrition needs.
As a result, for the small ghost shrimp your tank should have a capacity of at least 5 gallons, while for the larger Amano shrimp it is recommended to have at least 10 gallons of tank capacity.
This will ensure that your shrimp can stay happy, healthy and strong, and can grow to their full-size stress free.
The consequences of not giving your shrimp enough pace or of cramping too many shrimps in the same tank could be disastrous.
Overcrowding could provoke a battle for resources which could lead to aggression and injury, not to mention the impact on the tank ecosystem as nutrients are over farmed and the health of the tank water collapse. You should avoid this at all costs.
To understand why such similar looking shrimp are actually very different, it is important to consider their native origins.
Amano shrimp are native to Japan and Taiwan, two countries in the far east,
On the other hand, the ghost shrimp is native to the waters of the Southern United States, especially in states east of the Appalachian Mountains such as Florida and Louisiana.
As a result of such diverse origins, these fish have evolved to cope with entirely different ecosystems. Although they are classified in the same order of crustaceans, they fall in different families.
Recently, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they have been bred to be kept in aquariums, and this has made them accustomed to a lot of the features of modern aquarium life, but it has not entirely got rid of their differences.
As a tank owner, one of your most important responsibilities is ensuring that you have got the right tank water for your fish and shrimp. There are lots of different aspects to keep in check, and it can be a delicate balancing act to make sure they are all suitable simultaneously.
For example, you need to factor on the water hardness, the pH level, the temperature and the presence of substances like ammonia, nitrates, phosphates and salt level. and, to complicate things further, all of these various things are inter related and depend on each other. It can give you a headache!
Nevertheless, both amano shrimp and ghost shrimp have slightly different requirements when it comes to the water they prefer to inhabit.
Firstly, both species are freshwater species, meaning they prefer tanks with very little dissolved salt content. Amano shrimp can survive for extended time in slightly brackish water (i.e. water with a salt content level somewhere between pure saltwater and freshwater), but it is not observed.
In the wild most of these two shrimp types are found dwelling in freshwater streams or in marshes.
The pH is also essential to monitor. Both these species prefer near neutral conditions, with pH ranging from 7 to 7.5.
However, the amano shrimp is considered a bit hardier in this regard, and it can survive happily enough in more alkaline conditions, such as in water of pH up to 8.5. It can also tolerate slightly higher salt levels than the ghost shrimp. These shrimps are somewhat tolerant of changes in pH, but it may cause them some distress.
Therefore, if you plan on significantly changing the pH of the tank water (such as due to the introduction of a new species to the tank), you should do this gradually, replacing the water a bit at a time.
The temperature of the tank water is another key parameter in this equation. In this regard the two shrimp species differ slightly.
Again, in this respect amano shrimp are a bit hardier and can thrive over a larger range of temperatures. In fact, they have been observed living contently in waters ranging from 18 C to 28 C. They will be more active at higher temperatures, but in the cooler waters they can easily adjust their metabolism to cope with the lack of external heat. In fact, the higher temperatures and increased activities could actually lead to a shorted lifespan at elevated temperatures, but this has not been conclusively shown. In contrast,
Ghost shrimp prefer to be kept at room temperatures (20 C). If you expect the tank water to drop below this for an extended period of times, then you should really consider installing a heater in your tank, or else introduce a different breed of shrimp, which is more resilient to lower temperatures.
One of the first question you may ask when trying to decide between amano shrimp vs ghost shrimp is what kind of things do they both eat. Well, unlike fish in your tank, most shrimp are scavengers, which means they will come up with the majority of their food themselves.
For example, they will happily digest any of the uneaten fish food that your fish miss and which falls to the bottom of the tank. They will also eat a lot of small insects that become trapped in the tank, and many species will also devour plankton or algae.
It is a lot less hassle keeping shrimp because they are such opportunistic scavengers. You should not really need to purchase a specialist food for them, unless you have reason to believe they are deficient in some essential mineral.
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Amano shrimp will prefer to eat algae in your tank, which can really help keep your tank clean and in tip top shape.
Ghost shrimp will also eat algae, but it prefers to eat blood worms and other such aquatic creatures.
Both these shrimps will also happily feast on any sources of biofilm in the water, but you need to be careful as this biofilm is often the home of the ‘good’ bacteria which controls the nitrogen cycle and reduces the soluble waste in your tank.
Also, since shrimp are opportunistic omnivores, they will eat the bodies of any dead fish or shrimp found in your tank. This can cause disease and parasites to spread in your tank, which is every hobbyist’s worst nightmare.
That is why it is extremely important to remove the bodies of any dead fish as soon as possible from your tank.
For many fish or shrimp which have a similar outward appearance, their behavior can sometimes be a giveaway. For example, some aquatic creatures are confidant and predatory, others are shy and peaceable. They also differ in levels of socialization
In this case however, the behavior of ghost and amano shrimp is deceptively similar. Both these creatures are relative peaceable, and love to stay out of each other’s way.
As typical bottom feeders, which like to dwell on the river or stream bed, they tend to be near the bottom of the food chain, and this explains why they don’t go looking for trouble. This is also helped by the ghost shrimp’s aforementioned ability to disguise itself and blend into the background.
To make them feel safe and reduce their stress levels, you should add lots of shrimp tubing and ornaments to the bottom of the tank, where they can find shelter and cover themselves.
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You are unlikely to have a problem with aggression in your tank due to ghost or amano shrimp, unless they are overcrowded. The only time they really let go of their reservations is for feeding time, when they can actually get a bit greedy!
Both these species of shrimp also have interesting mating rituals. When it comes to breeding time male and female shrimps will chase each other in what appears to be a very entertaining dance!
One key concern for a potential owner would be how difficult these shrimps are to breed and grow, especially because this can be a daunting task for anybody who is new to the scene.
In general, ghost shrimp are easier to breed than amano shrimp. They will develop better if you confine them to a single species tank for the duration of the breeding, as they will feeler safer and more at ease there.
If you simply place male and female ghost shrimp in the shrimp only tank then breeding should occur naturally, and the female will soon feel safe enough to release her shrimplets into the tank. The larvae will usually find enough food to grow themselves without outside aid, but you could consider feeding them to speed up the process.
You should allow the baby shrimp to reach a good size before adding them back to the main fish tank, otherwise they will be helpless prey.
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You can follow a similar process to breed amano shrimp, e.g. by transferring them to an exclusive tank and giving them the security to breed.
However, in the wild amano shrimp morph in saltwater instead of seawater, so you should try and replicate these conditions as much as you can.
Also, be aware that amano larvae take much longer to develop than ghost shrimp larvae, which is why the latter is used much more as a feeder food for other fish.
Other notable differences
Two things that any potential shrimp owner would like to know is; how long will they live and are they expensive?
This is where the differences between amano shrimp vs ghost shrimp really become apparent. In general, ghost shrimp usually live about one year in captivity.
On the other, if you take care of your amano shrimp and ensure their living conditions are right, you can expect them to live from 2-3 years, which is quite a long lifespan for a shrimp. And during all that time it will be helping you with the important task of consuming algae and keeping the tank clean.
However, this extra lifespan comes at a cost. In general, in pet stores or online, ghost shrimp are just a fraction of the price that amano shrimp are. Thus, ghost shrimp are definitely the better option if you are on a tight budget.
Hopefully this has helped settle the great amano shrimp vs ghost shrimp debate once and for all. We have shown that both species has its place, and its exclusive features.
If you are new to the world of aquarium keeping and are wondering what should be your first shrimp type to keep, it is advised to start with amano shrimp rather than ghost shrimp.
Although this might be a little more of an upfront cost, they are much easier to keep and will tolerate more mistakes on your behalf. For example, they will thrive over a much wider range of salinity, pH and even temperature, whereas ghost shrimp might simply die.
Also, with amano shrimp you get the added benefit of a very efficient algae eater and tank cleaner on your side, which should help reduce your workload considerably!