Ghost shrimps (Palaemonetes paludosus) are a class of decapods characterized by their small, translucent, and segmented body. They have many alternative names such as American Freshwater Glass Shrimp, Glass Shrimp, and Grass Shrimp.
This species of freshwater shrimp is highly active and social. In fact, ghost shrimps spend most of their time eating algae and dead things, making them an interesting addition to a freshwater aquarium.
Ghost shrimps are mostly sold in the market as “live feeders” for larger fish. But, these tiny shrimps are efficient tank cleaners. They keep the aquarium clean by eating all the “leftovers” and dirt inside. They also help reduce nitrates in the aquarium with a significantly low biomass footprint.
The average lifespan of glass shrimps is 12-18 months. If placed inside a container where there are no predators, they can breed rapidly.
Do you want to know more about ghost shrimp breeding? If you do, well, you’ll just have to continue reading.
Breeding Ghost Shrimp
For successful breeding, you need to have at least 2-3 pairs of male and female ghost shrimps. You can have even more pairs if you have a bigger tank or aquarium.
They can thrive well in an environment with small, unaggressive fish, but will not do good in a tank with large, intimidating, and aggressive fish. Since they are considered prey animals, they will only be eaten by bigger fish.
Ghost shrimp reproduce early, usually before they become full-grown adults. Mature or adult shrimps have a dark orange color especially in the back, front legs, and tail segment.
Some have tints of blue, green, and yellow. Adult female glass shrimp have a yellow saddle at the back of the head when fertile. They are bigger than males and have a rounder and fuller underline. Berried or egg-laden females lay millions of eggs, which normally take 30-45 days to hatch.
Key Factors to Consider
The following need constant monitoring to ensure successful ghost shrimp breeding:
The required water temperature is between 20°C and 27°C (~65°F and 80°F). Higher or lower than this temperature range can cause stress and death to the shrimp.
Extremely low temperatures can make them more susceptible to diseases, while higher temperatures can lead to decreased amounts of dissolved oxygen.
Acidity or Alkalinity
Another important factor in keeping and breeding ghost shrimps is pH. The recommended pH level inside the tank is anywhere from 6.5 to 8.0. This neutral range will help improve the health, metabolism, and physiological processes of the shrimp.
Nitrates are a product of the nitrogen cycle that can produce detrimental effects on glass shrimp. The recommended amount of nitrates inside the fish tanks is 0 to 20 ppm. Higher levels of nitrates (more than 20 ppm) can cause slow growth, lethargy, and reduced hatching success.
This can also be deadly if the amount of nitrates is more than 50 ppm. Frequent changing of water and aquarium plants can help decrease the amount of nitrates in the tank.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
TDS refers to the amount of dissolved minerals, metals, and salts in the water. The total amount of dissolved organic and inorganic matter in the aquarium water should be 100 to 400 ppm.
High TDS signals the need to do a water change. A TDS greater than 400 ppm can cause too much stress to the ghost shrimp. This can lead to slow growth, breathing problems, and complex diseases.
Ammonia is a chemical that can be stressful and extremely harmful to the shrimp. The levels of ammonia inside the fish tank should be 0 to 0.3 ppm. Higher ammonia levels can even be extremely toxic to fish. It can also lead to sudden death among the ghost shrimp population.
Changing the water regularly keeps the tank clean and pathogen-free. The aquarium tank water should be changed by roughly 30% every two weeks. When changing, heat the additional water first on a separate container using a glass heater. Doing so helps reduce shock on the shrimp during the water change.
The Breeding Environment
Ghost shrimp need to be kept in an environment where there are no predators and minimal stressors. Male and female shrimps can easily be identified once they’re ready to reproduce.
When the female glass shrimp is ready to breed, for example, it will undergo molting. A clean and safe breeding environment should be established before the ghost shrimp breeding season.
Follow these steps to prepare the breeding environment for ghost shrimps:
Prepare the Fish Tanks
Since ghost shrimp are highly active, it is best to give them a spacious environment to roam around. It is recommended to use a fish tank that can hold 10 gallons of water. You also need another smaller tank for the young shrimp—something that can hold 2.5 to 5 gallons of water.
A separate fish tank is needed because the female glass shrimp might eat her young.
Put Filters in both Tanks.
Filters are necessary to keep the aquarium clean and free from harmful substances such as nitrates and ammonia. However, most filters can also suck the baby ghost shrimps and kill them.
This can be avoided by using a sponge filter in the breeding (smaller) tank.
You can make a sponge filter by simply covering the water intake of your filter with a clean, new sponge. You can also use a nylon stocking.
Install an Aquarium Air Pump in Each Tank
Like any aquarium pet, ghost shrimp also need a constant supply of oxygen to breathe. An air pump keeps the oxygen supply in the water adequate and consistently circulating.
This machine works by forming bubbles in the water, thus producing a more concentrated form of oxygen. This will keep the shrimp alive and safe from suffocation.
Add some Gravel and Sand on both Tanks
Sand is an excellent substrate that can affect filtration and water chemistry, as well as the well-being of ghost shrimps inside the tank. Another great substrate that can be used is gravel. Pea-sized gravel stones are the perfect size for aquarium use.
These two substrates should never be mixed, however, because the sand will only settle to the bottom. The waste particles in the sand will not be filtered out and will cause contamination in the water.
Fill each Tank with Water
Before putting water into the tanks, treat it first with a dechlorinator or chloramine remover to make it safe for the shrimp. You can also leave tap water in a container for 24 to 36 hours before using it. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate.
Use a bowl or a saucer when pouring in dechlorinated water into the aquarium. This is to prevent your substrate (sand or gravel) from being disturbed. One important reminder: do not use brackish water, use only freshwater!
Install the Heater
Install the heater on one side of each tank and the thermometer on the opposite side. This is to ensure equal distribution of heat inside the aquarium. The water temperature should be from 20°C to 27°C (~65°F to 80°F).
Decorate the Tanks
Video: “How to Breed Shrimp: Three Things Every Tank Needs”
This is probably the most interesting part of preparing the breeding environment. Adding plants and hiding places in the tank will provide a more conducive-for-breeding environment for adult ghost shrimp.
Java moss, Cabomba, and hornwort are some of the most popular aquarium plants that you can use. Falling debris from these plants will make for a good alternative food source as well.
Hiding places such as large stones and driftwood can provide security to the shrimp, especially during molting. And, since ghost shrimps are known to be bottom-dwellers, the substrate shouldn’t have too many aquarium decorations.
Adding the Ghost Shrimp
Now that the tanks are ready, it’s time to put in their decapod denizens:
Purchase the Best Quality Glass Shrimps
Choose high-quality ghost shrimp if you’re planning to keep them as pets. Unfortunately, many aquarium stores sell cheap, unhealthy, and low-quality ghost shrimp. To be sure, choose breeds that are 100% healthy. And of course, it wouldn’t hurt to read a few reviews about the shop you’ve been eyeing.
If you will be using the shrimp as food for larger fish though, go for feeder shrimps instead. Feeder shrimps are specially bred to produce hundreds of youngsters although they have short lifespans.
Acclimatize Your Ghost Shrimp
Video: “Acclimating Shrimp – PROVEN TO BE SAFEST METHOD”
Before finally introducing ghost shrimps into the fish tank, acclimatize them first. Acclimatization is performed to prepare the shrimp for their new environment—the tanks. Follow these easy steps to successfully acclimatize your ghost shrimp:
Slowly add ½ cup of aquarium water to the bag. Continue until it’s full again.
Caring for Adult Ghost Shrimp
Here are some great ways of taking good care of your adult ghost shrimp:
Give them enough supply of food
Ghost shrimp are easy to feed. They eat almost anything you give them—algae wafers, flakes, pellets, excess algae, and plant detritus. Since they eat almost anything, they are often referred to as excellent tank cleaners. Just refrain from overfeeding them though.
A single crushed pellet a day can feed 5 to 6 adult shrimps. You can also feed tiny shrimps with algae wafer, mosquito larva, or frozen food.
Give them mineral supplements
Calcium supplements are essential in maintaining the overall health of ghost shrimp. These are necessary for forming a hard and strong shell.
Like fish, ghost shrimp absorb calcium from the water through their gills. Aside from providing them with calcium, you need to give your shrimps magnesium supplements. This is essential in keeping the calcium in a dissolved state and facilitating calcium absorption.
Avoid too much copper in the aquarium
Copper is an important trace element utilized by most plants and animals. Shrimps use a significantly low amount of copper to bind to oxygen. However, high amounts of dissolved copper in tank water is extremely poisonous to ghost shrimp and other aquatic life.
Copper comes from various algae control products and shrimp meds. This mineral can also pass through copper pipes and go directly to the tank water during water refilling.
To make sure, test your aquarium water with a copper test kit. Use copper-free water, filtered water, and bottled spring water in the fish tank. Likewise, reversed osmosis water and distilled water are copper-free and safe to use.
Regularly change the aquarium water
Changing the aquarium water once every week or two prevents chemical buildup that may kill the shrimp. You don’t necessarily have to change all the water as this may just cause stress to your live feeders. Replacing 20% to 30% of water regularly is recommended for an aquarium with many ghost shrimps. Opting for 40% to 50% replacement is advisable if the tank has fewer shrimps.
If possible, avoid mixing fish with ghost shrimps in the tank
Putting fish into the tank might not be a good idea when you are breeding glass shrimps. Medium and large fish may eat the young shrimps, which in turn will result in fewer shrimps reaching adulthood. You can add small fish and snails in the aquarium if you want some diversity.
Caring for Young Ghost Shrimp
Once the female ghost shrimp start producing eggs, the males will fertilize the eggs after a few days. When you see 20 to 30 green dots attached to the legs of female glass shrimp, this is a sign eggs will be released after a few weeks.
Safely transfer the female into the breeder tank before these eggs hatch. If not, these will be eaten by other shrimps as well as other aquatic critters. Once the eggs hatch in the breeder tank (about 21 to 25 days), move the female back into the larger tank. Then, do the following:
Feed the young with the right kind of food
After 2 to 3 weeks, these newly-hatched ghost shrimps will enter the larvae stage and have tiny mouthparts. Make sure the ghost shrimp breeding tank has plenty of algae and small plants to provide enough food for the young. The following can be safely given to baby ghost shrimps:
- Java Moss
- Powdered fry food
- Powdered spirulina algae
- Egg yolk (strained, small portions)
Give infusoria supplements
Infusoria supplements can be given to the youngsters in smaller amounts. You can ask a vet about it. You can see more information about infusoria in this video
Video: “Culturing Infusoria: A Quick Guide”
Once they’ve grown legs, give them regular shrimp food
After a few weeks, the young will grow and enter the juvenile stage. At this phase, their physical characteristics look similar to those of the larger adults. During this time, you can give them regular food for adult ghost shrimp such as algae wafers, flakes, pellets, excess algae, and plant detritus. Just be extra cautious when giving large food such as pellets.
Crush the pellets and other big items to prevent eating difficulties.
Transfer the shrimp into larger tanks once they’re fully grown
It normally takes 5 to 6 weeks for newly hatched ghost shrimp to develop into fully grown adults. When they have already reached this stage, you need to transfer them to the larger tank. This is to prevent them from eating eggs, larvae, and younger batches of juvenile shrimps in the breeding tank.
Ghost Shrimp Breeding Precautions
To keep the population of ghost shrimps healthy, take note of the following:
- Always check your cover filter, especially the sponge filter in the breeding tank.
- Never transfer female ghost shrimps that fail to fertilize the eggs.
- Do not let your tanks become too dirty.
- Do not put any kind of fish and snails in the breeding tank.
- Let some of the young be eaten by the adults to reduce the population. Too crowded tanks can only result in contamination and stress.
- Never use any kind of soap in cleaning your substrates.
Ghost shrimp breeding is simple and fun. Learning the basics of breeding eliminates confusion and unnecessary issues that may occur along the way. It’s highly advised to breed ghost shrimp in ideal setups like the ones mentioned in this article.
Also, dedicating your time and efforts in taking care of these awesome creatures will surely guarantee success!