Ghost Shrimps are one of the top scavenger crustaceans in the aquarium trade. Their cleaning prowess makes them one of the most sought after species among the aquarists. While purchasing the species, the one question most often emerges is how long do Ghost Shrimp live?
Multiple factors determine the life expectancy of Ghost Shrimp in a captive environment. They are also feeders to some larger aquarium species.
In this article, “how long do ghost shrimp live?”, first understand its history, anatomy, habitat, origin, temperament & behavior, and its purposes in the aquarium trade, and how much all these factors are influencing their lifespan.
Ghost Shrimp – An Overview:
|2 inches (5.5 cms)
|1 to 2 years
|Minimum Tank Size
|10 gallon (40 liters)
|18 – 28°C (65 – 82°F), ideal 24°C (76°F)
|7 to 8 pH
|3-10 dGH (50-166.7 ppm)
Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes Paludosus) is a freshwater crustacean native to North America, is popular amongst shrimp breeding hobbyists. The new aquarium hobbyists would want to know, how long do ghost shrimp live?
Ghost shrimp is the common name for a freshwater crustacean in the genus Palaemonetes in the family of Palaemonidae. They also are known as Glass Shrimp, Grass Shrimp, American freshwater Grass Shrimp.
They are native to North American, are widespread in southern states: Appalachian Mountains, Louisiana, and further west in Texas and California as well.
Ghost Shrimps are nocturnal by nature; they remain hidden among the vegetation during the day and emerges during the night to feed on planktons. They are one of the cleaner species in the freshwater aquarium tank.
Though they are native to North America, today, you can see them across the world in the aquarium trade as well as in the wild.
The common names ghost shrimp or glass shrimp is an attribution to its appearance.
Ghost Shrimps are also widely propagated by the aquarists as a source of feed for some larger fish.
The name Ghost shrimp applies to 3 different crustaceans, viz: Thalassinidea, Caprellidae, and Palaemonetes. The ghost shrimp commonly known in the aquarium trade is Palaemonetes, a peaceful freshwater crustacean species.
The whole Shrimp is translucent like a ghost in your aquarium tank. In the wild, it acts as a defense mechanism to hide from its predators. Even in your tank, it is difficult to see them as they hide in the decors and the grass substrates.
They grow up to a maximum of 2 in (5.5 cms); in captivity, they grow about 1.5 in ( 4 cms). Generally, the females are larger slightly larger than the males of the species.
A segment called telson is an appendage of the last body segment that encompasses an iconic tail loop.
Ghost Shrimp Habitat:
Palaemonetes Paludosus, Ghost Shrimp, is a freshwater species native to North America that lives in brackish water, lakes, and ponds.
They typically live in waterways, where there are sediment substrates, with plenty of hiding places, such as plants, both rooted and floating, driftwood, grass, etc. with a temperature range from 65 and 82ºF (18 – 28ºC), pH range 7-8, hardness 3-10 dGH and 3-15 dKH calcium carbonates.
They are nocturnal, emerging out at night/dark to feed on planktons. Ghost Shrimp is an important prey for many species of birds and fishes.
Purpose of Ghost Shrimp in Aquarium Trade:
Ghost Shrimps are in use among the aquarists since the 1950s. For two main reasons, Ghost Shrimp is popular among aquarists:
Ghost shrimp popularity amongst hobbyists is that they are great to feed to some large fish species. Because they are relatively easy to breed and keep. They are more than a snack to some large aquatic pets such as Cichlids, a good source of protein.
As a cleaning crew:
Ghost shrimp is in the same league as Amano shrimp, Nerite snail, and loaches as a cleaning crew in the aquarium trade. They may not eat algae as much as Amano Shrimp or the ability of Nerite snail, in comparison to their size and number of shrimps per gallon.
For instance, you can keep 3 to 4 Ghost Shrimp per gallon, whereas 1 Amano Shrimp for every 2 gallons of water. You can do your math.
Apart from the two main reasons, some aquarists fall for their playful nature, and indeed, they are fun to watch and relax.
Factors determining Ghost Shrimp Lifespan:
The tank set-up for Ghost Shrimp is relatively simple and straight forward. They are tiny, and you can house about 20 Ghost Shrimps in a 5 gallons single species tank. If you are housing in a freshwater community tank, consider a gallon for every 3 to 4 grass shrimps while keeping the math for other species recommendations.
Ghost shrimps are shy and can easily be startled; even tapping on the tank can make them jump out of the tank. It is best to keep the ghost shrimp tank with the lid on.
Ghost Shrimps are hardy and resilient and tolerate a wide range of water parameters. They are inexpensive and the right for novice aquarists.
They make an excellent scavenger in a tropical community aquarium tank. The temperature range from 18 – 28°C (65 – 82°F), with the pH on neutral and slightly on the alkaline side 7-8pH and water hardness 3-10 dGH (50-166.7 ppm). You need a master test kit to maintain the water parameters under check.
They are more active in the warmer temperature like any other tropical freshwater fish; however, this will shorten their lifespan as the dissolved oxygen holding capacity drops down with a higher temperature. However, cold water detain dissolved oxygen level better but could cost their immune system.
Regardless, take good care of the CO2 level in the water as it can make shrimp drown/suffocate to death.
Ghost Shrimps are resilient and can thrive in a wide range of water parameters. Even though they are scavengers and contribute to minimizing the bioload in the habitat, they still need a filtration system. The ammonia and nitrite level in the water should be 0 at all times. Bio-waste in the habitat produces ammonia and nitrite. The aquarium filtration system houses bio enzymes/bacterias necessary to digest ammonia into nitrite and finally to nitrate. Nitrate is less poisonous and is allowed to build up to 20 parts per million in the water till you do the water change. This process is called the nitrogen cycle.
Ammonia is a poison to any aqua life, and shrimps are more vulnerable during the molting period.
A sponge filter is the best filter for shrimp tanks. For a large community tank with shrimps in it, you can go with an external filter hand-on-back filter or a canister filter with a pre-filter or bush on the inlet/outlet of the filtration system.
Ghost Shrimps are bottom feeders; they dwell at the bottom of the tank, scavenging the leftovers and nipping algae and other plant matters. Therefore, while choosing a substrate, you want to replicate their natural habitat. You can choose either gravel, sand, or green, or a combination to replicate their natural habitat.
Plants and Decorations:
Ghost Shrimp appreciates heavily planted tanks. They can easily get stressed in a bare tank or scantily planted tanks. Like most shrimps, ghost shrimp is shy and likes to have plenty of hiding places. They hide during the day among the plants and other decors such as tubes, rocks, caves, etc.
Ghost Shrimp Molting and Lifespan:
Ghost shrimp are hardy and do not demand much care and time from you. It is a beginner’s species, undemanding freshwater invertebrates.
However, to grow, all the crustaceans shed their outer shells periodically. They shed their shells, more often when they are young and ensuring their faster growth. It is hard to keep track of their molting cycle with a group of ghost shrimp.
Once they shed their shells, they are more vulnerable to disease and parasites without their armor. They hide in their hideouts for a period of 4 to 5 days till they develop their new shells completely. Therefore, you want to remember to provide them enough hiding places, such as bushes, shells, rocks, etc.
Molting is a good sign; they are healthy and growing.
Do not take the shells out from the tank immediately because the Shrimps and other living creatures in the tank ingest nutrients from these shells. You may remove the shell after a few hours before it starts to decompose. The decomposition of organic matter produces ammonia and nitrite.
A couple of days before shedding their outer shells, the shrimp, will look a little bit opaque. It is because the shrimp is growing a new shell underneath the existing one before shedding the older one.
When it is time to shed the old shell, the shrimp, will curl its tail into its body and loosen the old shell.
Unable to Molt:
The bad news with Ghost Shrimp molting is that when they are unable to molt. If the Shrimp can’t molt, they die.
Sometimes, it can happen that they can’t get their shells cracked and pull off their bodies. It happens when the shell turns too hard.
When this happens, they get exhausted trying to crack and pull the shells out of their bodies, and eventually, they die.
Causes of Molting Problems:
Off water Parameters:
Most experienced aquarists say this molting problem has to do with the water parameters of the tank.
If the water hardness is too high, the shrimp develops shells that are too hard, and when the time for molting arrives, they will not be able to crack the shell.
However, when the water hardness is too low, then they will not be able to build their shells hard enough to crack.
Keeping the tank clean is a pre-eminent part of the aquarium hobby. On the other hand, frequent water change can take the water parameters off-balance and cause stress to the aqua lives in the tank.
Mainly, the lives of Shrimps will be affected as they molt when there is a change in the water parameters. Frequent water change may invigorate them to molt even before they are ready to molt.
Ghost Shrimp Diet, Molting and the Lifespan:
Some experts argue that it has to do with their diet.
So, they need to get a good amount of calcium from their diet. High-quality Shrimp food is a good source along with some fresh foods.
Some experienced aquarists use the shell of a cuttlefish in the aquarium tank. The Shrimps graze on the bone of cuttlefish and absorb calcium from the bone, as the bones are mostly entirely made of Calcium Carbonate.
Is ghost shrimp dead or molting?
The molted shell looks like a dead shrimp in the tank. It can freak out most hobbyists, particularly novice hobbyists.
It is easy to tell the molted shell from the dead shrimp. The molted shell will continue to look translucent, the same as the shrimp; whereas, the dead shrimp will start to turn pinkish in a day or two.
Common Ghost Shrimp Diseases:
The common Ghost Shrimp diseases are Bacterial infections, Fungal infections, Muscle Necrosis, Black Spot disease or Chitinolytic Bacterial Diseases, Vorticella Parasite, and Columnaris.
The causes of Ghost Shrimp contracting diseases are:
Water parameters and quality:
One of the primary causes of ghost shrimp fungal and bacterial infection is poor living conditions. Undesirable water parameters such as too low or too high temperature, pH imbalance, unclean water, and low dissolved oxygen. They get affected due to a lack of minerals and vitamins in the habitat.
Introducing infected stock or decors:
When you introduce new stock to the habitat, make sure to quarantine the specimens until you are sure that they are free from diseases and parasites. Similarly, while introducing any decors and plants, ensure that they are free from parasites. The parasites usually hitchhike with the decoratives and plants.
Stress and molting:
Stress is another primary cause of diseases. Ghost Shrimp molt like every other crustacean; just after molting, they are vulnerable need hideouts and the right water parameters for them to regrow their skeleton strong. Moreover, with their lack of a protective shield, they are prone to bacterial and fungal infections.
Ghost Shrimp Diet and Feeding:
Ghost Shrimps are opportunistic eaters. They rejoice in feeding on both the leftovers and the fresh commercial feeds such as pellets, flakes, algae wafers, etc.
Feeding ghost shrimps depends on the purpose for which they are in there. If the scavenging is the purpose for which you are housing them, then feed them as minimum as possible. One algae pellet at a time can feed a group of shrimp – any more can result in overfeeding and potential death.
Calcium supplements or cuttlefish bones can be fed from time to time to ensure the proper molting as it determines their lifespan.
When you have bought your ghost shrimp as a part of the cleaning crew, then it matters how long do ghost shrimp live. Because here, they are not a feed to other fish, they are your pets. They are fun to watch, ghost shrimp will win your heart pretty quickly. So, you would want to ensure they have had a balanced diet to live through their optimal age of 1 to 2 years.
Breeding Ghost Shrimp:
Ghost shrimps are easy to breed, one main reason why they are so commonly used as feed to other fishes. One major benefit of keeping ghost shrimp as feeder stock is that you can stop worrying about asking the question, how long do ghost shrimp live.
Breeding tank set-up:
For breeding ghost shrimps, a separate breeding tank is essential to prevent it from eating by the other shrimps and the fish in the habitat.
The breeder tank for ghost shrimp can be with a sponge filter with a water temperature of 80°F (26°C to 27°C). The higher temperature increase in metabolism and promote breeding behavior. Water hardness can be at the optimal level of 10 dGH. You can a small pouch of limestone chips in the water, a trick to obtain the desired hardness in the water. Make sure to use an air filter; the ghost shrimp will continuously fan the eggs to ensure optimum oxygenation.
Cover the breeding tank with a green carpet along with some floating plants such as java moss. Java moss is essential for breeding ghost shrimp as it houses the first fry food Infusorian along with providing security to Ghost Shrimp Larvae.
Sexing Ghost Shrimps:
When the ghost shrimps are babies, it is hard to distinguish from male to female. Once they are adults, the female carries a saddle on the underside of the tail, which is known as berried. With the transparent body, it is easy to spot the saddle.
To breed Ghost Shrimps, you can follow two different methods; select a healthy stock male and female, move them to the breeding tank to promote breeding behavior with optimum living conditions, and feed. Once the female hatches the larvae, move the adults to the main tank. (it can be a community tank or a ghost shrimp species tank)
The second method is to wait for the female ghost shrimp to develop its saddle of berried and fertilization by the male; usually, it takes about a week or so for the male to fertilize the berried females. Move the berried female to the breeding tank.
Ghost shrimp babies are born as free-swimming larvae. You would want to remove the adult ghost shrimp as soon as you notice there is no more saddle on the underside of the tail.
Ghost shrimp do not fend their babies; they are scavenger species and will eat their young.
After 1 to 2 weeks, the shrimps will start to resemble more like a miniature version of the ghost shrimp, and after, 5 weeks they will fully grown adults. At this stage, you would want to move them to the main tank; if they are, bred to feed larger fish, they form a sumptuous meal to Oscars, Arowanas, Cichlids like Jack Dempsey, Angelfish, etc.
If you have another batch of younger shrimps in the breeding tank, move the shrimps of 3 to 4 weeks to the main tank to prevent them from munching on the younger ones.
Ghost Shrimp Tank Mates and the lifespan:
The tank mates are another crucial factor that determines how long do ghost shrimp live. Stress is a huge factor that affects the lifespan of any species. If the ghost shrimps feel threatened in their habitat, it will considerably reduce their lifespan.
Ghost Shrimp is a peaceful freshwater species; they get along pretty well with other peaceful, freshwater species such as celestial pearl danios, dwarf rasboras, harlequin rasboras, tetras like ember tetra, neon tetra, etc.
They are also compatible with Guppies and Platies.
However, the tetras will harass the young shrimps, and other shrimps will eye the young ones as snacks.
Ghost Shrimp and Bettas:
Are Ghost Shrimps and Bettas good tank mates? It is a pretty common question raised by the aquarium hobbyist. Well! The answer is not that simple.
Betta is known for its bullying, and its showy nature can easily stress the peaceful ghost shrimp. However, the translucent look of ghost shrimp can keep them out of trouble from bettas.
Nevertheless, the ghost shrimp will get stressed by the presence of Bettas in their habitat.
Some Aquarium enthusiasts keep them both in the same tank. It depends on how showy or docile your betta is.
How long do ghost shrimp live -Wrap-up:
Ghost Shrimps are relatively easy to maintain when compared to the benefits they offer. They are a great addition to the peaceful community tank. They keep your tank impeccable by scavenging the tank of the leftovers and algae.
Your ghost shrimp will go on living anywhere between 1 to 2 years, if you follow all the guidelines in maintaining the water quality, dissolved oxygen level, with the right temperature range, pH, and hardness.
Furthermore, the right tank mates and care in introducing any new specimen of ghost shrimp or any other species, plants, and decors to the habitat largely determines how long do ghost shrimp live.