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Palaemonetes paludosus, commonly called glass shrimp, ghost shrimp or eastern grass shrimp is a species of freshwater shrimp from the southeastern United States sold for use in freshwater aquariums.
Ghost shrimp make ideal additions to community tanks as they are peaceful and easy to care for, and an excellent food source for many large, more aggressive fishes kept in aquariums.
For both of these reasons, aquarium owners want to learn how to breed ghost shrimp. Which is not hard, as long as you keep them in a healthy environment, with zero predators and limited stressors.
Read on to find out how to breed ghost shrimp in a home aquarium including caring for your pregnant females, eggs and fry.
Ghost Shrimp Overview
- Name: Palaemonetes paludosus, ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, eastern grass shrimp
- Color: Clear
- Size: 1 to 1.5 inches
- Lifespan: 1 year
- Minimum Tank Size: less than 5 gallons
- Temperament: Peaceful
- Care level: Easy
- Diet: Omnivorous
- Tank Conditions: 72°F to 82°F, ph 6.5 to 8.2, hardness 3 to 12dGH
Ghost shrimp is a name that can loosely refer to three types of shrimp, but only the Palaemonetes species is popular in the aquarium trade, both as aquarium pets and cheap food for larger fish.
They are native to North America, but presently, they are widely spread across the globe because of their popularity among fish keepers.
The shrimp are amazingly hardy and can survive in conditions other freshwater dwarf shrimp species can’t.
When setting up a dedicated ghost shrimp aquarium, it best to have at least 5 to 10-gallons of aquarium space, with the water temperature anywhere from 72°F to 82°F and a ph of 6.5 to 8.2. Add a gallon of water for every extra inch of shrimp you put in the tank.
You can also introduce your group of shrimp into a community aquarium with other shrimp or shrimp friendly fish like pygmy cories. However, on average, they only reach an adult length of 1.5 inches, so any fish that can fit them in its mouth should be avoided.
About their behavior, glass shrimp (like all other species) love to pick at the gravel, sifting through small substate grains looking for bits of organic matter and other foods.
One important thing to note is there are many different types of shrimp that look like American ghost shrimp and can be confusing to the untrained eye, therefore, make sure you get the right species from your local pet store.
Ghost Shrimp Breeding Tank Setup
Ghost shrimp, like most aquarium species prefer a bigger breeding tank relative to their small size, more so if you plan on breeding more than a pair. Ideally, aim for each of your shrimp to have at least a gallon of water.
That said, regardless of the number of ghost shrimp you are breeding, a 10-gallon breeding tank will make an adequate size.
You will also need an extra tank to raise your fry away from their parents because adult often devour their babies.
The fry aquarium need not be the same size as the breeding tank, though a reasonably sized set up will give the young shrimp the best chance of survival.
Maintain a healthy breeding tank, plus keep the water pristine for both your adult shrimp and fry by adding a slow flow sponge filter, that won’t cause a lot of water movement or suck in tiny ghost shrimp babies.
If a sponge filter is not enough for your setup, maybe because you have other fish in the tank, you can still use a Hang-on-back or canister filter, but cover the intake with a sponge or pantyhose.
Power filters are not recommended because the working mechanism involves sucking in aquarium water to clean it, which often drags tiny ghost shrimp along.
Some aquarist opt to disconnect their filtration system completely before the eggs hatch and replace 10 percent of the water in the tank every day until the fry grow.
Away from the filter, you also must consider an air pump to ensure there is enough oxygen supply in the tank, while still ensuring any currents created by the system don’t disturb your breeding shrimp, especially because they occupy the lower tank level.
Ghost shrimp prefer a sandy substrate or light gravel, with darker alternatives better, to help the shrimp develop specks and become more visible, though any substrate color will do.
Concerning the water to use in your breeder, ghost shrimp are fine in tap water as long as you treat it with de-chlorinator or chloramine to make it safe.
Alternatively, wait for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate from the water before adding your ghost shrimp in the tank, albeit this is not a guaranteed-to-work solution.
(As I mentioned) ghost shrimp are hardy aquarium pets that can tolerate temperatures as low as 65°F and as high as 82°F. However, to breed them successfully, maintain your aquarium temperature between 72°F and 78°F.
Moreover, you will need a heater and thermometer for your fish tank to make sure the temperature is stable within the appropriate range, and the heat is well distributed.
A heater that is anywhere from 25 to 75 watts should be good enough for breeding ghost shrimp in a 10-gallon tank.
A thick cover of plants inside your tank will give your ghost shrimps a sense of calmness and safety during breeding process.
Use thin leaves plants that the shrimp can feed on and a couple of small flower pots and other containers to provide hiding spots. Place the pots and caves up-side-down with openings only the shrimp can enter.
Good plants for breeding ghost shrimp include Java moss, hornwort, cabomba, and milfoil.
Java moss is especially useful not only in a typical shrimp aquariums but also in the breeding tank because it traps food debris better than other aquatic plants, hence a good food source for young shrimp fry.
Moreover, the plant can be used in the place of spawning mops for your breeding ghost shrimp.
Will Ghost Shrimp Breed in a Community Tank?
If you keep your ghost shrimp in a safe aquarium, with shrimp-friendly fish, there is a chance they will breed in a community aquarium. However, it’s not feasible to raise the fry in a tank with other fish because they are a prey species and among the most widely used food for larger fish.
Besides, even mature ghost shrimp are known to snack on their own when housed in the same aquarium.
If you are going to have even the slightest success breeding your shrimp in a community aquarium, add live plants well in advance before you start the breeding process. Plus add caves and broken pots to provide hiding areas for the adult shrimp, and spawning mops or carpet plants for the shrimp eggs and fry.
Make sure the water conditions in your community aquarium is appropriate and safe for your ghost shrimp to breed as well.
Overall, it’s important to appreciate that even if you successfully breed ghost shrimp in a community tank, chances are you won’t get many (if any) babies growing to adult size. One way or the other, they will end up dead, either as a quick snack or from general aquarium perils.
Caring for Your Pregnant (Spawning) Ghost Shrimp
The first step to caring for breeding adult ghost shrimp is to feed them a high-quality diet, with a lot of algae. The balanced diet is especially good for conditioning the fish for breeding and encourages spawning.
Offer them a daily amount of fish food, with a single crushed pellet a day enough to sustain six adult shrimp. Use sinking pellets because they live at the bottom of the tank.
Also, remember shrimp will thrive on algae and plant debris, so add plants that trap foods on tender leaves for your animals to scavenge on.
When it’s time to introduce your ghost shrimp to the breeding tank, ensure your water settings mimic what the shrimps are used to. Moreover, acclimate them slowly to make sure they don’t succumb to temperature or ph shock.
Usually, floating a bag with your shrimp inside at the top of your aquarium for 20 minutes before starting the acclimation process ensures your shrimp are properly adjusted to the aquarium temperature.
Perfom water changes in your fish tank once every week after that and constantly check the ph, temperature, and chemical levels to avoid a dangerous spike.
Remove 20 to 30 percent of the water with every change for best results, though 40 to 50 percent changes every other week will also work, especially if you have few or no fish with the shrimp.
In a large aquarium, only add small fish with your breeding ghost shrimp (if you must) because almost all medium and large-sized fish will snack on your shrimp.
Lastly, remember feeder shrimp are bred to produce high numbers of young but tend to be fragile, with a short lifespan. So, if you want shrimp for pets, it best to purchase a healthy breeding lot more than anything. Look for shrimp raised in a clean fish tank with plenty of live plants and space.
Ghost Shrimp Eggs- Spawning and Hatching
Assuming you have both male and female ghost shrimp in your fish tank, you should have them producing eggs every few weeks given the right conditions.
Ghost shrimp spawn bunches of 20 to 30 tiny green-grey eggs that are usually attached to the female.
Naturally, the eggs are positioned on the rare legs, which are also called swimmerets. They are short limbs attached to the lower part of the female’s body and make it seem like the eggs are attached to the belly.
Having said that, it is advisable to move your ghost shrimp eggs into a fry tank before they hatch to keep your adult shrimp from eating their young.
Ideally, use a net to move the female carrying the eggs first if you don’t intend on having her spawn in the main aquarium. Try not to stress the shrimp while you move her as they are known to drop eggs prematurely when rattled.
After spawning, it should take your ghost shrimp eggs 21 to 24 days to hatch.
During that period, watch your female shrimp to make sure she is in top conditions and inspect her eggs for progress. If you have a keen or expert eye, you will notice them develop tiny black dots which often is a sign they are ready to hatch.
Usually, the eggs will hatch while still attached to the female shrimp legs, then she will swim upwards and wipe them off her legs a few at a time.
The process should take a few hours, then you can feed your shrimp fry. At this point, you may also want to move the female back to the main aquarium or move the fry into a nursing tank if you have the means.
Note that one of the biggest challenges of breeding ghost shrimp is the tendency for the eggs to hatch free-floating larvae, meaning they do not turn into miniature versions of the adult until after a week.
For this reason, new ghost fish fry are difficult to sight, and you may lose a huge number if you are not careful.
Therefore, when you shrimp eggs hatch, provide them with powder algae such as spirulina to keep them nourished until they mature enough to look like their parents.
How to Care for Your Ghost Shrimp Fry
A 5 to 10-gallon aquarium is a suitable tank for ghost shrimp fry. To keep them comfortable, add a layer of gravel at the bottom and use a sponge filter to keep the water clean and safe for the newborns.
I mostly recommended using an established nursing aquarium, cycled 2 to 8 weeks before adding the fry, and layered with an inch or two of gravel.
A heater is also important to make sure your fish tank remains between 72°F and 80°F. However, ghost shrimp are quite tolerant, and a heater can be foregone if your aquarium room temperature does not go below 70°F.
Add floating plants like anacharis, duckweed, and hornwortto provide shade for your ghost shrimp fry, and a small driftwood for shelter and aesthetics.
Shrimp fry tend to swim toward the light and can injure themselves if they accidentally run into obstacles like aquarium walls. Therefore, use an overhead aquarium light 24 hours a day and cover the sides with construction paper to keep out ambient light.
Moreover, baby shrimp get sucked into filter intake and vacuum kits when cleaning the substrate. So only use a sponge filter and avoid vacuuming your aquarium sand or gravel until the fry attain a reasonable body size, usually when they look like adult ghost shrimp.
A crucial equipment you should also not fail to add is an air pump, which you can buy online or from your local pet store. An air pump is important because of ghost shrimp’s high oxygen demand when breeding and molting. Normally, shrimp molt every two months.
Live plants also supplement oxygen in the tank and provide shelter for shrimp when molting as well.
When purchasing products for your shrimp fry nursing tank, avoid any items with any form of chemicals or dye because shrimp, like snails, are overly sensitive to reagents, dust, and debris. Also, rinse any items you plan on putting in your fry aquarium before adding them.
Lastly, feed your ghost shrimp babies liquid fry food, daphnia, newborn brine shrimp, and microworms in three hours interval, 24 hours a day.
Gender Difference of Ghost Shrimp
While you’ll need to stock your fish tank with both male and female ghost fish for them to breed, young individuals are hard to determine their gender. However, mature shrimp are a little easier to sex.
Usually, females are much larger, with the size difference quite significant (1.5 times longer) when fully grown. Moreover, female ghost shrimp have a greenish saddle on the back that runs along to the underside of their belly, while in males it’s conspicuously absent.
The other signs that a ghost shrimp is female are the much larger abdomen that carries the eggs and a more pronounced ridge along the top end of the tail.
That said, you do not need an equal number of male and female in your aquarium for your ghost shrimp to breed, one male can have two females. It’s actually better to have twice as many females as males.
However, when you go out to purchase ghost shrimp, don’t put too much emphasis on the ratio, get at least 20 individuals to increases the chance of having both genders, and healthy once for that matter.