Ghost Shrimp: A Fascinating Addition to Your Aquarium

In the current article we will talk about quite popular tank shrimp – ghost shrimp. Ghost shrimp, also known as glass shrimp, are small freshwater crustaceans belonging to the family Palaemonidae. This small and almost transparent shrimp has lots of various names, however, each of them describes it rather precisely. Since it is almost invisible in a tank, especially if the latter is full of tank plants.

Habitat in the wild

Most of sources state that natural habitat is in freshwater bodies in the South of the USA. However, some of the sources say that natural habitat is ghost shrimp have a widespread distribution and can be found in different parts of the world, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

They inhabit freshwater ecosystems such as rivers, streams, ponds, and marshes. Ghost shrimp prefer areas with sandy or muddy substrates, where they can burrow and create tunnels. They often live in shallow waters near the shore or in areas with slow-moving currents. These burrows provide them with protection and a place to retreat.

Ghost shrimp are opportunistic feeders and have a scavenging nature. They sift through the substrate, feeding on detritus, organic matter, algae, small invertebrates, and microscopic organisms. Their feeding activity helps in nutrient recycling and contributes to the overall health of their habitat.

Moreover, there is no shared vision as for the Latin name. In one sources it is called Macrobrachium ehemals, while in others it is called Palaemonetes sp. Which is no surprise, since even when we open Wikipedia, we can see how diversified species are.

Taking into account, it uncontrolled commercial breeding, it is quite possible, that the ghost shrimps you have in your tank are hybrids of a wide variety of wild shrimps.


Ghost shrimp female is up to 2 inches (5 cm) long, males are up to 1.5 inches (4 cm). Some species may grow slightly larger, reaching up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters).

The lifespan of ghost shrimp can vary depending on various factors, including environmental conditions, genetics, and overall care. On average, ghost shrimp have a relatively short lifespan compared to some other aquarium species. Typically, ghost shrimp live for about 1 to 2 years. However, with optimal care, some individuals may live slightly longer, reaching up to 2.5 to 3 years.

Like other crustaceans, ghost shrimp periodically shed their exoskeleton through a process called molting. During this process, they shed their old exoskeleton and emerge with a soft, vulnerable shell. After a few days, the new exoskeleton hardens, and the shrimp resumes normal activities. Molting is a vulnerable period for the shrimp, and proper nutrition and a stress-free environment during this time are important to support their health and successful molting.

Ghost shrimp have elongated, slender bodies with a segmented exoskeleton. Coloring is completely transparent. The transparency of their bodies allows you to see their internal organs and structures. Depending on its diet the shrimp can get yellowish, orange, beige or brown shade.

The tail has small spots on it. There are tiny claws on its first 4 pairs of legs, they help to collect the food from the bottom. Its undeveloped small pincers and laced horns only vaguely resemble that ghost shrimp belongs to Macrobrachium kind.

They have a pair of long, slender antennae that extend in front of their bodies. These antennae help them detect their surroundings, find food, and sense potential threats. Ghost shrimp also have small pincers, or chelae, which they use for various activities like feeding and grooming. Ghost shrimp have four pairs of walking legs, or pereopods, located on their thorax. These legs are equipped with small, claw-like structures that aid in movement and manipulation of food particles. Their abdomen, or tail, is segmented and ends with a fan-like structure called the uropod. The uropod helps them swim and maintain balance in the water.

hese shrimps are good to to have in a tank with small fishes, because they help to keep the tank clean by eating food leftovers and other detrital products on the tank bottom.

SizeTypically grow to about 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) in length.
ColorTranslucent or semi-transparent with a pale gray or whitish appearance. They can change color based on their environment.
Body StructureSlender and elongated body with a curved abdomen.
AntennaeHave long, thin, and highly sensitive antennae.
EyesTwo black bead-like eyes on stalks, located on the head.
AppendagesHave five pairs of legs for walking and two pairs of specialized appendages called chelipeds, which are used for feeding and defense.
Reproductive MethodReproduce through sexual reproduction, with females carrying eggs and releasing larvae into the water column.
MoltingUndergo molting, shedding their exoskeleton to grow larger. They are vulnerable during this process.
BehaviorGenerally peaceful and spend most of their time scavenging and foraging for food. They are social and can be kept in groups.
LifespanAverage lifespan is about 1 to 2 years, but with optimal care, some individuals can live up to 2.5 to 3 years.
CompatibilityGenerally compatible with small, non-aggressive fish species and some other peaceful invertebrates. Care should be taken to avoid aggressive tank mates.

Care and keeping in a tank

They are incredibly simple to take care of and they can survive at any tank conditions. This is one of the few creatures which not only feels good, but also breeds in a small tank. Of course, it’s better to keep them in a large tank, where they can create their own population, especially in a thickly planted tank.

Ghost shrimp are sensitive to copper, which is commonly found in some medications and plant fertilizers. Check any products used in the aquarium to ensure they are safe for invertebrates and do not contain copper.


Since most of the ghost shrimps grow not larger than 1.5 inches (4 cm) and they don’t produce much waste in the tank, you should get the filter not for them, but mostly for fishes that live in the tank.

The main thing you have to keep in mind is that juveniles are very small and they easily get sucked in with the flow of the water filter, therefore it’s better not to use an external one. An internal sponge filter without a case will be a perfect solution here. Though if you have a lot of fishes in the tank or if you have a large tank you can use an external filter, since in a large tank the chances that small shrimps get into the water filter are sufficiently lower.

Water parameters

Comfort temperature is 18-29°C (65-85°F). However, they can stand temperature decrease lower than 18°C (65°F). The most preferable temperature is 23-24°C (75°F). Higher water temperature leads to increase of breeding and growing rate. At that higher temperature causes decrease of amount of oxygen dissolved in water. The upper temperature limit acceptable is 30 °C. At low temperatures ghost shrimp becomes more prone to various diseases.

Ghost shrimp prefer slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. The optimal pH range for ghost shrimp is typically between 6.5 and 7.5. It’s important to avoid extreme pH levels, as they can negatively impact the shrimp’s health.

Ghost shrimp can tolerate a range of water hardness levels. Ideally, the water hardness (measured in degrees of hardness, or dGH) should be around 6 to 15 dGH. Providing some minerals in the water can help support their molting and overall health.

Nitrites and ammonia level should be at zero level, since ghost shrimp is very sensitive to nitrites and ammonia content in the water. As for the nitrates level – it should be as low as possible. Frequent water replacement and presence of tank plants can help to support low nitrates level in the tank water. Weekly water renew should be at least 30%.

Tank size

Provide a well-maintained aquarium with a capacity of at least 10 gallons (38 liters) to accommodate ghost shrimp comfortably. Ensure the tank has a secure lid or cover to prevent escapes.

Tank decor

You should also create some shelters in the tank, where the shrimps can hide. These may be some snags, flower pots, tubes or thick tank plants, for example java moss.

Ghost shrimps may show aggression towards each other, especially to the smaller ones. Such behavior shows more if they live in a small tank. Therefore, a recommended number of species in a tank – is one for 4 liters of water.

When buying shrimps you should pay attention to their coloring and how active they are. A healthy ghost shrimp is almost transparent and hyperdynamic. Inertness and milky coloring of the shrimp indicate that it was kept and transported at improper conditions and it is likely to die in the nearest future.

Tank mates

Size allows it to be a good tank mate for most of tank fishes. They don’t interact with tank fishes in any way, but if you keep shrimps with large and aggressive fishes (for instance, Oscar fish) the ghost shrimps will be totally eliminated.

Here’s a table outlining some fish species known to be potential predators of ghost shrimp:

Predator Fish SpeciesDescription
BettasSiamese fighting fish, known to be aggressive towards smaller shrimp.
AngelfishLarger angelfish may view ghost shrimp as prey and hunt them.
GouramisSome gourami species, such as dwarf gouramis, may prey on ghost shrimp.
CichlidsCertain cichlid species can be aggressive and hunt smaller shrimp.
BarbsCertain barb species may nip or attack ghost shrimp.
Larger TetrasLarger tetras, like serpae tetras or Buenos Aires tetras, may eat smaller ghost shrimp.
RainbowfishSome rainbowfish species may prey on smaller shrimp.
Larger LivebearersLarger livebearer species, such as mollies or swordtails, can sometimes eat ghost shrimp.
LoachesSome loach species, especially larger ones, may prey on ghost shrimp.
Some Catfish SpeciesCertain catfish species, particularly larger ones, may hunt and eat ghost shrimp.

Look for peaceful, non-aggressive fish that won’t view ghost shrimp as food. Good options include small tetras (such as neon tetras, ember tetras, or harlequin rasboras), guppies, endlers, dwarf rasboras, and some smaller species of livebearers. Consider the smaller species of Corydoras catfish, such as Pygmy Corydoras or Panda Corydoras. They are peaceful bottom-dwelling fish that won’t harm the shrimp and can add activity and interest to the aquarium.

Although, if it comes to to small shrimps the larger ones may be aggressive to them, especially if it’s not enough food for them. Here is the story of one of our readers:

About two month ago I bought ghost shrimps. They were transparent, about 0.5 inches large. I put them into the tank with soft water together with red crystal shrimps. The shrimps were ok, they grew fast, eat all the food, especially bloodworm. But when one day there was no bloodworm for them, they attacked red crystal and only very few of them survived. As for the shrimps, they became larger and stronger and even fed on some of their weaker relatives.

Now these shrimps are about 2 inches long, have small pincers, like hiding in the tank plants and moss, they come out to get their food and very seldom to swim around the tank. I also saw one of the female carrying eggs. They were about 30 eggs of greenish color.

However, considering all the above mentioned, still it is important to choose small sized and non predatory tank mates. Small size and helplessness make the ghost shrimp an easy prey for large fishes. Some of them can even swallow the whole shrimp.

Gender differences: male vs female

Ghost shrimp males and females can be easily distinguished. Firstly, female has a greenish saddle on its back and/or eggs under its abdomen (they look like shining green spots). Secondly, these shrimps have a bulge on their back and female have rather pronounced curved back.

Thirdly, another distinctive feature is size: female are larger than males. Length of adult female is about 2 inches, while male is sometimes even smaller than 1.5 inches.


It is easy to feed ghost shrimps. They are looking for food on the tank bottom all the time. Ghost shrimp are excellent scavengers and will feed on biofilm, algae, and detritus that naturally accumulate in the aquarium. These natural food sources can help provide a balanced diet.

They eagerly eat leftovers of fish food, they like bloodworm and tubifex, though only an adult shrimp can swallow a bloodworm. In this case you can freeze bloodworm and usually it falls into pieces after this, so juveniles can eat it as well. Ghost shrimp can also eat small live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia. These protein-rich foods can be given occasionally to provide variety and supplement their diet.

You can also feed them with specialized food. High-quality sinking shrimp pellets specifically designed for freshwater crustaceans are a staple food for ghost shrimp. These pellets often contain a balanced mix of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Algae wafers or sinking pellets formulated for herbivorous fish can be a good addition to their diet. Ghost shrimp will feed on the vegetable matter present in these wafers.

It is important to make sure that the food gets on the tank bottom and it is not eaten by tank fish in the middle water layer.


It is not difficult to breed. All you need is to have males and females in one tank. The difficult thing is to feed the juveniles, so they grow. The problem is that they are very small and can’t be fed with the food for adult. As a result, mots of juveniles die of starvation.

In you want to save as much as possible of larva, then put the female with eggs into a separate tank once you see it. Which isn’t difficult due to its semi-transparent body. You will see small greenish eggs under its abdomen and the ghost shrimp will carry them for several weeks.

Once you put the female with eggs into a separate tank you will have to think how you will feed the larva. The thing is that during the first days the larva does not look like a shrimp. It is very tiny and it swims in the water.

It doesn’t even have legs and it swims due to some annex a in the bottom of its tail. During its first days the larva feeds on infusorian and zooplankton, then it sheds its skin and starts looking like a tiny ghost shrimp.

Therefore you should use infusorian or other small sized food to feed the juveniles. Also you may put some fallen leaves on a tank bottom in advance, since while they are rotting some microorganisms will appear and serve as food for juveniles.

Put a bunch of java moss into the tank as well, since lots of microorganisms live there, too. After the larva sheds its skin, you can feed it with artificial food for juveniles.