The name ghost shrimp applies to dozens of different shrimp that all share a common trait – a completely translucent body. The name ghost shrimp originates from their nearly transparent bodies and these shrimp can be incredibly difficult to locate in a well planted aquarium.
The conditions that ghost shrimp originate in differ wildly depending on the species. In fact, some of the ghost shrimp sold in stores actually require brackish water, and will quickly die if kept in a freshwater aquarium. But for the most part, ghost shrimp in stores are a fresh water species, that will thrive in both tropical and cold water aquariums.
In fact, they are a valuable addition to any tank containing small fish, and help to keep the tank clean by eating any missed food and constantly picking through the detritus at the bottom of the tank. They live on average for one and a half years and will grow up to 1 ½ inches if they are properly cared for and well fed.
Ghost shrimp are incredibly easy to house and will thrive in just about any tank provided for them. They are of the few fish or invertebrates that will not only survive, but will reproduce in a small fish bowl (one gallon is the minimum size). Of course they will do better in larger tanks, and some will even establish self-sustaining populations in heavily planted aquariums.
Because most stay under an inch, and produce almost no bio-load (waste), any filter should be chosen for their tank-mates and generally not for the ghost shrimp. If you are choosing a filter for ghost shrimp, it’s important to remember that their babies are free swimming larvae and will be sucked up to rather unpleasant deaths by most filters. Hang-on-back filters and canister filters should be avoided, and the only really safe filter for a ghost shrimp tank is a sponge filter.
But if they are kept in a larger tank with any significant number of fish, then it is still best to use a hang-on back filter or a canister filter. In any tank larger than 10 gallons, the majority of the ghost shrimp larvae will be able to avoid the filter intake of death.
The feeding of ghost shrimp is incredibly easy, and most of their food will be scavenged out of the nooks and crannies of your aquarium. With that being said, they will still appreciate supplements to their diet, and they should regularly be fed a high quality flake food. If any fish are kept in the same tank with ghost shrimp, then sinking pellets should be used to ensure that the shrimp are able to get some of the food before the fish devour it all. I have used Hikari Sinking Wafers with great success in the past with ghost shrimp.
As a treat, they can also occasionally be fed small amounts of frozen food. Their favorites are bloodworms and blackworms, though only a fully grown shrimp is capable of eating a bloodworm. Most other frozen food offered will generally be eaten by any fish in the tank, as it doesn’t sink to the bottom quickly enough for the ghost shrimp to grab.
The breeding of ghost shrimp is relatively easy, and the only requirement is having a sufficient number of male and female shrimp. The difficulty arises in keeping the free swimming larvae alive, since their mouths are too small for normal fish food and most starve to death – at least the ones that are picked off by hungry fish.
If you want a large number of baby shrimp to survive, any pregnant female should be removed from the tank as soon as any eggs are visible. Because of their semi-transparent body, it’s easy to see which females are pregnant and carrying eggs. The female will have numerous tiny green eggs in her abdomen, which will hatch into free swimming larvae after carrying them for a few weeks.
Once you have placed a pregnant female ghost shrimp in the breeding tank, you then have to tackle the problem of larval survival. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the fry are notoriously difficult to feed and most quickly starve to death. But there has been some reported success by people using commercially available fry food or baby brine shrimp.
I have personally never tried either of those options, but I have had significant success by placing large mops of Java moss in the breeding tank for ghost shrimp. It seems to harbor large amount of infusoria in the tendrils of moss that larvae to feast on, and I have had an excellent survival rate for ghost shrimp in any tank with Java moss.