Cleaner Shrimp: Care Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size and Disease

Cleaner Shrimp Overview

The animal kingdom is full of rare and fascinating species. Amongst some of the most amazing underwater animals, there are a variety of cleaner shrimp. Perhaps the most interesting fact about this sea animal is that it can dance. It also clears parasites from other fish’s mouths. It enters into a fish’s mouth, gets a parasite, and bounces out without the fear of getting gobbled up by a fish or eel!

Cleaner Shrimp Overview

Like several other sea animals, the shrimp has unique coloring. The orange color is evenly spread along its sides. Like a red ribbon, a long red stripe is stretched on the dorsal side and is then bisected by a white, almost narrow band. The shrimp has three thin yet long antennas on the head. The tail, lastly, has tiny white spots.

Shrimps are classified as crustaceans. They belong to the Hippolytidae family, in the genus of Lysmata amboinensis. They come in several varieties that would interest an aquarist.

Information Chart

Information ChartCleaner Shrimp
Scientific Name: Lysmata
Family: Hippolytidae, Palaemonidae, Stenopodidae
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful (aggressive with own kind)
Color: Red, White
Lifespan: 2-4 yrs
Size: 2-3 inch
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 10-20 gallons
Temperature: 73 to 82˚F
Water Conditions: 8-12 dKH
Tank Mate Compatibility Dwarf angelfish Mandarin goby Blue Tang

Cleaner Shrimp Appearance

Many aquarists find it interesting to add shrimps into their home tanks. Shrimps are nothing but saltwater crustaceans. They are not essentially fish, but nowadays, they have become an attraction among hobbyists. You can add saltwater shrimps to your aquarium in addition to other animals to make it even more attractive.

Shrimps can be a great addition; they offer a variety in the tank, and they resemble lobsters in their appearance. So, if you want to include something that enhances the beauty of your home, tank shrimps can do the job. They come in attractive colors and sizes that easily blend with the aquatic environment, making them even more appealing.

Cleaner Shrimp Appearance

These crustaceans can become creative members of the community tanks because of their vibrant colors, shapes, and patterns.

Additionally, the bonus is an aquatic animal that cleans the tank.

Therefore, any species of shrimps that help remove parasites, invertebrates, mucus, etc., from the tanks come under the broad classification of cleaner shrimp.

Cleaner shrimps can serve as excellent symbiotic mates to other fishes in the tank. They help eliminate any source of infection to the fish while savoring their snacks. The fish also does not attack them, so they all can exist peacefully.

Cleaner shrimps are amongst a broad category of shrimps that we can find in three families.

They can belong to any of the following three families.

  • Hippolytidae includes the peppermint shrimp, fire and scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp, etc.
  • Palaemonidae includes the varieties bonding with sea anemones Stenopodidae, including the coral banded shrimp. 

Therefore, the species you choose will determine the difficulty in management. Some may require particular lighting, whereas others may have special menus, including special foods like starfish.

If you want to introduce them into your home tanks, you must ensure their health and keep them away from corals. Most of the cleaner shrimps in the aquariums originate from the Indo-Pacific region. This region specifically sees the presence of coral banded, fire, scarlet skunk shrimps. At the same time, the cleaner shrimp inhabit the whole of the tropical belt of the global ocean.

You can find the peppermint shrimp hanging on the coral reefs. That is also an exclusive feature that distinguishes it from the rest of cleaner shrimps.

The cleaner shrimps show a similar behavior by creating a cleaning station over the reefs they inhabit. It is interesting to note that these shrimps have white bands or antennae for advertising their utility. When a fish takes note of the bright shade, they move toward the shrimps to remove the parasites present on their scales.

Such ease in their function makes them more manageable.

Moreover, you can see some of these shrimp members dancing to grab attention.

Some researchers suggest that their faster movement signifies their hunger. So, they use that fast movement to gain the fish’s attention.

Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

The Coral banded shrimp is also known as the banded cleaner shrimp or the boxer shrimp. The feature that makes it a popular choice among aquarists is the distinct red and white bands. The bands are visible on their claws.

Also, unlike other cleaning shrimps, these species possess spiny projections over their entire body.

Although the spiny projections and the claws give them an imposing look, they are generally shy and spend their day hiding in caves.

Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius)

Fire shrimp, or as it is known in its other name, blood-red fire shrimp, also tops the popularity list. 

They project a vibrant red color of their carapace, making them distinct in any reef tank. It is fairly visible even when the lighting is dim. However, you need to be careful before introducing them to a reef tank as they are chronic in picking corals. So, if you keep large or soft polyp stony corals, you must not let this shrimp get in. 

Cleaner Shrimp

Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni)

The peppermint shrimp also goes by its other name, the eradicator of Aiptasia. It is because Aiptasia is a dreadful pest in the aquarium community. 

The peppermint shrimps consume the sea anemones and eventually eliminate them from your tank. Therefore, they can help you protect your corals.

Sometimes these shrimp species are also known as candy cane shrimp because of their alternating red and white bands. If you hear the name the Caribbean or veined shrimp, they signify this species only. Also, their preferred habitat is live rock or stony structures.

Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

It is the most commonly occurring name for cleaner shrimps.

When they hear the name cleaner shrimp for the first time, it is the name that first pops in their head.

The scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp also goes by another common name; Ornamental cleaner shrimp or white-striped cleaner shrimp. The distinct white stripes also make them stand apart from the rest of the cleaner shrimps.

They are dedicated cleaners, and you can find them cleaning the fish thoroughly. They may sometimes even enter the mouth of the fish.

Types of Cleaner Shrimp

Lysmata Cleaner Shrimp

The Lysmata amboinensis and Lysmata grabhami are the most common aquarium shrimps. They are also a strange variety as they literally clean most types of debris and parasites from fish. It is not unusual to find a large fish open up its mouth and a shrimp gets into it to eat away parasites stuck therein. For a first-timer, it may be scary as one imagines the shrimp will be gobbled up. Well, it gets even more interesting when fish come to the shrimp to be literally cleaned up.

Popular belief is that the shrimp’s white and red strips protect it from predators in the form of other larger fish and eels. The truth however, is that the color is not protective enough.

Camelback Shrimps

This shrimp obtained its name from a small hump found on its back, like that of a camel. A number of these Rhynchocienetes species are mostly found in tropical seas around the world. When harnessed in tanks, they easily become proficient cleaners, making them a very desirable lot.

They are very attractive as they exhibit extremely vibrant colors. Their cherry-red colors with contrasting white stripes and dots make them quite attractive. One great factor worth remembering is that different types of cleaner shrimp often eat coral reefs and may deplete a reef stock.

Harlequin Shrimp

With a lovely name, this rather shy yet mild tempered shrimp is not only delicate but sensitive as well. It likes to hide behind coral substrates or hard rock owing to its timid nature. At daytime, it rarely comes out from its hiding place, preferring to stay hidden under coral reefs. Mealtimes are usually during the night when they move in pairs. The female is slightly larger than the male.

Harlequin Shrimp

Like the rest of the cleaner shrimps, the harlequin has lovely colors too. The body is largely white with large black dots.

Fire Shrimp

Fire Shrimp

Scientifically referred to as Lytmasa Debelius, this extremely beautiful shrimp is rather difficult to see owing to its nocturnal nature. It exhibits a bright red body with white speckles dominant on its head. It has a number of scarlet red legs that are easily distinguishable from the antennae that are long and white. It often hides behind coral especially if the tank is well lit most of the time. They love to feed on polyps and may be a poor choice for a shrimp lover.

Peppermint Shrimp

Its scientific name is Lysmata Wurdemanni. Originally from the Caribbean, this shrimp is quite reclusive. Once introduced into a tank, it enjoys staying out of sight, making it difficult to be seen. It feeds on small polyps and as a result, may destroy the mini-reef considerably. It also eats aiptasia anemones that may interfere with an aquarium.

Peppermint Shrimp

The peppermint shrimp may easily confuse one with its eastern pacific counterpart, Lysmata California. However, at normal reef temperatures, it may not survive for long. It is therefore necessary to check on this for an extended lifespan.

Banded Coral Shrimp

In an aquarium, the Stenopus Hispidus is known to get along well with most kinds of fish. Yet it has enemies too! Trigger fish and eels love to feed on it. When presented with parasites, it actively cleans fish.

Mantis Shrimp

Mantis Shrimp

Popularly known as Odontodactylus Scyllarus, this sea animal is very beautiful. They come in two hunting categories namely, smashers and spearers. Smashers are very forceful. With their club-like claws, they easily pulverize their hard shelled prey into a sumptuous meal. Snails are their most favorite clients. On the other hand, spearers silently claw their soft- tissued prey into meals. Their claws are spear-like.

Cleaner Shrimp Lifespan

The lifespan of a cleaner shrimp, is 2-4 years. However, it is just a typical estimate. They may live even up to 9 years or more if you properly take care of them.

Cleaner Shrimp Size

The cleaner shrimp typically grow up to 2 inches on the lower end and 3 inches for larger specimens. That means you can see them with a size of 7-8 cms. 

Cleaner Shrimp Natural Habitat and Origin

The name cleaner shrimp aptly suits the species due to their mutualistic relationship with fish. They are responsible for setting up service stations on the reef of the tank. Interestingly they don’t approach the fish during the cleaning process; instead, they wait for the fish to swim toward them. 

These fish can be both predatory and nonpredatory. Once the fish starts floating near the rock, the shrimp picks at the sides and gills. They clean the fish entirely, including cleaning the mouth and getting rid of all the parasites, mucus, dead tissue, etc.

These shrimps show a unique habit in both wild and reef aquariums. We can see them rocking their legs side to side. Studies suggest that it is a behavior that increases particularly around the predatory fish’s presence. We can emulate that it possibly indicates a signal of friendly intentions. Some researchers claim it is a signal for other fishes to avoid eating them.

The studies also show that these shrimp species are comfortable providing services to nonpredatory fish only. They reduce their cleaning efficiency when predatory species are present around them.

One of the common cleaner shrimps, the pacific cleaner shrimp, suggests its habitat from the name itself. They are available throughout the Pacific Ocean, which particularly includes the Indo-Pacific region around Indonesia and Australia.

However, reports suggest that some of them even populate the areas around the Red Sea.

These creatures play an important role in their habitat. They maintain the shallow reef ecosystems there. You can find them hiding in cracks and fissures. You can find them at a depth of 16 feet, but they can go as deep as 131 feet.

It is interesting to note that they all are males at first during their birth. However, they transit into becoming a hermaphrodite as they mature.

Such a process is called protandric simultaneous hermaphroditism. However, this process is not exclusive to the Lysmata genus, as you can see the same in other decapod species.

The cleaner shrimp is commonly visible on reefs. You can see them in pairs though they prefer a solitary lifestyle. You can also find them forming pairs in the aquarium, and hence their breeding is comparatively straight. But, you must not raise the fry once the eggs start to hatch, as it will make it difficult for them to hatch.

Cleaner Shrimp Care & Tank Set-Up

A cleaner shrimp is less likely to explore the entire tank. However, they can be very active in their territory. Their primary task is to set up a cleaning station where fish can get cleaned. They usually prefer rockwork for that. It is the place where they hide while molting and sleeping.

Cleaner Shrimp Care & Tank Set-Up

Though the cleaner shrimps do not require special parameters per se, they are sensitive to copper traces in the water. Also, the tank must have low nitrate levels as well. Other than that, these shrimps are gritty, and they can withstand slight changes in the water conditions.

Cleaner Shrimp Tank Size And Specifications

Optimum Tank Size For Cleaner Shrimp

The recommended tank size for cleaner shrimp is 10 gallons. However, it is a general estimate, and some of the species, such as the coral band shrimps, can even go well with a 20-gallon tank.

Tank Shape For Cleaner Shrimp

The ideal tank shape for a cleaner shrimp would be cubical. A cubical tank would allow it to have more length, and they can move freely in it without any hindrance. 


The cleaner shrimp would enjoy a soft substrate in their tank. Therefore, you can consider including fine live sand. You can choose a dark or light-colored one, depending on what contrasts the shrimp’s color.

How Many Cleaner Shrimp Are In A 10-Gallon Tank

A 10-gallon tank can easily accommodate two shrimps together.

Water Parameters For Cleaner Shrimp

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for cleaner shrimp is 73-82°F (23-28°C). Since they come from tropical climates, it is necessary to maintain the temperate environment inside the tank.

Water Flow Rate

The cleaner shrimp enjoys a low water flow. So, you must adjust the tank accordingly.

pH Level

The perfect water pH level for cleaner shrimp is 8.0-8.2. That means these shrimps fall on the basic side of the pH range.

Water Hardness

The ideal water hardness for the cleaner shrimps to survive in the tank is 8-12 dKH. 

Cleaner Shrimp Tank Landscape

The tank landscape of the cleaner shrimp must make them feel safe. It must include the natural elements that they find in their habitat. So, you can provide them with sufficient rocky overhangs, caverns, etc. They also require cavities where they can retreat when they need to.

Cleaner Shrimp Tank Landscape

Best Plants For Cleaner Shrimp Tanks

Worst Plants For Cleaner Shrimp Tanks

  • Elodea canadensis
  • Hygro balsamica

Decorations For Cleaner Shrimp Tanks

It is better to include live rocks instead of artificial ones. It functions by providing two benefits. Firstly, it creates natural hiding places, and secondly, it also serves as a place for a ready food source.

It would help to add live sand as the tank substrate. It will help the shrimps to explore the bottoms of the tank merrily. They can also pluck some nourishing organisms from the sand. You must also keep the overhead cover as they don’t prefer exposure.

 Lighting For Cleaner Shrimp Tanks

Cleaner shrimps cannot tolerate bright light. Therefore, you must reduce the brightness of tank lighting to keep it optimum for them.

Cleaner Shrimp Feeding

The presence of other fish can easily meet the food requirement of these shrimps. So, until you have another fish in the tank feeding the shrimps may not be an issue. However, you cannot depend solely on the parasites and mucus they receive from the fish. They cannot survive only on that.

Best Diet For Cleaner Shrimp

The above sources do not provide a well-balanced diet to them. So, you must supplement their food by feeding them periodically. However, you must keep in mind that they are carnivores, which means they must satisfy their protein needs with the help of meaty food in their diet.

Since they are cannibals, you can include meaty organisms such as the Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, etc. However, you can also consider feeding them commercial fish foods such as pellets and flakes. But while feeding them with pellets and flakes, make sure they sense that through their antennae.

How Often Should You Feed Cleaner Shrimp?

Cleaner Shrimp should typically be fed every 12-18 hours/ day; Therefore, even feeding your cleaner shrimp once a day would be fine. It will help avoid overeating and maintain a nutritional balance in their diet.

Cleaner Shrimp Behaviour and Temperament

The behavior of cleaner shrimps is usually peaceful, but they can get temperamental towards other organisms that appear similar. This must be noted before you introduce a similar species in the same tank since many people think that the same species of shrimps may go along together.

Are Cleaner Shrimp Lone Or Societal In Nature ?

The cleaner shrimps have a distinct territorial nature. So, if any similar species accidentally enter their territory, they would get aggressive while defending. So, if you want to keep multiple species of cleaner shrimps, you can try with larger systems though we cannot assure the outcome. So, we can say they commonly appear less societal in nature.

Cleaner Shrimp Tank Mates

The best species you can introduce with cleaner shrimp as its tank mates should be the ones likely to deal with parasites.

Cleaner Shrimp Tank Mates

In that case, you will reap the maximum benefit from these shrimps.

Some of the ideal tank mates can be listed below.

Ideal Cleaner Shrimp Tank Mates

Bad Tank Mates For Cleaner Shrimp

  • Dogface puffer
  • Hawkfish
  • Lionfish
  • Marine betta
  • Triggerfish

Cleaner Shrimp Breeding

The cleaning shrimps, are hermaphrodite. So, it is not a very difficult task to breed them. You can set up a tank that can easily contain two shrimps together. Though they tend to get aggressive with their kind, you can expect the shrimplets soon after they are introduced if the tank is large enough.

Cleaner Shrimp Breeding

Cleaner Shrimp Breeding Level – Intermediate

Cleaner Shrimp Sexual Dimorphism?

To distinguish between male and female cleaner shrimp, we need not observe their size or shape. These creatures come under the hermaphrodite category. That means a single individual will carry both the reproductive organs together in the same body. So, you need not distinguish them as male or female.

Cleaner Shrimp: Common Diseases And Their Treatment

Marine Ich

The main source of diet for a cleaner shrimp is various forms of parasites. Because of that, they might eat the parasites which infest the tank. So, we can emulate that the common parasite. Cryptocaryon irritans would also be in their diet. 

It is the causative agent behind the disease called marine ich. 

Though the shrimps will eat them off the fish’s gills, we should not make them entirely dependent on them. Sometimes, the infestation can go beyond the control of an individual shrimp. 

Also, the lifecycle of cryptocaryon irritans is complex. So, the shrimp may not eat them at all stages. The ich parasite can reproduce freely and replace the eaten ones if that happens.

If the shrimp contracts this disease, you can identify that with some symptoms. The most visible signs include loss of appetite, scratching, or some white lesions over the body. If you are suspicious of this disease, you must consult your vet or treat it immediately. The most common treatments include UV light, salinity adjustments, and copper sulfate medication in the tank water.

Facts about the cleaner shrimp

Different types of cleaner shrimp are quite popular and are a necessity in an aquarium as they help clean it up. Other than that, they also groom fish in a given tank. Facts to remember about the cleaner shrimp are:

  • It has two long antennae found on its head.
  • It has five long legs. Three of these are for walking and are called pareiopods. The other two are for swimming and are referred to as pleopods.
  • They often set up a cleaning station where fish in need of cleaning come for sprucing up. The cleaner shrimp crawls on a fish body, clearing it of any debris and parasites. It even gets into its mouth without the fear of getting gobbled up.
  • It feeds on algae and parasites. At times it feeds on snails and zooplanktons.
  • A female shrimp may lay anywhere from 50,000 to one million eggs at one given moment.
  • Baby shrimps, known as nauplii hatch out of eggs within 24 hours. They then feed on reserves of the yolk found on eggs that are not hatched.
  • During the mating season, the shrimps eat their own. This is known as cannibalism.
  • After fertilizing the eggs, the males feed on the females.
  • Some shrimps are born with both male and female organs. They are referred to as hermaphrodites. This characteristic is common among the scarlet shrimps.
  • Shrimps are mainly predated upon by lionfish, Moray eels, trigger fish and cat sharks.
  • Young shrimps are hard to care for as they are difficult to feed. This often leads to a high mortality rate during their earlier stages.
  • Despite the difficulty in breeding shrimps, they are sold at the market.
  • The shrimp’s heart is believed to be in the head.

Are Cleaner Shrimps Right For You?

Cleaner shrimps can be a great addition to your home tanks. They can even help in keeping the tank clean. So, if you have a tank that is above 10 gallons of capacity, you can easily accommodate a cleaner shrimp. Adding a cleaner shrimp may be the right choice if your tanks are regularly infested with small parasites.


When Do The Baby Shrimps Hatch Out?

Baby shrimps, known as nauplii, hatch out of eggs within 24 hours. They then feed on the yolk reserves found on not hatched eggs.

Are Cleaner Shrimps Cannibals And Eat Their Own?

During the mating season, the shrimps eat their own. It is known as cannibalism.

After fertilizing the eggs, the males feed on the females.

Do Cleaner Shrimps Have Separate Male And Female Organs?

Some shrimps are born with both male and female organs. They are referred to as hermaphrodites. This characteristic is common among scarlet shrimps.


When you search for an aquatic animal other than fish, you can consider cleaner shrimps as an ideal option. They offer a beautiful appearance along with added benefits. Since they exist based on symbiosis, you can get the fish cleaned from parasites without additional effort. These shrimps come in different varieties and offer a decent life span. However, if you take care of the tank conditions, they can survive longer.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.