Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Betta Fish? (With 5 Prevention Tips)

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As I started my ghost shrimp aquarium, I immediately wondered what fish could live with them in the same tank. Since betta fish are so prevalent, I naturally asked myself whether I could mix the two or the ghost shrimp will eat my betta. As time passed, I gained some experience on this subject.

Ghost shrimp can’t eat betta fish since they are too large to fit in their mouth. At worst, ghost shrimp may nibble on the tail and fins of a betta while it sleeps. On the other hand, betta fish are capable of eating ghost shrimp, especially when they are young and can’t protect themselves.

As we proceed, I will show you how to make betta fish and ghost shrimp coexist. Then, I will link to a few articles that will help you mix different types of fish and shrimp along with your ghost shrimp.

Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Betta Fish?

Between betta fish and ghost shrimp, betta fish are more dangerous. Does that automatically eliminate any possibility of a ghost shrimp eating a betta fish? Not necessarily. The question is more complicated than you think. Consider the following:

1. Ghost Shrimp Vs. Betta Fish

If ghost shrimp and betta fish got into a fight, the betta fish would win. Like most shrimp, ghost shrimp are peaceful and largely harmless. People buy ghost shrimp because they will eat anything, including dead and decaying organisms.[1] 

That makes them effective tank cleaners, but it doesn’t make them efficient fish killers. They cannot overpower bettas. They don’t have that kind of strength.

But it isn’t just a question of their size. Ghost shrimp won’t even bother with small fish, the kind they can overpower. It isn’t in their nature to attack and eat living creatures. If ghost shrimp ate your fish, be they bettas or any other species, those fish were already dead.

As scavengers, the creatures will happily consume the remains of any dead plant or animal they find. Otherwise, their peaceful nature won’t permit them to eat living creatures. 

They won’t even eat living plants unless they are starving. The notion of ghost shrimp eating your bettas shouldn’t keep you up.

2. Can Ghost Shrimp Hurt Bettas?

Many professional aquarists will tell you that a ghost shrimp cannot eat a betta fish. However, they won’t say that it is impossible. This is because fish forums and circles are filled with stories of aquarists who claim that they saw their ghost shrimp eat fish.

This tells you that a ghost shrimp can eat a betta fish. However, you have to pay close attention to the language these aquarists keep using. They have seen ghost shrimp eat betta fish. They have never seen the ghost shrimp kill betta fish.

At worst, the ghost shrimp will start nibbling on the tail of the betta fish while it sleeps. It can also do this during the day when the betta is awake. It will latch onto the fin or tail of the betta and nibble away as the betta tries to shake it off.

This isn’t a good thing. Such attacks are going to induce stress in the betta fish, especially if you have one of those few bettas with peaceful personalities. A typical betta would attack a shrimp that dared to nibble on its tail or fin. 

But if your betta is making no effort to fight back, the stress caused by its encounters with the ghost shrimp will eventually ruin its health. But again, even in those circumstances, the ghost shrimp won’t kill the betta, not directly. 

3. What About Prawns?

This should concern you. Most of the ghost shrimp you find in a tank are called ‘Palaemonetes Paludosus’. Also known as glass shrimp and grass shrimp, they belong to the ‘Palaemonidae’ family.[2]

They are not the only ones. The macrobrachium species of shrimp belong to the ‘Palaemonidae’ family as well.[3] Macrobrachium shrimp are also called ghost shrimp. 

Even worse, macrobrachium shrimp have the same appearance as ‘Palaemonetes Paludodus’ ghost shrimp when they are young. This is a problem because some fish stores keep both species in the same tank. 

Additionally, they will sell macrobrachium shrimp to people that want ordinary ghost shrimp either because they don’t know any better or because they know that the average aquarist wouldn’t buy a macrobrachium shrimp if they knew what it was.

Why are macrobrachium shrimp so bad? People call them freshwater prawns because they are pretty large. Macrobrachium Jelskii (also called Ghost shrimp) can grow to a size of 5cm.[4] As omnivores, they eat both meat and plants. 

This makes them dangerous because macrobrachium shrimp are more than capable of catching and eating fish.[5] They are larger than betta fish, and they have claws. If you accidentally bought macrobrachium shrimp when they were young, they can grow to become a threat to your bettas.

Can Bettas Eat Ghost Shrimp?

Bettas can eat ghost shrimp, especially the young ones. They are highly nutritious, which can benefit betta fish. However, if they are properly fed and kept in the correct water conditions, it is less likely for the betta fish to eat live ghost shrimp.

To most fish, shrimp are a nutritious food source. Ghost shrimp and bettas can coexist in the same tank, especially since ghost shrimp spend so much time foraging for food at the bottom of the tank. 

Ghost shrimp tend to mind their business.[6] But they are still a potential food source for bettas. A betta fish can eat a ghost shrimp. 

How To Make Ghost Shrimp and Bettas Coexist?

Because betta fish have an aggressive streak, people are hesitant to pair them with ghost shrimp. Aquarists call them fighting fish for a reason. But you can create an environment that allows the species to coexist if you take the following steps:

1. Fill Your Tank With Hiding Places

Hiding places are essential in most aquariums. Most freshwater creatures want them. But hiding places are even more critical in tanks that have aggressive fish. 

Their tankmates need those hiding places to escape the attention of their violent neighbors. This is true for betta fish and shrimp. First of all, stress can cause a betta fish to act more aggressively than it normally would. Hiding places can combat that stress. 

Secondly, ghost shrimp can use the rocks, plants, driftwood, and ornaments in the aquarium to steer clear of agitated bettas.

I personally love this Penn-Plax Wizard’s Castle (link to Amazon). This castle is absolutely astonishing, and my ghost shrimp love it. In fact, most shrimp prefer staying in castles or caves during the day, including their fry.

2. Pick The Right Tank Size

You shouldn’t keep your bettas in less than 10 gallons of water. Get them the biggest tank you can afford. A small tank causes stress in fish. And as you now know, bettas will respond to stress by becoming even more aggressive.

Give them room. If they have enough space to secure their territory without infringing on the sections the ghost shrimp inhabit, these two species can live peacefully beside one another. Ghost shrimp hate small tanks just as much as bettas.

Another great option is adjusting the number of bettas to your aquarium. In fact, I’ve dedicated an entire article to this subject. In there, I discussed how many betta fish you should keep in aquariums ranging from 1 to 75 gallons (including a distinction between males and females).

3. Prioritize Female Bettas

Individual male bettas should be kept with multiple female bettas. Many aquarists have argued that you cannot keep multiple male bettas in the same tank. But that is not true. Yes, male bettas are highly territorial. 

But if you have an aquarium that is large enough for two or more males to secure their territories without encroaching upon the territories of the other males, all those males can share the same tank.

You may observe skirmishes from time to time. But the males will most likely stay out of each other’s way. If you want to maintain a basic 20-gallon tank, stick to one male betta. 20-gallon tanks will provide plenty of room for your female bettas. But that isn’t enough to house more than one male betta.

If you have multiple males, their frequent conflicts will eventually compel them to target their neighbors, especially if those neighbors are smaller and more vulnerable.

For the sake of your ghost shrimp, you can either keep one male and multiple females or a single school of female bettas. Here is an article where I explained how to grow multiple female bettas together, or rather, how to grow female bettas with shrimp.

4. Pick Bettas That Are Used To Shrimp

You don’t have to buy your bettas from a fish store. If you have the option, find another aquarist with bettas they are willing to sell. To be more specific, look for an aquarist whose bettas live in a tank with shrimp.[7]

If they are accustomed to living with shrimp in another tank, they won’t attack the ghost shrimp in your tank. If you have to buy your bettas from a store, take the time to find a betta whose tank has shrimp. 

Either way, I suggest adding the ghost shrimp first. A betta that has to live alone for any duration is more likely to claim the entire aquarium as their territory. Adding the ghost shrimp first eliminates this risk. 

5. Feed Your Bettas Properly

Some bettas attack shrimp because they are naturally violent. But others don’t have a choice. They are starving, and the ghost shrimp are an appetizing meal. If you don’t want bettas to confuse shrimp for food, give them regular meals.[8]

As a rule of thumb, I recommend feeding your bettas the amount of food they can finish within two minutes, twice daily. Then, the remainings will sink to the bottom and will be consumed by your ghost shrimp.

Can Ghost Shrimp Eat Betta Poop?

Betta fish poop is not part of a ghost shrimp’s natural diet. They are not attracted to the substance. However, they can eat it. They won’t consume it with the same enthusiasm as eating decaying plants. But if push comes to shove, and the ghost shrimp don’t have an option, they can eat fish poop.

That being said, some ghost shrimp will simply eat the biofilm off the poop.[9] It may look like they are eating the poop when that isn’t the case. Because poop doesn’t have any nutritional value, don’t expect every ghost shrimp to try and eat it. 

Even if you have seen them eating it, the fact that they don’t like it means that they won’t eat enough to keep the tank clean. You have to remove the betta poop yourself. Don’t rely on the ghost shrimp to eliminate it for you.

Amano shrimp are better tank cleaners than ghost shrimp. And yet, they will also ignore fish poop. Don’t expect ghost shrimp to outclass them in this area. 

Can Ghost Shrimp Eat Betta Food?

Ghost shrimp are not picky, and therefore, will eat whatever is given to them. That includes the same commercial foods that betta fish enjoy. However, ghost shrimp will not compete with betta fish for food. They are more likely to scavenge for the leftovers at the bottom.

Ghost shrimp can survive on fish flakes, pellets, and algae wafers. This is another reason that encourages aquarists to buy ghost shrimp. They are easy to maintain. A ghost shrimp will eat anything a fish likes without hesitation.

If you are interested, here is an article where I discussed whether betta fish would eat tropical flakes. In there, I mentioned all the food types that are suitable for betta fish. That includes food that floats and isn’t likely to be stolen by ghost shrimp.

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Ghost shrimp and betta fish can live together. But not without some difficulty and care. It is better to go with the ghost shrimp first and then bring in the betta. The two can live together, but their lives will depend on your diligence and commitment. 

If you do your best, you will enjoy both of them for a long time. Start by providing the right environment for them to thrive in. Then, feed them regularly, and they will have no excuse to wade into each other’s territory.