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Why Is My Ghost Shrimp Turning Black? (With 4 Solutions)

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When I saw my ghost shrimp changing its color to black, I did a little research to find out why it is happening and how to help it. I found out that many factors can lead to a black ghost shrimp, which means there are also many ways to solve the problem.

Ghost shrimp usually turn black when they are stressed. That could be secondary to an underlying disease, such as black spots or inappropriate water conditions, including pH, ammonia, nitrates, and temperature. However, in some cases, it is merely a sign that your shrimp are getting older.

As we move forward, I will show you how to distinguish between a sick ghost shrimp and a healthy one. Then, I will share four essential steps you should follow to help your ghost shrimp recover and retrieve its original colors.

Why Is My Ghost Shrimp Turning Black?

Ghost shrimp come in various colors. They are technically translucent. But you can still see their colors. If your ghost shrimp started as a different color, but it is slowly turning black, you have every reason to show concern. Some factors that can cause such a reaction include:

1. It Is Merely Genetics

You should never disregard genetics because they can cause a variety of unpredictable transformations in ghost shrimp. For example, some ghost shrimp are black naturally, while others will turn black all over as they mature. 

Don’t be so quick to assume that this is a problem unless you have observed additional signs of trouble in your ghost shrimp, such as lethargy and loss of appetite.

2. Your Ghost Shrimp Ate Black Food

The fact that ghost shrimp are translucent means that you can see the inner workings of their bodies, to an extent. As such, when they consume food of a particular color, they may adopt that color. If your shrimp’s diet includes food items with dark colors, they are probably the cause of the creature’s transformation.

Ghost shrimp are unlikely to eat black algae. But if you have some black algae in your tank and your ghost shrimp have developed an appetite for the stuff, don’t be so surprised if the dark colors of the black algae affect the natural colors of the ghost shrimp.

Where food is concerned, ghost shrimp are unlikely to turn black all over. Instead, they may develop patches depending on what they have eaten and the quantities.

3. The Ghost Shrimp Is Stressed

A color change is one of the most common signs of stress in shrimp. It is also one of the most visible signs. In many cases, stressed ghost shrimp will become milky white. But this isn’t a guarantee. 

Depending on its health and genetic makeup, a ghost shrimp may turn black instead of white as a consequence of stress. The exact nature of the transformation will vary. They may develop stripes, spots, or patches.

4. Your Shrimp Is Carrying A Disease

This is another factor that commonly causes ghost shrimp to change color. In some scenarios, the color change occurs as a result of the stress induced by the diseases. However, you also have diseases that can have a direct impact on the color of the shrimp. 

One example is chitinolytic bacterial diseases. Caused by chitinolytic bacteria, the illness produces black or brown spots on the shrimp’s body. The disease can manifest in tanks with dirty water, the wrong parameters, and large amounts of nitrate.

Another ailment of note in this field is black spot disease. Though, the term ‘Black Spot Disease’ has various meanings. Some people use it in place of chitinolytic bacterial diseases. Others use ‘Black Spot Disease’ to refer to symptoms caused by Ramularia Astaci, Didymaria Cambari, Pseudomonas, Aeromonas, and other fungi and gram-negative bacteria.[1] 

As the name suggests, these fungal and bacterial infections produce black spots all over the body of the ghost shrimp. Besides black spots, ghost shrimp with diseases may develop lesions on their bodies, especially if they have chitinolytic bacterial diseases. They will also manifest lethargy and loss of appetite.

5. Your Ghost Shrimp Was Originally Black

Some ghost shrimp are naturally black. You have to consider the possibility that the colors in the aquarium at the store might have altered your perception of the color of the ghost shrimp. The background in an aquarium can affect the look of your ghost shrimp. 

Their colors can look more vibrant or muted depending on the color of the substrate, plants, and decorations. If your new ghost shrimp spent the first few days in hiding because of the shock caused by the transition, it might take you days or even weeks to realize that the creature is actually black rather than the lighter colors you noticed in the store.

If that isn’t the case where your ghost shrimp are concerned, you should also consider the possibility that the retailer used dyes to alter their look, making their colors lighter. The effects of such color dyes eventually wear off once you feed your shrimp with regular food. In other words, your ghost shrimp is not turning black. Instead, it is reverting to its original color.

How To Treat Ghost Shrimp That Turn Black?

If you can identify the factors causing your ghost shrimp to turn black, in most cases, treating them is pretty straightforward. Consider the following:

1. Improving The Water Conditions

Poor conditions can wreak havoc on your ghost shrimp, not only compromising their health but also inducing stress. For that reason, you have to fix the conditions in the tank. This has to be your first priority.

That means using a thermometer to ensure that the temperature is appropriate (65 to 85 degrees F).[2] You should also use a testing kit to ensure that the pH (7.0 to 7.4), GH (5 to 8), and KH (5 to 8) are ideal. Otherwise, you will expose the shrimp to all kinds of diseases, some of which may turn their bodies black.

For that purpose, I use the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon). That bundle will accurately measure your pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. It also lasts for hundreds of measures, turning it highly cost-effective.

These are the parameters you should aim for:

  • Ammonia: 0 ppm.
  • Nitrites: 0 ppm.
  • Nitrates: Below 20 ppm.

By improving the conditions in the tank, you will produce the opposite results. You will give your ghost shrimp the best chance of overcoming stress as well as any diseases that might be ailing them, allowing the creatures to regain their original color.

It is also worth mentioning that the temperature must remain stable. Even though it falls within the desired range, frequent fluctuations will induce stress in your ghost shrimp, compromising its general state. That is why I use the Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater (link to Amazon), which I also reviewed here.

2. Keeping The Aquarium Clean

Keeping the tank clean is very difficult to do if the tank is too small. Give your ghost shrimp at least 10 gallons of water. If you want to add more shrimp, you should get a bigger tank. People think that small tanks are only a problem because they cause overcrowding which, in turn, induces stress.

And that is true. But it isn’t the only problem. A small tank encourages toxins to grow in concentration. You cannot keep toxins like ammonia out of an aquarium. However, the concentration of toxins will grow at a faster rate in a small tank.

If your tank is too small, you have to do twice the work to keep it clean. However, getting a large tank won’t solve all your problems. You must also change the water every week. But you don’t have to wait until a specific scheduled moment to change the water.

If your shrimp are turning black and you have observed signs of illness, you can perform a small water change while diagnosing their situation. A water change will eliminate toxins like ammonia and foreign agents like parasites that cause diseases in shrimp.

If a vet compels you to move the black shrimp to a quarantine tank, use that opportunity to give their community tank a thorough cleaning. That includes vacuuming the substrate.

3. Taking Advantage Of Water Conditioners

It would help if you always kept conditioners on hand. For example, if your tank has toxins like ammonia, copper, and chlorine, and your ghost shrimp are too weak to survive the substantial water change required to clean their tank, you can use conditioners to neutralize all the toxins.

For that purpose, I personally use the Seachem Prime Conditioner (link to Amazon). But conditioners are an emergency measure. Once the health of your ghost shrimp improves, it is better to perform regular water changes. You should also remove any leftovers and dead organisms from the aquarium.

4. Treating Sick Ghost Shrimp

The treatment applied will depend on the disease. For instance, Chitinolytic bacterial diseases are treated with Levamisole (Big L’s Pig and Poultry Wormer).[3] However, do not forget to place the sick shrimp in a quarantine tank.

The methods that people use to treat infections in fish tend to work in ghost shrimp. That includes salt baths, slowly lowering the temperature, raising the pH, disinfecting the entire aquarium, increasing the oxygen, performing a water change, etc.

  • If you are interstates, here is a handy Youtube video that discusses the most common shrimp diseases and their treatment protocol:

Sick and stressed ghost shrimp also require a proper diet that includes fish flakes, algae wafers, and shrimp pellets, to mention but a few.[4] They eat algae, detritus, and dead plant matter. But you should supplement their diet, especially if your tank doesn’t have enough algae.

Why Are My Ghost Shrimp Eggs Black?

Ghost shrimp eggs typically turn black once they have been fertilized. That is usually a sign of a growing fry. Also, the shrimp’s coloration can affect the color of the eggs. In other words, a shrimp with darker colors tends to produce eggs with darker shades.

You should be more worried about ghost shrimp eggs that turn white. That usually indicates that the eggs are infertile and have developed an infection. If that happens, I encourage you to remove the eggs before they pollute the entire tank.

What Does A Sick Ghost Shrimp Look Like?

Sick ghost shrimp will manifest numerous symptoms, including lesions, lethargy, and loss of appetite. You may also see changes in the shrimp’s general appearance, including discoloration or black patches.

Among these symptoms, two are particularly concerning. The first is a milky white color.[5] Ghost shrimp are supposed to be translucent. If they have become opaque and milky white, they are probably going to die. Ghost shrimp can turn milky white because of stress, disease, the wrong water conditions, old age, etc.

Another concerning symptom is the white ring of death. As the name suggests, this is a white ring that appears between the carapace and abdominal segment. If you see this white ring, it means that the ghost shrimp tried and failed to molt. The white ring of death can lead to death within a day or two.

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Conclusions

If your ghost shrimp is turning black, it isn’t the end of the world. It might just be a sign that it is getting older or retrieving its original colors. However, if your shrimp also seems lethargic and shows no interest in food, something else might be the cause of its color change. 

I highly suggest taking preventive measures to protect yourself from diseases like Chitinolytic bacterial diseases. Perform regular water changes, use conditioners, and treat the sick shrimp properly. You can also keep a quarantine tank for your shrimp until it recovers.

References

  1. https://www.jbl.de/en/press/detail/467/recognising-shrimp-diseases-and-reacting-in-time?country=us
  2. https://aquariuminfo.org/ghostshrimp.html
  3. https://www.aquariumnexus.com/freshwater-shrimp-diseases-parasites-remedies/
  4. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/ghost-shrimp/
  5. https://animals.mom.com/how-to-know-when-your-aquarium-ghost-shrimp-is-sick-12619861.html