Why Is My Ghost Shrimp Turning Red? (Reasons & Solutions)

Disclosure: When you purchase something through my affiliate links, I earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

As I saw my ghost shrimp turning red, I began to wonder why this was happening. I even tried taking my ghost shrimp to a veterinarian for help. As time passed, I learned that there are many reasons for that issue. Luckily, some of them don’t require any action.

Some ghost shrimp turn red as they grow. That is particularly true for American ghost shrimp, which may develop red dots or patches on their tails. However, ghost shrimp may also turn red when stressed. That is usually secondary to elevated ammonia or inappropriate water parameters.

As we move forward, I will show you what steps you should take if your ghost shrimp gradually turns red (dots, patches, lines, etc.). Then, I will discuss whether ghost shrimp can change color and what each color means.

Why Is My Ghost Shrimp Turning Red? (Stripes, Dots & Patches)

People expect distressed shrimp to turn white, which is why red stripes, dots, and patches often come as a surprise. A milky color is associated with molting, aging, and disease. 

It can have both severe and innocuous causes. The red coloration is the same. Some of the factors behind the color change are more serious than others. Consider the following:

1. Some Ghost Shrimp Should Turn Red

Do you know what a normal ghost shrimp looks like? Some people worry unnecessarily about the appearance of red spots and patches on a ghost shrimp without stopping to consider the possibility that those red spots and patches are a natural occurrence.

The average ghost shrimp is clear. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the creatures transparent. But this description does not apply to every single ghost shrimp. Some ghost shrimps are orange. Others are yellow. 

American ghost shrimp will develop two red dots on their tails. You may also observe bands of red or orange on their legs and feelers.[1]

Ghost shrimp from India and Thailand do not have red dots on their tails.[2] As their name suggests, red claw shrimp are going to manifest red colorations on their claws.

Before you panic, talk to your retailer. Try to identify the origins of the shrimp. If they confirm your suspicions that the shrimp came from the US, you can rest easy knowing that the red dots are harmless.

2. Your Ghost Shrimp Grew Older

The presence of red dots and patches tends to attract confusion in people whose ghost shrimp did not have those dots and patches in the first place. But if your ghost shrimp were young when they entered your aquarium, the color change shouldn’t surprise you.

Ghost shrimp can start their lives with one color, only for that color to change as they mature. Do not assume that the color ghost shrimp fry had when you first saw them is the same color they will maintain as adults.

3. The Ghost Shrimp Is Stressed

Stress can cause freshwater shrimp to change their color. In most cases, a stressed shrimp will lose its color, becoming whiter and lighter than it once was. But it isn’t unheard of for ghost shrimp to develop darker colorations as a response to stress.

Check their parameters. If their tank is poorly maintained or burdened by the extreme temperatures and the wrong pH, you can blame the color change on stress.

But if your tank is clean and free of stressful stimuli like aggressive fish, excessively brightly lighting, and loud ambient noises, you should consider other factors.

4. It Is A Reflection Of The Environment

Are your ghost shrimp turning red, or is it an illusion? Aquarists will enhance the colors of their shrimp by manipulating their backgrounds. If you have a clear species like the ghost shrimp, the creature’s body will mimic the colors of its environment.

If you have orange, pink, or red decorations in the tank, those colors will affect your perception of the shrimp. That is true for tanks with colored lights as well. 

Take the ghost shrimp in question out of the tank. Place it in an aquarium with neutral colors to determine whether the red markings are a tangible transformation or the result of the lights and decorations in the creature’s original tank.

5. Your Ghost Shrimp Ate Red Food

What do your ghost shrimp eat? Because they are clear, you can see your shrimp’s organs from the outside.[3] What does this mean? Transparent ghost shrimp will adopt the color of the food they have eaten, at least for a while.

You don’t have to feed the creatures color enhancers to add red dots, patches, and blotches. Bloodworms are bright red.[4] If transparent ghost shrimp eat bloodworms, red patches and blotches will appear.

6. Your Ghost Shrimp Died

What happens when a shrimp dies? They will either turn milky white or pink. If the color is dark enough, you may confuse it with red. Naturally, dead ghost shrimp are immobile. They don’t move. 

If your ghost shrimp is red all over and immobile, and it has refused to respond to external stimuli like prodding, it is dead. At this point, I suggest that you remove it from the tank and throw it away.

7. Elevated Ammonia Concentrations

Ammonia forms when waste, leftovers, and dead organisms rot. High concentrations of ammonia will burn the inhabitants of your aquarium, leaving red or orange patches of skin in their wake.[5] 

Ghost shrimp are not immune to ammonia burns. Ammonia spikes tend to produce labored breathing because they harm the gills.

What Should I Do If My Ghost Shrimp Turned Red?

Start by finding out why the creatures turned red. If the ghost shrimp are naturally red, you can ignore them. Consult the people that sold you the shrimp. They will identify the exact species and origins for you. 

Once you know the species and origins, you can identify the physical characteristics the creatures are supposed to manifest.

If your local retailer doesn’t expect your ghost shrimp to manifest red markings and dots, and the shrimp in question has started showing additional symptoms of distress such as labored breathing and lethargy, you can use the following steps to help it:

1. Maintain A Clean Environment

I highly suggest keeping the tank clean and performing regular water changes. Remove waste and leftovers. Do not allow dead shrimp to linger in the tank. They will rot, corrupting the water.

Even with regular water changes, you are expected to install a filter. Ghost shrimp are great tank cleaners, but you cannot trust them to keep pollutants out of the tank. A dirty, poorly maintained tank encourages ammonia to spike.

2. Check The Water Parameters

Ghost shrimp thrive in tanks with temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees. While 75 degrees F is the ideal temperature, you can raise it if you want to accelerate growth.[6] Keep the pH between 7.0 and 8.0. The aquarium shouldn’t have any ammonia or nitrites. 

To check the ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and pH, I use the API Master Test Kit (link to Amazon). That bundle lasts for eight hundred measures, so it is pretty cost-effective. Within minutes, you’ll know the most crucial parameters.

As was mentioned earlier, the wrong parameters will induce stress, and stress can change the color of ghost shrimp. If you want your ghost shrimp to regain their previous look, keep the parameters within the right range. 

If you have allowed the wrong parameters to persist in the tank for a long time, fix them slowly. A sudden change in the pH or temperature will exacerbate the shrimp’s stress levels. The changes should be gradual.

3. Fix And Prevent Ammonia Spikes

If tests have revealed dangerously high ammonia levels, add water conditioners to the tank. Water conditioners work within minutes, and in case you’re wondering, they do not harm shrimp. You can use water conditioners during emergencies.

I got the Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner (link to Amazon) for my tank. You can also use that product to prevent ammonia and nitrates from spiking in the future. For your convenience, here is an article where I explained how much water conditioner your tank requires.

Water conditioners cannot reverse the changes in a ghost shrimp’s color, at least not overnight. But they can give you the time you need to improve the quality of life in your tank. If you can maintain the right conditions in the tank, your shrimp will recover in the long run. 

4. Reduce Stress

You can use the following steps to minimize stress in the tank:

  • First of all, avoid overcrowding. Ghost shrimp need at least 10 gallons of water.
  • Secondly, add air stones to prevent or alleviate oxygen deficiencies. The bigger the tank, the more air stones you need. I personally use the Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon), which is incredibly quiet.
  • Add plants and decorations to the tank. Plants and decorations provide hiding places.
  • Test the water routinely to ensure that the parameters are correct. Keep an eye on the ammonia concentration.
  • If your tank doesn’t have enough algae, debris, and detritus, add food. Ghost shrimp eat pellets, flakes, algae wafers, and soft vegetables.
  • Keep them with non-aggressive tankmates like Ramshorn snails, Bamboo Shrimp, and Cory Catfish.[7] For your convenience, here is an article where I discussed what fish can live with ghost shrimp. I also wrote what shrimp you could keep with ghost shrimp.

Do Ghost Shrimp Have Red on Them?

Some ghost shrimp have red dots and bands on their tails, antenna, and claws. This isn’t true for every single ghost shrimp. You are more likely to see red markings on shrimp from the United States.

As was mentioned earlier, red spots and patches can be natural. Start by consulting your supplier about the particular type of your ghost shrimp. If your ghost shrimp aren’t supposed to develop red shades, follow the steps above. 

Can Ghost Shrimp Change Color?

Ghost shrimp can change color, but they cannot do this deliberately. Instead, their bodies will respond to external stimuli. The color will hint at the condition of the shrimp. For example, white coloration may suggest that the ghost shrimp are molting.

This is what you should know if your ghost shrimp changed colors:

1. White Ghost Shrimp

In most cases, the white color is a sign of trouble. A transparent ghost shrimp can become white because it is about to molt.[8] But it can also develop this color because it has failed to molt.

You can expect a similar color change among aging shrimp or creatures struggling with muscular necrosis.

2. Brown Ghost Shrimp

Clear ghost shrimp that eat algae with a brown coloration will turn brown.[9] At the very least, you can expect to see temporary patches and blotches of brown. Other types of brown food will produce a similar reaction.

If you have disqualified the food as a potential source of this color change, consider the background. A transparent shrimp living in a tank with a dark brown substrate may appear brown as well.

3. Blue Ghost Shrimp

Blue is a sign of stress. You may see this change in ghost shrimp whose tanks are poorly maintained. You may also see the color in ghost shrimp that are trying and failing to molt.

4. Pink Ghost Shrimp

Pink color means death. A ghost shrimp will turn pink all over when it passes away. Though, some shrimp turn white when they die. 

5. Dyed Ghost Shrimp

Some stores use colored foods and dyes to change the look of their ghost shrimp. Once those foods and dyes wear off, the shrimp will regain its original color. Colored foods and dyes can produce a variety of colors in clear ghost shrimp.

If you found this article helpful, these may also interest you:


If your ghost shrimp developed red patches, try to correct the parameters in your tank. That includes the temperature, the pH level, and the size of your tank. You should also test the water for ammonia.

I also suggest consulting your supplier to see whether your particular ghost shrimp should turn red as it ages. They can check whether other shrimp that grew in the same original aquarium developed similar shades.


  1. https://aquariumbreeder.com/ghost-shrimp-detailed-guide-care-diet-and-breeding/
  2. https://www.vivofish.com/ghost-shrimp/
  3. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/ghost-shrimp/
  4. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/bloodworms/
  5. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/do-ghost-shrimp-need-a-filter/
  6. https://theaquariumguide.com/articles/ghost-shrimp-care
  7. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/ghost-shrimp/
  8. https://aqualifehub.com/is-your-ghost-shrimp-turning-white-heres-what-to-do-first/
  9. https://acuariopets.com/ghost-shrimp-turning-other-colors/