What Do Ghost Shrimp Do In Tanks? (5 Surprising Facts)

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As I considered getting a ghost shrimp tank, I wanted to learn more about what they do inside aquariums. Do they serve any beneficial functions? What are the benefits of having ghost shrimp in a tank? As time passed, I learned that these little creatures are definitely worth having.

Ghost shrimp are scavengers, so they will happily consume rotten plants, debris, algae, and dead fish from your tank. As a consequence, they will keep your tank clean and toxin-free. More importantly, they will ensure that your tank is safe for other creatures in the aquarium.

As we move forward, I will elaborate on what ghost shrimp can and can’t do in tanks. Then, I will show you what steps you should take to ensure these creatures flourish in your aquarium and maintain a healthy environment.

What Do Ghost Shrimp Do For Your Tank?

Ghost shrimp are not as useless as a lot of people think. They are a common sight in aquariums these days because they bring certain benefits to the table that have made them indispensable, for instance:

1. Ghost Shrimp Clean The Bottom Of Tanks

Like most freshwater shrimp, ghost shrimp are scavengers. In the wild, they will eat whatever they can find at the bottom of the water body they inhabit.[1] You will observe similar behavior in an aquarium. The opportunistic omnivores will keep the bottom of your tank clean by hunting for and eating all the debris and detritus that usually settles on the substrate.

This doesn’t excuse you from cleaning the tank. You are still expected to vacuum the substrate from time to time. But you will find that the bottom of the tank isn’t quite as dirty as it would be if the ghost shrimp were absent, especially if you have a large ghost shrimp population.

You will also find that you don’t have to clean the bottom of the tank as frequently. There is a reason why shrimp are called tank cleaners. They will eat anything they can fit in their mouths.

2. Ghost Shrimp Get Rid Of Algae

Ghost shrimp are algae eaters. They are not as efficient as Amano shrimp. But you can compensate for their weaknesses by increasing their numbers. In the wild, their diet primarily consists of algae because it is so easy to find.[2] This is a good thing because you cannot keep algae out of aquariums.

In some cases, you have to push ghost shrimp to eat algae by depriving them of external food sources. But in most situations, they will attack the algae without any prompting. A large population of ghost shrimp can eat all the algae in a tank. However, this is only a good thing if you wanted to eliminate all the algae.

Once all the algae are gone, you must increase the volume of food you normally add to the tank. Otherwise, if you want the creatures to primarily eat algae, you should keep their numbers small. It is a question of your objective. Either way, you can trust ghost shrimp to eat algae.

If you are new to aquariums, algae are a nuisance that could choke your plants by consuming all the nutrients they need to survive. Algae is also ugly. The presence of algae will distort the appearance of your aquatic environment.

3. Ghost Shrimp Consume Dead Fish

What happens when your fish die? They will decay, a process that inevitably increases the ammonia concentration in the water. Aquatic creatures hate ammonia. The substance is toxic, which is why you have to remove dead fish from the water. That is true for any other aquatic creatures that die and decay, including snails and shrimp.

But what if you cannot find the dead creatures in your tank? What if the current swept their remains into some random corner behind a rock? Unless you’ve made it a habit to count your fish at the end of each day, that dead creature will ruin your water, endangering the lives of the tank’s inhabitants.

Such occurrences are common in aquariums whose owners do not change the water regularly. Fortunately, your ghost shrimp’s interests are not limited to algae and the detritus they find at the bottom. Ghost shrimp appreciate dead and decaying matter. As with the algae, if you have a large population of ghost shrimp, they will completely consume your dead fish.

If your fish population is continuously dropping, but you cannot find any dead fish in the tank, don’t be so quick to assume that the shrimp are attacking and killing the fish. Something else is killing the fish. Ghost shrimp are peaceful. They do not attack living fish.

However, once your fish are dead, the ghost shrimp are most likely eating all their remains before you can find them.[3] They are doing you a favor. Though, you are still expected to remove the corpses that you can see in the tank.

With algae, you can sit back and wait for the ghost shrimp to eat it all. But you can’t do that for dead fish. While the chances of a ghost shrimp eating fish remains are high, it is not a guarantee. They could choose to ignore the dead fish. Or they could eat a portion of the dead fish, leaving the rest to ruin the water. This is why it is a bad idea to leave fish remains in the hands of ghost shrimp.

4. Ghost Shrimp Eat Dead Plants

Dead plants are just as problematic as dead fish. By decaying, they will increase the ammonia content in the water. Like the fish, you have to remove the dead plants the moment you see them. That being said, ghost shrimp may eat those dead plants before you can get to them. They could eliminate the problem before the dead plants destroy the chemical balance in the tank.

5. Ghost Shrimp Are Nutritious

Aquarists are encouraged to keep their ghost shrimp with smaller, less aggressive creatures because many fish eat ghost shrimp. Ghost shrimp are not only small but defenseless. They cannot fight back against a fish that wants to eat them. This is only problematic if you want your shrimp to survive.

Many aquarists breed ghost shrimp with the express purpose of feeding them to fish. Ghost shrimp are nutritious.[4] You can do the same thing if you’re struggling to identify a suitable food source for your fish.

Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Fish Poop?

Ghost shrimp do not eat fish poop. While they will enthusiastically eat algae and leftovers, shrimp won’t benefit from eating fish poop. Ghost shrimp might nibble on fish poop occasionally, but they won’t consume it entirely.

Many people think that ghost shrimp eat fish poop. This is because most freshwater shrimp will eat whatever they can fit in their mouths. But the evidence does not back this theory. Admittedly, there is no evidence proving that ghost shrimp won’t eat fish poop. And that is the problem.

All you have are anecdotes. Some aquarists will tell you that they have seen ghost shrimp eat poop. Others will attest to the fact that their ghost shrimp have never paid any attention to the fish poop in the tank.

You won’t know where the truth lies until you experiment with your own tank. Allow the fish poop to linger in the aquarium for a while. Watch your ghost shrimp and see what they will do. The observations you make will answer your questions.

Though, many professional aquarists do not expect ghost shrimp to eat fish poop. They argue that fish poop doesn’t have any nutritional value and ghost shrimp are smart enough to stay away from the substance.

They have also countered reports from aquarists who believe that they have seen their ghost shrimp eating fish poop by pointing out that fish poop contains nutrients that the fish did not digest. A ghost shrimp may pull the fish poop apart to get to these nutrients. But that is different from eating the fish poop as a whole.

Even if ghost shrimp are willing to tolerate fish poop every so often, especially when they are starving, ultimately, it isn’t the sort of food item that naturally attracts them, which means that they may nibble on the fish poop, but they won’t eat it in large quantities. Therefore, you cannot trust them to keep the tank free of fish poop.

Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Fish Eggs?

Ghost shrimp do not eat viable fish eggs. Occasionally, aquarists report that they have seen ghost shrimp eat fish eggs. But what they probably saw was their ghost shrimp cleaning the eggs by eating the biofilm, fungi, and debris attached to them.

Because they are opportunistic feeders, you expect ghost shrimp to eat fish eggs. And the creatures are more than capable of snacking on undefended fish eggs. However, as a whole, shrimp do not have a reputation for eating fish eggs.

If anything, some shrimp are known for cleaning fish eggs. They may look like they are eating the eggs when, in truth, they are simply removing the fungi and debris attached to the eggs. If shrimp are eating fish eggs, it is because those eggs have gone bad.

And that is a good thing. You want the shrimp to eat those bad eggs before they decay, corrupting your water. Ghost shrimp are in a similar boat. You cannot rule out the possibility of the creatures eating the fish eggs they encounter in the tank.

But you cannot ignore the fact that they are just as likely to clean the eggs. Like the fish poop situation, you have to observe your tank to find out where the ghost shrimp will fall, that is to say, whether they will eat or simply clean the eggs.

Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Plants?

Ghost shrimp do not eat plants. They occasionally nibble on the foliage in the aquarium, but they are not actually eating the plants. Sometimes it seems like they are eating the plants, but they are actually going after the detritus that the plants shed.

Ghost shrimp will also eat the algae that grow on plants. They have no interest in healthy plants, not unless they are starving. Ghost shrimp will only attack plants that are dead and decaying. They may also attack dying plants. But healthy plants do not interest them.

How Can I Enjoy The Benefits Of Ghost Shrimp?

As was mentioned earlier, ghost shrimp are extremely beneficial. When you purchase the creatures, you get to enjoy all these benefits for free. The only thing that you need to do is keep their conditions right so that they stay healthy and happy.

The most important thing you should consider is the water parameters. You should keep them in a well-maintained tank that is free of toxic chemicals and pollutants. Generally, I recommend monitoring the pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites levels.

These are the ideal water parameters for ghost shrimp:[5]

  • Temperature: 65°-75°F (18.3°-23.8°C)
  • Water pH: 7.0 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 3-10 dGH (50-166.7 ppm)
  • Nitrites: 0 ppm.
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm.
  • Nitrates: <20 ppm.

To measure the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, I use the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That is absolutely my favorite. You can take about eight hundred measures with that bundle, and it is impressively accurate.

To keep the temperature stable, I use the well-known Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater (link to Amazon). This device will prevent temperature fluctuations, which can quickly stress delicate creatures like ghost shrimp.

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Conclusions

Ghost shrimp are truly beneficial creatures. They have the potential to solve many of your problems, especially those related to algae and fungi. But you have to take care of them. That is the secret to their success. You have to give them the exact conditions that they need. 

And it is not enough just to keep their habitat clean and well-maintained; you have to monitor and maintain the water parameters that are critical for their health. When you do all this, your ghost shrimp will be more than happy to help keep your tank healthy and clean.

References

  1. https://www.petmd.com/fish/care/6-things-you-didnt-know-about-aquarium-shrimp
  2. https://aquariumgear.net/do-ghost-shrimp-eat-algae/
  3. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/ghost-shrimp/
  4. https://acuariopets.com/benefits-of-keeping-ghost-shrimps/
  5. https://modestfish.com/ghost-shrimp/

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