Will Clownfish Eat Shrimp? Can They Live Together?

As a fish owner, one of the questions I frequently asked myself was whether or not clownfish can live in the same tank with shrimp. Since I knew clownfish are quite aggressive and territorial, I wanted to see if they also tend to eat shrimp. That was when I began to research the topic quite profoundly. 

Clownfish could eat shrimp. That is more likely to happen if the two share a relatively small tank and a stressful environment. However, the two could coexist if the water conditions are proper, and the swimming area is spacious. 

As we move forward, I will elaborate on which marine shrimp you should pick if you already have a fish tank with clownfish. Also, I will mention what the precise water and tank requirements for both species are. That will allow you to grow them peacefully and efficiently. 

Do Clownfish Eat Shrimp?

Clownfish are compatible with numerous creatures because they are relatively peaceful. While they are more than happy to fight one another, they get along quite well with other species. That includes shrimp. 

In most cases, clownfish and shrimp can live peacefully in the same tank. However, if you must know, clownfish are more than capable of killing shrimp. It happens more frequently than you realize.

People typically argue about the reasons that provoke such attacks. However, it is difficult to provide a definitive answer. Still, most fish owners believe that the clownfish’s territorial behavior is to blame. 

Anyone that has ever kept clownfish knows that they will happily attack your hand if it approaches their habitat. Their aggressive tendencies become more pronounced if you have a mating pair in the aquarium. 

If your clownfish begins to view the shrimp in your tank as a threat to its territorial integrity, it will probably attack the shrimp. However, the clownfish might not eat them outright. In fact, this is highly unlikely. 

Instead, the clownfish will bully them, either chasing the shrimp around or tearing their antennae off. If this aggression continues, your shrimp could eventually die. Otherwise, its wounds may catch up with bacteria and diseases.

Will clownfish eat shrimp? Probably not. Will clownfish harm shrimp? It can certainly happen. One way of preventing such occurrences is to avoid small tanks. If the aquarium is too narrow, your shrimp has a much higher chance of crossing into clownfish territory. 

Nevertheless, keep in mind that clownfish are simply aggressive. Sometimes they won’t stop attacking the other creatures in your tank, including shrimp (regardless of what you do). If you encounter such cases, you can choose to either remove the clownfish or the shrimp.

Your shrimp might also attract the wrong attention by trying to clean the clownfish. One cannot ignore the penchant some shrimp have for eating parasites and debris. That is why maintaining your tank clean is another essential step you should consider. 

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Should I Keep Shrimp in a Clownfish Tank?

If you follow the necessary steps and minimize the encounters between your shrimp and clownfish, I would highly recommend raising both species. That is because shrimp contribute quite a lot to your reef tank. 

First of all, shrimp are attractive. You should add them to the tank simply because of the impact they have on the general appearance. Secondly, many shrimp are cleaners. They eat the detritus and pests you find in most tanks.

Because they spend a lot of time at the bottom, they are always sifting through the substrate. This will augment circulation. As such, they can be relied upon to improve the conditions in your tank. That makes them a great addition to your set up.

The fact the clownfish may harm your shrimp shouldn’t scare you that much. Numerous types of fish could attack your shrimp. However, if presented to the right conditions, the chances for that to happen are minimal.

The key here is to avoid a stressful environment. As was mentioned, you should start with a relatively large tank, which is at least 20 gallons. One that I highly recommend is the NUVO Fusion Lagoon 25 Pro (link to Marine Depot)Opens in a new tab.. This bundle features the perfect dimensions for a frag tank, and continuously receives positive reviews online. 

What Shrimp Can Live With Clownfish?

If you are looking for shrimp to add to your clownfish tank, you should pick those that share similar water conditions. These are just a few of the types you may consider:

1. Cleaner Shrimp

These are some of the most popular shrimp on the market. As their name suggests, they spend a lot of time cleaning the tank by eating parasites and debris. Sometimes they remove these elements from the fish themselves, keeping them clean as well.[1] 

Cleaner shrimp have a special relationship with some fish that will approach them for the specific purpose of being groomed and cleaned. However, sometimes this behavior may seem like a hostile one.

If you’ve noticed what seems to be an aggressive behavior coming from the shrimp, don’t give up on them right away. It could be that your shrimp are cleaning your clownfish, not actually hurting them. 

2. Banded Coral Shrimp

These shrimp get their name from the red and white pattern on their bodies. Keep in mind that this particular type has an aggressive streak. They eat parasites in the tank, but they are a threat to smaller fish as well. 

If that wasn’t enough, they are prey to eels and triggerfish. Hence, I would recommend introducing banded coral to your tank only if it features relatively large fish. The clownfish’s dimensions should be okay regarding that issue.  

3. Peppermint Shrimp

Peppermint shrimp are reclusive creatures that spend a lot of time hiding.[2] They are nocturnal animals with a red-striped coloration that eat Aiptasia anemones and small polyps. They are not suitable for display aquariums because they prefer not to be visible. 

However, that attribute also works to your benefit. If you are worried your clownfish will eat your shrimp, getting the type that hides is quite reasonable. Peppermint shrimp are likely to do well in a tank with relatively large and aggressive fish. 

4. Camelback Shrimp

These shrimp get their name from their hump. Not only are they attractive with their cherry-red bodies and white stripes, but they are also efficient tank cleaners. Unfortunately, they like eating corals and polyps. This might make them a danger to your tank.

If you rely on corals to host your clownfish, camelback shrimp are not the best choice to go with. They may ruin the symbiosis you’ve work so hard to accomplish. However, you could introduce them if you are using anemones as a host.

5. Anemone Shrimp

These shrimp should be kept in small tanks with anemones. This is because they can live symbiotically with the creatures.[3] You can get them in unique colors that will undoubtedly bring your tank to life. 

Anemone shrimp is one of the most obvious choices when it comes to sharing a tank with clownfish. Since both live symbiotically with anemones, they could potentially share the same environment. However, if you choose this shrimp, I recommend introducing more than one anemone. 

If you pick that type of shrimp for a tank with merely one anemone, your clownfish could compete with them over food. You may also combine corals (which anemone shrimp will likely ignore). 

6. Fire Shrimp

You won’t find that many shrimp like this one. It has a uniquely vibrant crimson body that contrasts perfectly with its white legs, antennae, and speckles. However, there is little point in getting these creatures for display purposes. 

That is because fire shrimp are nocturnal creatures. Therefore, you are less likely to see them during the day. Their reclusive temperament compels them to remain out of sight at all times. Still, this behavior may become handy in a tank with aggressive clownfish. 

How to Grow Shrimp in a Clownfish Tank

To understand the relationship between clownfish and shrimp, you need first to understand shrimp. Fortunately, they are not that complicated. This is everything you need to know as a fish owner:

1. General Background

Shrimp are anthropods. They have segmented bodies, well-developed organs, a brain, a nervous system, a circulatory system, and several jointed legs. If you have ever seen one, you probably know that they have antennae and compound eyes, not to mention a tough exterior (exoskeleton).

They are similar to lobsters, crabs, and spiders, which are also anthropods. The defining features of their appearance will vary depending on the type. You can find shrimp in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Their behaviors and diets also vary accordingly. However, they are not that difficult to keep because they tend to adapt to their surroundings. 

2. Tank Requirements 

Shrimp don’t need much space. In a separate tank, they can live in 2-5 gallons of water. In other words, the average clownfish tank is more than adequate for them. It is worth noting that they thrive in water, whose temperature ranges from 68 to 75 degrees. 

This also tells you that they can survive in a conventional clownfish aquarium, primarily if you can provide the conditions expected in a saltwater tank. On that matter, I highly recommend that you check my review on the aquarium heater I personally use. That device will keep your water stable, allowing the two creatures to thrive.

3. Eating Habits

Shrimp are not picky where food is concerned. They will eat whatever they can get their hands on. You can feed them freeze-dried, frozen, and live food. They will eat flakes, pellets, Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, etc.[4]

You don’t have to feed your shrimp directly. As you can see, they eat the same food as your clownfish. As such, they can consume whatever you add to the tank during mealtimes. If you are worried about the clownfish eating all the food before the shrimp can reach it, turn the water pumps off during feeding times.

This will permit the food to sink until it settles at the bottom. Shrimp spend a lot of time at the bottom, and they will probably find this food. You can also use a turkey baster to squirt the food in the hiding places they frequent. 

As was mentioned above, you have to take the type of shrimp into account when you make your meal plans. This is because some species of shrimp have particular diets. One example is the Harlequin Shrimp, which wants sea stars and nothing else. 

4. Health Issues

Shrimp are hardy creatures that rarely fall ill. They are vulnerable to very few diseases. Though, you might have to keep an eye out for isopods that live in the gill chamber of some shrimp. There are also fish lice to consider. Admittedly, this issue is rare in shrimp, and it rarely kills the creatures. But knowing about it will prepare you for the unexpected. 

If you can keep the water clean and well-oxygenated, your shrimp should be okay. However, one concern that is worth keeping in mind is the molting. Shrimp have an exoskeleton that they will periodically shed. The old one will crack, compelling the creatures to break out of it, revealing the new shell.

This new shell relies on the calcium salts in a saltwater aquarium to harden it. During this period, it is vulnerable, which is why it prefers to hide. This shouldn’t worry you unless the other creatures in the tank are aggressive. The problem with this molting process is that it generates chemicals that predators in the water can smell. 

If those predators choose to hunt a shrimp that has just molted, it will have a hard time protecting itself. Yet, keep in mind that aggressive fish are not your only concern in such situations. You must also consider the crabs. 

Even if your tank is free of dangerous creatures, you should know that some shrimp struggle to escape their old shell. They could expend so much energy during this process that they die. And if they successfully escape, they could lose claws, legs, and antennae in the process.

5. Tankmates

Like most aquarium creatures, shrimp are predators to some fish and prey to others. They have nothing to fear from fish like cardinalfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, and wrasses. They have a lot to fear from coral catfish, rays, morays, toadfish, wasp fish, and comets, to mention but a few. 

They don’t get along with crabs either. Or rather, crabs are powerful enough to eat them. Sea anemones are another threat. While some shrimp can live in anemones, others will get eaten. Some shrimp are peaceful enough to coexist within groups. Others are quite aggressive, and they must be kept alone. 

Conclusions

Clownfish and shrimp could live peacefully in the same tank. For that, you should stick to spacious aquariums, perhaps 20-gallons and over. You should also make sure that you pick suitable shrimp species for clownfish, such as cleaner and anemone shrimp.

I hope my article had answered your question. If you have any new insights or hesitations, feel free to contact me in person. I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meanwhile, the guide above will provide you with an excellent starting point. 

References

  1. https://www.ratemyfishtank.com/blog/marine-shrimp-for-the-saltwater-or-reef-tank
  2. https://www.thesprucepets.com/facts-and-care-marine-shrimps-2925569
  3. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_1/cav1i2/fatheree%20shrimps/james_w.htm
  4. https://www.liveaquaria.com/article/265/?aid=265

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