Common Cleaner Shrimp
Common Cleaner Shrimp

Common Cleaner Shrimp

By: jbeining75

In a saltwater environment many things are needed for an aquarium to be successful and thrive. One of those key elements is an excellent clean up crew. A great member to add to almost any marine cleanup crew is a cleaner shrimp. Cleaner shrimp are also commonly called Indo-Pacific White-striped cleaner shrimp, Cleaner shrimp, Indo-Pacific White-banded cleaner shrimp, Scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp and Skunk shrimp. The scientific name assigned to this great species of shrimp is Lysmata amboinensis. They are classed in the order decapoda as almost all shrimp are. They belong to the family Hippolytidae.

In nature this species of cleaner shrimp are commonly found in the Indo-Pacific and throughout the Red Sea. They are reef walkers or hangers and spend almost all there life on the reef. They dare not venture out into open sand for fear of being eaten by an ambush or stationary predator. They will commonly establish cleaning stations with other fish where they clean debris and parasites off of their host. It is an amazing this to see in nature when a turtle is cleaned by a fish then the fish in turn is cleaned by a cleaner shrimp. They will actually climb inside bigger fishes (groupers) and eels mouths to clean the parasites and bacteria off the surface of the mouth.

The cleaner shrimp has a normal body structure for a shrimp. The shrimp commonly shows 4 white antennule and two longer white antennas that generally run over the head and backwards. The rostrum (nose) is generally red running into the white antennas. The carapace (upper body) and abdomen (lower/central body) are both an orange opaque coloration on the underbellies. Along the upper carapace and abdominal are a red coloration with a white stripe running down the center from rostrum to tail. The pereiopods (walking legs) are generally an orange/opaque coloration same as the underbelly. The pleopods (swimming legs) are commonly tucked under the shrimps belly and are also opaque in coloration. The white central line stops at the tail where the tail is completely red with 3-4 white spots on the tail.

Cleaner Shrimp
Cleaner Shrimp - Picture by Spudbuds
In the aquarium cleaner shrimp of some type are essential to the aquarium. They assist in the natural filtration process and break down debris, will clean coral, rocks, and their tank mates. Ideal tank perimeters are needed with these shrimp as with all marine fish they are more susceptible to perimeter swings than freshwater fish. A pH of 8.1-8.4 should be establish and very stable to support these invertebrates. A temperature ranging from 72-78 is the best temperature to keep the shrimp thriving. A sg of 1.023 -1.025 will be ideal and little to no nitrates should be present in the tank. Acceptable nitrate levels in a marine tank with fish should never be higher than 5-10 ppm.

When setting up the tank provide the shrimp with plenty of live rock to crawl on and clean until you have fish in the tank. Provide them with dark covered holes in the live rock for them to hide in if they feel threatened. For tank mates most non-aggressive fish will work. Do not keep the fish with any predatory species such as puffers, Volitans lionfish or most wrasse. They will not make it long in the tank. Common tank mates include damsels such as clowns, or angels, tangs, or butterflies.

Breeding of the shrimp is relatively hard. Establish a tank with 3-4 cleaner shrimp if size permits. Allow the cleaner shrimp to pair and to recess into the rocks to breed. The eggs are carried by the pair until ready to hatch. When the hatchlings are out is where most run into problems. Small size and difficulty of feeding often lead to a high mortality rate when breed by common aquarists.

In conclusion, the cleaner shrimp is an ideal and essential part of almost any marine reef aquarium. They provide essential cleaning and foraging skills that act as a natural filter to the tank. They can be kept in pairs or larger groups as they setup a cleaning station in large groups in nature. The brilliant coloration and their usefulness as natural filters make this type of shrimp very common in the saltwater community aquarium.