Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

Shrimp! Shrimp! We added shrimp!

These invertebrates add a lot of diversity to the aquarium and do a lot of beneficial housekeeping. They are very active, have lots of personality and are fun to watch. I LOVE the red and white stripes down the back! Peaceful and reef-safe, they made ideal additions to our aquarium. These guys are omnivores and clean detritus off the live rock and substrate. Amazingly, they will approach large fish and even moray eels to clean parasites off of them! If you stick your hand in the tank and let them get used to you, they will crawl onto your hand and pick off dead skin! These guys are the Merry Maids of the tank.

Like other invertebrates, they are intolerant of high nitrates, copper medications and fluctuatations in the environment (like temperature). Be sure your tank is stable and at least 3 months old before adding them. Sadly, we lost one of our shrimp within 5 days after adding it, most likely due to fluctuations in the water temps (although we'll never know). I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the other two; they seem to be really active and healthy.

The scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp like to be housed in groups; they're pretty social little guys. Interestingly, these guys are hermaphrodites. Pick two, any two, and they will breed, providing your tank with supplemental, nutritious food (sorry, you won't have any shrimp left over to hatch out unless you protect them in a refugium--the babies end up as fish food).

Do not keep adult shrimp with other predatory fish like lionfish or hawkfish or they will end up as expensive food. Make sure you use the drip method to acclimate your new shrimp to your tank as they're pretty sensitive little critters (take about 45 minutes at 1-2 drips/second before adding them to the tank).

Also, a healthy shrimp molts about 1x/month as it grows. This requires low levels of iodine in the tank (usually present in either the salt mix or reef supplements added to a reef tank). Ours molted immediately, one within a day and the other two, within a week. Of course, I didn't know anything about molting and freaked out when I found a complete shrimp exoskeleton in the tank the next day. I was totally upset, thinking the shrimp had died. I told Greg, sadly, about the passing of our poor shrimp. Befuddled, he scratched his head and wondered why he still counted three (unfortunately, one did die a few days later). All of our shrimp have now molted, although I still freak out and have to do a head count every time this happens.
Exoskelton left over from molting shrimp.

P.S. I was recently asked how long they live. I looked it up. Lifespan is about 3 years. Not bad!


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