Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Algae
Algae is the scourge of the aquarium world since it grows prolifically on just about any surface, can obscure light sources, and can grow over other plants and sometimes even fish! Unchecked algae can also suck up nutrients in the tank that other plants or fish need.
Thankfully, there are several ways to deal with algae. The first line of defense is always keeping your tank clean, though even the cleanest tanks can see algae growth. This is where ghost shrimp come in. When I found myself fighting an infestation of hair algae, I added a few of these little guys to my tank and was impressed at how quickly they cleaned the place up!
Ghost shrimp are omnivores, so they will eat dead plant or animal matter, waste, and most string- or bush-type algae (though they don’t help much with black beard algae or any film algae).
The answer to the question “Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Algae?” is: absolutely! Let’s take a look at how well they can keep a tank clean, what other shrimp eat algae, and what you need to know about keeping ghost shrimp healthy and happy.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Algae Enough to Keep Tanks Clean?
Ghost shrimp are good tank cleaners since they have voracious appetites and are omnivores. In the wild, a ghost shrimp’s diet is comprised mostly of algae, which means they will eat any algae they can get into their mouths, though they prefer hair algae. They are primarily bottom feeders and like to stay in the substrate, so any slime algae that is growing on your tank’s walls or floating on the surface won’t be eliminated by ghost shrimp. They also tend not to like black beard algae, which is common for most shrimp and bottom feeders.
Do ghost shrimp eat algae exclusively? No, in fact, ghost shrimp will eat any plant or animal matter they can. They are primarily scavengers, which means they prefer dead and decaying food like bits of plants and any fish that may have died and sunk to the bottom of the tank. This makes them great cleaners, as they will eliminate all kinds of waste and junk you don’t want in your tank in addition to clearing out the algae.
Ghost shrimp will eat living things too, though, if they get hungry enough. This includes plants and occasionally fish that are small enough and get close enough to the bottom of the tank. If you start noticing damage to your plants, this is a sign that you need to drop some supplemental food into the tank to keep your shrimp happy. This will usually keep them from attacking the living occupants of your tank.
Other Shrimp That Eat Algae
Amano Shrimp (Japanese Algae Eater Shrimp)
The Amano shrimp is one of the most popular shrimp options for keeping tanks algae-free. This is because their appetites are as voracious as the ghost shrimp’s, if not more so! Amano shrimp will eat pretty much any algae, including black beard algae if they get hungry enough. They are also slightly larger than ghost shrimp – about 3 inches on average, compared to the 2 inches that ghost shrimp usually grow to. The bigger size means they aren’t as easily eaten by other tank occupants.
Amano shrimp are more expensive than ghost shrimp, though, and they are a little harder to find. Most pet stores don’t carry them, though a specialty aquarium store might, and you can usually find them online. They live slightly longer than ghost shrimp, though they are much harder to breed. If you’re hoping to replenish your shrimp population naturally, you might have a challenge on your hands!
Red Cherry Shrimp
Red Cherry Shrimp are also popular algae eaters who will eat just about anything a ghost shrimp will. Cherry Shrimp are bright red in color, and many prefer to use them as tank cleaners due to their pretty coloration. They are about half the size of ghost shrimp, which means you can keep more in a tank, but they are more susceptible to being eaten by bigger fish. They do reproduce easily, though, even more so than ghost shrimp do since they give birth to live, fully-formed young that don’t have to survive a larval stage before reaching maturity. They’re also less expensive and easier to find than Amano shrimp generally are.
Adding Ghost Shrimp to a Tank
Don’t Pair with Larger Fish
Large fish love to eat ghost shrimp so much that these little transparent guys are actually most commonly sold as food. Only add ghost shrimp to a tank if you know the fish in it are small enough that they won’t try to eat the shrimp. If you do have large or aggressive fish, either choose a larger variety of shrimp to keep you tank clean like the Amano or maybe try snails or guppies instead.
Don’t Pair with Small Bottom Feeders
Ghost shrimp generally prefer dead and decaying matter – and algae – for their meals, but they are not above trying to take down a live fish on occasion. This usually happens when they haven’t had enough to eat, or there are too many in a tank and they start to develop more aggression, especially concerning food. To be on the safe side, don’t keep ghost shrimp and smaller bottom feeders like guppies in the same tank.
Limit 3 to 4 Ghost Shrimp Per Gallon
Ghost shrimp live in colonies, so you’ll want to have a minimum of five in the tank at a time. You can add up to 4 per gallon of water, but it’s likely some will die off due to lack of food, especially if you have other bottom feeders in the tank. I recommend starting off with around 20 for medium-sized tanks. You don’t want to over-stock in the beginning, but you should also know that many ghost shrimp don’t survive long once they’re brought home from a pet store. This is often because they are intended to be used as live food, so they aren’t raised, stored, or transported with the best of care. If you can, try to buy your shrimp from a store that raises them specifically to be tank occupants, not lunch.
General Ghost Shrimp Care
Ghost shrimp are pretty easy to take care of once you have a good colony of healthy shrimp established. They aren’t overly picky about water temperature or ammonia or nitrate levels, though they can be sensitive to drastic changes in pH levels. If you want to keep your colony alive, be sure to feed them supplemental food like algae cakes or shrimp food if the algae in your tank aren’t enough to sustain them.
If you want your population to increase, provide an environment that is well-planted and has many hiding places for the eggs so fish can’t eat them, and add food specifically designed for baby shrimp if you think you might have some larvae developing.
So, do ghost shrimp eat algae? Yes, and quite effectively too! Ghost shrimp are great tank cleaners who will eat most kinds of algae as well as bits of dead plants, fish droppings, and even dead fish. As long as you make sure they always have enough food, they will be a great addition to your tank and will help keep the place clean for as long as you can keep the colony going!