Keeping Sexy Shrimp

Author: Richard Aspinall

When it comes to nano tanks, small, playful residents are key, and perhaps none are more appropriate than dancing, gorgeous sexy shrimp.

Making Your Tank Sexy

Keeping a successful marine nano tank has been getting easier for years, and the task has become a realistic prospect for just about all aquarists with a modicum of skill. Many major and well-respected manufacturers also offer systemized plug-and-play tanks that are ideal for eager buyers looking for an easy way into the hobby or for existing hobbyists looking for an extra system to set on a desk or in a another room away from their main system.

Small tanks have also become simpler to manage and care for, as manufacturers have developed ranges of equipment specifically for nano and even pico systems. Small hang-on skimmers and nano-sized yet fully reef-specced lighting units are allowing hobbyists to create some spectacular reefscapes that are as attractive and successful as large, traditional systems.

Nano Considerations

Water Parameters

When stocking nano systems, the issues of water quality are, as they should be, at the forefront of our minds, as the reduced water volume significantly limits the dilution of organic wastes (the usual suspects of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and phosphates). Smaller water volumes also suffer from decreased resistance to change compared to larger volumes.

Temperature fluctuations and equipment failure are two of the main factors to guard against with nano systems, and these may become an issue and require action far quicker than a more buffered, average-sized system. A small tank in a hot room will overheat very quickly compared to a large one, for example.


Choosing inhabitants for a nano tank requires a good deal of planning and forethought. For many of the very smallest systems, simply maintaining a mix of hardy corals and perhaps some macro algae, such as Halimeda, is advised.Minimizing nutrient input through judicious feeding will keep water quality high and reduce the need for major maintenance and large water changes. Some corals that are known to produce toxins or large stinging sweeper tentacles should also be excluded to reduce the effects of allelopathy and outright coral warfare.


The limited space available to the aquarist can also increase the risk of territorial disputes between any potential motile tankmates, so even more consideration must be given to choosing the tank’s inhabitants if you are thinking of including inverts or fishes that aren’t going to stay where you put them.

For the majority of aquarists with nano systems of 2 or more gallons, thoughts are going to turn to the stocking of small crustaceans. In my opinion, there is no better candidate for a nano tank than the sexy shrimp.

Sexy Shrimp Basics

The sexy shrimp (Thor amboinensis) is one of the most charming, engaging, and downright cute invertebrates available. It also makes an excellent aquarium animal. In the wild, it is found throughout the tropics, typically among the tentacles of anemones such as Stichodactyla helianthus and S. gigantea, the bubble-tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor), several Heteractis species such as H. magnifica, and the giant condy (Condylactis gigantea). The shrimp’s size does not exceed more than 1¼ inches, which means it is often overlooked by divers, researchers, and collectors alike.

As with other small shrimps, such as Periclimenes, the sexy shrimp gains protection from the hard-to-approach anemone and also appears to perform a cleaning service in return, helping keep the anemone free of detritus. It has been widely reported that the shrimp will feed on the anemone’s mucus and even its tentacle tips, though this seems to be a non-issue for the host, which can cope with the level of grazing.

Keeping Sexy Shrimp

Sexy shrimps will host with most anemones in the aquarium, but they are not tolerated by clownfish that have chosen the anemone as a host—the fish may kill and consume a sexy shrimp looking for a host. If an anemone is not present in the aquarium, the shrimps may try to host on larger corals.

I’ve had them spend time within the polyps of Duncan’s coral (Duncanopsammia axifuga), and they are known to adopt green star polyps (Pachyclavularia sp.), clove polyps (Clavularia sp.), and even mushrooms (Discosoma sp.). Normally this will not be an issue, but if the shrimps aren’t well fed, they may decide to predate on their hosts, which will cause a lack of polyp extension or even death of individual polyps or the entire colony. Sexy shrimps have also been witnessed eating zoanthids, so they are reef-safe only if well fed.

Looking After Your Sexy Shrimp


Sexy shrimps don’t need complicated diets; they are by nature omnivores and in captivity will scavenge for meaty foods like mysis, shredded clam, and so forth. They will also take some algae-based products, such as nori. In a tank with more active tankmates, you may need to target feed them. Small pellets are particularly useful if you use a pipette.

Group Life

Another joy of sexy shrimps is that they are comfortable living in groups. This is indeed advised, and they should be kept in groups of three or more. It is in this situation that their sexy epithet is earned, as they wave their backsides from side to side.

Social Behavior

As noted, they will thrive in small systems from 2 to 10 gallons with an aquascape of live rock, replete with the usual nooks and crannies. Though in most cases, the shrimps will be quite visible and not spend their time hiding. Best of all, they are active during the day and not reclusive like some of their larger cousins, such as the blood shrimp (Lysmata debelius).


At present, just about all the sexy shrimps that enter the market are wild caught. They are common and widespread, and captive breeding isn’t an economically viable proposition compared to natural sourcing, but don’t let that put you off—breeding them is apparently not a difficult proposition.


These shrimps are sexually dimorphic. That is, the sexes have different shapes and features. The females are noticeably larger than males and have a broken strip across their back and tail, whereas the male does not. I won’t go into how to raise the fry in this article (it's something I have no personal experience with), but it can be done in a dedicated hatchery where the free-swimming larvae can be kept in suspension and not removed by filtering. Newly hatched larvae are capable of eating Artemia nauplii and will molt frequently as they mature. Some excellent directions are given by several sources online, with being one of the best I’ve found.

Fry as Food

If, like most aquarists, you do not have the time or inclination to breed the shrimps, you will be content in allowing the fry to enter the water column as zooplankton for consumption by corals and fish. Fish that rely on high-nutrient-value zooplankton, such as anthias, will relish this occasional treat.


Small ornamental shrimps are always going to be perfect pieces of snack-sized protein for certain fishes, such as predatory wrasses, dottybacks, basslets, groupers, and some large angels, but this really isn’t an issue if you’re keeping sexy shrimps in a nano tank, which is unlikely to have any large predatory fish and is more likely to use small fishes, such as yellow clown or neon gobies. Of course, if you add the shrimps before any fish, you will further reduce the risk of your shrimps getting eaten.

Sexy shrimps will likely get along with other shrimp species, but they will be killed by the quarrelsome coral banded shrimp (Stenopus hispidus). T. amboinensis is very unlikely to annoy other motile species.

A Perfect Nano Resident

All in all, the sexy shrimp is a perfect candidate for a nano tank. It is both colorful and enjoyable to watch as it shakes its booty, and the species is a very, very amiable companion. T. amboinensis is the perfect nano inhabitant!

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