The Blood Red Fire Shrimp is one of the most striking creatures in the natural world with its deep red color, fragile grace, and fascinating cleaning behavior. So, it’s little wonder these tiny creatures are among the most sought-after in the marine aquarium hobby.
Read this comprehensive guide to learn more about the Fire Shrimp, its behavior, care requirements, and what species make the best tank mates!
Blood Red Fire Shrimp – At A Glance
|Fire Shrimp Info|
|Scientific Name:||Lysmata debelius|
|Common Name (species)||Fire shrimp, Blood Red Fire shrimp|
|Origin||East Indian Ocean|
|Activity||Active, cleaner shrimp|
|Lifespan||1.5 to 3 years|
|Tank Level||Bottom to mid levels|
|Minimum Tank Size||30 gallons|
|Temperature Range||75° to 80°F|
|Water Hardness||8 to 12 dKH|
|pH Range||8.1 to 8.4|
|Water type||Saltwater, salinity level 1.023 – 1.025|
|Breeding||Egg-layer, can sometimes be bred in captivity|
|Compatibility||Generally peaceful but can be territorial|
Fire Shrimp Overview
Fire shrimp or Lysmata debelius are among the most popular invertebrates for marine aquarium hobbyists, largely because of their striking color and fascinating cleaning abilities.
These shrimp come from the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, specifically the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, and are found living on coral reefs at depths of around 65 to 100 feet.
Fire shrimp are charming little creatures that are easy to care for and peaceful, making them ideal for life with various other saltwater fish. These shrimp are regarded as cleaners, consuming leftover food, tank debris, and parasites, including the invasive Aiptasia, tiny anemones that target and kill small fish.
Fire shrimp are generally shy nocturnal creatures, seeking shelter under rocks and ledges during the daytime, although they can be coaxed out once settled in your aquarium. These shrimp generally do fine in standard marine or reef tank conditions, provided the water is warm enough. Although you can keep fire shrimp in relatively small tanks, do not add them as your aquarium’s first residence since they are highly susceptible to new tank syndrome.
Adult Fire shrimp are deep red in color and are probably one of the most brightly huge invertebrates on the coral reef.
The shrimp are decapod crustaceans with ten legs attached to their thorax, the first five swimming appendages being paddle-shaped and the sixth having a fan-shaped tail. Fire shrimp often have several white spots decorating their shells, and their antennae and legs are long and white.
Although it’s difficult to differentiate between the two sexes, females have slightly curved undersides, whereas males have straighter stomachs and slightly longer antennae.
How Big Do Fire Shrimp Grow?
Fire shrimp or somewhat larger than many aquarium shrimp species, reaching an average size of 2 inches.
Like most shrimp species, fire shrimp molt their shells as part of the growing process, and you will often see discarded carapaces around the bottom of the tank. Note that the shrimp will eat the shells as an important calcium supplement, so don’t remove them unless they are still there after a few days.
Like most shrimp species, the Fire shrimp has a relatively short lifespan of two to three years, generally surviving for longer in captivity than in their wild environment, where they can be victims to predators.
Activity Level and Behavior
These shrimp are considered reef safe and will likely leave your other invertebrates and corals alone, as well as get along with peaceful saltwater fish that don’t hassle them or allow the shrimp to clean them. That said, Fire shrimp have been seen nibbling at zoanthids or stony corals, so you must ensure your shrimp don’t go hungry to keep your prized corals safe!
Fire shrimp are mostly active at night. During the da,y you will often find them on the underside of a live rock ledge or hiding behind it.
Fire shrimp generally get along well with other fish and can be particularly helpful if you keep species such as Blue Hippo tangs, which are highly susceptible to parasites, and appreciate the attention of this cleaner shrimp.
Species that generally do well with Fire shrimp include Clownfish, Bassletts, seahorses, and other species of saltwater shrimp, such as Harlequins.
It’s safer not to include large, predatory species, such as Groupers, that might regard the Fire shrimp as a food source. In addition, these shrimp can be territorial and aggressive toward their own kind and other cleaner shrimp species.
Diet and Feeding
Fire shrimp are primarily carnivores that feed on mostly meaty foods, although, in the wild, they will scavenge to try to in the substrate and even scraps of dead vegetation. In addition, these cleaner shrimp love picking at dead fish scales, skin, and parasites.
You can feed your shrimp dried pellets and food flakes, but they’re not tremendously nutritious, and frozen foods are a much better alternative because they retain more nutrients. You don’t need to feed your shrimp much at meal times because they sustain themselves mainly through scavenging.
Interestingly, Fire shrimp can quickly learn their feeding routine, becoming more active when they expect a meal. Some shrimp owners even maintain that their pets recognize them and will approach their hand to take food, which we think adds to the species’ appeal.
Fire shrimp do well in both small and larger tank setups, but as previously mentioned, they are extremely sensitive to nitrate and ammonia levels, so they should not be introduced to a brand-new tank.
Although Fire shrimp tolerate a slight current, it should be gentle enough that the shrimp can move around comfortably on the tank bottom without being buffeted by the flow.
The minimum tank size recommended for a Fire shrimp is 10 gallons, although they do better in larger 30-gallon tanks that give them the space to keep out of the way of other inhabitants.
If you want to keep more than one Fire shrimp, we recommend a larger tank because this species can be somewhat territorial.
To avoid damaging the shrimp’s sensitive, long antennae, I recommend choosing a soft, fine-grained sandy substrate.
Fire shrimps tend to spend most of their time on the tank bottom, so it’s a good idea to use structures they can climb up, such as live rocks, coral, and logs. You should also add plenty of rocky overhangs and caves, where the shrimp can hide during the daytime.
You might also want to set up a piece of rock or overhang as a cleaning station for the shrimp, where fish can swim up to be cleaned and which the shrimp will adopt as their territory. Cleaner shrimp often position themselves on their cleaning station and wave their antennae to attract customers.
When a fish arrives at the cleaning station, the shrimp will pick away any dead scales, parasites, and general dirt, helping to keep the fish healthy and getting a snack at the same time.
Standard aquarium lighting is fine for Fire shrimp, although they are sensitive to bright light and generally only search for food under cover of darkness. You can sometimes encourage these nocturnal creatures to show themselves during the daytime by using dimmer tank lights or moonlighting.
As previously mentioned, Fire shrimp are highly sensitive to water quality and should never be introduced to a brand-new tank.
Your tank should be fully cycled and absolutely free of ammonia and nitrate. Note that these invertebrates are highly sensitive to nitrates, and even low levels of 20ppm can be dangerous to Fire shrimp.
Although Fire shrimp are regarded as one of the hardier shrimp species, they cannot tolerate water containing high levels of metal, such as copper. So, take care when using medication to treat your fish for parasites, as these often contain large amounts of copper, which is deadly to shrimp. For that reason, we recommend treating your fish in a separate hospital tank to prevent the shrimp from being exposed to potentially harmful medication.
These delicate creatures are easily blown around if the flow in the tank is too strong, so either buffer the flow or use a filter system that doesn’t generate too much current.
You must keep the water pristine, free from nitrite and ammonia, and with very low levels of nitrates to keep the shrimp healthy. To do that, change approximately 25% to 30% of the water every two to four weeks, depending on your aquarium’s bioload, and always use a de-chlorinator product when changing the water.
I recommend using an aquarium water test kit to test the water in your tank once a week to catch any potential issues early.
Fire shrimp are a tropical species that live in warm equatorial waters, so they need a tank temperature of between 75°F to 80°F.
The pH level in the tank should be in the range of 8.1 to 8.4, with a water hardness level of around 8 to 12 dKH and a specific gravity of 1.023 to 1.025 sg.
Health and Disease
Like many ornamental species of marine shrimp, Fire shrimp aren’t especially susceptible to many diseases, although they can sometimes pick up small leeches or white worms on their bodies.
As with any fish or invertebrate species, we recommend keeping your new livestock in a quarantine tank for at least two weeks before introducing them to your main display aquarium. That gives you plenty of time to spot and treat any diseases without risking exposing introducing problems to your main tank.
Always buy your fish and invertebrates from a reliable supplier, and keep up with regular water testing and tank maintenance to lower the risk of bacterial infections.
It’s actually pretty easy to persuade your Fire shrimp to breed in the tank. However, keeping the eggs and larvae alive and viable until they hatch is a much bigger challenge for the hobbyist.
Fire shrimp are incredibly territorial, so your first job is to make sure that your shrimp will tolerate each other by introducing them into a tank at the same time. The shrimp are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both female and male sexual organs, but they cannot self-fertilize.
Instead, Fire shrimp mature as males, slowly developing female organs over time, with one shrimp taking the role of a male to fertilize the other. When the shrimp molt, their roles reverse.
Eventually, the shrimp will carry their eggs under the tail, which is called berrying. It can take two to three months for the baby shrimp to migrate from the water column; during this time, they are vulnerable to being sucked into the filter or eaten by other creatures in the tank. For that reason, it’s safer to put your berried shrimp in a maternity tank until the eggs are released.
Interestingly, the water temperature can influence how long it takes the eggs to hatch, with warmer water encouraging speedier hatching. After hatching, offer the babies green water algae or brine shrimp to sustain them until they’re large enough to be seen.
Blood Red Fire shrimp are fairly readily available from specialist marine aquarium stores and online breeders. Prices vary, depending on the size and coloration of the specimen, but you can typically expect to pay around $40 to $50 per shrimp.
Fire shrimp are beautiful, vibrant red saltwater shrimp that can make a fabulous addition to an established marine or reef aquarium. These peaceful creatures get along well with most small, non-predatory fish species and won’t harm your corals.
As an added bonus, these gorgeous shrimp work hard to clean up detritus and leftover food from the substrate, helping to lighten the bioload on your filtration system. In addition, territorial Fire shrimp set up a cleaning station in the tank, where they invite large fish to come by for a tidy-up that includes having dead skin, scales, and parasites removed.
Blood Red Fire shrimp are beginner-friendly, fun to watch, and will breed in captivity, so why not add one to your collection?