Did you know that there’s a shrimp that can actually break glass? Well, there is a remarkable crustacean that can do exactly that!
The beautifully colored Mantis shrimp is a tiny underwater vandal with a big reputation!
So, what are Mantis shrimp? Are Mantis shrimp safe to keep? And can a Mantis shrimp harm a human?
Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about the ridiculously powerful Mantis shrimp!
What Shrimp Can Break Glass?
According to National Geographic, the Mantis shrimp or Pistol shrimp is capable of breaking a glass tank.
In fact, the shrimp uses its claw as a club to deliver a powerful punch and smash the shell of its much larger crab prey, inflicting the force of a 22-caliber bullet!
These incredible shrimp are easily able to smash your finger right down the bone, so you might want to think twice before adding one to your aquarium. But the Mantis shrimp is not only an absolutely gorgeous creature aesthetically, but it’s fascinating to watch, too.
Mantis Shrimp – At a Glance
|Mantis Shrimp Info|
|Common Name (species):||Mantis Shrimp, Prawn Killers, Thumb Splitters, Harlequin Mantis Shrimp, Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Painted Mantis shrimp|
|Origin:||Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, ranging between Eastern Africa and Hawaii|
|Lifespan:||Up to 20 years|
|Size:||2 to 7 inches, depending on the species|
|Minimum Tank Size:||10 gallons|
|Temperature Range:||72°F – 80°F|
Origins and Background
Mantis shrimps are not shrimps, nor are they related to the Praying Mantis. Instead, these are small, aggressive marine predators that live in subtropical and tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging from Eastern Africa to Hawaii.
Mantis shrimp are vibrantly colored but don’t be deceived; these guys boast a deadly armory of a club claw or a spike, depending on the species. In fact, Mantis shrimps have the nickname “Thumb splitter” because of the injuries they’ve inflicted on their human owners if not handled with extreme care.
These deadly assassins belong to the order Stomatopoda in the taxonomy group Crustacea, which includes crabs, crayfish, lobsters, krill, and shrimp.
These shrimp are aggressive predators, preying on other Stomatopods, clams, fish, worms, snails, squid, and shrimp. They can also take creatures much larger than themselves, thanks to the significant power these awesome animals possess.
Stomatopods evolved independently from other Malacostraca around 400 million years ago; that’s roughly 170 million years before dinosaurs appeared on the earth!
There are thought to be around 450 different species of Mantis shrimp around the world, with colors ranging from bright red, blue, brown, and green.
Probably the most famous species of mantis shrimp is the Peacock Mantis shrimp, which is also one of the larger, more brightly colored species.
Although these shrimp are not considered endangered and are relatively common, the species is not well-understood since these are highly territorial or solitary marine animals that spend much of their time hiding under rocks or buried in the substrate.
Mantis shrimp generally live in U-shaped burrows at coral reef bases. These animals can be active during the daytime or completely nocturnal, depending on the species.
Mantis shrimp have evolved highly complex communication methods using posture, displays, and chemical cues. The shrimp often spar when defending their burrows, tapping each other on the hard carapace without inflicting injuries.
That tells each shrimp which is the stronger and fitter individual. Matters only escalate if one shrimp refuses to back down.
Mantis Shrimp on the Menu
In some Asian, Mediterranean, and Hawaiian cultures, Mantis shrimp is served as a food item. Apparently, the shrimp’s flesh tastes rather like lobster, and the creatures are usually served deep-fried with chili and garlic.
Mantis Shrimp Appearance
What Size Are Mantis Shrimp?
Mantis shrimp usually grow to around 4 inches long, although some species have been noted as reaching as large as 18 inches.
What Do Mantis Shrimp Look Like?
These stomapods are named because they resemble both a shrimp and a Praying Mantis. The shrimp has a secondary pair of arms for catching prey, rather like the oversized forelimbs of a Praying Mantis.
The Mantis shrimp’s carapace or shell only covers the back of the creature’s head and the first four segments of its thorax.
The Eyes Have It!
Mantis shrimp have remarkable eyes that sit on long stalks and move independently. Both eyes have trinocular vision, meaning that the shrimp can gauge distance and depth, effectively giving the shrimp all-around vision, which makes the creature a highly efficient predator.
It’s thought that Mantis shrimp possess the most complex eyes and sensory system ever discovered in the animal kingdom. Mantis shrimp can see circulatory polarised light not documented in other animals.
Some species of Mantis shrimp have between 12 and 16 different color photoreceptors in their retinas. That’s at least four times more than we have!
Despite that, research suggests that the shrimp do not have very good color vision, probably because their eyes operate at a different level to ours, working as a kind of satellite.
Scientists also think that Mantis shrimp take all the visual information their eyes receive immediately into their brains without needing to process it, enabling the shrimp to react instantly to their environment.
So impressive and advanced is the Mantis shrimp’s alien-like eyesight; researchers at the University of Queensland think that the animal’s eyes can detect neuron activity and even cancer lesions.
The shrimp can detect polarized light that reflects differences between healthy and cancerous tissue before visible tumors develop.
Inspired by the Mantis shrimp, researchers built a proof-of-concept camera sensor that could enable doctors to spot certain cancers early. How amazing is that?
Mantis shrimp are generally divided into “spearers” or “smashers,” depending on the tactics they use to kill their prey and the types of claws they have.
Spearers have spiny appendages or dactyls armed with sharp, barbed tips, which the shrimp use to stab or spear soft-bodied prey, such as fish and worms.
These kinds of shrimp can initiate their strikes over a distance of around 1 to 3 cm.
Smashers’ raptorial appendages are also called “dactyl clubs.” These spring-loaded dactyl clubs are more club-like in form and are used by the shrimp to beat or bludgeon their prey.
Smashers thump their prey at over 50 mph; that’s the same punching power as a .22 caliber rifle shot! The force delivered by a smasher’s club is estimated to be over 1,500 newtons, which is more than enough to smash through a clam or crab shell.
That’s an incredible 2.5k times the force of the shrimp’s total body weight. If you could replicate that, you’d be able to punch straight through a steel plate!
So, how come the shrimp’s clubs don’t break when they use that awesome power to deliver a sucker punch?
Underneath the hard-coated club are many layers of polysaccharide chitin. This elastic Bouligand structure absorbs the shock of the blow and stops tiny cracks from expanding into a complete fracture of the club.
The Bouligand structure is so impressive researchers have studied its cell structure for use in the development of car frames, aircraft panels, and advanced body armor for the armed forces.
Although these beautiful, quirky stomapods are highly desirable aquarium pets, you’ll need a stronger tank to hold one safely.
These shrimp are known to punch their way through obstacles in their way and can even attack their own reflection in the aquarium glass.
Mantis Shrimp Care Guide
If you fancy keeping the beautiful, feisty Mantis shrimp as a pet, you’ll need to know how to care for them.
Diet and Nutrition
Mantis shrimp can be quite fussy feeders. In the wild environment, the shrimp sometimes kill a potential food source to defend their territory rather than regard it as a meal.
In captivity, you can offer the shrimp frozen foods, including mussels, shrimp, fish, scallops, squid, and clams. Of course, live food is well-received, but we caution against using it since it’s easy to introduce disease to your tank with the food.
When feeding your Mantis shrimp, we recommend you use tongs.
Never put your fingers into the shrimp tank! Mantis shrimp are vicious creatures that won’t think twice about attacking your finger.
If the shrimp is a smasher, your finger could be attacked and broken, and if you have a spearer, you could suffer a nasty laceration.
Tank Type and Size
When choosing a tank for your Mantis shrimp, it’s safest to go for an acrylic tank. Mantis shrimp punches can easily break a glass tank, and even smaller specimens can chip the glass.
When it comes to tank size, a small Mantis shrimp can do well in smaller aquariums of around 10 gallons, whereas larger specimens longer than 8 inches should be kept in at least a 20-gallon tank.
Mantis shrimp are pretty hardy creatures that can tolerate a range of water parameters between 72o and 80o F.
Salinity in the tank should be between 1.018 and 1.025.
Since Mantis shrimp typically lay in wait for prey to come by, so they appreciate plenty of places to hide in their habitat. So, you should include plenty of rocks and caves in your hardscape.
PVC pipes can also make good additions, especially tube-shaped pieces. You might even find that your shrimp uses sand to close the burrow entrance at night.
A sandy substrate is the best choice, especially if you go for a Spearer species of Mantis shrimp, as these creatures love to burrow and hide in the sand. The sand bed should be around 1.5 times as deep as the shrimp’s length.
Unfortunately, your carefully crafted aquascape might not last long with a Mantis shrimp since these are extremely strong animals that will dig, drag, and rearrange whatever you add to your reef tank.
In fact, you’ll probably find that your shrimp will create its own burrow purely by excavating sand and shifting it from one place to another.
Mantis shrimp aren’t fussy when it comes to filtration, although it might be best to choose an external filtration system in case the shrimp punch the equipment and damage it!
These shrimp don’t appreciate bright lighting in their environment, and they will hide away if the light is too bright.
Tank Maintenance Tips
Since Mantis shrimp are carnivores, they do tend to produce a fair amount of waste. However, if you run an efficient filtration system and carry out weekly tank maintenance, your shrimp should remain healthy.
Mantis Shrimp Handling Tips
From time to time, you might need to remove your shrimp from the tank either during routine maintenance or for treatment if the creature is sick.
As you’ve learned, Mantis shrimp can be harmful to humans if not handled correctly. So, how do you remove the shrimp from the tank without getting injured?
This method uses the shrimp’s habit of hiding in burrows to catch it.
- Take a plastic bottle and cut the top off at the widest point. The trap must be big enough to accommodate the shrimp easily.
- Invert the top of the bottle upside down in the bottom half.
- Punch a few holes on opposite sides of the bottom half of your bottle.
- Use an elastic band to fix the trap together by placing it across both ends.
- Place a food item inside the trap. When the shrimp goes inside, you can safely lift the trapped and contained shrimp out of your tank.
Alternatively, you could use tongs and a net to trap your shrimp, although that’s generally considered more stressful for the shrimp.
When handling your shrimp, the emphasis must be on safety first! Mantis shrimp can and do strike out violently when they feel threatened, and divers have sustained nasty injuries requiring stitches when on the wrong end of a shrimp’s appendages.
Many owners have been injured by their pet Mantis shrimp when carrying out routine maintenance tasks in the tank, having accidentally triggered the shrimp’s defense response.
What Are Good Tank Mates for Mantis Shrimp?
Because of the Mantis shrimp’s aggressive, predatory nature, choosing tank mates for your pet is challenging.
Obviously, other invertebrates, snails, crabs, and the like are not suitable, as the shrimp will regard them as a food source and probably eat them. Small fish can also fall victim to the Mantis shrimp.
Really, aside from corals, urchins, and anemones, you can really only keep large fish species with Mantis shrimp, and that’s only if you have a tank big enough to accommodate them. However, even then, you cannot guarantee that your fish will be safe.
Can You Keep Mantis Shrimp Together?
So, can you keep a couple of Mantis shrimp together or perhaps a small group?
These are solitary, dangerous creatures that will not tolerate any interlopers on their patch. Period. It’s pretty much a given that the strongest shrimp will quickly wipe out the others and probably eat them too.
Breeding Mantis Shrimp
If you can’t keep Mantis shrimp together safely, how on earth do they reproduce?
Most Mantis shrimp that you see in the trade are wild-caught, largely because of their aggressive nature. Although if you were lucky enough to have a mated pair, it is sometimes possible to breed them in a home spawning tank.
Some Mantis shrimp species are monogamous, staying faithfully with the same partner for their whole lives. The couple lives together in the same burrow, with both parents caring for their eggs and shrimplets.
The female shrimp carries her fertilized eggs under her body for between five and six weeks until the shrimplets hatch. Once hatched, the baby shrimp begin hunting in the same way as their parents.
Mantis shrimp are sexually mature after around 50 to 70 days.
You can buy Mantis shrimp from specialist marine stores and online. The typical cost for one of these fascinating creatures is around $65 to $100.
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Mantis shrimp are saltwater creatures, more correctly known as Stomatopoda. These tropical carnivores can deliver a punch as powerful as a .22 rifle shot and have incredible eyesight that can detect cancerous cells before a tumor is visible.
If you decide to keep one of these beauties, you must handle it with extreme care and house your feisty pet alone in an aquarium with only corals, anemones, and urchins for company.
Do you have a Mantis shrimp? Tell us about your pet in the comments box below.