Grass Shrimp Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Jul 11, 2021

grass shrimp care guide

If you imagine grass shrimps to be some sort of green-hued creatures, I’m sorry to break it to you – they aren’t. In fact, they’re far more interesting-looking than that. Grass shrimps have almost transparent bodies, similar to ghost shrimps – but they’re two different species. 

These tiny, almost spooky creatures won’t just give your tank a mystical vibe but also make it clean and squeaky. They will readily take on the role of tank’s janitor and eat away algae and organic waste. 

Grass shrimps are hands down one of the best assets you could add to your tank. 

So, without further ado, let’s quickly look at the overview before jumping on to the detailed guide. 

Grass Shrimp: Quick Introduction 

NameGrass Shrimp
Scientific Name Palaemonetes paludosus
Care Level Easy
Breeding Easy
Water Temperature 18 to 25°C (65 to 77°F)
pH Level6-8
Temperament Peaceful 
Lifespan 1 year
Diet Omnivore 

Grass shrimps are natives of North America. They’re found throughout the Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They live in salt marshes, eelgrass beds, seaweed, and shallow coastal waters. 

Grass Shrimp Appearance 

Credits: maxxum on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Grass shrimps have segmented, almost transparent bodies that are compressed on either side. They also have a well-developed ‘horn’ or ‘rostrum’ with a set of teeth along the dorsal and ventral surface. There are usually 6-8 teeth on the dorsal side and 2-3 teeth on the ventral side. 

The presence and positioning of the teeth are used to separate out the species in the genus. 

One important feature that sets them different from other similar-looking shrimps is the lack of claws on the third pair of walking legs. 

The head is longer than the body, and the first pair of legs look like tiny claws. 

Like other crustaceans, a grass shrimp can cast off its legs and generate new ones. 

Grass shrimp’s gills are situated right under the carapace. They are oxygenated with the help of a specific organ near the mouth that pumps water over the grill. 

Grass Shrimp Color

Ghost shrimps have transparent bodies, although not as see-through as ghost shrimps. In addition, they only have a handful of color spots on different parts of the body. 

Grass Shrimp Size 

Female grass shrimps are around 2 inches long, excluding the antenna. Males are about 1.5 inches long. 

The female shrimp is usually larger than a male. However, heightwise, they’re identical. 

How To Tell A Male Grass Shrimp From A Female?

The female has a greenish saddle on the back and/or white eggs under the abdomen. Also, they have curvier backs compared to males. Also, they’re usually bigger than males. 

Here’s one more detail if you’re really into it. Disclaimer: it’s full of jargon! 

Male grass shrimps have ‘appendix masculina’ attached to their ‘appendix interna’ of the endopod of the second pair of pleopods! 

Grass Shrimp Lifespan

Grass shrimp
Credits: lonnypalmlund on Flickr under Creative Commons license

In captivity, grass shrimps live for 1 year or so. With the right parameters and diet, they might live to see another year, but that’s quite a stretch. 

Since they have a short lifespan, they also mature quite fast. 

Grass Shrimp Behavior 

Grass shrimps are shy and peaceful creatures that don’t bother their tankmates. Like most bottom dwellers, they usually keep to themselves and scavenge once in a while. 

If they’re too stressed, they might hide around in the planted section or under rocks. 

If the tank’s living conditions are poor, grass shrimps may show hostility towards other smaller invertebrates. 

And like most shrimps, grass shrimps have a somewhat established pecking order when it comes to resources. 

They usually keep it low during the daytime and come out of hiding places at night. This trait helps in reducing their chance of being attacked and consumed. 

Grass Shrimp Tankmates 

Given their petite size and shy nature, ghost shrimps easily sit at the bottom tier of the food chain. Thus, you should only pair them with peaceful freshwater fish and invertebrates. 

Some suitable tankmates for grass shrimp: 

Neon tetra
  • Tetras 
  • Small barb
  • Danios 
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Zebra Loach
  • Cory catfish
  • Cherry barb 
  • Hatchet fish 
  • Snails 
  • Bamboo shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Amano shrimp
  • Vampire shrimp

By no means keep grass shrimps in the same tank as a big carnivore fish. They will immediately snack on your shrimp. 

Tankmates to avoid for grass shrimps:

  • Bettas 
  • Goldfish
  • Tiger barbs
  • Cichlids 
  • Oscar
  • Jack Dempsey 

Ideal Habitat For Grass Shrimp

In nature, grass shrimps typically live in rivers, lakes, and marshes with plenty of algae to feed on and plants to hide in. Thus, don’t forget to consider these elements when designing your grass shrimp tank. 

Given their small stature, you can keep them in a 5-gallon tank, which is the minimum tank size recommended. However, small tanks are more temperamental than big ones, so we advise at least a 10-gallon tank. 

You can keep around 3-4 shrimps per gallon. Although shrimps produce a lot less biological load than fish, make sure that you don’t overstock the tank in the first place. If there’s space, you can always add new shrimps later. 

An ideal shrimp tank would have plenty of live plants that serve both as food and hideout for shrimps. The most popularly used live plants in a grass shrimp tank are java mosshornwort, and java ferns

And although grass shrimps are nature’s cleaners, it doesn’t mean you can skip filters. For example, if you have a large aquarium with lots of other fishes, a canister filter is more suited. 

But if it’s a shrimp-only tank, you can use a sponge filter that won’t suck up your little pets. Also, with the help of an air pump, make sure the tank’s water is constantly being oxygenated. 

You can add driftwood, live rocks, and lots of plants in the tank to give it the most natural look. But make sure the decors are arranged in such a way that it maximizes the surface area. This will provide your shrimp with more space to explore and swim around.

Fine substrate is well suited for a grass shrimp tank as your shrimp will need to dig through it to forage food. However, if you’re using large gravels and rocks, your shrimp will have a very tough time finding food and cleaning. Even worse, the rocky substrate can even cut through their exoskeleton and injure them.

Grass shrimps don’t have a specific sleeping pattern or light needs. Therefore, a standard aquarium light should work just fine. 

You can add driftwoods and live rocks for decorations – but make sure these additions aren’t ‘potent’ enough to change the water’s parameters. 

Our Recommendations For Grass Shrimp Tank’s Equipment: 

Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Kit 

NEWKOSEA Double Sponge Filter

Tetra Whisper Air Pump

Cobalt Adjustable Heater

Honorary mention: Qanvee Sponge Filter 

This filter perfectly blends with the green plants in the shrimp tank, giving it a more natural look. It also comes with a cool option to add more filter media to its chambers. 

Water Parameters For Grass Shrimps 

Optimum Temperature18 to 25°C (65 to 77°F)
Salinity5 to 39 ppt 
pH Level6-8
General hardness (GH)5-10
Carbonate hardness (dKH)4-8
Nitrite level<20 ppm

Grass shrimps are pretty sensitive to their water parameters and definitely don’t take it too well to sudden changes or wrong chemistry. Thus, it’s essential to completely establish the tank before introducing your shrimp. 

Don’t add plants, driftwood, and live rocks after adding the shrimps. These objects can easily change the water’s chemistry, given the small surface area. 

Also, make a routine of checking the parameters with the help of test kits. The levels of ammonia and nitrite in the tank should always be low to ensure the well-being of your shrimps. 

The tap water in many places often contains chlorine and other minerals, which could harm your fish. So, once again, make sure to condition the water and dechlorinate it before adding shrimps. 

If you find your shrimp swimming like a fish or jumping frantically, it could be because the water isn’t suitable. So make sure to conduct partial water changes once or twice a week to avoid waste buildup. 

Feeding Grass Shrimps 

Grass shrimps are omnivore scavengers that will feed on practically anything they find. In nature, they typically eat algae, fish waste, and biofilm. However, since our tanks are clean most of the time, it’s important to fortify their diet. A nutritious diet helps in extending their lifespan and easy molting. 

Here are some food options you can give:

  • Blanched vegetables like carrots, zucchini, peas, spinach
  • Sinking pellets 
  • Algae wafers and discs
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae 
  • Biofilm 

If you have a heavily planted tank, you’ll have to moderate the amount of food your shrimp is getting since it will also snack on plant matter. The same applies to a community tank since your shrimps will eat uneaten food and fish waste. 

Based on the tank’s setup, you can feed your shrimp once daily or a couple of times a week. As for quantity, give the amount the shrimp can finish over 2 hours. Don’t forget to remove the uneaten food to prevent your tank from getting messy. 

A calcium-rich diet is beneficial for shrimps as it helps with molting and developing a new exoskeleton.

Here are two of our recommendations for commercial food for shrimps:

Invert Aquatics Mini Algae Discs 

Mini algae discs form a good portion of their diet in the wild. 

Ebita Breed Spinach Tab

Spinach tabs it’s loaded with essential nutrients that facilitate molting. 

Breeding Grass Shrimps

In the wild, the spawning usually happens from February through October. However, it could be any time of the year as long as the water’s warm enough in the tank. And grass shrimps may produce more than one brood during a spawning season. 

Grass shrimps breed sexually. In pre-spawning females, the ripening ovaries usually have a green hue. Females become receptive to mating after molting when their exoskeleton is soft. This typically happens within 7 hours of molting. 

However, the male will only identify a female as a potential mate if the contact is made with the exoskeleton. 

While mating, the ventral surfaces are positioned in such a way that their genitals are close together. Then, the male will eject spermatophore, which is transferred to the female, where it remains until oviposition. 

Oviposition, too, usually occurs within 7 hours of copulation. Parts of the spermatophore deserve, and spermatozoa are released. And ova are fertilized externally as they’re extruded before adhering to the swimmerets beneath the abdomen. 

Female grass shrimps then carry their eggs for up to two months. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings’ earliest stages are planktonic – they’ll be drifted by the water currents. These larvae are known as nauplii and look quite different from adults. For example, they only have 3 pairs of appendages. 

The hatchlings then go through a series of developmental stages and acquire different forms before finally settling on the tank’s bottom as free-swimming adults. 

Juveniles grass shrimps mature when they’re around 1.5 to 2 months. At this point, they’re about 0.6-0.7 inches long. The water’s temperature and salinity affect the growth rate. 

How To Breed Grass Shrimps?

Breeding grass shrimps is relatively easy and beginner-friendly. They will breed in just about any tank as long as there’s food to eat and no predators. However, if you are serious about breeding grass shrimps, it’s best to get a separate breeding tank where you can raise the fry. 

Preparing The Breeding Tank 

Given a grass shrimp’s miniature stature, a 5 or 10-gallon breeding tank should be enough. Next, install a sponge filter, so it doesn’t suck in the fry. If you don’t have a sponge filter handy, cover the filter’s intake with a piece of nylon or mesh fabric. 

Also, add an air pump set on low settings, so it oxygenates the tank but doesn’t change the water’s current too much. Set the heater’s temperature somewhere around 18 to 25°C (65 to 77°F).

Add sand or very light gravel for the substrate. Rough gravel could injure your grass shrimp fry. If you want to add plants to the tank, add them before adding the fry. 

In many places, tap water is often treated with chlorine. So, don’t forget to dechlorinate it first. 

Taking Care Of Pregnant Female Shrimps

Once you see the eggs develop on female grass shrimp’s swimmerets, gently transfer them to the breeding tank. When stressed, the females tend to let go of their eggs. So, make sure that you are as gentle as possible. 

Also, feed them a nutritious diet consisting of both homemade and commercial food to ensure they’re in good health. Once the eggs hatch, the female will swim upward and flick the young ones off her legs. 

Once you know she’s done, transfer her to the main tank. 

Taking Care Of Baby Fry

Baby grass shrimps are incredibly tiny, and their mouths are even tinier. Thus, they’ll feed on infusoria, debris of plants and algae small enough for them to feed on. 

As they grow, you can supplement their diet with baby brine shrimp, cyclopeeze, and crushed adult food. At around 1.5-2 months of age, they’ll be mature enough to be transferred to the main tank. 

Using Grass Shrimp As Feeder 

Since grass shrimps breed prolifically and are available at lower prices, they’re often used as feeders for big carnivore fish. In addition, the transparent body makes it easier to know when the shrimps are full. 

You can gutload your grass shrimps with blanched vegetables, fruits, fish flakes, and grains sprinkled with calcium powder. 

Transfer the feeder shrimps to a separate container and let them feast on. Given their see-through body, you can easily see when their guts are full. It will usually take anywhere between 15-45 minutes. 

Don’t wait for the shrimps to digest the food. Once they’re full, you can feed them to your carnivore fish! 

Buying Grass Shrimps 

Whether you’re buying grass shrimps to keep as pets or feed your fish, it’s essential to buy them from a reliable seller to make sure the shrimp isn’t housing harmful parasites. Likewise, you should also consider the shipping distance and study the shrimp’s anatomy clearly first.

  • Make sure to buy from a reliable seller who breeds his shrimps safely and hygienically to minimize the chances of shrimp containing parasites.

  • If you’re buying online, prioritize buying close to home to make the shrimp’s journey easier and less stressful. 

  • Don’t forget to check the shrimp’s anatomy for any kind of anomaly or injury. The eyes, legs, and antenna are more prone to injuries. And make sure the shrimp isn’t white in color, which means the shrimp’s not well. 

Conclusion: Grass Shrimp Care Guide 

That was your one-stop guide on raising, breeding, and gut-loading grass shrimps! 

These shrimps are lesser-known than other tank-eating bottom dwellers like amanos. But they more than make up for it with their hardy nature, scavenging abilities, and of course, the stunning clear appearance! 

With the proper care, these functional yet unassuming shrimps will become a great asset to your tank. 

You May Also Like:

Tiger Pistol Shrimp Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Snowball Shrimp Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Do Cherry Shrimps Eat Hair Algae? What About Blue-green And Black Beard Algae?

How Long Do Amano Shrimps Live? Why Is My Amano Dying?

Ghost Shrimp Parasite? Try These 2 Treatments!

Baby Ghost Shrimp Guide – Don’t Make These Feeding Mistakes

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.