What are listed as “ghost shrimp” in stores are not always actual ghost shrimp. Many shrimp belonging to the Palaemonetes genus get generically labeled as ghost shrimp by inattentive sellers. The Palaemonetes paludosus is what is typically considered to be the ghost shrimp, also known as the American Freshwater Glass Shrimp (or a variation on such a name).
I’m a big fan of ghost shrimp for the following reasons:
- Price – They’re usually less than $1 each. Sometimes my LFS sometimes has them for only 17 ¢.
- Resiliency – I’ve only lost significant numbers of ghost shrimp from two causes: whisker shrimp and gassing my tank with a faulty CO2 regulator. They do fine in temperatures from the mid 60’s to mid 80’s on the Fahrenheit scale.
- Food – They make great food for larger fish and puffers (though dwarf puffers are probably too small to eat them full grown), AND they eat pretty much any debris in my tanks. A crew of ten or so in my 15 gallon keeps it spotless. I almost never need to vacuum it thanks to these guys. Plus, since they’re basically transparent, you can watch them change colors depending on what they’re eating. This also lets you know what they prefer to be eating.
- Aesthetics – While often overlooked, ghost shrimp can develop some fantastic coloring. My old guard last for about a year before a CO2 incident killed them. By the end, they were covered with small red and blue highlighted markings. It’s also nice that they don’t force themselves into the forefront of the tank. The fish and plants can still be the centerpiece, but the attentive tank owner still gets the joy of seeing these shrimp grow and color if they want to take the time to do so.
- Breeding – So long as you have at least one female and one male, they will find a way. The female carries the small green eggs in her saddle like many other types of shrimp. So long as there is cover, some of the little ones usually find a way to survive. I manage to have growing numbers of ghost shrimp in a tank with four female bettas, who gladly devour a small shrimp if they can find it.
The only real downside to these guys that I have run across is that they are carnivorous. If they can, they will eat other, less aggressive or smaller shrimp. So if you want to start with ghost shrimp then transition to red cherry or other such varieties, it would probably be best to remove the ghost shrimp first. This aggressive behavior is also what allows them to live with bettas, which red cherry shrimp typically cannot do.
Here are some pictures of my ghost shrimp: