Vampire Shrimp: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding, & More)

Vampire shrimp swimming in tank.

Vampire Shrimps are the lesser-known freshwater species among the aquarium community, and they add a lot of color and life to your tank. Not only do they have a unique appearance and an easygoing nature, but their filter-feeding capabilities also make them one of our favorites.

However, since they are less popular than other types of shrimp, several people are clueless as to how they should care for these critters.

They have a few unique requirements as compared to other shrimps, and since we love them, we think it is fair that you should know about them before you decide to introduce them in your tank.

This care guide has been specially prepared to tell you all there is to know about the Vampire Shrimp, including their habitat, water parameters, diet, breeding, tank mates, and other things.

Also, we want you to help us make them more popular because they deserve it!

Species Summary

Vampire Shrimp goes by the scientific name Atyagabonensis, and they belong to the Atyidae family of shrimps. Although their name might give a few people the jitters, they are actually quite peaceful.

Most of their time is spent hiding in the aquarium, and they come out during nighttime and twilight hours. Now you can see why they are called by this name.

CategoryRating
TemperamentPeaceful
Life Span5 years
FamilyAtyidae
DietOmnivore/Detritivore
Color FormVaried, color changing
Care levelEasy to medium
CompatibilityPeaceful community
Size2-3 inch
Tank SetupFreshwater with plants and rocks
Minimum Tank Size15 gallons

These shrimp are native to South America and Western Africa, and they are mostly found in coastal freshwater areas. If you check out their natural habitat, you will find them nestled between mangrove roots and thick vegetation.

When kept in aquariums, they thrive when they get a similar habitat like the one they are used to in the wild. Since they are shy and mostly keep to themselves, you can’t expect them to entertain you much.

But when you do notice them in the open, you would love to notice their unique feeding habits and movement.

Lifespan

When kept under pristine conditions, you can expect Vampire Shrimp to live up to five years on average. Their lifespan is relatively higher as compared to other species of shrimp.

In the wild, however, they can live anywhere between 8-10 years, but those that live in aquariums seldom live up to their life expectancy.

It is impertinent to mention that Vampire Shrimp thrive and reach their full potential when they are in a well-kept environment, and if this isn’t the case, their health will start to deteriorate. If the water conditions aren’t maintained, you might expose them to severe health issues.

Appearance

Vampire Shrimp are considerably larger than their other counterparts, and this is why they are also easier to notice in the tank. One of the first things you notice on their bodies is the fans.

These shrimp are known as fan feeders. They have fans on their arms, which look like hair through the naked eye. Whenever they find something to eat, they will lift their fans and draw in organic matter from the water to consume it.

Moreover, these species have a tough and thick shells. The shape of their shell closely resembles that of a crawfish, instead of looking like a regular shrimp. They also have small bumps on their legs, which cover the sides.

On the bottom of their legs, there is a larger bump-like point. These bumps help them latch onto plants and rocks in the wild, especially when there is a heavy current.

Vampire Shrimp also have a lot of variety in coloration. While a majority of them have a light blue or gray hue, others have darker shades of blue, solid white, reddish-brown, or even pink. So, you have a lot of options to choose from when you are going to buy them.

What’s even more interesting is that these shrimp change colors multiple times throughout their lives, and the richness of the color depends on their age, as well as the quality and conditions of their environment.

Vampire Shrimp who are kept in darker environments also have more deep and intense colors. When they are juveniles, you can’t distinguish the male shrimp from the female ones. After they reach a size of three inches, you can notice the differences.

The male shrimp are significantly larger than the females and also have thicker legs at the very front. On the other hand, female shrimp have larger abdominal plates.

Size

Typically, Vampire Shrimp grow up to an average size of five to six inches in length. Just like their lifespan, their size is also larger than several species of freshwater shrimp.

Apart from being longer, they are also thicker than other shrimp. Their shell is quite bulky and strong, and it also helps protect them from any danger.

Vampire Shrimp Care

If you want to keep Vampire Shrimp in your home aquarium, you will have to take good care of them. This requires setting up and maintaining a proper tank according to their needs.

They are slightly more demanding than the average shrimp species. Once you get the hang of their care instructions, you will have no trouble taking care of them.

Let’s have a look at some of the fringe care guidelines that you should brush know.

Tank Size

Ideally, Vampire Shrimp should be kept in a tank with a minimum size of 15-20 gallons. Although some aquarists have raised them in smaller tanks, we strongly recommend against it. By providing them with a larger aquarium, you would be able to help them stay more comfortable and happy.

These shrimp mostly eat organic matter in the tank, such as microorganisms, algae, plant detritus, etc. Since larger tanks produce more than smaller ones, your shrimp will have an adequate supply of food all the time.

Plus, filtration systems in smaller tanks won’t leave anything for Vampire Shrimp to feed on. Also, a tank that is at least 20 gallons will also give them sufficient space to roam around at the bottom.

You would also be able to provide them with enough hiding spots in the area, and it would also be easier for you to add other species into the tank.

Water Parameters

When it comes to water parameters, Vampire Shrimp aren’t too fussy or particular. They are used to living in a wide range of water parameters without exposing themselves to diseases or stress.

The one thing that you need to worry about is the ammonia and nitrate levels in the water since these shrimp are highly sensitive to these compounds. Ammonia and nitrate build up in the tank when there is a lot of waste.

Therefore, you should cycle the aquarium before introducing your Vampire Shrimp to it and also place a powerful filtration system in order to keep ammonia and nitrate levels at bay.

You should also perform regular water changes and test the water parameters from time to time so that you can be sure that the shrimp are living in suitable conditions.

Coming to the water parameters, the water temperature needs to be adjusted between 74°F and 85°F. Ideally, you should aim for the middle of this range so that there is enough leeway on both sides in case the temperature goes higher or lower.

Moreover, the pH levels should be kept between 6.5 to 7.8 because these shrimp are used in neutral waters. Last but not least, they are used to water hardness between 3 to 10 dKH.

What to Put in Their Tank?

When it comes to setting up the tank, Vampire Shrimp do well in an environment that mimics their natural habitat and is also safe and comfortable for them. Their natural environment features lots of vegetation, as well as rocks.

Firstly, you should layer the bottom of the tank with a sandy substrate. Since they move along the bottom of the tank and also like to dig sometimes, the soft sand will facilitate them and also keep their feeder fans from getting injured.

Next up, you can add lots of rocks and driftwood to the aquarium to create a natural-looking environment. You can create nook and crevices from these items, which can serve as hiding places for them.

Following this, you can add lots of live plants to the tank, as they would shed enough detritus into the water for these shrimp to gobble up. You can choose between different types and species of plants and also add moss to cover the ground.

Another thing to remember is that you need to create a strong current in the water, and for this purpose, you can get a high-powered filtration system to keep the water moving. Alternatively, you can do the same with a submersible pump.

Make sure to redirect the pump to the side so that a circular motion can be generated in the water. Also, the current shouldn’t be too strong or powerful that the shrimp need to hold on for dear life.

Common Diseases

Vampire Shrimp are susceptible to quite a few diseases, the most common of them being fungal and bacterial infections.

If fungal spores and bacteria make their way into the tank’s environment, they can be quite lethal for your shrimp. The infections attack dead tissue and spread to other parts of the body soon after.

Apart from these, these shrimp can also get affected by parasitic infections, with Vorticella being the most likely culprit. It makes its way into the tank through plants or rocks. When the shrimp eats the plant matter, they also ingest the parasite.

Although Vampire Shrimp can get infected at any time, they are most likely to get affected when molting. They shed their old shells after every few months, and when this happens, their newly-formed shell is still thin and soft, thus making them susceptible to infection.

This is also why Vampire Shrimp like to hide during the molting period. Luckily, all of the aforementioned infections are treatable, so there will be no problem if you detect them on time. Never use medication that has copper as an ingredient to treat them; otherwise, they might die quickly. 

What Do Vampire Shrimp Eat?

Vampire Shrimp get most of their nutritional requirements filled from the aquarium itself since they find enough plant matter, algae, and other organic matter to chow down. 

They usually start eating after sunset and make their way to an area that has a heavy current. Once they reach there, they extend their fans and start catching food. Apart from what they find in the tank, you can give them crushed fish flakes or pellets, as well as powered food products.

Aquarists have also experienced success with spinach powder, powdered fish fry food, phytoplankton, and zooplankton.

Behavior & Temperament

Vampire Shrimp are naturally docile and peaceful. They can easily cohabitate the tank with other species of shrimp, as well as their own kind.

However, they mostly prefer being alone. Although they don’t show any signs of aggression, they don’t like it when another creature bothers them. If you keep them with active creatures, they might start getting stressed.

During the day, they are found hiding between rocks and plants. As soon as it gets dark, it is their time to shine. They usually have a favorite feeding spot that they go to whenever they search for food.

If there are several Vampire Shrimp in the aquarium, they might also share the feeding spot.

Vampire Shrimp Tank Mates

If you are going to keep Vampire Shrimp in a community tank, there are several tank mates to choose from. Although they are generally larger than other shrimp, they aren’t hostile towards smaller species.

Plus, they can coexist with smaller and more peaceful fish because they can’t get eaten by them. This also means that you can’t keep them with any of the aggressive fish species, such as Cichlids, Goldfish, and similar options. Some of the suitable tank mates include:

Breeding

Although breeding Vampire Shrimp in the tank is possible and doable, it still isn’t a very good idea. It is a difficult process that often makes aquarium owners give up before they can begin.

Most of the shrimp that you find in pet stores are caught in the wild since large-scale breeding techniques are quite challenging, even for more experienced and larger facilities.

When they breed, their babies go through different larval stages. Their eggs need to be kept in a saltwater environment, but the young have to be moved to the freshwater as soon as they come out.

Making this switch is practically impossible in captivity, which is why we say it is a bad idea.

Final Thoughts

Vampire Shrimp are fantastic and exciting creatures that add life, color, and vibrancy to your aquarium. They have a unique appearance and a peaceful temperament, which make them the perfect addition for any tank, provided that they are kept with suitable tank mates.

Plus, if you have understood the care guidelines that we have laid out for you, you won’t have any trouble in raising a couple of Vampire Shrimps in your tank. We suggest you read up on our guide a couple of times and then make up your mind.

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