Some of the most exciting animals you can keep in a saltwater aquarium are shrimp! If they are put in the correct aquarium, most of the shrimps available to aquarists are reasonably easy to keep too. When given the suitable shelter and food, they thrive and help add beauty and diversity to the tank. Most reef-dwelling species, for instance, simply need crevices or overhangs to hide in. The key thing to remember with adding shrimp to your aquarium is ensuring there are no predators that might feast on your latest additions! 

This article looks at the top 5 shrimps for your saltwater aquarium, and why they are the best choices. As always, before buying additional animals, please do sufficient research to ensure your aquarium is appropriate. 

Sexy shrimp

The sexy shrimp (Thor amboinensis) is undoubtedly the cutest shrimp you can add to your saltwater aquarium! This tiny shrimp (~2.8cm) is one of the smallest shrimp species, with vibrant amber to orange colored bodies with white spots. These little shrimp spend their time wiggling their tails and vibrating their abdomen in order to clean their host anemone. They have also been known to take up residence on nearby corals if their chosen anemone is not available.

Do be aware that clownfish are very protective of their host anemone and will likely not want to share. Otherwise, the sexy shrimp is considered as a great reef-safe option for your aquarium. 

Randall’s pistol shrimp

Randall’s pistol shrimp (Alpheus randalli) is a small yet powerful little shrimp! These shrimp come with their very own built-in stun gun! They have a large claw-like appendage that works like a pistol, the hammer-like part of the joint allows for quick-release of their pincer. This action creates a rather interesting snapping sound too. Scientists have uncovered this sound comes from the bubbles created by the pincer snapping back into the socket. This lightning-fast, high-energy movement causes the surrounding water to boil to up to 18’000 F, which releases the bubbles! Not bad for a tiny shrimp. But don’t worry, this will not damage your aquarium. 

If possible, Randall’s pistol shrimp prefers to team up with the goby fish and share a burrow, excavated by the pistol shrimp. Randall’s pistol shrimp is nearly blind, so the goby acts as its lookout. These two animals make a great pair!

Coral banded shrimp

Next, another great option for your saltwater aquarium is the coral banded shrimp (Stenopus hispidus). This shrimp comes in an array of brightly colored forms! From red and white banded individuals as well as yellow, blue, and purple. This is a hardy nocturnal shrimp species that prefers to hide in caves or under ledges. This species can be territorial and fight off other coral banded shrimp to guard its territory. It is not uncommon for legs or pincers to be lost during these fights, but these will grow back when the shrimp next molts. 

Coral banded shrimps are generally found in crevices or caves, or even hanging from ceilings. Interestingly, they enjoy sharing their hiding places with moray eels, as the shrimps feed on the eel’s body slime and any parasites. The shrimp also encourages other fish to take advantage of its cleaning surface and uses its long antennae to encourage posing. 

Cleaner shrimp 

The cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) makes a great addition to your aquarium for a number of reasons. Not only are they colourful and active, they also enjoy living in groups. The key benefit is the free cleaning service they provide to their other tank mates. The cleaner shrimp will happily remove parasites and dead scales from your fish’s bodies, gills, and mouths. This shrimp likes to live on rock and coral outcroppings so that it can easily wait for fish to swim past and perform its cleaning duties.

The cleaner shrimp is no bother to other corals or fish, making it another excellent reef safe option. 

Peppermint shrimp

Finally, we have the peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni). It is also known as the candy cane shrimp due to its transparent body with bright red stripes. This shrimp is nocturnal, so can seem shy, but it is easy to care for whilst adding a bright flash of color to your aquarium. Again, this shrimp is happy to be kept as part of a larger group. 

Your only consideration is to be wary of placing these little shrimps in with anemones, as occasionally they have been known to snack on them. This is often solved by keeping their shrimp pellet topped up so that they don’t feel the need to feast on your anemones.