How to Breed Saltwater Cleaning Shrimp

Breeding cleaning shrimp can be difficult.
Breeding cleaning shrimp can be difficult. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cleaning shrimp are not only beautiful creatures, coming in reds and oranges, but they also provide many natural services in your saltwater aquarium. These shrimp can remove dead skin and parasites from fish and eat pests in the water. If you want more cleaning shrimp, breeding them might be an option and an exciting experience. While cleaning shrimp typically have a low breeding success rate in captivity, you can encourage the reproduction by creating an ideal environment in your tank.

Things You'll Need

  • Water test kit
  • Thermometer
  • Live rock
  • Brine shrimp

Establish an ideal water parameter using a water test kit to help shrimp to thrive. Your tank should have a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. Make sure this balance is stable for long periods of time so the shrimp will feel at ease. Additionally, keep the temperature of your saltwater aquarium between 72 degrees and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as the salinity between 1.023 to 1.025 specific gravity.

Make a safe and peaceful environment for your shrimp. Provide the shrimp with live rock, which is part of a reef from the ocean, that has plenty of holes for them to hide in. Ensure there aren't any predatory fish in the tank, such as puffers or lion fish, which might eat your shrimp and their larva.

Let the shrimp pair up to breed. You should have at least three or four cleaner shrimp in your aquarium that can make a connection. If the shrimp make a match, they will hide in the live rock to breed.

Watch to see if the female shrimp begins carrying fertilized eggs. These small green eggs will be stuck to her body. When they are ready to hatch, they will turn into a brown hue and be moved to her legs. The hatching will take place about an hour after the aquarium's lights have been turned off. There are typically 1,200 eggs in each hatching, so expect a lot of larva once they emerge.

Feed the larva with nauplii brine shrimp that have been enriched with phytoplankton. This food will be easy for the larva to eat while still providing them with needed nutrition. Expect a high mortality rate among the larva, as these creatures are very delicate when first hatched. The ones that do survive should begin developing into recognizable shrimp within a few days. Keep supplying them with brine shrimp, although they'll soon learn to scavenge other foods from the tank.

Tips & Warnings

  • Feed your shrimp larva about four or five times a day, spread out at least two hours apart. Continue this for a few weeks until they've developed into mature cleaning shrimp.

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