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Keeping the Fire Shrimp: Lysmata debelius

Introduction to keeping the blood red fire shrimp in a saltwater aquarium

Scientifically known as Lysmata debelius, the Fire Shrimp has gained a lot of popularity and nicknames over time, because of its striking color. Breeders and hobbyists have called it: Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp, Blood Red Fire Shrimp, Taiwan Fire Red, Cherry Red Shrimp or Red Fire Shrimp.

Fire shrimp

Ideal habitat

A Blood Red Fire Shrimp will be at home in small and large tanks alike–they are perfectly suitable in a nano aquarium or large reef setup. Fire Shrimp are sensitive to nitrites and ammonia in water, so the tank should be fully cycled before introducing them and you will want to have some experience managing a saltwater tank and keeping nitrate levels down. Copper should be avoided at all costs, so remove the shrimps if any of your fish need to be treated with copper-based medicine. Copper is used to kill parasitic invertebrates, like saltwater ich, but it will also kill your shrimp. So don’t do it.

Fire Shrimp can be a bit shy and sensitive to bright light, at times, and would benefit from having some live rock structure to retreat to for safety.

The fire shrimp is considered a cleaner shrimp

The Blood Red Fire Shrimp is also considered to be a cleaner shrimp species. It should set up a ‘cleaning station’ in your tank–a part of the shrimp’s territory where fish will swim up and receive a complimentary cleaning service–which means the shrimp will pick off dead scales, skin and remove parasites from the fish. Watching this behavior, in action, is one of my absolute favorite things in this entire hobby.

Check them out in action in this video below!

Feeding

The Fire Shrimp doesn’t have any particular nutritional or feeding requirements that are noteworthy, per se. As mentioned earlier, they are a cleaner shrimp species and will eat parasites and dead skin off your fish. They will also scavenge and eat leftover food, including thawed frozen foods, flakes and pellets in the tank. I’ve also heard of shrimp eating food right out of the hand of an aquarist. If you have an ultra clean SPS tank (low bioload, low feedings), you may want to target feed your shrimp–but otherwise they are likely to be alright as long as your tank is sufficiently fed. You will want to monitor to make sure they are eating well and aren’t always bullied out of eating.

Compatibility

Blood Red Fire Shrimp are absolutely incompatible with hawkfish or marine bettas. I would approach adding them to any tank with a fish large enough to eat them, because I have even had a relatively large flame cardinal fish swallow a cleaner shrimp whole within seconds of adding the shrimp to the tank.

Fire shrimp may also pick at some of your prized corals, so be warned, if you intend to add them to your reef tank.

Behavior and tank mates

The fire shrimp is primarily a shy, nocturnal creature, which means you probably won’t see a whole lot of them in your tank. Which is a bummer, considering how beautiful (and expensive) they are. Over time, and with some strategically timed feedings, you may be able to coax them out of hiding more frequently. ‘s you won’t see them around during strong light times. Instead, they will go out looking for food when light is off, or during dim light periods. If their other tank mates or live plants don’t actually require very strong lighting, you can provide only a small amount, so you can enjoy your cleaner shrimp more.

blood red fire shrimp: Lysmata debelius

With the gigantic exception for the fish that will prey on and eat the Fire Shrimp, it is otherwise compatible with most other community reef fish and is probably advantageous if you are keeping fish that are notoriously susceptible to parasites, like the blue hippo tang.

Like most of the animals we keep in the saltwater aquarium hobby, there can be aggression between blood red fire shrimp or even other cleaner shrimp, like the skunk cleaner shrimp. A little shrimp-on-shrimp aggression can be expected, so it is probably best to keep one per tank.

Fire shrimp are also pretty smart, and may learn to recognize you (at least as a food source). There are reports by some aquarists that their scarlet cleaner shrimp ‘greets’ them when they approach the tank or climbs onto their hand or takes food from their hand.

The shrimp I have kept, over the years have been afraid of me, more than drawn to me, but this sounds like a pretty cool reason for me to try them again.

Breeding

The Fire Shrimp has been bred in captivity. They are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs, which means you are guaranteed to have the genetic materials needed for reproduction with any pair of shrimp. Now that doesn’t guarantee that the two individuals you get will be compatible, but it sure does suggest pairing up shouldn’t be too hard. Contrast this with saltwater fish, where you might need to buy as many as 5-7 specimens to all but guarantee a male/female connection.

How to train your shrimp; an interesting book available on Amazon

 

Breeding any saltwater fish or invertebrates is a somewhat advanced topic. If you want to learn more about breeding cleaner shrimp, I recommend you check out two sources. The first source is a website called MOFIB. There are some helpful forum threads with important information about breeding this shrimp.

The second resource I recommend you check out is a book that I have on my own personal bookshelf, How to Raise & Train Your Peppermint Shrimp (affiliate link). Ok, so the book is written about a different species of shrimp, but many of the lessons can be applied broadly.

Pros and cons of keeping the blood red fire shrimp, Lysmata debelius

Like with any tank inhabitant, these shrimps also have their pros and cons when keeping them.

Pros:

  • They can remove harmful parasites and dead skin from your fish
  • Will help keep the tank clean by eating leftover food
  • They are relatively easy to keep and don’t require any special diets or water parameters

blood red fire shrimp lysmata debelius

Cons:

  • May nibble at corals in reef tanks, especially during the night, when you can’t see them
  • Will spend a lot of time hidden in their cave, so you may not see them around very much–the blood red fire shrimp I have in my tank only comes out in the dark and when it is feeding time

Conclusions

Adding a Blood Red Fire Shrimp will certainly give your saltwater aquarium a burst of color. They can be a little bit pricey and shy, but will absolutely work-for-the-money in your tank.
What has your experience been with keeping Blood Red Fire Shrimps? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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Please leave a comment below

What questions do you have that aren’t answered here? What were your keys to success keeping them? Please share so we can all continue to get better.

Comments

  1. This was very helpful. I assume the care of this shrimp is similar to the care my Peppermint shrimp requires. I had a full sized beautiful Peppermint shrimp for around 2 years and have wondered why he mysteriously passed. I recall that he shed his shell around 3 times within a 3-month period which now, after reading your comments about copper (which we have traces of in our well water) may have been the cause. I’m not sure if I added medicine around this time – but its possible that it was also an issue when I needed to cure a fish that had ice. Its also possible he died of old age since he may have been a couple years old when I got him. I am purchasing water now and in the future will try to remove any fish that may be sick to treat it in a separate tank. I love my new little Peppermint shrimp – unlike the Fire Shrimp he’s often visible and entertaining to watch. Beautiful too!

    1. Author

      Hi Beth, thanks for the comment. I think a shrimp that is 2 years old is a testament to great aquarium habits. I wouldn’t worry too hard about trying to find the source of the death. That’s a long-lived aquarium inhabitant. Congrats on the new shrimp!! They are bold and beautiful.

  2. I have a skunk cleaner, a fire shrimp, and a peppermint shrimp in my 65 gallon. They all get along. Only the peppermint is slightly nocturnal. The skunk and fire are always out and about. They add such a great element to the tank. The fire shrimp is the reddest thing I’ve ever seen.

    1. Author

      Brett,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences here. I love the way you characterize the color. You’re so right, it is amazingly red. I never thought of it that way, but you’re right, the fire shrimp is the reddest (I’ll add the qualifier ‘natural’) thing I’ve ever seen too :). Very cool that they’re out and not shy either. How long have you had your tank? Do you prefer one shrimp over the others?

      1. 18 months. The skunk and peppermint have been there almost from the beginning. The fire shrimp arrived about 6-8 months later and quickly became the alpha shrimp and took the center overhang from the skunk. Behavior wise I prefer the skunk because its just a maniac with zero boundaries. The fire shrimp is beautiful though, so visually I prefer the fire. I should add that it’s a fowlr, so I don’t have to worry about the maniac skunk stealing food from any corals. Just from my fish. When people see my tank, they are almost always more fascinated by the shrimp than any of the 10 fish.

          1. Here’s a recent one. http://i.imgur.com/N5ExkqE.jpg If you look hard enough you can see all 10 fish in this pic, although the filefish is barely showing. The coral is all fake, just for color. I don’t have interest in keeping live coral, but fowlr tanks with just rock are a little too visually bland for me. (and please excuse the cyano)

  3. We have had our Fire Shrimp (Jacques) for about 2 years. He had a mate when we first purchased him but months later, the other passed. Jacques has molted a few times and only hides immediately after molting for a few hours. Perhaps we just got lucky – ours is out and incredibly high profile all day and night long! We just upgraded from a 56-gallon cube to a 75-gallon bow front. We are now seeing constant cleaning-station behavior with Jacques and our Raccoon Butterfly and our newly acquired, rather large, Foxface Rabbitfish! Jacques completely stands on these two fish to clean them, walking all over them and they tolerate it very well! It’s hilarious to watch!

    1. Author

      Jess, thanks for sharing your experiences with keeping fire shrimp! I’m quite jealous that yours is out in front all the time. Also cool to see the cleaning behavior. Thank you very much for sharing.

  4. So here’s something interesting. About a year ago I stopped my saltwater tank and packed everything up in my cold basement for storage Incase I ever got the bug again…. I did. I pulled out my 200lb of live rock that I had stored in a plastic container in my basement. Cycled it for a month to get rid of dead matter and started things up again. I purchased another fire shrimp along with a couple of gobys and started things up again. The other day I look in my tank to discover a huge “Godzilla” monster roming the back of the tank!!! Somehow my old fire shrimp lived on the live rock for over a year and is thriving. He’s huge (about 3-4”)! I am unsure how this occurred but I’m thinking of calling him Lazarus

    1. Author

      Scott, thanks for the comment/question. I do think that shrimp, crabs and even some fish like angelfish may be inclined to peck at clam mantles. I did a quick search and did find forum threads about this on reef central and saltwaterfish . and one more here.I’m not sure exactly what to conclude from this. Here are what I believe to be facts–cleaners clean. So it’s possible it could ‘attack’ your clam and be looking for tidbits to eat. the clam doesn’t know that…and defends as if it’s being attacked. The end result could be that the clam dies due to stress and not opening up even though it doesn’t eat your clam, it could end with the same result. You have an empty clam shell in your tank. The clam could already be dying from pyramid snails or something. The shrimp could be trying to get to the dying flesh and clam…clams up…or perhaps some do have a taste for clam. It seems entirely possible. I like eating clams too :). But to get back to your question, if you have a prize clam that is doing well–or if you know you want to add one some day, you may not want to add the fire shrimp now as a precaution.

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