If you’re looking for a new marine tank addition that looks cute and doesn’t have any special care requirements, camel shrimp is likely one of the first animals you might run into.
These colorful shrimp have it all: Good looks, decent temperament, and straightforward maintenance. This is why they’re some of the favorite saltwater shrimp species for novice aquarists and expert fishkeepers alike!
However, just because an animal has a ‘good for beginners’ label, it doesn’t mean that you can buy it without having any knowledge about the species. If you rush into buying shrimp you know nothing about, you can cause severe harm to your new pet, if not even kill it.
If you want to add camel shrimp to your condition, here’s all the information you’ll need:
Camel shrimp (rhynchocinetes durbanensis) is a saltwater decapod crustacean also known as the dancing shrimp, the hinge beak shrimp, and the camelback shrimp.
These invertebrates originate from the tropical waters of Indonesia, Australia, Ryukyu Islands central and west Pacific, and the East Indian Ocean.
They are commonly caught in bait and refuge traps in Andaman waters, Gulf of Mannar, and Karnataka coast, where they live on reefs and in rocky caves.
In the latest decades, however, camel shrimp is best known as an amazing addition to saltwater tanks.
Camel shrimp look similarly to several other marine shrimp – most notably, the famous peppermint shrimp. However, the main difference between the two is the distinctive hump on the camel shrimp’s body – which is also what this species was named for.
Still, the first thing everyone probably notices is just how colorful this shrimp species is. They come in bright red color that can range from semi-transparent to opaque, with numerous white stripes and spots on their body.
Also, their rostrum (also known as the beak) is moveable and usually angled upward. Next to their hump, this is another distinctive feature they don’t share with many other shrimp species.
Other than the size difference, the main difference between males and females is that males typically have larger claws (chelipeds).
Camel Shrimp Size
Camel shrimp aren’t dwarf shrimp, but they’re far from large animals. Their average size is between 1.5 and 2.5 inches, with females being a bit larger than males.
Behavior and Temperament
Camel shrimp are peaceful animals that rarely cause any trouble to their tankmates (other than corals, but more on this in a bit). They don’t have aggressive tendencies and stick to the ‘live and let live’ lifestyle.
They are rather social and you can commonly see them in groups. You should always keep them in groups of 3 or more. Otherwise, they can become lonely and stressed out.
They are nocturnal shrimp that tend to hide during the day and become active during the night. In nature, they’d spend most of the daytime in crevices.
As such, if you want to see them in action, you should turn off the aquarium light. This will make them think the sun has set and they can come out safely.
Common Health Issues
Camel shrimp are healthy shrimp that are not prone to any particular diseases. However, they can suffer from bacterial and fungal infections if you don’t clean their water regularly.
Also, they are susceptible to saltwater parasites, especially during the molting phase.
Other than that, they will rarely experience any health problems.
Camel Shrimp Lifespan
Camel shrimp is a pet you can enjoy for quite some time, which is why you should really strive to provide it with the best care possible.
Their average lifespan is between 1.5 and 2 years. However, with proper maintenance, it isn’t rare for them to reach 3 years of age.
Camel Shrimp Care
Camel shrimp don’t require any special care. They are pretty hardy and can endure most water conditions.
Still, if you want your camel shrimp to thrive, you need to make sure their living environment is as close to their natural habitat as possible.
As mentioned before, they live in rocky reef areas and shallow waters. They are most commonly found in crevices, caves, and holes between corals no deeper than 10 feet.
You should do your best to ensure their tank is as close to this as possible.
What Do Camel Shrimp Eat?
The camel shrimp is an omnivorous species, but it seems they prefer meaty meals compared to plant-based ones. In fact, many would consider them to be carnivorous. However, as mine camel shrimp ate dead plant matter from time to time, I wouldn’t say their diet is entirely meat-based.
This small shrimp is an excellent part of the clean up crew as it’ll roam through the tank and eat anything it can catch. Just don’t let this make you think you don’t have to feed them!
While you don’t have to feed them as often as most fish, you should still give them some sinking pellets once every few days. Do this more often if they live in species-only tanks.
You might also want to add some frozen food, mussels, or freeze-dried fish, as well.
Supplements are not necessary if shrimp can catch enough waste and food leftovers on their own. If this isn’t possible, you might want to add some Iodine, Magnesium, and Calcium to the mix.
Unfortunately, due to their eating habits, camel shrimp are not considered reef-safe. They are known for destroying reef tanks by eating polyps, soft corals, and even some anemones!
They are also known for eating tiny shrimp and fish that live on reefs, such as sexy shrimp fry.
While some aquarists claim that their camel shrimp lived peacefully with corals as long as they’re being fed well, I’d never risk ruining my reef tank. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Camel Shrimp Tank Size
Despite their small size, these shrimp need lots of space. In general, expect to keep one camel shrimp per 5-gallons of water.
As you need to keep at least 3 of these shrimp in a tank, you should keep them in a 15-gallon tank or larger.
Don’t worry about substrate too much – these shrimp can get used to most substrate types. However, they prefer rocky bottom or gravel as they can use this to scavenge for food. Also, it resembles their natural habitat!
These shrimp aren fairly hardy and can live in various water parameters.
The most important thing you need to think of are nitrites and ammonia levels, as shrimp are fairly sensitive to them. Keep their levels at 0 ppm to stay on the safe side.
This also means that the nitrogen cycle is rather important. While there are various ways to cycle your tank in 24-hours, I would advise you to keep them for emergencies only. A slightest cycling mistake can cost you your entire colony.
In general, the ideal water parameters are:
|64 – 77°F
|8.0 – 8.5
|8 – 12 dKH
|8 – 12 dGH
Two of the most necessary pieces of equipment include a filter and a heater. As these shrimp aren’t that small and they aren’t sensitive, you can choose both according to your liking. I prefer using sponge filters as they are the safest, but this isn’t a necessity.
Live plants make a fine addition, but they are not necessary. Camel shrimp usually won’t use them for hiding, but they might eat rotten or dead leaves.
While we’re at hiding, these shrimp love to hide! In fact, this is usually the first thing they’ll do once they get into a new tank. As they are vulnerable to predators, they’ll prefer staying somewhere safe until the night falls.
Not just that, but studies have shown that shrimp from rhynchocinetes family are known to cannibalize their molting colony mates. Without a place to hide, molting shrimp will be at great risk!
In nature, these shrimp would hide in holes and caves. This means you should give them as many ornaments with holes as possible! From rocks to PVC pipes and toy castles, they won’t be picky as long as they have a hole to crawl into.
You also don’t have to spend too much time thinking about the light. In general, these shrimp don’t require much light. If you don’t have live plants or tank mates that require strong lights, you might even consider keeping them at room light only.
Not only will this be sufficient, but it can help you see your shrimp more often, as they’re more active when it’s dark.
Suitable Tank Mates
In general, camel shrimp prefer to be in a species-only tank, in a colony with other camel shrimp. However, due to their peaceful nature, they are suitable for many tankmates that have the same care requirements.
For example, you can keep them with a few fish species, such as:
You can also keep them with many shrimp species, including:
You should avoid keeping them with aggressive fish that might think of them as food, such as clownfish, larger hawk fish, puffers, and lionfish.
Also, I would avoid keeping them with crabs. Crabs are opportunistic eaters and they won’t mind munching on shrimp.
Finally, avoid pairing them with territorial reef shrimp, such as coral banded shrimp and harlequin shrimp.
Camel Shrimp Breeding
It is very difficult to breed camel shrimp in captivity. It’s not even that this isn’t possible – there is insufficient information about this process as all camel shrimp are wild-caught and no seller will bother with breeding them.
In nature, once the female and the male shrimp have mated, the female will start carrying up to 600 eggs inside her abdomen. Once the gestation period is close to ending, you will be able to see the eggs inside the female’s abdomen.
As these shrimp are known for eating anything they can catch, it isn’t rare for parent shrimps to eat their offspring. This is likely another reason why breeding them in captivity would likely be challenging.
If you buy camel shrimp larvae, make sure to keep them in a separate tank. A 40-gallon breeder tank would be sufficient. This will prevent adult shrimps from eating them.
Camel Shrimp Molting
Just like all other crustaceans, camel shrimp grow by molting. This is a process during which a shrimp will shed its old exoskeleton so it can continue living in a new, bigger one.
Camel shrimp will molt once every month and a half on average, although this can vary by a few weeks. Young shrimp will molt much more often than adults, as their growth rate is much quicker.
Shrimps are at their most vulnerable phase before and during the molting process. This is the time when you should be extra cautious with your shrimp. Don’t handle them and keep a close eye on them to make sure a parasite hasn’t attacked them.
While I would advise you to wait with tank cleaning, in general you shouldn’t be too worried, as you can always clean your tank without taking your animals out.
A shed molt will look just like a dead shrimp! If you see one dead shrimp, don’t panic. Chances are you’ve noticed a molt.
Also, while some people prefer leaving the molt inside the tank as a calcium source, I prefer taking it out after a few hours as it might pollute the water.
The Final Word
Camel shrimp are amazing beginner shrimp that don’t require any special care. They are not overly sensitive, so you don’t have to worry too much about things going wrong.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that all shrimp won’t take sudden changes well. Always acclimate them properly to a new tank and make sure everything is properly cycled.
Unfortunately, these shrimp are not reef-friendly. They are considered a menace for their habit of destroying corals, so if keeping them in a reef tank is what you hoped for, I have to disappoint you.
Also, as all of them are wild-caught, if you hoped to get a captive-bred pet, you’re in the wrong place.
Other than that, these gorgeous shrimps make amazing pets that will be grateful for the slightest care.
Hi fellow aquarists, I’m Ava and I’ve been an enthusiastic aquarium hobbyist for over four years now.
I’ve been amazed by these beautiful creatures since I was a kid and I’m thrilled to be sharing everything I’ve learned over the years with anyone who’s as passionate about the topic as I am.