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Peppermint Shrimp Care: Guide to Keeping Saltwater Shrimp

Peppermint Shrimp Care: Guide to Keeping Saltwater Shrimp

If you’re planning on stocking your saltwater tank, you’re probably considering getting some colorful animals that do amazing in community tanks. Peppermint shrimp is a great choice for such occasions!

These tiny crustaceans have a combination of good looks and good personality, and they aren’t as rare as some other colorful shrimp. In fact, over time they have become one of the most popular saltwater shrimp you can find!

However, there are a few catches you need to know if you plan on owning this pet for the first time. I’ll share with you all my knowledge and experience in owning this adorable species, so you can start keeping them on your own.

Let’s get started!

Breed Overview and Natural Habitat

The peppermint shrimp (lysmata wurdemanni) is a saltwater invertebrate from the lysmata genus. In nature, you can find it near coral reefs and tube sponges of the East Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, coasts of Florida, and the Caribbean Sea.

While they are best known as peppermint shrimp, you can find them under many different names, such as the Caribbean cleaner shrimp, candy cane shrimp, and veined shrimp.

These shrimp have become increasingly popular due to their habit of eating any organic matter in the tank, keeping it clean. 

In fact, due to this trait, they have become one of the most common shrimp on the market. You can find them in most pet stores that sell saltwater fish and equipment all over the world.


Peppermint shrimp are rather gorgeous crustaceans. Their exoskeleton is creamy-reddish and semi transparent, with opaque red and white stripes and spots.

What’s interesting about their appearance is that they become more transparent when they are stressed out. On rare occasions, they can become entirely transparent.

They are decapod crustaceans, meaning they have 10 legs. However, they don’t have enlarged claws (chelae), unlike many other, more aggressive shrimp.

Many people confuse peppermint shrimp with camel shrimp. The biggest way to differentiate the two is to look at the shape of their bodies.

Peppermint shrimp has a pretty standard saltwater shrimp body shape. On the other hand, camel shrimp have a hump on their back and a pointed nose. 

In fact, the only two similar physical features these two species have are the same size and similar color. 

How Big Do Peppermint Shrimp Get?

Peppermint shrimp are not dwarf shrimp, but they are far from big. They are fairly larger than sexy shrimp, but smaller than banded coral shrimp. 

The average size of peppermint shrimp is 2 inches. However, this can vary a bit, especially between genders.

Female shrimp are typically larger than males. It isn’t rare to find a male peppermint shrimp no bigger than 1.5-inch. 

On the other hand, some females can reach 2.5 inches in length.

Behavior and Temperament

Peppermint shrimp are fairly peaceful shrimp that can do well in a community tank – provided their tank mates are not stressing them out, which can be a common issue.

They are social and love living in large groups. They are rarely aggressive, but can be a bit territorial when paired with other reef animals that might want to inhabit their living space.

These shrimp are shy and tend to be inactive during the day. As they are nocturnal, they will hide most of the time when the light is on. In fact, there have been times when I haven’t seen my colony for a few days!

Peppermint Shrimp Lifespan

Peppermint shrimp are fairly healthy shrimp that aren’t prone to many diseases. There aren’t any species-specific health issues you should worry about. 

However, they can get bacterial and fungal infections, such as Fusarium sp.,  especially if you keep them in dirty water that isn’t cleaned regularly.

If you provide them with proper care, they can live for a few years. In general, their average lifespan is 2 years, but sometimes they can live a bit longer.

Are Peppermint Shrimp Hard to Keep?

The main reason why novice fishkeepers are afraid of getting shrimp is because they are afraid these critters are challenging to keep – and with some species, this can be true.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case with peppermint shrimp, as these animals are very easy to care for. In fact, they are among the best saltwater shrimp for beginners!

Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any catches you need to be aware of. 

Here is everything you need to know about the peppermint shrimp care:


Peppermint shrimp are omnivorous animals that aren’t picky eaters. Some people even think they are among animals that eat poop in your tank!

While, truth be told, they won’t eat poop, they’ll eat almost anything else. From food leftovers and decomposing organic matter to dead fish, they’ll eat anything they can scavenge. In fact, they are among the best creatures when it comes to keeping your tank clean for as long as possible!

Most of the time, peppermint shrimp will be able to feed on their own. They do an excellent job at finding food, and some aquarists think there often isn’t any need to give them additional food. 

Still, you should provide them with some sinking pellets or fresh fish meat from time to time. Just make sure you don’t overfeed them!

Overfeeding killed more shrimp than starvation. Food leftovers pollute the water, changing the water parameters for the worst. 

While peppermint shrimp are hardy, even they cannot live in polluted water. As such, always remove any food they don’t eat in a few hours.


Most of the time, you won’t need to give peppermint shrimp any supplementation. If they have enough food in the tank, they’ll get all the nutrients they need.

However, if their main source of food are pellets, you might consider adding some calcium and iodine supplements.

Another good antioxidant you might want to add to their diet are carotenoids – or, more precisely, astaxanthin

Astaxanthin neutralizes free radicals in the cells, keeping your shrimp healthy and long living. 

Not just that, but astaxanthin will improve the color of your shrimp. Peppermint shrimp will have a brighter red color if they have enough carotenoids in their diet.

Of course, the exact coloration of the shrimp will also depend on its environment and illumination in the tank. Still, by adding astaxanthin in their diet, you’ll increase the chances of having colorful shrimp.

Tank Size

Peppermint shrimp might be small, but they require lots of space. A general rule is to keep one peppermint shrimp in a 5-gallon tank. For each additional shrimp, add 5 more gallons.

As these shrimp prefer being in groups, I’d advise keeping them in 15-gallon or 20-gallon tanks.

Theoretically, they can survive in smaller living spaces, but they aren’t likely to thrive.

Water Parameters

Proper water parameters are the key to keeping any aquatic animal, not just peppermint shrimp. 

While these shrimp can survive in various water conditions, you should always strive to imitate their natural living environment. 

Try to keep the water within these parameters:

Water salinity:1.023 – 1.025
Temperature range:75°F – 82°F
Alkalinity:8.1 pH – 8.4 pH
Water hardness:8 – 12 dKH

Also, these shrimp are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrite levels. These should always be kept at 0 ppm.

To ensure this is the case, always cycle your tank before you add shrimp and fish – even if you have a newly planted tank. This will ensure there are enough beneficial bacteria inside the tank.


Filters are a necessary part of any aquarium as they help keep it oxygenated and fresh. While they aren’t a replacement for regular tank cleaning, they are necessary for your shrimp’s wellbeing. 

You can pick any type of filter for your peppermint shrimp. The best choice might be a sponge filter, as they are highly functional yet safe for tiny animals, which includes shrimp and shrimp larvae, as well.

However, you don’t need to be picky. Any filter that these shrimp cannot fall into will do.


Peppermint shrimp are not picky when it comes to substrate. They can live on all surfaces and don’t have any preferences. 

This is because in nature, they live on various bottoms, such as tube sponges, shell bottoms, hard-bottom areas, and rocky shores. 

As they aren’t too small, you don’t have to worry too much about large rocks inside their tank. The chances of your shrimp getting hurt are fairly slim.

Personally, I prefer keeping them on gravel because this gives them more freedom to scavenge for food. You don’t have to do the same.

Decorations and Light

Peppermint shrimp love to hide, so make sure to provide them with plenty of hiding spots! This can be anything from fake caves and toy castles to PVC pipes, large rocks, and plants.

Peppermint shrimp will also love living with some plants, as they can use them as hiding spots. It doesn’t matter too much whether they are real or fake. 

While these shrimp will eat dead plant matter, this isn’t their favorite food source, and they might even ignore it if they can collect other nutrients.

As for the light, you should provide them with a proper day-to-night cycle. In other words, they need light during the day, but keep it turned off during the night

While keeping the light off throughout the day might help you see them more often, this might stress them out.

Suitable Tank Mates

Peppermint shrimp are social animals that love company. In general, you can keep them with any animals that live in similar conditions and are peaceful.

This includes:

  • Camel shrimp
  • Tetras
  • Filefish
  • Gobies
  • Dragonets

While some people think peppermint shrimp are carnivorous, they won’t attack anyone in the tank (other than aiptasia anemones!).

In general, the biggest threat peppermint shrimp pose for their tank mates is that they might steal food from corals. This is easily preventable by shooing them away until the corals have finished with their meal.

However, avoid pairing them with larger animals that might eat them, such as arrow crabs, pufferfish, and any large fish in general.

Peppermint Shrimp and Aiptasia

peppermint shrimp
Photo: fishpalace

One of the biggest reasons why peppermint shrimp are so popular is because they are known killers of the unwanted aiptasia anemones.

Aiptasia, also known as glass anemone, rock anemone, or tube anemone, can often infest your tank when you add corals or natural rocks. They multiply rapidly, stinging all animals inside your tank. 

Because of this, they are considered the biggest threat for reef tanks and their inhabitants.

The easiest way to control aiptasia anemones inside your tank is to add peppermint shrimp. 

These shrimp are natural predators for aiptasias. Both live in the same area and in the same depth. As aiptasias’ sting cannot harm them, they will have no trouble eating them. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the peppermint shrimp might ignore aiptasia if they aren’t hungry. However, if you limit feeding, they will quickly get to work.

Are Peppermint Shrimp Reef-Safe?

There is some debate about whether peppermint shrimp are reef-safe, or are they a menace that will destroy a reef tank in no time. 

From my experience, this is mostly as people are confusing peppermint shrimp with other carnivorous species, such as camel shrimp or other lysmata shrimp with similar colorations – such as the Atlantic peppermint shrimp. 

Most experts would agree that peppermint shrimp are reef safe. They aren’t known for eating polyps or corals, so they can be kept safely inside a reef tank. 

However, don’t confuse them with the Atlantic peppermint shrimp, as the two look pretty much the same. Making such a mistake can cost you greatly, as Atlantic peppermint shrimp will rip corals apart. 

Peppermint Shrimp Breeding

Peppermint breeding is not too challenging, but it might be tricky keeping the larvae alive. This is why most peppermint shrimp are wild-caught, but it is possible to find captive-bred ones, as well.

These shrimp are protandric hermaphrodites. This means they are born as males, but some will change into females that can carry eggs but also inseminate other females. 

In fact, due to their reproductive capabilities, they can copulate and breed rather quickly. However, they cannot self-fertilize, so it’s always necessary to have two shrimp. 

In the natural environment, breeding usually happens from spring through summer. However, in captivity, this can happen at any time. 

Most of the time, the sex change will occur when the shrimp are around 1-inch in size, but this can happen when they are smaller, as well. 

Females carry up to 300 eggs for up to two weeks before she gives birth to larvae. As these larvae are really tiny and sensitive, it might be a good idea to move them to a 40-gallon breeder tank

Even so, the chances of larvae growing up to adults are rather slim.

Peppermint Shrimp Molting

Peppermint molt has to shed as they grow. The molting process is something all invertebrates have to go through, so chances are you are already familiar with it.

In general, peppermint shrimp will molt once every 4 to 6 weeks, although this might vary depending on the tank conditions and a shrimp’s age. Young, small shrimp will molt more often than older, larger shrimp.

If the conditions are right, your peppermint shrimp won’t experience many molting problems. Most molting issues occur if your shrimp don’t have enough calcium in their diet.

A shrimp’s molt – or rather, its shed exoskeleton – might look just like a dead shrimp. As such, if you see a single dead shrimp on the bottom of your tank, don’t panic immediately. There is a great chance you are looking at the shrimp’s molt.

It might be a good idea to keep the molt inside the tank. Most of the time, peppermint shrimp will munch on it, as it is an excellent source of calcium. Of course, if you notice your shrimp haven’t eaten it for some time, take it out to avoid polluting the water. 

Also, it’s essential to note that shrimp are at their most vulnerable phase right after and during molting. Avoid handling them at such times, and try to keep the water as clean as possible. 

While I avoid cleaning the tank when I see my shrimp are molting, there is no real need for that as there are ways to do so without removing them from the tank or disturbing them.

The Bottom Line

Peppermint shrimp are the most loved shrimp in the aquarist community – and for a good reason! They are beautiful, peaceful, and they’ll fight off dangerous anemones that threaten to kill your saltwater community. 

The biggest thing to keep in mind is to pick the proper peppermint shrimp. Many lysmata shrimp look almost the same as peppermint shrimp, but they have different care needs. Some are even dangerous for reef tanks!

As many breeders are not aware that they’re having the wrong species, it is up to you to double check your shrimp before you make a purchase.

If you’ve picked the right one, you will see just why they are so popular for yourself!