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Sexy Shrimp Care and Diet – A Spicy Tropical Shrimp Guide

Sexy Shrimp Care and Diet – A Spicy Tropical Shrimp Guide

Do you want to make things steamy with a gorgeous new tank addition? Sexy shrimp might be the right choice for you!

Not only does this saltwater shrimp have a catchy name, it has a look for it, as well! After just a first glance, you can see just what’s so sexy about it. It has a unique appearance that will make any nano tank stand out. 

While saltwater shrimp aren’t as popular as freshwater ones due to their particular requirements, if you’re ready for a challenge, this little critter can be just what you need.

Here’s everything you need to know about sexy shrimp care – and more!

What Is a Sexy Shrimp?

A sexy shrimp (thor amboinensis) is a saltwater shrimp originating from the Atlantic Ocean and Indo-West Pacific. In its natural habitat, you can commonly find it on sea anemones, corals, and in shallow reef communities.

Due to its habitat, it’s most commonly known as the anemone shrimp. Its scientific name originates from the place it was first discovered in, the Ambon Island. 

However, it was later found in many more areas, such as the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Red Sea.

Today, sexy shrimp is a popular addition in tanks and can be found in many pet stores that sell saltwater aquatic animals.

Why Is It Called “Sexy”?

Other than sexy shrimp and anemone shrimp, this invertebrate is also known as the squat shrimp, dancing shrimp, pikmin shrimp, and high-tailed shrimp. However, the sexy shrimp one certainly gains the most attention.

So, how did this colorful critter get its irresistible name?

While you might think it’s called ‘sexy’ due to its bright – and, if I must say so, truly seductive – colors, this is probably only one part of the story.

The real reason lies in their adorable dance. 

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Sexy shrimp is known for dancing! It does a unique dance during which it’ll hold its body up in the air and wave it up and down. This looks similar to many exotic dances humans do!

The main reason why these tiny shrimp dance is to deter away any predators. Yes, this dance is actually a defensive stance

As they are rather skittish and want to be left alone most of the time, you can expect them to dance more often than not.

As they live in colonies, chances are you’ll see them performing the group dance all the time!


dancing sexy shrimp

The sexies have some of the most unique appearances in the shrimp world. They come in bright orange and bright red, with large white spots that have blue outlines that give them a 3D appearance.

They are opaque in color and, other than white spots, shouldn’t have any markings or discolorations. If they are transparent, they are either faulty morphs or sometimes even weak or sick individuals.

While they are built just like all other saltwater shrimp, they have a unique posture. Their tails are pointed upwards, so it might be challenging to differentiate their head from their bottom at the first glance. 

Also, while they have protruding eyes, the white spots on their heads can sometimes give them an appearance of an additional set of eyes.


If you’re expecting big and noticeable shrimp, you might be surprised to find out that this animal is smaller than most. In fact, it is among the smallest shrimp species you can find!

Most adult sexy shrimps won’t grow over the size of an inch. It isn’t surprising to find adult shrimps at the size of 0.5-inch! Yes, they are that tiny.

They are small even when compared to most freshwater dwarf shrimps! Even a tiny malawa shrimp might seem huge next to them!

Their small size is the main reason why they’re commonly overlooked, both in nature and in tanks. With so many bigger saltwater species, fishkeepers often forget to give some attention to tiny creatures.

Gender Differences

While it’s usually easy to differentiate male from female shrimp, with this species things get a bit tricky.

All sexy shrimp are born male. However, they are protandric hermaphrodites, so they will turn to females when this is necessary – such as during the breeding process. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any females for a while, especially if you’ve just bought your shrimp.

A male cannot turn into a female until he’s reached a specific size. When this happens, he’ll continue to grow and turn into a female. This means that female sexy shrimp are larger than males.

You can also differentiate them by looking at the white stripe on the shrimp’s back. Most of the time, the stripe on a female will appear broken. Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t always the case, so don’t let this be the only thing you’ll look at.

Also, females tend to have a broader abdomen. This is so they can carry all the eggs once the time comes.

Temperament and Behavior

adorable sexy shrimp

The sexy shrimp have many interesting behavioral patterns that are unique to this species – and it’s not just because of the dance I’ve mentioned.

This is a peaceful shrimp that doesn’t bother other tank inhabitants. It will live calmly on its anemone and prefer to be left alone.

They can be a bit territorial towards other motile tankmates, especially if you keep them in a nano tank with limited space. As such, always be mindful when choosing their companions. 

In general, these shrimps do their best living alone (not counting the anemones that are necessary for their survival).

However, they are never confrontational. Instead, they’ll do their defensive stance and wait for everyone to leave them alone.

Sexy shrimp will spend a lot of time in some hiding spot. They are okay with sharing it with the rest of the colony, so you can find plenty of them at the same place.

Another unique behavior is their fast movements. These shrimp can move incredibly quickly!

Symbiotic Lifestyle

Probably the most interesting behaviors are regarding the shrimp’s symbiotic lifestyle. 

Sexy shrimp live in symbiosis with anemones. Anemones provide them with many benefits, such as hiding spots, camouflage, range expansion, and even food! Yes, they are sexy shrimp’s main food source, as these critters will eat plankton anemone has caught. 

On the other hand, shrimp will keep anemones clean. 

It’s important to note that these shrimp, unlike some other animals such as clownfish, can survive without anemones. In fact, during the night, most shrimp will walk away from the anemone, as this is when they feel safer.

Opposite of that, during the daytime, most shrimp will either stay on the tentacles of the anemone or right next to them.

What’s interesting is that the shrimp won’t trigger anemones’ feeding reaction. Similarly, they won’t get stung or poisoned. Nature itself has made it so the two can live in harmony! 

Another interesting fact is that these shrimp can have a symbiotic relationship with more anemone types than most other coral animals! For example, clownfish can live with 10 anemone species, and sexy shrimp can have a relationship with 12.

Some anemones that sexy shrimp can live with include:

  • Cryptodendrum adhaesivum
  • Telmatactis cricoides
  • Heteractis spp.
  • Entacmaea quadricolor
  • Stichodactyla spp.
  • Lebrunia danae

Common Health Problems

Luckily, sexies are healthy shrimp not prone to any specific health issues. The biggest concerns might be secondary bacterial infections that are usually the result of improper care and a dirty tank.

In fact, the main reason your sexy shrimp might be dying is due to poor maintenance

Some common signs that something is wrong include:

  • Lethargy and a lack of ‘dancing’ behavior
  • Lack of appetite
  • Change in color of the exoskeleton
  • Death


Sexy shrimp have a fairly long lifespan compared to most other tiny aquatic animals. They can live up to 5 years in nature!

In captivity, however, their lifespan is somewhat shorter. Most sexies will live around 3 years

Sexy Shrimp Care Guide

sexy shrimp in aquarium

Due to their tiny size, many people think these little critters don’t require any special care. You just put them in a new tank and let nature do its job!

The truth is, they can be just as challenging to keep as any other shrimp species, if not even more!

Due to their tiny size, you might fail to notice the signs that your shrimp is living in improper condition. It’s essential to constantly check the water parameters and to make sure everything is in good order.

Also, don’t forget to acclimate these shrimps to the new surroundings. They cannot handle sudden changes and are more sensitive than many reef fish species. 

Forget about quick, 24-hour nitrogen cycles! These tiny animals require a full cycle that will keep them healthy.

With that out of the way, here are some care essentials and basic information:


Sexy shrimp is a carnivorous shrimp species. However, its feeding is rather straightforward and simple.

These invertebrates aren’t picky eaters. They’ll eat most organic matter they can find. From fish meat to standard shrimp food, they won’t make a huge difference.

If you keep your sexy shrimp in a tank with anemones and corals, you don’t have to worry about feeding them directly. They’ll eat the slimes from corals, as well as any plankton matter the anemone catches.

However, if you keep them without anemones, you have to provide them with adequate food. While there are stories about sexy shrimp being among the animals that eat poop in the tank, they aren’t true scavengers and cannot be considered a part of the clean-up crew

Not just that, but they cannot survive on fish food leftovers. In fact, if there are food leftovers, they are more likely to die than to thrive!

This is because leftovers mean you’re likely overfeeding your fish. This is harmful to the entire tank, as it can ruin the water parameters. 

As such, you should always feed your sexy shrimp with proper shrimp food. Sinking food, such as pellets or flakes, are a great option, as these critters are not the best swimmers and will rarely go above the bottom of the tank.

You can also give them frozen food, as it’s likely to sink to the bottom, as well. 

Keep in mind that, while fatty foods might help them thrive, they also make the tank dirty rather quickly. Always consider the pros and cons of each food type.

Water Parameters

When it comes to water parameters, sexy shrimp have the same requirements as most reef inhabitants. 

This includes:

Water salinity:1.023 – 1.025
Temperature range:72°F – 82°F
Alkalinity:8.1 pH – 8.4 pH
Calcium concentration:400 ppm – 450 ppm
Water hardness:7 dKH – 12 dKH

While sexy shrimp can survive in parameters that are slightly above or under these values, these are the numbers you should strive to keep. 

As these shrimp are usually kept in colonies in 5-gallon tanks or, more commonly, in nano tanks, it’s essential to keep a close eye on water parameters! Even the slightest change might cause chaos.

Not just that, but these tanks will get dirty much faster than the larger ones. It takes the slightest amount of ammonia or nitrites to make the entire environment toxic for all inhabitants! 

Also, as saltwater shrimp do better in higher pH than in lower, you should always know how to raise the pH levels safely.

Tank Size

Sexy shrimp are an ideal choice for nano tanks or pico tanks. If you planned on making a gorgeous tiny reef tank, you definitely should buy a sexy shrimp!

Many people in the aquarist hobby keep their sexy shrimp in 2-gallon tanks, although they’ll also do well in 5-gallon tanks, as well. 

There is no maximum size when it comes to shrimp keeping, but I wouldn’t go overboard. Due to their small size, they can easily fall victim to larger fish that are normally kept in 10-gallon tanks or larger. 


Sexies will love tanks with rocks! This will make the tank resemble their natural habitat and give them more place to hide and roam onto.

Other than rocks, there’s really not that much need for other decorations. You want your aquarium to look as natural as possible. 

I am aware that many tank owners don’t like to keep rocks as they can be a hassle to clean. Unfortunately, I cannot be of much help here. 

While cleaning rocks with vinegar is an efficient method, it might not be a good choice for saltwater tanks. Vinegar is known to lower the pH of the water. Even the slightest mistake with rinsing the rocks can disrupt the balance of the water. It might be better not to risk it.

Live Plants

While sexy shrimp don’t mind live plants, there is no real need to have them as a part of your tank. 

As sexy shrimp are carnivores, they won’t eat plants. However, anemones provide enough shade and hiding spots, so the plants would likely be sufficient.


All aquarium inhabitants require filters! This is likely the most important piece of equipment you can get (next to a heater). 

While any small filter will do, a sponge filter might be the best choice. They are efficient, while also keeping tiny animals, such as sexies, safe.


While sexies can live on most substrates, they’ll thrive on rocky bottom or gravel! Such substrates will look the closest to their natural habitat and will keep them happy.

Not just that, but this gives them the opportunity to search the substrate looking for plankton and other organic matter they might consume.

Suitable Tank Mates

If you’re keeping your shrimp in nano or pico tanks, you won’t have room for many tankmates. Most people keep these shrimp in species-only tanks, within a colony of 3 or more sexies

However, this doesn’t mean you cannot keep your sexy shrimp in community tanks. Quite the opposite – they do well in tanks with other small shrimp or reef inhabitants.

The biggest concern when choosing suitable tankmates is their territorial behavior when it comes to other animals that also live with anemones. This means that it’s a really bad idea to keep a sexie with a clownfish!

Also, due to their small size, you should keep them away from other larger fish, such as angelfish, hawkfish, groupers, or wrassers.

As for suitable tankmates, these include:

  • Anemones
  • Snails
  • Peppermint shrimp
  • Porcelain crabs
  • Emerald crabs
  • Red fire shrimp

Of course, you need to make sure your tank is large enough to accommodate all these animals. You cannot expect to keep many species in a nano tank!

No matter which tankmates you choose, expect your sexy shrimp to dance all day long!

Can You Keep Sexy Shrimp With Corals?

If you’re having a reef tank, there is always a concern about fish that are safe for the reef environment.

In most cases, yes, sexy shrimp are perfectly safe for a reef tank. As their natural habitat are ocean reefs, they’ll live in harmony with their surroundings.

However, some shrimp might go rogue and start eating tiny bits of corals, especially polyps. This type of behavior is rare, but there are reports of such occurrences, especially with shrimp in captivity.

It is unclear why this happens, and stress doesn’t seem to be the main trigger. As such, I would always advise monitoring your sexy shrimp if you have a reef time. 

Sexy Shrimp Molting

Just like all other invertebrates, sexy shrimp go through the process called ‘molting’. This is when the shrimp sheds its old exoskeleton because it has grown a new, bigger one. 

Sexy shrimp will go through this process once a month on average, although younger shrimp might experience it more often.

If you’re new to shrimp keeping, you might be terrified to wake up one morning and see a dead shrimp at the bottom of the tank! However, there’s probably no need to panic. 

These shrimp will usually molt at night time. The exoskeleton they’ve dropped looks just like a dead shrimp, which will likely shock the tank owners.

It’s important to note that sexy shrimp is at its most vulnerable state during and right after molting. During this time, you should make sure there is nothing that could harm or stress out your little pet.

Also, this is when the shrimp are more likely to fall victim to parasites. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they are behaving in a regular way.

Sexy Shrimp Breeding

sexy shrimp

Most sexy shrimp you can find at pet stores are wild-caught. However, the reason behind this might not be what you’re expecting.

It isn’t challenging to breed sexy shrimp in captivity. They’ll mate pretty regularly in the right conditions. Fatty foods seem to increase the chances of mating, but proper water parameters are also a necessity.

When the conditions are right, some male shrimp will turn into females, so the breeding process can be completed.

The entire gestation period usually lasts up to 3 weeks. You will be able to see the eggs inside the mother shrimp’s belly once their pregnancy is nearing the term. The female can produce 100 to 300 eggs

However, it’s a true mission to keep the fry alive until their adult stage.

Due to their small size, baby shrimp will easily fall prey to other fish in the tank. Even their parents might eat them by mistake, although this doesn’t happen often. 

As such, it’s advisable to keep these shrimp in a species only tank, or to move pregnant shrimp into a breeder tank until they give birth – although a standard 40-gallon breeders tank is likely too large for them. 

Final Words

The sexy shrimp truly is an irresistible little creature! From their color to their adorable dance, there is nothing to hate about them!

What they lack in size they compensate for in their temperament. These shrimp have a personality and a half! Just ask their best friends, anemones. 

However, as most people keep them in tiny tanks, it’s essential to take amazing care of them. Stable water parameters and proper feeding are the key to their happiness.If you’ve planned on getting a tiny animal that will capture your heart, sexy shrimp is the right choice for you. Hopefully, this guide was of help to any aspiring keepers.