Do Ghost Shrimp Need A Filter? (And Which Is Best)

Ghost shrimp are one of the most popular shrimp species found in the aquarium hobby. They are hardy, easy to care for, make minimal mess, and look much more interesting than your everyday goldfish.

The ever-popular question is, though, do ghost shrimp need a filter?

In this article, we’re going to dive into whether they really need a filter and if they do. which type is best.

Do Ghost Shrimp Need A Filter?

As an aquatic species living within the confines of a tank, yes, ghost shrimp do indeed need a filter. Ghost shrimp are a species that do a good job of cleaning up after themselves, but even so, it’s easy for concentrations of nitrate and ammonia to build up to dangerous levels within the water column, which is why a filter is necessary.

What Are The Benefits of Using A Filter?

When it comes to using a filter in your ghost shrimp tank, there are a surprising number of benefits, including the following.

Boosts Growth and Reproduction

Ghost shrimp have notoriously short lifespans and, because of this, they grow very quickly into adults. Poor water quality, which is often a direct result of not having a filter, can cause delays in growth and even prevent the shrimp from reaching a healthy stage of adulthood.

Having a filter in your shrimp tank ensures that the water stays clean and doesn’t become a potential cause of reduced growth rates, premature death, or offspring that die off before completing their growth cycles.

Reduces Water Change Frequency

Maintaining good water quality is, perhaps, the best way to ensure the survival of ghost shrimp. Ghost shrimps are sensitive to water parameters, namely because they use the water to develop new exoskeletons after molting.

They quite literally absorb the water in their surroundings — along with everything that’s in it, including the toxic levels of chemicals that build up if the water isn’t cleaned often enough. When the water starts to get cloudy, green, or otherwise dirty, it’s time for a change, and, unfortunately, this tends to become a requirement a lot more frequently without a filter.

On the other side of things, doing frequent water changes is also not recommended because it puts the shrimp at a higher risk of osmotic shock, which can be fatal.

These two contradicting factors are what make reducing how often water changes are done an important benefit of having a filter (or two).

Aids Molting

As we said, ghost shrimp molt and then absorb water to create their new shells. When the water is dirty, they absorb it, which can cause complications with the new shell growth, as well as interfere with the next cycle of molting.

Lower Levels of Stress

When the water is clean, the shrimp are happy. This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether you need a filter or not. When the water is dirty, your shrimp can easily become stressed.

This happens for a number of reasons, including issues with molting, a lack of oxygen for breathing, and the build-up of harmful chemicals and waste products.

Comparatively, you can think of it as if you were locked in your bathroom with a toilet that wouldn’t flush. Eventually, the toilet paper and waste would be all over the bathroom, causing you a great deal of distress and skyrocketing your stress levels.

What Will Happen If You Don’t Use A Filter?

There are a number of things that can happen when you opt to skip the filter.

Ammonia Burns

When you don’t use a filter in your ghost shrimp tank, you run a very high risk of your shrimp developing ammonia burns. These are burns that come about as a result of high levels of ammonia, which is the main component of the waste produced by your shrimp.

Ammonia burns are painful and easy to see. They present as bright red-orange patches of skin and, on shrimp, can also be observed via the breathing patterns of your shrimp since they tend to affect the gills early on.

Your shrimp may begin to breathe rapidly or heavily and will likely lose its energy in addition to developing the angry patches of flesh.

Lack of Oxygen

Freshwater carries oxygen, and without oxygen, fish can’t breathe. This is the same for your shrimp.

When the water quality deteriorates, the quantity of oxygen within it decreases, making it hard for your tank inhabitants to stay happy and healthy. When you don’t have a filter, this happens much more quickly than if you did have one.


Unfortunately, death can be a result of not having a filter. It isn’t something that will happen overnight, but if your aquarium inhabitants go without a filter for too long, it could be a possibility.

It goes without saying that both of the things we just mentioned can result in death if left for too long, which is specifically why we included this grim reality on our list today.

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What Type Of Filter Is Best For Ghost Shrimp?

There are two popular choices for ghost shrimp filters: Hamburg-Matten filters and sponge filters. Generally, sponge filters are considered second-best in comparison but will work just fine in the absence of a matten filter.

So, what is a matten filter? Chances are that you haven’t heard of it — and this isn’t surprising. It’s not a filter that is commonly found in pet stores, and as such, it’s not as readily available as other filters such as HOB.

Matten filters provide a large amount of space for beneficial bacteria to grow since they are usually double to triple the size of a traditional sponge filter. They also don’t have any moving parts that could be dangerous to your shrimp and put out a very gentle water flow that is undisruptive.

Like sponge filters, these very large but efficient filters use an air pump to circulate water, which makes them relatively quiet and great for bedrooms or offices. They are easy to install and even easier to clean, as they can be cleaned under clean running water and don’t have any filter media that requires replacing.

In our opinion, the Hamburg Mattenfilters by Swiss Tropicals is one of the best on the market. These filters are sold in kits containing everything you’ll need for installation and startup. They are trusted by professionals and fairly affordable in the grand scheme of things.

To recap, remember that ghost shrimp absolutely do need a filter. Having at least one filter per aquarium will keep your shrimp healthy and happy while also minimizing the risk of osmotic shock and all that comes with it.

Without a filter, your shrimp are at risk of ammonia burns, running out of oxygen, and even death. Yikes!

You can avoid unnecessary these risks by investing in a Matten filter or a sponge filter if you can’t get your hands on the former of the two. By going through Swiss Tropicals, you should be able to find a suitable Matten filter for your aquarium.

Regardless of which filter you use, though, one thing is certain: using a filter is crucial.

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!