Fun to watch and fastidious cleaners, Ghost shrimp are a popular addition to home aquatic environments, and for a good reason. If you are thinking about adding some to your own tanks, then the first question is obvious. What do Ghost Shrimp eat?
Today we’ll cover this topic in-depth. We’ll let you know what they eat in the wild, what their ideal diet might be, as well as what you should feed captive adults and babies – including frequency and amounts!
Finally, we’ll give you a FAQ section with some specific shrimp snacks that we are asked about all the time so that you can simplify or vary your shrimp’s diet to your heart’s content.
Without further ado, Let’s dig deep into the diets of amazing Ghost Shrimps!
What Do Ghost Shrimp Eat?
Ghost shrimp are geared for survival, eating just about anything that they come across. While they favor dead plant material, ghost shrimp will munch on live plants when they need to, and they also get vitamins from detritus – specifically fish fecal matter and unfinished food. Finally, they enjoy algae and will eat smaller organisms from time to time.
Commercial foods that mimic their diets are also readily gobbled by hungry ghost shrimp, as well.
While they prefer their plant bits to be dead, ghost shrimp will eat live plants when their preferred plant leavings are not available. Even with many of them eating the same plant, the amounts are minimal and unlikely to harm the plant.
Sifting through the dirt and debris, ghost shrimp can scavenger fecal matter to reclaim undigested vitamins, and they also find remnants of food that freshwater fish have missed or otherwise discarded after eating.
While plant-like, Algae is actually considered to be bacteria, but for ghost shrimp, algae is simply a delicious and abundant treat that they enjoy whenever they come across it.
Brine shrimp, bloodworms… if it’s smaller than the ghost shrimp, then it’s going to become part of the food chain. While tiny, Ghost shrimp are robust scavengers and nutritional opportunists, eating algae and organisms as they come.
Pellets, algae wafers, fish flakes… some commercial options are out there, and the shrimp are happy to partake of them. In a captive environment, these foods are an excellent way to help to ensure the health and longevity of your ghost shrimps.
What’s The Ideal Diet For Ghost Shrimp?
Ideally, captive Ghost shrimp will do best on a diet of algae, detritus, shrimp or fish pellets, and the occasional blanched vegetables in minute amounts to help round out their optimal nutritional profile. Foods that supplement their calcium should be included to keep their shells healthy, strong and to facilitate successful molting as required.
What Do Ghost Shrimp Eat In The Wild?
A North American native, the Ghost shrimp may be found in freshwater, typically close to the bottom where the water moves slowly and the waste from other fish is naturally deposited. Nocturnal by nature, these little guys take advantage of logs, underwater plants, and more to hide until night, when these omnivores feed on a mostly herbivorous diet.
Ghost shrimp love eating algae in the wild, especially hair algae, which they gobble up readily in the wild. This makes them highly desirable for tank maintenance, as this love of algae carries on whether they are in a river or your tank at home.
Insects And Insect Larvae
When the insects or their larvae are small enough, Ghost shrimp will definitely eat them. Mosquitos are a good example of a regular snack of this variety which Ghost shrimp eat regularly in the wild.
Live or dead, Ghost shrimp will nibble on plant materials which are an abundant food source in their freshwater abodes.
As they reside in the slow-moving currents at the bottom of freshwater, Ghost shrimp take advantage of their locale to sift the river bottoms for discarded food and for fecal matter from freshwater fish. They’ll even nibble on discarded shells from other shrimp, taking advantage of the calcium boost that this brings.
What Do Baby Ghost Shrimp Eat?
Even baby Ghost shrimp are kind of touch. Despite their tiny size, their diets are similar to those that they will possess at maturity – just in smaller portion sizes. Baby ghost shrimp will eat algae, plant debris, and crumbled-up pellets, and algae wafers as soon as you deposit them into the tank.
As this is a dietary mainstay, baby Ghost shrimp are already quite capable of eating any available algae in the tank, and they will definitely do this. If you are breeding them, a separate tank is a good idea, as they are quite vulnerable when they are this tiny.
Just make sure that the tank has been cycled and aged long enough to build up delicious little algae for the babies.
As natural decay slowly occurs, fish nibble on your underwater plants, and little bits end up on the floor of the tank. Baby Ghost shrimp will nibble and tear at these to enjoy this organic fare, just like their parents.
Crumbled Pellets And Algae Wafers
The pellets and algae wafers which are already feeding to the adults are quite welcome and fully palatable to the babies, but you are going to need to crumble them down so that they can eat these nutritious offerings with their tiny mouths.
How Often Should You Feed Your Ghost Shrimp?
Initial feeding is going to be largely a matter of getting a feel for your shrimp’s appetites. If you have a large number of shrimps, then daily feedings are fine, but you want to follow the ‘4-hour rule’. This simply means that you want to give them as much as they can eat in 4 hours.
After 4 hours, clean up the uneaten food and take note to feed them less next time. After a few sessions, you’ll find the perfect amount for your Ghost shrimp.
If you are hosting a relatively small or modest colony, then feeding 4 times a week will be fine, as long as you’ve got some plants in your tank which they can munch on in a pinch.
How Often Should You Feed Baby Ghost Shrimp?
This is the hard part, as babies need to be fed every 2 – 3 hours until they get big enough to look like miniature adults. Be sure to clean up the excess after feedings, and the babies should grow up fairly quickly.
Algae and plants in your tank will help if you are on a busy schedule, but you are still going to need to feed your baby Ghost shrimp additional foods so that they will quickly mature and may thrive in your breeding tank until they are large enough to transfer back.
You can strain small amounts of egg yolk with a very fine strainer (remember, they have tiny mouths!), and you can also or alternatively feed them things like micro worms, baby brine shrimp, or even powdered algae (spirulina is the algae of choice).
Finally, if you don’t mind the additional cost for a little convenience, then you can purchase prepared ‘fry food’ for Ghost shrimp larvae and babies in a powdered form that you can feed the babies.
What Does It Mean If Your Ghost Shrimp Isn’t Eating?
Barring illness (which generally makes your Ghost shrimp look an unhealthy white), there are 2 primary reasons why your Ghost shrimp is not eating. It will either be an issue with water parameters, or there might already be an abundance of food in the tank from the current level of algae and plants.
The Water May Not Be At Optimal Levels For Your Shrimp
Ghost shrimp, like all of your tank life, have specific conditions which they require to stay healthy and happy. The temperature range is first, and this should be between 72 and 82 degrees to keep your shrimp comfortable and active. They will also require a PH of 7.0 to 8.0 for best results.
They Might Be Eating When You Aren’t Looking
If you have a lot of algae and plant life in your tank already, then your Ghost shrimp might just not be hungry. If the temperature is good and the PH levels are optimal, unless your shrimp is pale and white, then they are probably just eating the food that is already in the tank.
The additional nutrients they get from the wafers, and other foods you introduce are still important, so continue feeding as normal and cleaning up the extra, and your shrimp should start showing a little more interest in a short period of time.
Just keep a close eye on them for the next day or two to see if you can catch them feeding on their plants so that you’ll have confirmation that they are eating.
How Can You Encourage Your Ghost Shrimp To Eat?
If your Ghost shrimp are still not eating, there may be too many in your tank. Shrimp tend to reproduce quickly, and too many shrimps will add to the nitrites and ammonia content in the water, which can sicken them and your other fish as well. If you’ve ruled this out, you can try varying their diet to see if this makes a difference.
Check The Size Of Your Colony Against The Size Of The Tank
You will want to compare your gallon capacity to the number of shrimps in the tank to make sure that you do not have too many for the environment. This is especially true if you have a large number of fish cohabitating the tank with them, as the waste can build up quickly.
As a general rule, you want 3 – 4 Ghost shrimp per gallon of water. If you have too many, you will want to prepare an additional tank by cycling it and letting it build up a little algae, though if you need to transfer them quickly, then you can supplement their diets w2ith powdered spirulina and other pet-store foods you’ve got around while the tank matures.
Try Varying Their Diet To Tempt Them
You can try new foods to see if this stimulates their appetites. Powdered algae, algae wafers, even live or dead brine shrimp can sometimes tempt your Ghost shrimp into taking a nibble and getting a little extra nutrition.
Let’s take a look at some other eating habits which we are commonly asked about before we close out on this article.
Below you’ll find the most common questions we get about the Ghost shrimp diet so that you can understand their diets a little better and diversify the food offerings at home as needed.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Poop?
Yes. While they will sometimes spit it out of their mouths, Ghost shrimp will often consume fecal matter or bits of it to get at any undigested food or vitamin content which it still contains. They won’t bother the other fish, but once a dropping settles, they will generally check it out if they see it.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Algae?
Yes. Ghost shrimp make excellent additions to tanks, and this is one of the primary reasons. They will happily consume algae as it grows in your tank and help to keep the environment nice and clean. Babies can eat it, too, though powdered forms are preferable in the larval stage.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Hair Algae?
When it comes to Hair algae, you’d be hard put to find an organism that loves it more. Hair algae is a favorite of Ghost shrimp, and they will happily gobble it up as they find it. A good-sized colony will definitely keep the density of this algae down in your tank.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Brown Algae?
Yes. Brown algae is another favorite of Ghost shrimp, and they are quite happy to eat it. When it comes to algae, Ghost shrimp are quite happy to eat just about any kind that they find. If your tank still has an excess, check the gallon volume to see if more Ghost shrimp might not be a good idea for improving its maintenance.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Snails?
Yes, if they are small enough. They will also eat snail eggs if they are the right size. Dead snails are definitely going to be nibbled on as well, though if it’s larger than the Ghost shrimp likely did not kill it.
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Algae Wafers?
Yes. Algae wafers are a welcome food whenever you deign to add them. Just be sure it’s crumbled fine for babies and broken up into slightly larger bits for adults (based on their mouth size).
Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Each Other?
Yes, but not alive. If a Ghost shrimp dies, then it becomes part of the menu, but Ghost shrimp are not aggressive. They may also nibble on discarded shells, which are excellent sources of extra calcium and good for them to eat.
Recap: Ghost Shrimp Are Omnivorous And Eat Just About Everything!
Today we’ve taken a look at the diverse diets of Ghost shrimp, both in the wild and in captivity. While they mostly eat algae and plants in the wild, you can certainly introduce live or dead animals into their diet; just make sure that the amounts are broken up enough if you are also feeding babies.
Keep to the proscribed feeding levels and if your shrimp won’t eat, check the water parameters, try varying their diets, and ensure that the shrimp-per-gallon ratio is ideal. Just follow the tips which we’ve shared today, and your Ghost shrimp colony should do just fine!