Re:cleaner shrimp diet

Pete Giwojna

Dear Carolina:

It’s good to hear that you’re new Sunbursts (Clara and Snoopy) are doing so well. You have done a wonderful job of working with them and I’m happy to your that they are so friendly and really enjoy interacting with you and being handled.

With regard to using the feeding station, I should have warned you that once your ponies become accustomed to being fed by hand, they will often prefer handfeeding thereafter as opposed to taking their meals from a feeding station. The really sociable individuals, like Snoopy and Clara, seem to derive as much satisfaction from interacting with their keepers during the handfeeding sessions as they do from slurping up the gourmet Mysis relicta. In other words, as well as keeping the ponies well nourished, the handfeedings are a good source of behavioral enrichment for the seahorses that livens up their day, which is why they can become so clinging and "smoochy," as you so aptly put it. Sometimes they are reluctant to relinquish their grip and let you grow about your business, long after they have had plenty to eat.

Regarding your new Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius), they will happily eat a wide variety of meaty foods in addition to frozen Mysis. Like all of the decorative cleaner shrimp in the genus Lysmata, they will happily take meaty foods of all sorts, whether they are freeze-dried, meaty flake foods and pellet foods, or various frozen foods. This includes the Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp or Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) and the Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni), as well as your fire shrimp.

And, although the Fire Shrimp in particular are often very shy and secretive at first, preferring to hang out in caves or beneath overhangs with just their antennae showing, once they become accustomed to their new surroundings and realize how altogether safe they are, they also enjoy being hand fed. So don’t hesitate to allow your Fire Shrimp to take food right from your hand once it settles in and makes itself at home. That way, you don’t have to worry about any uneaten leftovers degrading your water quality, since you can simply remove whatever food items the shrimp does not take from your hand when you’re done feeding the shrimp. I would suggest using a good quality sinking pellet food designed for carnivores rather than herbivores when supplementing the diet of your Fire Shrimp.

But feel free to experiment with any meaty freeze-dried, frozen, or flake foods that are readily available at your local fish store. In my experience, the decorative cleaner shrimp are not at all fussy eaters and can be quite gluttonous and very brazen at feeding time, to the point of snatching food away from the seahorses. I have never met a cleaner shrimp that did not enjoy the frozen Mysis, and enriched frozen Mysis makes a very good meal for the decorative shrimp as well as the seahorses.

Best of luck with your new Fire Shrimp, Carolina! Here’s hoping that you soon have him feeding right out of your hand.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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