Re:Harlequin Shrimp

Pete Giwojna

Dear arcprolife:

Yes, sir, you really need to choose between one or the other. If there is a particular starfish that you want to keep in your aquarium, then you need to do without the Harlequin shrimp. Or, if you have your heart set on a mated pair of Harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera sp.), then you really need to do without a decorative starfish.

The harlequins won’t discriminate between inexpensive feeder starfish that you offer them for their meals and a fancy, expensive starfish that you would like to keep as an attractive addition to the aquarium. Sooner or later the fancy starfish is bound to attract the attention of the Harlequin shrimp and become a victim, no matter how well fed that you try to keep them.

I should explain that I have never tried that particular experiment, sir — I have never tried keeping Harlequin shrimp and having any starfish in the tank on other than those intended to be their meals. I don’t know if they would be at all inclined to "stockpile" starfish when they are abundant, or if they are content to dine on one starfish at a time. But since their method of attacking and immobilizing the starfish allows them to incapacitate the starfish but still keep it alive and healthy, they certainly could tackle more than one sea star when the feeding was good, clip off and consume all of their tube feet, and then have two helpless, completely immobilized starfish to feed upon at their leisure. Or they may decide the fancy starfish was more appealing as a meal than the cheap sea star you offered them as dinner at some point.

I just don’t think that would be a workable arrangement. At some point, the decorative starfish is bound to fall prey to the Harlequin shrimp.

Best of luck finding colorful, interesting tankmates for your seahorses, arcprolife!

Pete Giwojna

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