Ghost shrimp is a common name used for a collection of transparent shrimp species. Identification of male and female ghost shrimp is an easy task if you have all the details. Here I am going to describe method I used to differentiate male ghost shrimp from female.
The most popular ghost shrimp species belongs to the Palaemonetes family. Although ghost shrimps are considered pests in aquaculture, aquarists love them because ghost shrimps help keep algae levels down in aquariums.
Their transparency makes them more interesting as you won’t find them in your tank right away.
Ghost shrimps are not sentimental pets like Goldfish and Koi, as their lifespan is short. They live for about one year and reach a maximum of two inches long.
However, the price tag of ghost shrimps is low, which makes them affordable to buy every year.
Ghost shrimp features
Regardless of gender, ghost shrimps have some common features. Their body is transparent, and there is a yellow color spot in the center of the tail.
The segmented body has ten sets of legs. Among them, the first four sets of legs have small claws to aid the shrimp in feeding. Ghost shrimps grow up to two inches long.
Features to differentiate male and female ghost shrimps
Although all ghost shrimps may look the same, there are some features that you can differentiate between male and female ghost shrimps.
If your ghost shrimp has a saddle visible, it means your shrimp is a female. The saddle is the ovary of shrimps.
It is where the eggs of shrimps develop. When the female shrimp is ready to breed, the eggs travel from the saddle to the front (lower) part of the body through a (mammal’s fallopian tube-like) tube.
This is one of the most critical organs of ghost shrimps because it is needed for reproduction.
All shrimps have pleopods that look the same. These are five pairs of legs that are used for swimming.
Pleopods situate underneath the abdomen of the shrimp, and all shrimps types have them. However, their use can differ between males and females.
Male shrimps use pleopods only for swimming and nothing else.
Female shrimps use pleopods for swimming and giving some oxygen to the eggs they carry. Female shrimps carry their eggs on the bottom of their abdomen.
Just like adult shrimp, their eggs also need oxygen to develop. And also, female shrimp constantly fan them to keep them clean and ensure that mold and bacteria don’t grow.
Berried females (shrimp that carry eggs) got a larger belly. Therefore, it is harder for them to keep their tails like the male.
So, they bend their back to make things easy. This bending helps them to hold their eggs better. Further, this back curve helps us identify berried females from a group of shrimps.
There’s no color difference between males and females. However, female ghost shrimps have a green saddle on the underside of the belly while males don’t.
Because of their transparency, this saddle is visible. Therefore, you can identify female ghost shrimp quickly.
Female ghost shrimps are bigger than male shrimps. Under optimum conditions, female shrimp reach about 1.5 inches while male ghost shrimp reach only about 1.2 inches.
This is one of the main differences of ghost shrimp that will help you identify the gender.
The big muscles of the tail mostly take up the abdomen segment—the reproductive system and the intestine present inside this section.
Seven overlapping plates of the shell cover the abdomen segment for protection. Females have a larger abdomen because of their eggs, while males have a flat abdomen segment.
A Ghost Shrimp has a pair of short antennas and a pair of long antennas. Comparing the length of these antennas, female shrimps have shorter antennas than mele shrimps.
While this is not clearly visible, this is not a gender-identifying sign that is popular among aquarists.
|Female Ghost Shrimp||Male Ghost Shrimp|
|Visible saddle||No saddle|
|Pleopods are used for swimming and providing oxygen for eggs inside the belly||Pleopods are used for swimming only|
|Visible Back curve in berried shrimps||No back Curve|
|Transparent color with visible green saddle||Transparent color|
|Large size (about 1.5 inches)||Small size (about 1.2 inches)|
|Larger and rounder abdomen segment||Flat abdomen segment|
|Short antenna||Long antenna|
Is it easy to identify male and female ghost shrimps when they are young?
No. It is almost impossible to identify male and female ghost shrimps when they are young.
Ghost shrimp babies take around three to four weeks to mature, and they look the same when they are small.
The differences between male and female shrimp become visible when they mature. So, you have to wait for at least three weeks to identify male and female ghost shrimps.
However, the shrimps at the pet store are mostly adult shrimps. So, it is easier to identify the gender before buying new shrimp.
When Is the best time to identify them?
The best time to identify ghost shrimp is after they mature.
Every few weeks, female ghost shrimp produce eggs. When the saddle is filled with eggs, it is clearly visible in green color.
Further, the female berried shrimp’s tail side is bent more than the male shrimp. Female shrimp also constantly paddle pleopods faster than male shrimp to provide oxygen for the eggs.
And also, female shrimp are usually larger than male ghost shrimp. So, it is easier to identify female ghost shrimp when they carry eggs.
How do you identify ghost shrimp?
The main identification of ghost shrimp is their transparency. Ghost shrimp has a glass-like transparent body.
Therefore, they are also called glass shrimp. A matured ghost shrimp reaches about one and a half inches in length and generally has a pencil eraser’s diameter when they are fully grown.
Ghost shrimps are thinner and more streamlined than Amano shrimp, and like other shrimp, they resemble crayfish.
But, ghost shrimp have much softer shells than crayfish. They have a slight hump midway down the length of their tail.
Can a ghost shrimp live in a bowl?
Yes. Ghost shrimps can live in a bowl as long as the water temperature stays between around 65 to 79 degrees.
They also can live without any filters and heaters. You can keep four ghost shrimps per gallon if there are no other species in your bowl.
Can ghost shrimp live without a filter?
Yes. Ghost shrimp can live without a filter if you provide adequate water conditions, especially the temperature.
Ghost shrimp needs around 65- 79 F temperature in water, and the ideal temperature is 70 degrees. If your tank doesn’t have any filters, it needs an alternative method to provide oxygen and filtration.
The best way is to grow plants in your fish tank. In planted tanks, ghost shrimps thrive without the need for filters.
Where do ghost shrimp lay their eggs?
Ghost shrimps do not lay their eggs. Instead, they keep the fertilized eggs inside their belly until they hatch.
The incubation period of ghost shrimp eggs is from 12 to 14 days. The tiny, delicate, and free-swimming larvae come out from the belly afterward.
Do ghost shrimp die after laying eggs?
No. Although ghost shrimps have a short life span, researchers have seen that ghost shrimps breed multiple times.
However, the pregnant ghost shrimp may die due to stress in pregnancy. Again, that is up to their environmental condition.
Do ghost shrimp drop their eggs?
Unlike many fish, ghost shrimps carry their fertilized eggs until the eggs hatch.
Although it is improbable, some female shrimps drop their eggs due to small size or inexperience. Sometimes female ghost shrimps abandon their eggs due to poor water conditions and stress.
How quickly do shrimp reproduce?
Shrimps begin breeding after 3 to 5 months.
When the female shrimp is ready to breed, the eggs “ripen,” and the female shrimp molt while releasing pheromone to call male shrimp. This molting process happens within about 10 seconds.
The male shrimp responds to this hormone and searches everywhere for the female immediately. Once they meet face to face, they start to mate.
This mating process also happens fast and takes about 10 seconds total. When they mate, the male shrimp releases sperm into the genital opening of the female shrimp using its masculine appendix.
Then the eggs fertilize and move from saddle to the brood pouch. The female shrimp carrying these fertilized eggs is called berried shrimp.
It takes about 12 to 14 days to incubate eggs. After this time, the eggs hatch, and larvae come out from the female shrimp belly to the water.
These larvae are tiny and free-swimming and take around 3 to 5 months to mature.
How many babies do shrimp have at a time?
Ghost shrimp have about 20 to 30 eggs at a time and produce eggs every few weeks.
If you keep your shrimps in a community tank, you may not get any shrimp babies at all because they become prey for your other fish.
So, if you want to breed ghost shrimps, you will have to keep the shrimps in a separate tank.