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Cleaner Shrimp Facts

Marlene Alphonse
The kingdom Animalia is full of fascinating and rare species. One of the amazing species that is found in the underwater world is the cleaner shrimp. This shrimp helps clean the pond or aquarium it breeds in, hence the name...
There are many species of scavenger fish that mainly help in keeping other fish clean. Cleaner shrimp belong to the species of omnivorous shrimp (which eat both plants and animals, mainly zooplanktons) that usually feed on parasites and dead tissue. 
This shrimp, whose botanical name is Lysmata amboinensis, is also known by other names like Pacific, skunk and northern cleaner shrimp, etc. This species of shrimp lives near the reef ecosystem and is found in the tropical Indo-Pacific ocean and the Red Sea.
The relation between the cleaner shrimp and the host fish is a classic example of symbiosis, where the host depends on the shrimp to get itself cleaned and the shrimp feeds on the debris and parasites off the body of the host.
The host also provides safety to the shrimp from its predators. This shrimp species survives very well in saltwater and are also used as a cleaning agent in aquariums, where they get rid of the parasites from the walls of the fish tank and also from the fish dwelling in it. Hence, this species of shrimp is mainly harvested for marine aquariums.

Classification of Cleaner Shrimp

Given below is the taxonomic classification of this shrimp.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Sub phylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infra order: Caridea
Family: Hippolytidae
Genus: Lysmata
Species: L. amboinensis

Facts about the Cleaner Shrimp

Because of its nature, cleaner shrimp are very popular and a must have in fish tanks as it helps clean up the aquarium and groom the fish. There are many interesting facts on the cleaner shrimp, a few of which are given below.
  • The physical appearance of this shrimp species is similar to that of the ordinary shrimp, with an elongated body and an orange colored underbelly. There are two pairs of long, white antennae that are situated on the head. 
There are also five pairs of legs, three pairs of walking legs called pereiopods and two pairs of swimming legs known as pleopods that are opaque and orange in color. This species can be clearly identified by its tail, which is completely red in color with white spots.
  • A pair of shrimp fish, in the wild, will set up a 'cleaning station', where several fish who need cleaning visit it. As a fish, who intends to have a good cleaning, approaches the cleaning station, the cleaner shrimp, crawls on the body of the fish and cleans it off debris and parasites. The shrimp cleans the inside of the mouth and gill cavity of the host fish without the fear of being eaten. They use the same methodology with the aquarium fish as well.
  • When it comes to feeding, this shrimp eats algae and the parasites. Sometimes the shrimp also feeds on zooplanktons and snails.
  • A female shrimp lays up to 50,000 to one million eggs at a time. The baby shrimp or the nauplii, as they are called, hatch out of the eggs within 24 hours. These young shrimp feed on the yolk reserves from the unhatched eggs.
  • The Pacific shrimp feeds on its own kind, during the mating season. After reproduction and fertilization of the eggs, the male shrimp feeds on the female.
  • Some of the species like the scarlet cleaner shrimp are hermaphrodites in nature, as they are born with male reproductive organs and grow female organs as they age.
  • The main predators of this shrimp are fish like cat sharks, lionfish, triggerfish and Moray eels.
  • Breeding cleaner shrimp in captivity is relatively hard than caring for them as the young shrimp are small in size and it is difficult to feed them, which leads to a high mortality rate. In spite of all this, the shrimp are bred and sold in the market.
These were some fascinating facts on the exotic species of cleaner shrimp. This species of shrimp is a boon to not only the wild but also to the aquariums.