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Vampire Shrimp: Everything You Need To Know

Vampire Shrimp: Everything You Need To Know

Vampire shrimp aren’t common among freshwater tank owners. Yet, they’re incredibly beneficial. They’re filter feeders that help clean your tank, and their peaceful temperament makes them excellent tank mates.

Vampire shrimp have fairly easy care needs. However, because they’re uncommon, many people don’t know how to look after them. Most of their care needs are somewhat standard for crustaceans. Yet, they do have a few distinct quirks.

Continue reading to learn more about this shy little shrimp with a spooky name. They’re frequently overlooked but can make an excellent addition to freshwater tanks. Challenges with breeding are the most likely reason they’re infrequently found in pet stores.

What Are Vampire Shrimp?

Vampire shrimp (Atya gabonensis) are freshwater shrimp native to West Africa. They get the name ‘vampire’ from tiny, fang-like claspers that collect food. They also go by many names including the following:

  • African fan shrimp
  • Monster shrimp
  • Cameroon fan shrimp
  • African giant shrimp

These shrimp are big by shrimp standards. Their adult size is typically around 5-6 inches (12-15 cm). They come in a wide range of colors, including gray, white, pastel blue, cobalt blue, mint green, soft pink, and reddish-brown.

Camacuto shrimp are frequently misidentified as vampire shrimp. This caused the mistaken belief that there are wild vampire shrimp populations in South America and Florida. Neither location has a substantial wild population of vampire shrimp.

How Long Do Vampire Shrimp Live?

Most shrimp live for 1-6 years. However, this varies between species. Vampire shrimp are exceptionally long-lived for a shrimp. Most live to be about 5 years old, but vampire shrimp have been reported to live up to 10 years.

Vampire Shrimp Behavior

Vampire shrimp are attractive crustaceans with interesting behavior. 

Vampire Shrimp are Shy and Reclusive

Despite being called ‘vampires,’ these shrimp are rather docile. Although, they do live up to their vampire name for being nocturnal and reclusive. For this reason, vampire shrimp are happiest in tanks with lots of hiding spots.

Despite their size, many aquarists rarely see their vampire shrimp. This is because they spend most of their time in their hiding spots and come out when most people are asleep. 

So, they may not be the best choice for someone who wants showy, ornamental fish. Yet, they’re still gorgeous crustaceans that can beautify your tank when they decide to come out.

Vampire Shrimp are Good Around Aquatic Plants

Vampire shrimp is a great choice for plant-focused aquariums. They thrive in the thick vegetation, will help keep it clean, and pose no danger to your aquatic plants. Unlike other crustaceans, such as crabs and crayfish, they don’t have a digging habit that uproots plants.

Vampire Shrimp Like Socializing with Their Own Kind

Interestingly, they’re also social animals. They might be shy around you and other fish, but they love each other’s company. Many owners keep about 4 or 5 vampire shrimp in a tank. They don’t mind being crowded, but they need a comfortable amount of space like any animal.

Do Vampire Shrimp Change Colors?

One of the most attractive features of this species is its wide color range. More interestingly, one shrimp can display multiple colors throughout their lifetime

Typically, younger individuals have more vibrant colors, like bright blue, while older ones have duller colors, like rusty brown. Environment, diet, lighting, and molting phase will also change their color. 

In some cases, color change signifies a health issue. However, there are so many other reasons why vampire shrimp change colors. Therefore, a color change is not a cause for alarm unless it’s accompanied by other symptoms. 

Vampire Shrimp Care

Tank Size

Vampire shrimp need a 15-gallon (57 L) tank. Keep in mind that this is the minimum size they need. Opt for a larger tank to give the shrimp space, especially if they will have tank mates. 

Additionally, if your tank is too small, you’ll deprive your shrimp of food sources. This is because the tank’s filter will clean out the waste products that vampire shrimp like to eat. Your tank still needs a mechanical filtration system, so removing it won’t solve this issue.

If you have multiple vampire shrimp, they don’t mind getting cozy. Tank space is more of an issue if they will share the space with other species. These shrimp like to stick with their own, so they’ll want some distance from other fish. 

They won’t attack your other fish, but too many encounters can stress out the shrimp. You can keep a solo vampire shrimp in a tank with other fish. The shrimp will still be happy as the only one of their kind as long as they have space and hiding spots. 


Vampire shrimp are recluses that need plenty of hiding spots. Therefore, they need a tank with plenty of driftwood, rock, plants, and ornaments. 

Live plants are an excellent choice. Vampire shrimp can hide in them, and they produce organic waste that provides extra food.

Opt for a soft substrate like fine sand. The tiny, fang-like claspers that give vampire shrimp their nickname are delicate. The rough substrate can damage their claspers and feeder fans. Sand is also ideal because they eat sand particles to aid digestion. 

One unique thing about vampire shrimp is that they need a moderate water current to stay healthy. This is a stark contrast to other crustaceans that thrive in still water. Install a secondary pump near the bottom of your tank to satisfy this need.

Water Conditions

Like most shrimp, vampire shrimp are highly sensitive to ammonia and nitrate. Like all crustaceans, copper is toxic to vampire shrimp. Make an effort to remove copper, ammonia, and nitrate from your tank if you keep shrimp.

In addition, aim for the following parameters:

  • Temperature: 74 to 85°F (23 to 29°C). Water temperature is crucial to a vampire shrimp’s health. 
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.8. Vampire shrimp thrive in warm water with a neutral pH level.
  • Hardness: 3 to 10 dKH. They can handle a relatively wide range of hardness but no more than 10dKH.


Vampire shrimp are omnivorous detritivores. They eat both plant and animal matter, but their diet is slightly plant-forward. Wild population studies have noticed that most of their diet is algae and organic waste.

They’re good at finding their own food, so you don’t need to feed them often. You can add some food supplements to their tank to keep them well-fed. Opt for powdered food that they can catch in the water currents. 

Suitable food options include:

  • Copper-free commercial invertebrate food
  • Powdered spinach
  • Crushed shrimp pellets
  • Crushed fish flakes (copper-free)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Zooplankton

Tank Mates

Vampire shrimp are peaceful tank mates that enjoy being with others of their species. 

They aren’t known to attack other fish, but some fish species will make a meal out of them. Vampire shrimp are bigger than average shrimp, so it’s okay to let them live with some fish that normally eat smaller shrimp.

Good Tank Mates

  • Other vampire shrimp. These shrimp are social animals that love being around their own kind.
  • Guppies. Guppies are known to eat smaller shrimp, but vampire shrimp are too big for them.
  • Danios. Vampire shrimp are a good alternative to smaller shrimp in tanks with danios.
  • Snails. Vampire shrimp will leave most freshwater snails alone. 
  • Other shrimp species. Aquarists see lots of success with ghost shrimp, red cherry shrimp, and bamboo shrimp.

Bad Tank Mates

  • Crayfish. Standard-sized crayfish will eat vampire shrimp. Some aquarists have managed to keep vampire shrimp with dwarf crayfish. However, a vampire shrimp can easily overpower a dwarf crayfish in an altercation.
  • Goldfish. The most popular aquarium fish is a bad idea with vampire shrimp. They naturally eat shrimp and can grow big enough to attack the larger vampire shrimp.
  • Cichlids. These fish are aggressive and will make a meal out of most crustaceans and smaller fish.

Can You Keep Vampire Shrimp With Betta Fish?

Bettas are frequently debated as tank mates for many species. Bettas will eat smaller shrimp, but they’ll likely leave the large vampire shrimp alone. However, they’re probably still unsuitable tank mates because they need different water conditions to thrive.

Vampire Shrimp Reproduction

Perhaps one of the reasons why vampire shrimp are uncommon is because they’re difficult to breed. As a result, many vampire shrimp in stores are wild-caught. 

The main reason why they’re so difficult to breed is that it’s hard to recreate their ideal spawning conditions. Here are some of them:

  • Vampire shrimp only breed after a molt before they regrow their new shells. This is because males cannot fertilize females through their shells. 
  • Vampire shrimp are notorious for accidentally killing their own offspring. Therefore, the survival rate for babies is low.
  • Baby vampire shrimp can’t live in freshwater, while adult vampire shrimp can’t live in saltwater. In the wild, females immediately transport babies to brackish conditions. She’ll then wait for four months before retrieving them. This transportation process can also kill them.

Because they have a low childhood survival rate, vampire shrimp lay lots of eggs. A female vampire shrimp can lay up to 12,000 eggs in one laying. These eggs take about 3-4 weeks to hatch before the new mother makes a mad dash to brackish waters. 

Breeders are trying to establish captive-bred populations. However, it’s been an extremely difficult process. Currently, there are no substantial captive-bred vampire shrimp populations. Be mindful of this fact if you’re opposed to owning wild-caught animals. 


Pet vampire shrimp aren’t easy to find, but the people who have them love them. They’re fantastic little tank cleaners who make excellent alternatives to smaller shrimp that can’t live with other fish. 

Chances are that any specimen you’ll see for sale is wild-caught. This fact may impact your decision to get one for moral or safety reasons. Wild-caught animals are more likely to carry bacteria that can impact other pets.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...