The vampire shrimp (Atya gabonensis) is a shy and peaceful shrimp to keep in a community tank. It is also known as the Viper Shrimp, African Fan Shrimp, Giant African Filter Shrimp, African Filter Shrimp, or Gabon Shrimp.
If you have kept aquarium shrimp before, you will find it easy to rear the vampire shrimp. Keep in mind that copper is fatal for shrimps.
The vampire shrimp is indigenous to West Africa from Senegal to the Republic of Congo and the South American countries of Brazil and Venezuela. They are adapted to fast-flowing streams and rocky bottoms, and they are common in mangrove systems in their native habitats.
The shrimp will cling to rocks and use their fan-like front claws to catch floating algae and crustaceans.
Vampire Shrimp Appearance
The vampire shrimp will be about 1-3 inches in pet stores, and it will grow to a maximum length of 4.5 inches in captivity. Wild varieties can reach 5-6 inches.
This shrimp appears more heavily-built when compared to other aquarium shrimp. The vampire shrimp also features bumpy points on the sides of their legs and a large point at the end of the legs.
These points, in combination with the boxy appearance, gives the shrimp a menacing look. This appearance can be deceiving since the shrimp is docile and harmless.
The shrimp’s body has blue-ish grey tones, although its colors change over time. Other variations include white, pink, maroon, brown, and hints of green.
Your vampire shrimp will be unrecognizable after a molt, and it can even lose some of its colors. While molting will happen every 4-6 weeks, you might not spot the new shell every time.
Some aquarists can mistake the shed exoskeleton to be a dead shrimp. You can remove the exoskeleton and inspect the shell to be sure that your vampire shrimp is not dead.
Vampire Shrimp Tank Requirements
When keeping vampire shrimp, there are few things to consider such as tank size, substrate type, plants, filtration and lighting.
– Tank Size
The vampire shrimp picks food from the water, and they require a decent amount to feed. You can begin with a 20-gallon aquarium with dimensions at 30 × 12 × 12. You can keep 5 or 6 vampire shrimp in one tank.
When choosing a substrate, keep in mind that the fans on a vampire shrimp are susceptible to injury. You can use sand or fine gravel and add pebbles and large rocks. Do not keep them in bare-bottom tanks as the shrimp need something to hold onto.
– Plants and Decoration
Vampire shrimp are quite shy, and they love hiding places. Shelters are essential for shrimp because they are vulnerable after molting. Your vampire shrimp will sit in one spot as their exoskeleton hardens. The shrimp will typically create one cave that they will make bigger as they grow.
Live plants will create a jungle-like aesthetic in your aquarium and encourage the growth of the microscopic food that the shrimp will feed on. Use decorations and rocks to create places where the shrimp can retreat.
Vampire shrimp thrive in a blend of direct lighting and shade. To avoid startling your shrimp, use LED lights that have an auto sunrise and sunset setting. If you notice that your vampire shrimp only comes out at night, select an LED light with a soft moonlight glow that will encourage them to come out and feed.
Vampire Shrimp Water Conditions
Vampire shrimp will not do well with chlorinated water, and you should condition your tap water before draining it into the aquarium. The aquarium should be mature and established with water parameters around the tropical range.
The ideal temperature range is 75-85ºF with the PH at 6.6-7.5. Ensure that the KH level does not go below 3 to maintain the correct PH range.
Nitrite and ammonia are fatal to vampire shrimp, and they must be kept at 0ppm. Nitrate levels should not exceed 20 ppm.
You do not want to keep your vampire shrimp in an aquarium that is too ‘clean’ since it feeds on micro-organisms and any other edible matter in the water. This does not mean that the shrimp do not need high-quality water.
Filters are vital in a vampire shrimp tank because they love strong currents. They use their fans to capture the food particles in the currents. A Hang-on-Back filter will suit smaller setups, and you can invest in powerheads and air-stones. The shrimp hold onto rocks with their claws to withstand water currents.
Vampire Shrimp Diet and Feeding
The shrimp is omnivorous, and it does not have any specific feeding adaptation. You can use shrimp and algae tablets as the primary diet and alternate with freeze-dried foods. Release the food close to their hiding spots.
Squeeze the filter sponge into the water as the shrimp will love feeding on the floating gunk. The ideal aquarium of the vampire shrimp should have high populations of micro-organisms and diatoms. Feed the shrimp every two to three days since you cannot see microscopic foods in the water. Too much of it will result in water quality issues.
Vampire Shrimp Tank Mates
The vampire shrimp is incredibly peaceful in a community set up. A vampire shrimp will establish a ‘home’ in the aquarium, where they will spend most of their time. They can become stressed if they cannot find their favorite cave, and you should not alter the tank’s décor in any way.
The vampire shrimp is compatible with shrimp like ghost, red cherry, bamboo, amano, pearl, and bumblebee. You can couple them with peaceful tropical fish like swordtails, mollies, tetras, and platies. Avoid larger fish and bullying fish that are known to pick on shrimp.
Vampire Shrimp Breeding
Breeding vampire shrimps is incredibly tricky, and the aquarium trade relies on wild-caught species. There is almost no successful account of the successful breeding of this shrimp.
The problem is that the larvae take a long time to develop into juveniles, and this process is only successful in saltwater. They will need to be gradually moved to freshwater and any mistake will result in the death of the shrimp.
Vampire shrimp are not very common, but they are a fascinating addition to a community tank. They are mostly harvested in the wild, which has made them endangered.
If you are going to keep the shrimp, therefore, give it the best water conditions so that they thrive.