The grass shrimp is a very small shrimp that lives among the marsh grasses in fresh and brackish waterways in many parts of the eastern United States. They are pinkish in color but so pale as to be almost transparent, with yellowish eye stalks protruding from their heads. These shrimp are also sometimes called popcorn shrimp.
Grass shrimp may be found where there is underwater vegetation, but they also live in and around oyster beds on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. They are plentiful in the areas they inhabit. There may be thousands of them in a square meter of habitat during much of the year.
These little shrimp are not commercially important in general, since they aren’t eaten by humans or used as bait for the fishing industry. They do, however, provide an important ecological link in the areas they inhabit. Glass shrimp eat algae and many kinds of detritus in the waters where they live. They also eat decaying plants and animals. The shrimp are in turn eaten by many different species of fish, a number of which are commercially important.
There are three types of grass shrimp that all inhabit the same areas. The first is the daggerblade grass shrimp, the second is the marsh grass shrimp, and the third is the brackish grass shrimp. Each one occupies a slightly different niche in terms of water salinity and temperature, though in many locations they mingle freely.
Though grass shrimp are not used commercially for bait, it is common for individual fishermen choose to catch their own shrimp to use for fishing. They can be caught with traps, by wading into the waters where they congregate and picking them up, or by raking through their grassy hiding places with a long-handled rake. Fishermen typically catch what they need for a single day, since the shrimp are best used while alive.
These shrimp will reproduce at just about any time of the year, except November and December. It is common for them to have more than one brood per year, though it depends on where they live. When they spawn, the female carries the eggs attached to her legs, called pleopods, for anywhere from two weeks to two months. The young go through several stages before becoming mature at about two months of age. Grass shrimp live for up to 13 months, and those that live through a winter will reproduce again in the spring before they die.