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What is Anemone Shrimp?

Anemone shrimp are captivating marine creatures, often cloaked in vibrant hues, that form a symbiotic bond with sea anemones. They dance among the tentacles, protected from predators, while keeping their hosts clean. Their world is a delicate balance of cooperation and survival. How do these tiny dancers thrive in their underwater ballet? Join us to uncover the secrets of their symbiotic spectacle.
Debra Durkee
Debra Durkee

The anemone shrimp is a small, saltwater dwelling creature that gets its name from its preferred habitat around anemones. There are several different varieties of the shrimp, which can be found in saltwater reefs around the world. Many can be included in home aquariums as long as they do not share the tank with carnivorous fish that may eat them.

Most members of the anemone shrimp family are small; among the largest is the sexy anemone shrimp, which reaches a mature length of only about 1/2 inch (about 4 cm). Other types are only about 1/2 inch (about 1.3 cm) when fully grown. They can be difficult to see among the brightly colored reefs and anemones they live in, as part or most of their bodies are often transparent. These crustaceans may sport differently colored opaque spots on the body; the spots can range in color from brown and white to red, and males and females have similar coloring.

Anemone shrimp prefer to live among anemones.
Anemone shrimp prefer to live among anemones.

In addition to anemones, anemone shrimp sometimes make homes among sea cucumbers and coral, and are often found near the equally passive clownfish. The anemone shrimp's choice of shelter affords more than just a hiding place; the tentacles of many types of anemones will sting fish that get too close. By living within these tentacles, the shrimp takes advantage of this defense system as well. Different species of these shrimps can be found in the reefs off the coast of Australia, as well as areas of Indonesian waters, the Red Sea, and the southern Pacific Ocean.

Anemone shrimp will occasionally live among sea cucumbers.
Anemone shrimp will occasionally live among sea cucumbers.

In a home aquarium, anemone shrimps can thrive as long as some conditions are met. They can become food for carnivorous fish and require tank mates that will not see them as prey. Anemone shrimps themselves, while carnivorous, act mostly as cleaner fish in an aquarium setting and will not nibble on larger creatures. They can be particular about the levels of certain nutrients in the water, so maintaining the right balance for them can take some work.

Several species thrive in wild coral reefs and make excellent aquarium additions. The glass anemone shrimp has a transparent body and white spots that can make it an eye-catching addition to any tank. The sexy anemone shrimp comes in a variety of colors and is named for the rear-end wiggling dance it does when walking along the bottom of the tank or rocky outcroppings while scavenging for food.

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    • Anemone shrimp prefer to live among anemones.
      By: Fraser Lloyd
      Anemone shrimp prefer to live among anemones.
    • Anemone shrimp will occasionally live among sea cucumbers.
      By: randimal
      Anemone shrimp will occasionally live among sea cucumbers.