Pregnant Ghost Shrimp: Beginner’s Guide To Proper Breeding

Pregnant Ghost Shrimp
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If you’re new to shrimp keeping, the chances are that you may not know what a pregnant ghost shrimp looks like. If you happen to see one in your tank, it likely became pregnant without your knowledge due to different causes. 

What to do?

When pregnant, a ghost shrimp is more sensitive and require more care and attention, including making changes in the water parameters.

Pregnant ghost shrimp can be distinguished from non-pregnant shrimp by their physical appearance. They are plump and look like they have eaten a few pounds of food.

Pregnant Ghost Shrimp Stage

When ghost shrimp is pregnant, it will go through three stages of development. These are the pre-egg, egg, and post-egg stages. The pre-egg stage is when the female shrimp is storing food in her abdomen for the eggs to eat once they are released.

The egg stage lasts until the eggs hatch into shrimp fry and becomes 4th stage larvae. The post-egg stage is when all young ghost shrimp have their first molts (shedding their exoskeletons) and become juveniles (first stage) which will eventually grow into adults.

But what does it mean if you see green dots under the tail of your shrimp? It means your ghost shrimp is a female and is carrying eggs.

Duration of Pregnant Ghost Shrimp

This duration varies depending on the temperature of the water. In warmer temperatures (above 72 °F or 22 °C), the shrimp will only be pregnant for a few days to a week. It will be pregnant for 2 or 3 months in cooler temperatures, giving birth in colder water (around 60 °F or 15 °C).

Possible Causes of Pregnancy

Pregnant ghost shrimp obtain the pregnancy in most reef tanks without any known cause. The most common causes are the use of common reef additives, water quality/filter(s) capacity, lighting, or other natural factors. 

The most common reason which triggers pregnant ghost shrimps is the use of common reef additives.

The most common additives that can cause pregnancy in ghost shrimp are carbon or iron/RedSea coral supplements/foodstuff. Carbon or iron supplements in the water can cause a female to store food in her intestine and become pregnant.

This will result in the female’s abdomen being filled with eggs, which she will lay down after the ghost shrimp is pregnant.

It is also possible for carbon or iron supplements to reduce egg production by lowering the female shrimp’s pH level. Also, it may be possible for pH to change due to other factors such as temperature change, sudden changes in light, etc.

It is also possible for carbon or iron supplements to change the pH levels of the shrimp’s water. Because of this, it may be possible for the male shrimp to emit his scent, which causes the ghost shrimp lay eggs. This will result in a sudden increase in egg production and cause a sudden pregnancy period.

Another cause would be using different lighting systems when setting up your tank. This may have an immediate effect on water quality, especially if you have never used light before.

It is also possible that if there is an overabundance of nutrients in your tank, it will lead to an increase in coral diseases like ich and others, which can cause the female shrimp to produce eggs.

Pregnancy Phases for Female Ghost Shrimp

Pregnant ghost shrimps can become pregnant almost anytime during their adult life (3 to 9 months). The laying and fertilizing of the eggs usually take around 6 to 8 weeks. However, there will be some early signs that your female ghost shrimp will begin to lay eggs within a few days after fertilization.

If a female ghost shrimp is already pregnant, you will notice her laying eggs earlier than if you had never had any females in the tank.

The eggs are incubated within the female’s body cavity. For each fertilized egg, 2 cells develop into a source inside the mother shrimp until they grow to around 0.5mm in size.

These embryos hatch into shrimp fry after 1-2 weeks and then pass through several “instars,” meaning it could take anywhere from 1 to 3 months from when the eggs were deposited before they hatch.

Pregnancy Signs

Pregnancy Signs

The pregnant shrimp will show pregnant characteristics a few days after fertilization. 

The female ghost shrimp will be heavier and plumper, and she’ll grow in size and have a brown or black spot on the back of her abdomen.

She may also have some foam coming out of her anus caused by excreted egg yolk. Her color change with the presence of green dots is often triggered by the presence of males in the tank, which can cause stress to the female shrimp. 

Females typically stop laying eggs about 3 weeks before they die, which happens instantly if she’s still producing eggs.

The female ghost shrimp will lay her eggs at the end of her abdomen. The eggs are lighter and smaller than the non-pregnant ghost shrimp eggs, and they take longer to hatch shrimp fry.

When the female has deposited all her eggs into the substrate, she will die within a few days if she isn’t eaten by another tank inhabitant first.

In an established tank (with lots of food), your pregnant female ghost shrimp is likely to have a shorter lifespan than if she was in an established or newly set up tank.

The duration of the pregnancy can vary between species. When ghost shrimp is pregnant in areas that have different temperatures might have a shorter lifespan than those from more tropical areas.

The female will lay around 100,000 eggs in a single spawning. This usually takes 2 to 3 weeks (depending on the temperature). After she’s done fertilizing all her eggs and they’ve hatched, they remain in their “pre-lay” state for around 5-6 days before they are ready to hatch the shrimp fry.

The females may spend hours and hours just sitting, waiting for the right moment when they will deposit the eggs into the substrate.

After hatching the ghost shrimp fry, the baby ghost shrimp will usually remain at the same spot for a few days before moving to a new location. They will molt very shortly after hatching and will grow before getting ready to turn into adults.

Fun Fact: Do mollies undergo a similar phase, too? Read our post to find out — Pregnant Molly Fish: Beginners’ Guide To Mating & Breeding

Symptoms

If your pregnant ghost shrimp seems stressed or has any of the symptoms below, she’s likely pregnant, and you should take action immediately. 

Anything from an improper temperature to too much algae growth in the tank can make her stressed and release her eggs prematurely.

Symptoms of a pregnant ghost shrimp:

  • A ghost shrimp will be present in the tank during the entire pregnancy.
  • The shrimp is white and opaque, and its tail looks transparent.
  • The ghost shrimp may also have an extra set of eyes on top of its head.

Also, if you have other tank mates that are too dominant, she might release the eggs (such as an aggressive Plecostomus).

A pregnant ghost shrimp should be avoided since she is such a sensitive animal. A female will lay her eggs in the substrate (the watering area outside the filter) in clear sight of the other tank inhabitants.

Therefore, you should ensure that other tank inhabitants do not harass the female and that she is not allowed to go near the waterline (or filter).

Trying to remove a pregnant ghost shrimp from your tank or attempting to breed it would be pointless; she’s already finished laying her eggs and won’t be going anywhere soon. And if you separate her from her eggs, it will be almost impossible for them to hatch the ghost shrimp fry.

If your female ghost shrimps have been laying eggs for several weeks and haven’t died yet (if she was already pregnant), she was likely depositing eggs for another male and not her offspring.

In that case, you need to determine which male is impregnating the female because you don’t want to end up with many “half-breed” offspring that another male sired.

The easiest thing to do is get rid of all the other males in the tank and leave one male in there with her. Failing that, you will have to wait for her to go through several “instars” to determine which male fertilized the eggs.

The instars are the developmental stages between two molts. If she has stopped laying eggs, they will likely be infertile or turn into males because the right male did not fertilize them.

If your pregnant shrimp is displaying some of these symptoms and doesn’t seem to be stressed with the other inhabitants in the tank, then your female ghost shrimp may have simply forgotten where she was going to lay her eggs or couldn’t find a suitable location.

When this happens, they will plow a furrow with their abdomen and lay their eggs somewhere in the substrate, which some other tank inhabitants will probably remove.

You can get rid of the stress and anxiety that the female has by switching her to a smaller or less crowded tank.

Also, move all your other tank mates so that she won’t have to compete for food. Reducing any movement from the female will also probably help since it decreases competition for food among her offspring.

You also need to make sure that your temperature stays normal for her or at least as close to normal as you can get it. Try and reduce the amount of food, but don’t completely restrict her diet.

Breeding Ghost Shrimp

Breeding Ghost Shrimp

If your pregnant ghost shrimp is on its own in a tank, it’s likely that it will begin to get harassed by other inhabitants in your breeding tank and more likely to get eaten.

If you notice the bloat in your shrimp, it’s recommended that you move it to a more protected area, such as a cave in your tank with the baby shrimp.

In most cases, you want to remove the shrimp from your tank and put it into a separate aquarium. If this is not possible or not necessary, there are other ways of dealing with the situation.

On the bottom of the breeding tank, you may notice a brown or yellowish-brown crust that looks like tiny bricks floating around. This is often caused by algae (biotoxins) and is actually what turned your ghost shrimp pregnant.

If your shrimp is in a separate tank, you’ll need to remove all the algae from the breeding tank and clean it with a strong water hose. If it’s in your main tank, you need to clean out your gravel and fissure with hydrogen peroxide and water.

This will destroy all the algae. Once your aquarium is clean, you can find the culprit – either a small snail or an insect.

Before putting the ghost shrimp back into your breeding tank, ensure that nothing else has been introduced and that no eggs are hiding inside its body (they can hatch very quickly). Then, once you put the shrimp back, monitor it and make sure it doesn’t get eaten or killed.

Fun Fact: Let’s compare if neon tetra pregnancy has similarities with ghost shrimp pregnancy! Check out this article we prepared — Pregnant Neon Tetra: Things To Know About Fish Pregnancy.

Feeding

Feeding

Pregnant ghost shrimp are very sensitive to any new food changes. The most important thing to remember is that they will be going through a stressful time and need the right nutrients such as baby shrimp and liquid fry food. 

Feeding every day, or at least several times per week will help boost their immune systems and help keep them alive.

They are also sensitive to other additives such as vitamins, salt, minerals, and proteins. If you notice that the shrimp have turned a cloudy white color with purple spots and some green dots, this is a sign of an overdose of additives.

Once you notice this, immediately remove the shrimp from your breeding tank and treat it differently by feeding it baby shrimp, so it doesn’t become pregnant again.

Feeding Baby Brine Shrimp To Your Pregnant Ghost Shrimp

One of the best foods to feed your pregnant shrimp is baby brine shrimp. They have a high nutritional value, which helps them recover from their previous pregnancies and boosts their immune systems.

The most important thing to remember is that pregnant ghost shrimp need to eat baby shrimp and plankton. They need to eat a lot of it, too. The more food your pregnant ghost shrimp consumes, the better their condition.

Treatment

If you’re having a hard time keeping your pregnant ghost shrimp alive and you’ve tried all the above methods, there’s not much else you can do apart from keeping up a daily check to see if the shrimp is alive or checking to see if any eggs have hatched inside its body. It’s recommended that you give it plenty of oxygenated water and keep the tank clean.

The pregnant ghost shrimp you see in your tank may have become pregnant when its owner removed the water and didn’t treat it. It’s important to always treat your water with a de-chlorinator, even if you haven’t changed the water in a while.

A pregnant shrimp is often used to feed fish and other larger creatures, such as frogs and large crustaceans. If you choose to use it as a feeder, you will notice that ghost shrimp die very quickly. They’re very sensitive and are very low on the food chain.

Just remember to keep baby ghost shrimp out of the community tank, or they will become quick prey to the adult ghost shrimp and other inhabitants of the aquarium.

In any tank larger than 10 gallons, the majority of the ghost shrimp larvae will be able to avoid the filter intake of death.

When female ghost shrimps are carrying eggs, you can see males swimming and hovering around her as they compete to fertilize the eggs.

Fun Fact: Complement your newfound knowledge about ghost shrimp by reading our article, Ghost Shrimp: Tips And Hints In Caring For Your Spook Pet.


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Conclusion

If you happen to capture pregnant ghost shrimps in your tank, it’s best to remove it from your main aquarium and put it into a separate tank. This is because they’re very sensitive to changes in the water parameters, such as ammonia and nitrite levels, temperature, and pH.

If you notice that the most common cause of being pregnant ghost shrimp is the removal of water from the tank, then this is why they’re so sensitive. If you have an algae problem in your tank, this would be another reason for them to become pregnant ghost shrimps.

Last Updated: July 13, 2022

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