Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus): Care Guide

Coral Banded Shrimp (Steponus hispidus) is saltwater invertebrate that are native to the Red Sea, Western Atlantic Ocean, and the Indo-Pacific region. While they look like shrimps, they are actually decapod crustaceans. They live in rocky or coralline areas in shallow pools or deep crevices down to almost 100 feet. They live agoraphobic lives, as they are thought to live and stay in areas less than ten square feet. Males tend to exhibit territorial behavior within this area.

Coral Banded Shrimp are popular in the aquarium hobby, due to its distinct red and white coloration. In the aquarium trade, Coral Banded Shrimp are also known as Banded Prawn, Banded Boxer Shrimp, Barber Pole Shrimp, and Banded Cleaner Shrimp. As some of their names suggests, they are quite useful to keep in your aquarium to maintain good water quality.

In general, while the pincher arms and abdomen characteristically remain red and white striped, there are 11 different species and slight color variations in the genus Stenopus.

Coral Banded Shrimp Facts

  • As a crustacean, the Coral Banded Shrimp has an exoskeleton that doesn’t grow along with the rest of them. Because of this they molt so they can shed the old exoskeleton for the new. If they lose a section of their body they are able to regenerate it on the next molt in a month or two.
  • They typically mate with the same partner for more than two mating cycles, and this can last for years. During this time, they would be protecting their territory together.
  • Banded Coral Shrimp prefer shallower waters, but have been seen at depths up to 689 feet (210 meters) deep.
  • Their long antennae are used to gather chemical and tactile information from their surroundings. They are used to touch, smell and taste their environment.
  • Groups of coral shrimp will congregate together at “cleaning stations” where they will hang upside down waiting for fish “customers” to come along. They will signal their readiness by shaking their body and white antennae.
  • There are a few other varieties of the Steponus genus that are coveted by aquarists, such as the gold coral banded shrimp (Steponus zazibaricus), the yellow coral banded (Steponus cyanoscelis), and the blue coral banded (Steponus tenuirostris).
Coral Banded Shrimp
Coral Banded Shrimp (Steponus hispidus)

Coral Banded Shrimp Care

Coral Banded Shrimp do not have complicated care requirements, so they are relatively easy to take care of. They will be active mostly at night, and prefer hiding for much of the day. Ample ledges and crevices will provide them shelter to snooze during the daylight hours.

As with many invertebrates, Coral Banded Shrimp require a stable environment. When they are being added to a tank for the first time, they should be acclimated to the tank water slowly and gradually.

Even after they are established in the aquarium, it is important to maintain stable environment for them. Therefore, regular maintenance and monitoring will be important. For example, drastic changes in water pH can lead to problems.

With good care, Coral Banded Shrimp can live up to 2-3 years on average. Some specimen have lived up to 5 years.

Here are more specifics regarding Coral Banded Shrimp care:

NameCoral Banded Shrimp
Scientific NameSteponus hispidus
Minimal Tank Size20 gallons (~90 liters)
Size2-3 inches (5-7 cm)
Optimal Temperature72-80 °F (22-27 °C)
Specific Gravity/SalinitySG= 1.020-1.025
Optimal pH 7.5-9.0
NitrateLess than 20 ppm
Life SpanUp to 5 years
Habitat needsLots of crevices and overhangs to hide in

Coral Banded Shrimp Food & Diet

As omnivores, Coral Banded Shrimp, eat most anything. They enjoy meat such as pieces of fish, squid or shellfish. They also will eat pellets or flakes. It’s best to give them a variety of food from live or frozen food to flakes to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. They should be fed at least three times a week to keep them from being hungry. Hungry shrimp may go after other residents in the tank. Individuals may also clean other fish in the tank, if interested. They love Polychaete worms, better known as bristle worms, and will typically devour them. In the wild they scavenge on algae, detritus, and parasites on other fish, so they will help keep the debris low in your tank.

Tank Mates for Coral Banded Shrimp

Protective of their immediate territory, these critters can be aggressive towards other shrimp and crustaceans in the tank. They may prey on small worms, snails, or small hermit crabs as well. Resting in the protection of a cave or overhang during the day, they are more active at night. Adequate dark hiding spaces will reduce their stress. It is especially not recommended that you pair them with another Coral Banded Shrimp as they can be aggressive to those in their own species. One individual per tank is the best solution to prevent fighting in your population.

Incompatible Tank Mates

  • Shrimp eaters such as Lionfish, Triggerfish, or Hawkfish.
  • Any other shrimp species such as the fire shrimp or cleaner shrimp, the only exception is a mated pair of Coral Banded Shrimp
  • Prey species such as snails, hermit crabs, and worms
  • Fish smaller than your shrimp, as they may be bullied.
  • Seahorses tend to be more sensitive residents and might get picked on by the shrimp.
  • Eels
  • Grouper or Snappers

Compatible Tank Mates

  • In general fish that are too small to prey on your shrimp will being too be big to be preyed on by your shrimp.
  • Clownfish may be suitable roommates for your shrimp, but make sure to have plenty of dark space for your critter if your tank has bright lights. Keeping your clownfish population male will help keep their size small.
  • Emerald crabs may compatible with your shrimp as they often leave other individuals in the tank alone. Take into consideration their size so that they are not too small.
  • They are considered reef safe for coral. While they won’t eat the coral if there is not enough food they will eat the food meant for your coral. Anemones are also usually safe, although they could pick at them, it’s uncommon.

Breeding Coral Banded Shrimp

While this hardy invertebrate is relatively easy to care for, it is difficult to successfully breed them. Getting them to breed in the first place isn’t the problem if they are healthy enough, but keeping the aquarium clean and the water quality at peak performance is important. The first step you will need to do is to make sure you have both male and female shrimp as those of the same sex will fight. You can easily identify them by looking for the blue green ovaries on their underside. Females tend to be smaller than males and their pleopods, when filed close to the body, extend anteriorly to the base of the second pereiopods. Males’ only extend to the base of the fourth pereiopods. A short singular median spine is found on the ventral surface of male abdominal segments. They only seen in females less than 3 cm long.

Females only mate after they have freshly molted. During mating the male will initially perform a courtship dance for the female. He will then transfer the sperm sack and will inseminate the eggs and fasten them to her abdominal legs. It is difficult to keep the larvae alive during the next few stages of development.

After 16 days they will hatch and stay attached to their mother for about six weeks until they detach and float to the surface. Larvae are often eaten before they have a chance to grow and should be separated from the tank, even from their parents. They often get sucked into the aquarium filter since they are so small. You may need a sponge filter to protect them from the filter’s inflow. In the wild they drift with the plankton in the ocean currents until they molt several times and settle to the bottom to find a dark place to make their home. After they settle at the bottom they will have a similar diet to their parents.

Coral Banded Shrimp Molting

Coral Banded Shrimp grow exponentially in the first 30 weeks of life then then gradually slow and stop around one year of age. The interval and and growth increments decrease each molt, as the shrimp grows. Overall they molt every 1-2 months with no difference between males and females. The larger they grow, the more likely they are to survive.

Common Disease for Coral Banded Shrimp

Problems in your tank may not be easy to spot until they are severe. Monitoring for changes in appearance and behavior can be an early indicator of disease in both fish and invertebrates. Rapid changes in either of these are cause for more investigation. Some parasites are visible to the naked eye or leave evidence behind such as marks or raised areas. The common problems involve parasites, which can hitch a ride on new additions to your tank. These infections can weaken the animal and lead to secondary infections. When possible, quarantine new additions to monitor for disease and treat when necessary with guidance for your veterinarian or local aquatic expert.

Illness in invertebrates are often more difficult to detect. Invertebrate pathology and medicine is still in its infancy in some respects. Often their issues stem from poor water quality, aggression between animals, inappropriate lighting or water motion. Crustaceans can show signs of illness by loosing limbs during molting and with general lethargy. Imbalances of trace elements and poor diet could be at fault as well. Another example is rapid changes in salinity, such as with poor acclimation, could lead to your Coral Banded Shrimp losing both its claws after its first molt.  

Purchasing a reference book or two for your collection is a good way to research potential problems ahead of time and be able to spot them before your animals get sick.

Coral Banded Shrimp Price

Now with your general overview of what you need to know to add a Coral Banded Shrimp to your system you’re ready to buy. Average prices are from $17-30 USD, but can varying dependent on where you purchase them. With a steady maintenance routine, some extra care with feeding, and managing the individual personalities of your residents, you can have a harmonious community tank with your new eye catching Color Banded Shrimp.

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