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The peppermint shrimp, or Lysmata wurdemanni, is a saltwater reef shrimp that adds a burst of color to your tank with their pink or off-white color and red stripes. In its natural habitat, it can be found 3-90 feet below sea level. The tropical waters in the West Atlantic to the Caribbean are home to this small and brightly-colored invertebrate, where it can be found chilling around rocks and coral formations. It may also be found on blades of seagrass or within tube sponges.
The peppermint shrimp is also known as candy cane shrimp, Caribbean shrimp, veined shrimp, or Caribbean cleaner shrimp.
It has a semi-transparent appearance with longitudinal and transverse red stripes on the body. Under stress, it will lose their red color and become completely transparent. Over its lifetime, it can change colors based on the color light it is exposed to. It has a shell with broad transverse and oblique V-shaped bands. It also has the long, thin antennae associated with most shrimp species.
As a general rule, the peppermint shrimp grows to be about 1.50 to 1.75 inches.
The average lifespan of the peppermint shrimp is about two years with proper management.
The peppermint shrimp is known as a sweeper shrimp because it will swim around and clean your aquarium. It will scavenge the aquarium, checking out the live rock and any cracks or crevices for Aiptasia or waste or algae. Aiptasia are rapidly-producing predatory sea animals that can overrun your tank quickly, and a saltwater aquarium is a perfect breeding ground for it. The peppermint shrimp is great at keeping this pest under control in the tank.
Although not every peppermint shrimp will exhibit this behavior, it is considered to be a cleaner fish because it will feed on external parasites on fish.
The peppermint shrimp is considered to be reef safe, meaning it is compatible with the types of fish and corals typically kept in a reef aquarium. It does, however, enjoy the soft polyps of some coral species and cannot resist snacking on them. However, because it is a scavenger and eats dead organisms, it will only eat dead or dying coral flesh, and this can be beneficial to the coral. It stops the dead tissue from spreading and may help save the coral. If you notice your peppermint shrimp eating coral, you can physically cover the coral, or you may want to limit the extra things in the shrimp’s diet. If it has eaten all of the Aiptasia and is still hungry, this may lead to the coral-eating behavior.
Peppermint Shrimp Care
The natural habitat for peppermint shrimp is the waters of the Caribbean near rocks and coral or along the West Atlantic from the Florida Keys, Key West, and even in the Gulf of Mexico where there are shallow reef habitats.
The ideal habitat for a peppermint shrimp is a minimum ten-gallon tank. If you plan to add additional peppermint shrimp, you should add an extra 5-10 gallons per shrimp. If you are adding this shrimp to an already-established aquarium, it will be fine and will not take up much space given its small size.
Since its natural habitat is a rocky shoreline or a hard-bottom reef, you can use items such as rock for the substrate, and don’t forget to add plants so it has plenty of hiding spots.
It enjoys scavenging in and around the tank, and you should make sure it has plenty of small caves to hide in during the day. It likes live stone and plenty of open spaces to look for food. It is nocturnal. Keep the light on during the day but turn it off at night so it feels safe to come out and forage for food.
It is easy to take care of, but it does not like change. It can adapt to various water conditions, but keeping the water conditions stable is ideal.
The suitable water temperature for peppermint shrimp is between 64 to 72 degrees on the low end to 72 to 78 degrees on the high end, with a water hardness of 8-12 dkH, a pH of 8.2-8.4, meaning they like alkaline conditions, and a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025.
Steady water flow and a low-rise current are perfect for the peppermint shrimp. Do not use a strong filtration system that can easily suck it up.
Food & Diet
The peppermint shrimp is an omnivore and will forage the tank for its own food, eating the morsels left over from its tankmates. This makes feeding it amazingly easy. It is not a bottom dweller but is a bottom eater, and it will eat dead snails, Aiptasia, detritus, and decomposing organic material. It enjoys snacks of frozen brine shrimp, in addition to commercial flakes or pellets.
Because it is an invertebrate, it sheds its exoskeleton as it grows. It needs adequate calcium supplementation and trace minerals during this process. Once it molts, it will eat the old shell to restore calcium to the body, so make sure to not throw out the old shell.
To maintain its beautiful coloring, add carotenoids to its diet. Carotenoids have antioxidant abilities and neutralize free radicals in the cells, and they help improve survival rate and reproduction and also promote rapid growth.
Peppermint Shrimp Breeding
The peppermint shrimp is a simultaneous hermaphrodite. It first matures as a male and then later as a female. This means it carries both the male and female reproductive organs, and it makes it easier to breed the species in captivity.
Mating occurs after it has shed, or molted, and an individual may produce eggs after every molt. These need to be fertilized in order to hatch. The female can carry up to 300 eggs. She will remain pregnant for 10 to 20 days but can sometimes carry the eggs up to two months depending on predators in the tank, water parameters, and the size of the colony. The shrimp becomes silvery and transparent when it is ready to lay the eggs. After 12 days, the eggs become silver, at which point they are prepared to hatch. They typically hatch at night and swim toward the light.
The larvae are food for planktivorous fish, so you need to collect them and move them to a separate tank to allow them to grow. A 37-gallon tank with a heater and air feed for circulation is sufficient enough to hold the larvae. It takes 30 to 67 days for them to become juveniles and settle in the tank.
The peppermint shrimp has trust issues and, as such, can be shy. However, it is peaceful and social toward most reef inhabitants. It does not have enlarged claws and rarely has aggressive interactions. Because it is nocturnal, and because it could be food for other fish, it will stay hidden until the tank lights are low and it feels it is safe to come out to eat and explore.
It is not big on swimming and will typically attach itself to something instead. It will, however, swim in bursts when it needs to escape or is spooked.
It is less territorial than other shrimp species unless the tank becomes too crowded, at which point it will fight for its space. Two shrimp in a 10-gallon tank should give them plenty of space to avoid any territory issues. However, it does need other fish in the tank because it can become stressed when it is alone.
Tank Mates for Peppermint Shrimp
The peppermint shrimp is peaceful. It does not typically start fights, and it likes to keep to itself. It should be paired with other saltwater fish that can tolerate alkaline water conditions. It also makes a good tank mate with other species that do not think of it as a snack.
Here are some compatible tank mates for Peppermint Shrimp:
- Yellow tang
- Pajama Cardinalfish
- Coral beauty dwarf angelfish
- Mandarin goby
It may not be compatible with tridacnid clams, but it will adapt to other invertebrates.
Here are some incompatible tank mates for Peppermint Shrimp:
- Dogface pufferfish
- Marine betta
- Picasso triggerfish
One of the biggest issues for the peppermint shrimp is stress, so the key to keeping it healthy is to avoid putting it in stressful situations. It can also become infected with bacterial or parasitic infections, although that is rare.
Where to Find Peppermint Shrimp for Sale
In general, this is an easy species to find because of its aesthetic value and cleaning abilities. You can buy peppermint shrimp in aquarium stores for $5 to $15 dollars.
It is no wonder that this shrimp is an intensively-traded species in the western Atlantic and, globally, one of the most-traded ornamental species. What is not to love about it? It has an easygoing temperament, beautiful colors, feeds itself, helps keep your tank clean, and is reef safe. No wonder it is in high demand. It would be a smart addition to your saltwater tank and will thrive there as long as it is not paired with predator fish or fish big enough to eat it.