Harlequin Shrimp - Facts On The Stunning Harlequin Shrimp
Harlequin Shrimp Facts
Scientific Name : Hymenocera Elegans, Hymenocera Picta
Origin : Indo-Pacific, Hawaii
Difficulty : Fairly Tough (Diet Related)
Minimum Size Tank : 10 Gallons
Temperament : Peaceful, Shy
Temperature : 72 - 82°F
Reef Safe : Yes
Maximum Size : 3 inches
Diet : Starfishes Only
The Harlequin Shrimp is my personal favorite. Having had a pair for a number of years, i can safely say that there isn't a more stunning marine Aquarium Shrimp in the marine aquarium hobby. They are all white with patches of purple, blue or orange-red.
The shape of the harlequin shrimp is what makes it so distinctive. It looks more like flower of some sort than a shrimp. Heavily collected throughout the Indo-Pacific, Hawaii versions are a lot more uncommon as well as expensive. They are a relatively shy shrimp, preferring to hang out in caves and dark spots. They also tend to be site attached, meaning they are usually found in their lair of choice.
Harlequin Shrimp Dance
There are two known species of harlequin shrimp, hymenocera picta and hymenocera elegans. They differ only in where they are found. H.picta hails from Hawaii while H.elegans is found throughout the Indo-Pacific. Also, i've found that H.picta tends to have a lot more purple-orange than H.elegans. The H.elegans i see always seem to be blue-purple with occasional specimens which are orange.
There is debate as to the real differences between them as they look and behave entirely alike. Some learned marine biologists think there are both one and the same having migrated to or from the Indo-Pacific. It is a slow moving shrimp which was shocking to me initially as i expected agility similar to fire shrimp or cleaner shrimp. They are best described as underwater rhinos with their slow gait. But at the first sign of a meal, they spring into action. More on that below.
Harlequin Shrimp And Starfish
Chocolate Chip Starfish
Harlequin Shrimp Diet
The appearance of the harlequin shrimp isn't the only aspect that sets them apart from other shrimp. They have a truly unique diet as in they only feed on starfish. There have been reported instances where they have been seen preying on sea urchins as well but that is rare. Considering their unique dietary needs, feeding harlequin shrimps can be expensive. A single chocolate chip starfish will last my mated pair about a week at most.
Once these shrimp see a starfish they spring into action rushing towards. They then attempt to flip it over. Finally they drag the starfish back to their lair for feeding. During the feeding process, the harlequin shrimp will attempt to keep the starfish alive as it slowly feeds on its feet bit by bit. I recommend chocolate chip starfish over other types of starfish mainly because they are tough and take a while to finally perish. The blue linkia starfish tend to die all too quickly for my liking.
The feeding process can be messy as bits of starfish may be lying around slowly rotting and fouling up the tank water. Also, you need to keep an eye on the starfish. If it dies prematurely it can cause a real mess especially for smaller nano aquariums. Others have a different method of feeding them. They cut of the arms and store them in a freezer for future feeding. Or they cut off a single arm and let the starfish regenerate. This cycle is repeated over and over again.
Harlequin Shrimp Pair
Harlequin Shrimp Breeding
Breeding of the harlequin shrimp has been achieved only by a handful of dedicated enthusiasts. One particular successful breeding came from the country of Japan. The hobbyist concerned managed to raise the larvae all the way up to adulthood using newly hatched brine shrimp and copepods.
However, they doesn't seem to be much effort put into breeding them at the moment. Those that do, don't normally get past the larval rearing stages. Telling a male from a female is fairly easy. Males are smaller and if you look at its bottom of its abdomen, you will notice that the plates are all white. Females have plates that are colored. I recommend buying two similar size shrimps for breeding as a large female may kill a smaller male. I lost 3 small males before i wised up and got one just as big as the female.
Once the pair has been established and they have a constant food supply, they will breed for you every month. Breeding takes place only after they molt so the rate at which they breed can be dependent on how often they molt.
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