Do Cleaner Shrimp Need to Be Acclimated?

As you know, cleaner shrimp are a must-have for a proper tank setup. These industrious little crustaceans are extremely useful, gobbling down mucus and pesky parasites so that your fish stay happy and healthy. Today we’re going to address the most commonly asked questions about these clever cleaners.

We’ll talk about getting them acclimated to your tank and address some common concerns and questions that we receive regularly when it comes to cleaner shrimp and their care.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Do cleaner shrimp need to be acclimated?

Yes! Cleaner shrimp are delicate creatures and you’ll want to acclimate them. The drip acclimation method is preferable and will take you about an hour to do. Slow acclimation is a must with these creatures, so you don’t want to skip this step or your shrimp could very easily die.

Shrimp are peaceful creatures who don’t hurt other fish. They can live with other shrimp and can live together in groups – this can help them with the acclimation in your tank.

These shrimp will eat the parasites and other tasty treats off of your fish tissue. One thing to be cognizant of, however, is that they also snack on food from the tank.

How do you acclimate cleaner shrimp?

The ‘drip acclimation method’ is preferable, but you may also employ the ‘floating’ method of acclimation. Let’s start with the recommended drip method. To perform a drip acclimation, you are going to need a 3 – 5 gallon bucket as well as some airline tubing.

Once you’ve got these, then you’ll need to use the following steps (note, this is considered a little advanced so if you aren’t comfortable with the steps then you can certainly employ the floating method).

Drip acclimation method

  1. Power off your aquarium lights and dim the lights in the room. These shrimp are very sensitive and the sudden introduction of bright light can traumatize them or put them into shock.
  2. Place the unopened plastic bag into the aquarium for about 15 minutes so that the shrimp may adjust to the temperature of your tank.
  3. You’ll need to carefully transfer the shrimp and water from the bags into the bucket. Make sure that the shrimp stay completely submerged during this time. Dumping them out with the bucket at a 45-degree angle should be sufficient. Have a friend help or wedge the bucket if you need to as this is a bit delicate.
  4. Place one end of the airline into the aquarium and create a siphon. We’re going to put the other end into out bucket, but you’ll want to tie a loose knot in the airline so that the flow is slow and consistent. An airline holder to secure it is a good idea.
  5. Watch the volume in your bucket and once it has doubled, you’ll need to remove half of the water and repeat the process.
  6. At this point, your shrimp should be ready to transfer to the aquarium.

Now that you know how to perform the drip method (which is also useful for corals, sea stars, anemone, and wrasses) let’s explore how to perform a floating acclimation as an alternative option. To perform a floating acclimation you’ll want to take the following steps.

Floating acclimation

  1. Power off your aquarium lights and dim the lights in the room. These shrimp are very sensitive and the sudden introduction of bright light can traumatize them or put them into shock.
  2. Place the unopened plastic bag into the aquarium for about 15 minutes so that the shrimp may adjust to the temperature of your tank.
  3. Cut a slit in the bag just under the metal clasp/clip, rolling the plastic back approximately 1 inch. The goal is to create an air pocket so that the bag can float in the aquarium, opened.
  4. Add approximately ½ a cup of aquarium water to the bag, repeating every 4 – 5 minutes until the bag is filled.
  5. Take out the bag, discard half of the water, and repeat the ‘float and fill’ process.
  6. Using a net, remove the now-acclimated shrimp from the bag and put them into the tank.
  7. Remove the plastic bag and you’re done!

Do cleaner shrimp eat algae?

In a word, no. Cleaner shrimp typically eat dead tissue such as skin, scales, and mucus but do not feed on the living (termed “biofilm”) or recently-fallen algae found in most aquariums.

That said, some varieties of cleaner shrimp will consume biofilm when provided the opportunity to graze on it when there are no other food sources available.

Do cleaner shrimp eat diatoms?

Cleaner shrimp have been known to consume diatoms in the wild, but it is not a substantial part of their diet. They will typically only eat diatoms when other food sources are unavailable or limited. I’ve never seen this behavior in an aquarium environment with a well-established biofilm algae problem.

When should I introduce cleaner shrimp?

As we’ve mentioned, cleaner shrimp are quite delicate and so your tank needs to meet some very stringent requirements if you are going to introduce cleaning shrimp. They will need the following:

  • Temperature between 75°F – 82°F
  • PH balance of 8.1 – 8.4
  • Carbonate hardness of 8 to 12 degrees
  • Gravity should be 1.023 to 1.025

These cleaning crustaceans are a fantastic addition to your tank, however, if you don’t like having to monitor the tank conditions regularly then you may want to reconsider adding cleaner shrimp to your tank. They are very fragile so a little tank maintenance from time to time is going to be required.

Do you need to quarantine cleaner shrimp?

No, you won’t need to quarantine your cleaner shrimp. Cleaner shrimp are not carriers for diseases such as ich and so it’s completely safe to introduce them to your reef tank.

Why do fish not eat cleaner shrimp?

While not fully understood, fish simply do not eat Cleaner shrimp. A study by researcher Eleanor Caves of Duke University involved setting up a camera on the Curacao reef to observe the interaction between fish and Cleaner shrimp. The shrimp tend to set up ‘cleaning stations’ in the reef and wave their antennae at passing shrimp, as if to indicate that the ‘cleaning station is open’.

The fish exhibited what appears to be a physiological response by darkening, a if to indicate that they wish to be cleaned. Oddly enough, it seems to be as simple as that, and not a matter of the shrimp being poisonous or not-so-tasty. To test this, Caves cut up some Cleaner shrimp to feed them to fish and they were gobbled right up.

Just a bit of trivia about your new Cleaner shrimp that we get asked a lot about. Enjoy!

Some final words about acclimating Cleaner shrimp

Now you’ve got 2 methods of acclimation, tank requirements, and a confirmation that quarantine is not required, so you should be good to go. Remember that your new little sea-dentists are sensitive creatures and be sure to monitor the tank to make sure that these industrious little guys stay happy and healthy.

Until next time, we hope that you enjoy your own little piece of the sea at home!

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