Harlequin Shrimp Eating Habits, Will They Eat Serpent Starfish?

Harlequin shrimp are fascinating creatures to observe in an aquarium. They have an unusual, bizarre, and yet beautiful appearance with special eating habits very much unlike anything else on earth.

The only things these shrimp will feast on are starfish. They may eat other things, but starfish are at the top of their daily menu. The manner in which they hunt, procure food, and eat is worth noting. It may seem gruesome, but it’s a pure expression of the power, wonder, and magic of nature. And you can watch it happen in your own aquarium.

Will harlequin shrimp eat serpent starfish?

Yes, serpent starfish will become food for harlequin shrimp. But, it’s not their favorite and some people notice how the shrimp will avoid consuming serpent starfish. If there are other starfish available to them at feeding time, they’ll take those over the serpent starfish.

What kind of starfish do harlequin shrimp eat?

Unless it’s a brittle starfish, harlequin shrimp will eat just about any starfish, they’re not very picky. Many people report that the shrimp will leave brittle starfish alone; they won’t even touch them even if they’re hungry.

Their favorite starfish seem to be the chocolate chip or asterina starfish.  This makes harlequin shrimp an excellent addition to a tank that houses these because they can become problematic and overtake an aquarium. But, if those are difficult to get, almost any variety will do.

What’s the process in which harlequin shrimp kill starfish?

They prey on starfishes partly by their sense of smell. Harlequin shrimp have sensory antennules on their heads that’s very sensitive and responsive. Once they’ve located their starfish meal, the shrimp pushes one of the bottom arms with its strong claws so it can get underneath the starfish.

When they get into the right position, the harlequin shrimp then flips the starfish over to render them unable to get away. Once the harlequin shrimp is successful in subduing the starfish, the shrimp uses its feeding limbs to crack through the tough structure of the starfish’s body.

Cutting off the starfish’s arm allows the shrimp to get at its tube feet and other delectable tissues. This process happens over the course of several days.

What’s the frequency with which to feed harlequin shrimp?

It’s ideal to feed a harlequin shrimp about once per week. But they can survive a few weeks without eating. Although this is okay to do once and a while, it shouldn’t be the norm as it can have adverse affects on the harlequin shrimp’s dietary and nutritional health.

How do you feed starfish to harlequin shrimp?

If you want a harlequin shrimp, you have to have starfish for them to eat. That’s almost all of their diet. You can substitute sea urchins if starfish are hard to come by, but the shrimp won’t always accept the urchins as food.  If they don’t eat willingly, they will starve.

So, when feeding starfish, you have to make sure they can regenerate their arms afterward. For this reason, many people keep starfish from natural predators in a separate tank as “feeder starfish.”

Chocolate Chip Starfish

The best starfish to keep as feed for harlequin shrimp are the chocolate chip variety. Have several so it will be easier for them to regenerate their arms. This will allow you to interchange different starfish while previous ones used are recovering.  Try to feed only fully recovered starfish to the harlequin shrimp.

Just put it in the tank with the harlequin shrimp and watch nature unfold. When you notice the arm is gone, remove the starfish and put it back in its tank.

Asterina Starfish

If asterina starfish are overpopulating your tank, having harlequin shrimp is the perfect solution. They’ll keep the population down and you won’t have problems feeding the shrimp or need a separate tank.

What is the native habitat for harlequin shrimp?

Harlequin shrimp come from everywhere across the Pacific Ocean and they are never plentiful in any given area. They often live around coral reefs in subtidal zones around the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, or Central Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is famous for them.

What are the physical characteristics of harlequin shrimp?

There are only two species and they range in color from brown to reddish. Harlequin shrimps have special patterns traversing their bodies and claws. These claws play a specific role in their eating and hunting behavior.

They get no bigger than two inches long. Most of this is due to the fact that they have a conspicuous appearance with a small, delicate body and have very few natural defenses. They will often hide, especially when nervous in captivity.

What are the living requirements and reproductive behaviors of harlequin shrimp?

Harlequin shrimps are often nocturnal creatures, hunting for food and mating with their partner. The females, who carry the eggs, are much larger than the males. These breeding/hunting pairs often mate for life. They rarely, if ever, separate and reproduce about once per month. They are very territorial and protective of each other.

Keeping Harlequin Shrimp in a Home Aquarium

If keeping one in an aquarium, it’s a good idea to have both a male and female to ensure its happiness and survival. Anything more may produce aggressive behavior that won’t end well. If this occurs, you will have to have another tank to mitigate aggression and territorial activities.

Reproduction efforts in captivity are not often successful. But, some people report ending up with more shrimp than they bargained for because the water and food parameters are prime. This, however, requires meticulous attention to the shrimp, their feeding, and water parameters.

Harlequin Shrimp as Pets

Harlequin Shrimp, if fed, looked after, and cared for right, will make one of the most interesting pets you can ever have. They’ll do quite well in captivity so long as they have enough room and good water quality. They provide years of entertainment because of how strange, attractive, and rewarding they can be.


Available for Amazon Prime