Sexy Shrimp Care Guide: Dance, Diet, Tank Size & Lifespan

There are many pretty shrimp but there is only one Sexy Shrimp! These shrimp are not only good looking but they also dance and although they are very difficult to breed in captivity, they could be a great addition to your saltwater aquarium. 

Pretty mermaid showing off her blond hair
Pretty mermaid but not a Sexy Shrimp

Here in this guide you will learn the theory behind its name, tips on how to properly take care of your Sexy Shrimp, the best diet and recommended tank mates, enjoy!   

Species Summary

Sexy Shrimp, also called Sexies, Anemone Shrimp, Squat Shrimp and Dancing Shrimp, are highly-desirable tank inhabitants. These crustaceans exhibit compelling behaviors, are strikingly beautiful, and work as diligent cleaners. Sexies are easy to care for and low maintenance, adding to their appeal.

Known scientifically as Thor amboinensis, Sexy Shrimp are native to tropical waters across the globe. They range from the Red Sea and across the Indo-Pacific. Sexies live in the Atlantic from the Caribbean to the Canary Islands. They spend their lives in coral reefs and lagoons, between six and 160 feet below the surface. Sexy Shrimp prefer calm waters but can withstand stronger currents.

These creatures spend their lives dwelling among sea anemones. The two species form a symbiotic relationship, mutually benefiting one another. The shrimp receives protection, and the anemone is cleaned of potentially harmful microbes and organic remnants of its meals. Sexy Shrimp live on anemones in peaceful groups, showing no hostility or territoriality to one another.

Author Note: These shrimp are extremely difficult to breed. Your Sexies will almost certainly be wild-caught. Despite this, they adjust well to home aquariums, adapting well to tank life and simulated diets.

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While most tropical saltwater fish require large aquariums that permit adequate space for hiding and exploring, Sexies are ideal for nano and micro tanks. These shrimp are active but generally stay near their anemone or coral home. Dedicating a separate tank for your Sexy Shrimp maximizes their quality of life and allows you to enjoy their fascinating behaviors.

Appearance

Sexy Shrimp have vivid orangish rust-brown bodies with white spots outlined in a deep blue shade. This contrast gives them a shimmering effect that adds to their vibrancy. Their coloration is a nice costume that also helps them blend in among the reef, masking them from predators. Unlike most shrimp species, Sexies have raised tails and short abdomens. The tail slants forward, curling toward their heads.

Sexy Shrimp in a saltwater aquarium

Sexies have five pairs of pereopods that extend from their thorax and five pairs of pleopods, which they use for swimming. The front set of pleopods also serves as the claws for gripping and manipulating. Their tails are fan-shaped and provide an additional burst of speed when flapped. These shrimp have short snouts. Their white-colored eyes rest on short stalks, only protruding slightly.

While Sexies have a dazzling appearance, their name comes from the undulating and exaggerated manner in which they crawl. Observing their “dance” is one of the best parts of owning a Sexy Shrimp. Biologists are unsure of the evolutionary purpose of the dance but speculate it may be a form of communication.

Lifespan

Sexy Shrimp have a lifespan of about five years in the wild and three years in captivity. They reach maturity about 40 days after they hatch and continue molting and growing until they reach about 2 cm. They generally thrive with proper tank conditions.

Average Size

These shrimp are extremely small. Female sexy shrimp can reach a size of about 2 cm long, and males about 1.5 cm. The rear abdomen of females is noticeably wider than males because they carry fertilized eggs before releasing them. Despite their diminutive stature, their perpetual movement and vibrant colors make them easy to spot in your tank.

Sexy Shrimp Care

Sexy Shrimp are on the easy end of the fish care spectrum. They are good eaters who do well with standard reef-tank conditions and a habitat that simulates their natural home. Like all crustaceans, Sexy Shrimp do not tolerate salinity changes. Slowly acclimating them to your tank over two to three hours is ideal.

Author Note: You can accomplish this by exchanging water from the destination tank with water in the transport container, allowing the shrimp to adjust without shocking their systems.

Tank Size

The recommended tank size for your sexy shrimp is under 10 gallons. They are peaceful bottom dwellers who will spend their time on the tank floor or among coral, hiding and eating. Experts suggest a 5-gallon tank is large enough to accommodate three to five Sexies. Due to their diminutive stature, housing them in a larger tank may make it more challenging to spot them.

Monitoring water parameters becomes even more critical in small tanks that best suit Sexies. Slight fluctuations are more dangerous than in a larger tank because the concentration of the pollutants is higher. Stable tank conditions will maximize the longevity of your Sexy Shrimp.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 75 to 79°F
  • pH levels: 8.1 to 8.4
  • Water hardness: 7 to 12 dKH
  • Specific gravity: 1.023 to 1.025 sg

What To Put In Their Tank

Sexy Shrimp naturally adapted to hide because of their small size and inability to fight off larger predators.

Live rock and any anemone species (like this Bubble Tip Anemone) will create ideal conditions for your Sexy Shrimp as it seeks shelter in the familiar confines of the anemone’s anatomy. Entacmaea quadricolor, Macrodactyla doreensis, Stichodactyla tapetum, and Zoanthus sp are all viable options.

They will also inhabit the polyps of Duncan’s coral, green stars, clove, or mushroom corals. Anemones are essential if you plan to house Sexies in a community tank. Your shrimp have no natural defense against larger predatory fish, and other creatures looking for space in the coral will easily bully them.

Author Note: If you forego an anemone, populating your species tank with structures and decorations that provide hiding spots is essential. Try to create varied rock formations that establish a system of tunnels or channels. Be sure they offer multiple hiding spots and enough room for the group to explore simultaneously.

Is the Sexy Shrimp Reef Safe?

Yes. Not only are Sexies reef-safe, but they will clean up slime and microbes. These shrimp only eat coral when underfed, so monitoring their behavior is crucial. The Sexies will not significantly damage the coral. Instead, the polyps will withdraw, ruining your ability to enjoy the vibrant appearance of the reef. Prolonged polyp withdrawal halts photosynthesis and will ultimately damage your coral.

Sexies are too small to alter or disturb coral or rock, but collapses or rock shifts will crush them. Ensure all the rocks are secure when laying out your tank.

Common Possible Diseases

Sexy Shrimp are not especially vulnerable to any disease. Like most other crustaceans, they are relatively resilient. Immune compromise due to stress and poor water conditions is their only significant health concern. Shrimp do not tolerate salinity changes or water levels outside typical reef standards. Sexies are also vulnerable to high copper and nitrate levels. It is vital to purge the tank of molted shells and uneaten food.

Author Note: While you should perform routine surveillance on the water quality, it is imperative to do so immediately if you notice your shrimp behaving slowly or refusing to eat. This lethargy is often a sign of stress from changes in water quality.

Sexies are also naturally communal creatures. Trying to keep a single shrimp may stress them out, compromising their resiliency and health. Be sure to keep the shrimp happy and satisfied by providing anemones, coral, or artificial structures they can hide among and explore.

Food & Diet

While Sexy Shrimp are natural cleaners who will feast on the slime of coral and microbes on sea anemones, do not assume they are adequately nourished. In addition, they will need direct feedings if your tank lacks coral or anemones.

While most shrimp species are considered scavengers, do not rely on your Sexies to consume leftovers. Food intended for other fish settling at the bottom of the tank means your overfeeding the community. The decaying matter will alter the water conditions and potentially jeopardize the health of all tank inhabitants.

Fortunately, Sexy Shrimp’s diet includes pellets, flakes, or gels that sink. This method ensures the meal reaches the shrimp. Opt for high-protein brands of these foods, especially if you hope to breed your crustaceans. Sexies will also accept algae-based foods, like nori.

Sexies accept frozen or chopped foods, including fish, squid, sea anemones, mysis, shredded clams, and other protein-rich seafood. If your shrimp live in a community tank, you must monitor feedings. The Sexies will not compete with more aggressive fish or invertebrates for food. You may need to perform targeted feedings to ensure your Sexy Shrimp obtain adequate nourishment.

Behavior & Temperament

Sexy Shrimp are docile creatures who spend their days hiding and scouring the coral. They constantly perform their hallmark “dancing” motion, ensuring you can always enjoy their unique behavior.

Sexies are social creatures who naturally congregate in the wild, though they do not form complex or hierarchical relationships. Biologists suggest they band together for “safety in numbers” due to their slight stature and lack of a natural defense mechanism.

The small size of these crustaceans makes it easy to keep them as a pair or group. Having tank mates of the same species will help keep your Sexy relaxed and active, enhancing their quality of life and your ability to enjoy them. Lone shrimp are more likely to spend all their time hiding, compromising their nutritional intake and robbing you of the chance to observe them.

Sexy Shrimp are also quick and agile, covering relatively large distances in the blink of an eye. Biologists have timed them at 10 to 15 centimeters per second. Considering their small size, speed is essential for evading predators.

Like other invertebrates, Sexies must shed their exoskeleton to grow. This process, called molting, happens every three to four weeks. Overnight, your Shrimp will break free of its outer layer, exposing a soft interior that will harden over the following days. The discarded skeleton will maintain the shape of a shrimp.

Author Note: This discovery can be alarming considering their relatively brief lifespan because the shell looks like a dead shrimp. Promptly removing discarded shells is necessary because they will alter the water conditions as they decay.

Dancing Shrimp are active during the day and omnivorous, but most experts suggest offering protein-based meals to simulate their natural diet. If you populate your tank with sea anemones, you can observe the unique symbiotic relationships formed between these two organisms, although anemones are not required in your tank. 

Relationship with Anemones

Anemones are stationary tentacled creatures who sting passing prey. These predators are common in reefs. Researchers believe they draw Sexies in with a chemical release that signals them.

Thor Amboinensis next to their anemone friend

Sexy Shrimp are seemingly immune to the anemone’s venom, allowing them to crawl across the tentacles and stalk. Biologists have competing theories on how Sexies accomplish this. One school of thought is that the Sexies camouflage themselves from the anemone by adjusting to the mucus covering the tentacles.

Others propose that the shrimp experience a build-up of chemicals that counteract the anemone’s excretions, shielding them. Sexies climb across the stalk, oral disc, and tentacles, consuming microscopic plankton that lives on the anemone. In exchange, the tiny shrimp can hide from would-be predators. When the anemone retracts its tentacles in the evenings, the shrimp huddle at the stalk or move into the substrate to hide.

Author Note: Sexies are not selective and will bond with any species of anemone. The shrimp are so docile that they will share space on the anemone with other shrimp species and even some crabs. Sexies are zealous in their hunt for plankton and occasionally bite the anemone’s tentacles. However, the creature is unbothered because the bites are so tiny.

These shrimp do not fight for territory. While housing Clownfish and Sexies together may seem appealing because both species live among anemones, your shrimp will be bullied and driven from their home.

Sexy Shrimp Tank Mates

Ideally, Sexy Shrimp should be confined to a species tank because they are so small, passive, and do well with members of their species. If you house them in a community tank, you must avoid all larger aggressive predators. Beyond hiding or living with an anemone, Sexies have no way to defend themselves.

Viable tank mates include:

  • Blennies
  • Boxer Crabs
  • Bumble Bee Snails
  • Cerith Snails
  • Clown Gobies
  • Conch Snails
  • Emerald Crabs (check this Emerald Crab guide)
  • Nassarius Snails
  • Peppermint Shrimp
  • Porcelain Crabs
  • Pygmy Angels
  • Red Fire Shrimp (a higher grade of the Cherry Shrimp)
  • Red-white Cleaner Shrimp
  • Saron Shrimp
  • Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

Be sure to monitor the tank for signs of bullying or nutritional deficit. If you never see your Sexy Shrimp, it probably feels scared, uncomfortable, or ill.

Breeding

Sexy Shrimp are protandric hermaphrodites (that’s a mouthful!). Every member of the species begins life as a male and transitions to a female as he matures. The larger the shrimp, the more likely it is to be female. In addition, older females are the most fertile because they have the largest egg-carrying capacity. Females usually have a broken white stripe across their back, while the cross-back stripe is solid on males.

The females carry the fertilized eggs in their abdomen for protection. She releases them two and three weeks after fertilization, just before hatching. Females will release 100 to 300 eggs during a spawn. The larva take about one month to develop into shrimp.

Breeding Sexy Shrimp is virtually impossible for hobbyists. Professional aquarists struggle to raise these invertebrates but continue to perfect the technique to reduce the need to capture wild specimens. The Sexies purchased for your aquarium are most likely wild-caught.

If you house multiple shrimp, they will mate without an issue. After the female releases the eggs and they reach the larval phase, raising the young is almost impossible. In a dedicated tank, the microscopic creatures are in danger of being consumed by the filter or starving. Sexy Shrimps also eat their larva, further complicating efforts to breed and raise Sexies.

Author Note: In a community tank, the larva is a prime food source for other inhabitants. The current in larger tanks is also strong enough to crush the larva along the tank walls.

Attempting to breed Sexies is costly and time-consuming. The process requires a cylindrical recirculating tank that prevents the young shrimp from being driven into the glass. After the eggs hatch, you must quickly collect the larva and place them in their dedicated tank with identical water parameters. You can then attempt to raise the young, feeding them newborn brine shrimp until they reach maturity. Experts recommend providing 14 to 16 hours of light and completing a 50% water change twice a day.

Wrapping Up

We hope you enjoyed this guide about the Sexy Shrimp and improved your expertise on these Sexies or helped you decide whether to get one or not.

They are entertaining to watch although difficult to breed so you’ll probably need to get quite a few of them at first. 

Another good thing about these tiny shrimp is the small tank requirement which makes them budget friendly for those not looking to make a big investment or maybe don’t have enough space for a large tank. 

If you have a Sexy Shrimp you are probably sharing some cool photos on social media so don’t forget to tag us on Facebook!

And if you are looking to learn about other saltwater fish take a look at our care guides. Good luck!

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