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Mantis Shrimp Pet in Your Aquarium: Vet-Approved Compatibility Facts & Temperament Info

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Mantis shrimp are fascinating creatures with a bad reputation. Some people say that mantis shrimp are extremely pesky pests that need to be removed and killed whenever you come across them. Other people say that they can be kept as unique pets. So, who is correct? The answer is that mantis shrimp do not make good pets in a mixed aquarium.

That doesn’t mean  you can’t keep a mantis shrimp as a pet, but you will have to take some things into consideration before you attempt the idea. Here is everything you need to know about mantis shrimp in aquariums, how best to keep them, how to remove them, and what to do if you think you might have one hiding in your fish tank.

Should You Keep a Mantis Shrimp in Your Aquarium?

If you have an aquarium with fish in it, you should not allow mantis shrimp to enter the tank. Mantis shrimp are proficient predators. If you put a mantis shrimp into a tank with regular fish, your fish will slowly start to disappear over time as the mantis shrimp hunts, kills, and eats them. Mantis shrimp have hitchhiked their way into tanks with expensive and rare fish via live rock and have wreaked havoc. It can be upsetting, frustrating, and saddening to have a mantis shrimp end up killing your school of aquarium fish.

For these reasons, you should absolutely not keep a mantis fish in your aquarium. If you want your existing fish to survive and thrive, you cannot have a mantis shrimp in the same tank as them.

Mantis shrimp are named for their quick strike and their powerful punch. The hunting motion of the mantis shrimp is reminiscent of a terrestrial praying mantis.

Peacock Mantis Shrimp investigating its tank
Image credit: Maxfield Weakley, Shutterstock

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How to Keep Mantis Shrimp as a Pet

If you want to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet, you are not alone. Mantis shrimp are fascinating creatures. They are interesting to look at. They are brooding. Few other animals that can be kept in a tank can hunt and move like the mantis shrimp. However, the mantis shrimp’s aggressive nature and carnivorous appetite means that you cannot simply keep it in any aquarium.

In order to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet, you will need to keep it in an entirely separate tank. Your mantis shrimp will have to live alone (or with other mantis shrimp). These types of tank setups are known as single species or species tanks. You will need to feed your mantis shrimp every two to three days with live food or chunks of fresh meat. You can feed your mantis shrimp other types of shrimp, small crabs, or snails.

It is possible to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet, but you should keep it isolated in its own tank. If you mix your mantis shrimp with other animals, there is a good chance that your mantis shrimp will kill and eat everything else in the tank over time.

Why Are Mantis Shrimp So Aggressive?

Mantis shrimp are known for being proficient predators. But why are these animals so aggressive? Scientists speculate that the areas in which mantis shrimp live, in the crevices of live rock, are extremely competitive. These areas are very popular with other mantis shrimp and other animals like eels. For these reasons, mantis shrimp had to develop aggressive defense mechanisms that have made them unfriendly and deadly toward other animals. In fact, National Geographic reports:

“[Mantis shrimp] are the only invertebrates that can recognise other individuals of their species and can remember the outcome of a fight against a rival for up to a month.”

You don’t want to mess with a mantis shrimp.

mantis shrip on the substrate of a tank
Image Credit: Gerald Robert Fischer, Shutterstock

How Did a Mantis Shrimp End Up in My Aquarium?

If you have somehow ended up with an unwanted mantis shrimp in your tank, this information can be alarming. Mantis shrimp can accidentally end up in your tank when you don’t want them there. This can be a scary development that puts your fish in danger. But how do mantis shrimp appear in fish tanks? Most unwanted mantis shrimp hitchhike on a live rock that is bought at stores and placed in your tank. Many people will buy live rock without closely inspecting it and plop it straight into the fish tank. This can lead to the appearance of unwanted mantis shrimp that are hiding in the rock.

To prevent accidentally putting mantis shrimp into your aquarium, you should quarantine live rock for a period of about 2-3 weeks in a quarantine tank. You can also treat the quarantine tank to kill any unwanted microbes and, of course, to check for any shrimp that have hitched a ride on the rock.

How to Remove an Unwanted Mantis Shrimp

If you discover that you have an unwanted mantis shrimp lurking in your aquarium, you have a few options on how to remove it. First, you can remove the live rock that the mantis is living in or hiding in. If you remove the live rock with the mantis inside, you can put it in a bucket and then figure out a way to rehome the shrimp.

If you remove the live rock and the mantis shrimp can still be seen in the tank, you can try to fish it out with a net. You can also fashion a trap to catch the mantis shrimp by luring it in and then removing it.

Lastly, if you are able, you can remove all of the fish you are trying to save from the tank, then empty and clean the whole tank. This process should remove the lurking mantis shrimp. Then, refill the tank and replace the fish that you removed. The tank will be safe after that.

mantis shrimp in water
Image Credit: Kevin Mc Loughlin, Pixabay

Conclusion

The decision to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet is entirely up to you. It is a bad idea to keep a mantis shrimp in a tank with other animals as the mantis shrimp can fight, kill, or eat other animals with a stunning rate of success. If you do want to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet, you need to keep it in its own separate aquarium by itself or with other mantis shrimp. Keeping mantis shrimp with other fish will lead to a slow decline in your tank’s population. If you accidentally end up with an invasive mantis shrimp in your aquarium, the best thing to do is to remove the shrimp to save your existing fish.


Featured Image Credit: worldclassphoto, Shutterstock

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