Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera picta) are one of the coolest looking shrimp out there. They are a psychedelic whitish pink color splashed with purplish brown spots. They have flattened antennae and paddle shaped claws that appear almost leaf like. Each harlequin shrimp has their own unique pattern almost like a human fingerprint. No two are alike.
As with any marine invertebrate, Harlequin Shrimp require pristine water quality to thrive. They prefer a specific gravity of 1.023-1.026 and temperature between 76-78 degrees. They also like a tank with sufficient rubble rock with crevices and caves for them to hang out in during the day. They do better in pairs in a smaller species only tank since they tend to be shy and reclusive.
Harlequin Shrimp are considered to be reef safe, however, in reefs that include sea stars they will become lunch…it is just a matter of time! Harlequin shrimp are very unique because they feed exclusively on starfish which makes them rather difficult keep unless you have on hand a constant supply of starfish. In the wild, they dine on tube feet of linkia species sea stars, particularly the comet and blood spotted stars . In captivity it may take a few tries to find the type of starfish your harlequin shrimp prefers. Some acceptable starfish species to try include linkia stars, chocolate chip stars, sand sifting stars, fromia stars, and crown of thorn stars. While they can go a period of time without food they should be fed at least a starfish a month. Brittle stars are the one type of starfish that appear to get off the hook and are not of interest to the harlequin shrimp. That is most likely due to their ability to move fairly quickly and stay out of reach.
So if you have a small tank and are willing to splurge for a few starfish every once and a while then a pair of harlequin shrimp just might be the cool little addition you have been looking for.
I hope you enjoyed my profile on the harlequin shrimp, until next time.