Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.
The African fan shrimp is not well established in the aquarium trade, but interest is growing. I have maintained a group for approximately 2 years, and have found them to be fascinating, if a bit challenging in some respects. Their mode of feeding is particularly interesting, but requires a bit of attention as to “presentation”…I’ll write more about that in Part II of this article.
This shrimp inhabits rocky streams along the west coast of Africa, from Senegal to Gabon. It is also recorded from the east coast of South America; however, the genus is not well studied and these populations may represent a different species. Their natural history is not well-documented.
African fan shrimp are heavily-built and reach 4 inches in length. The first 2 appendages are equipped with feathery bristles which are swept back and forth when the animal is feeding. Most in the trade are tan to dark brown in color, but blue, yellow, pink and red specimens show up on occasion.
A well-filtered 10 gallon aquarium will comfortably house 4-5 shrimp. They seem quite social; I have keep 12 in a 55 gallon aquarium. The tank should be well covered, in case they decide to explore by climbing filter tubes or heaters.
Heat and Light
I keep my fan shrimp at 76 F; their temperature range is reported to be 74-88F.
African fan shrimp only leave favored retreats at night, and then infrequently.
A Night Glo bulb or similar bulb will allow you to view their nocturnal activities.
A rock or gravel substrate is preferable, as such is what would be found in their native habitat. However, people keeping these shrimp on sand report no problems. They do not negotiate bare-bottomed tanks well, and seemed stressed by the effort.
Physical Environment – Habitat Type and Terrarium Decorations
African fan shrimp are very shy and retiring, and require suitable shelters if they are to thrive. Mine seem quite specific in their choice of a retreat – once they settle in, they remain within the same cave or shelter, even if others are available. I have observed several shrimp to occupy the same small caves for 18 months.
They will utilize rock caves or artificial structures and ornaments. Despite their need for privacy, the shrimp seem unconcerned about being on view through glass…caves positioned near the aquarium’s glass will allow easy observations. They prefer a “tight fit” over a spacious cave, and many will remain within one shelter, usually in physical contact with one another, if able. I’m not sure if they prefer to live in groups (field studies are in short supply) or not, but they certainly do well when provided with a cave that allows them to congregate.
Hailing as they do from fast-flowing streams, fan shrimp likely have high oxygen requirements, so be sure that your tank is adequately aerated.
They should be maintained at a pH of 6.5-7.4. I use soft water, but this is not based on field research (in fact, water in rocky streams tends to be hard).
Like many invertebrates, fan shrimp are extremely sensitive to ammonia, and to copper and other chemicals that are found in fish medications.
I’ll finish up with feeding and pass along a few observations next week.
We have much to learn about these and other fresh water shrimp… please write in with your questions and observations. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.
A video of an African fan shrimp in the process of feeding is below: