Home | Aquarium Livestock | Keeping the African Giant Filter Shrimp (African Fan Shrimp, Vampire Shrimp), Atya gabonensis, Part 2

Keeping the African Giant Filter Shrimp (African Fan Shrimp, Vampire Shrimp), Atya gabonensis, Part 2

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Please see Part I of this article for further information.

Feeding

Giant Fan ShrimpThe fan shrimp’s unique mode of feeding is very interesting to observe.  The first 2 appendages are lined with plume-like bristles which are waved about when food is detected.  Tiny organisms, organic detritus and algae are trapped in these and transferred to the mouth.  Fan shrimp will also pick food particles from the substrate, in more “typical shrimp” fashion, and I have several times observed them feeding on dead fish (at night).

If you keep fan shrimp with fish, it is important to introduce food at night, just before you turn out the lights…the shrimp will rarely get enough to eat otherwise.  I keep a few yo-yo loaches, Kuhli loaches and armored cats with mine, but beware of adding too many nocturnally-feeding fish.

Unlike many shrimps with specialized feeding adaptations, these accept nearly any pelleted or freeze dried food.  One of the few published reports on their feeding habits in the wild (please see below) established that fan shrimp are omnivorous, with algae forming a major part of the diet.  I therefore provide my shrimp with both plant and animal foods.  I use algae  and shrimp tablets as a basis of the diet, alternated with flake and freeze dried foods.  Liquid invertebrate food  may also be squirted into their hiding places.

African fan shrimp begin waving their feeding appendages about as soon as food is sensed.  I usually drop algae tabs or other foods right near them, after which they will move over it and begin waving away.  If you look closely, you’ll be able to see fine particles of food lodge in the brushes as the tablet dissolves.

My fan shrimp do not gravitate towards the filter outflow in order to trap food, as do the Singapore wood shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis) which share their tank.  They will, however, filter fine food particles from whatever water currents pass by their lairs.  Some suggest keeping these shrimp in well-established tanks that house high populations of diatoms and other micro-organisms.  Certainly this is a good idea, but as we know little of their actual food intake needs, I would suggest that shrimp in these situations be fed as described above as well.

Social Grouping/Compatible Species

African fan shrimp do exceedingly well in same-species groups; I have also kept them with Singapore wood shrimp, Atyopsis moluccensis, Japanese marsh shrimp, Caridina japonica and cherry shrimp, Neocardina denticulate.  Small, peaceful community fish such as guppies, zebra danios, cherry barbs and so on are also fine, but please see the feeding cautions above.

Alternatively, you can house fan shrimp with fish that do not compete for food, i.e. live food specialists such as elephant-nosed morymids and butterfly fish (both of which are also native to West Africa, although not to the same habitat-types).

Small and large cichlids, carnivorous catfish and crayfish will attack fan shrimp.

Captive Longevity

Unpublished reports set captive longevity at just over 5 years.

Breeding

Anecdotal reports claim breeding success in heavily-planted outdoor ponds.  The young are said to be planktonic for a period of 2-3 weeks after hatching, which would certainly complicate matters in an aquarium.  I plan to look into this further and report back.

Miscellaneous

Giant Fan ShrimpFan shrimp are, as mentioned, very much oriented to a specific home cave, being more like crayfish than shrimp in this regard.  I imagine (but this has not been established) that such holds true in the wild as well.  I have observed them to become quite stressed if routed from their retreats.  In most cases, they wander about, often for days, before returning to the cave.

Be extremely careful when working around them, and avoid moving or re-arranging their caves.  I usually forego cleaning the glass directly in front of their caves, unless I happen to catch the shrimp “away from home” on rare foraging forays.  In those cases I’m always careful to return the rocks to their original position – a slight change in their shelter’s height or depth has seemingly caused my shrimp to seek “new accommodations”.

We have a great deal to learn about this and other freshwater invertebrates… please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.

Very little has been published about this species in its natural habitat.  An interesting article concerning field research with fan shrimp in Nigeria is posted at:

http://www.wajae.org/papers/paper_vol13/Food_and_Feeding_Habits_of_Atya_gabonensis_from_Lower_River_Benue_in_Northern_Nigeria_full.pdf

10 comments

  1. avatar

    Nice article.

    I wonder what youre source is on the breedingchapter of this article?

    bye

  2. avatar

    My African Filter Shrimp died just today after being caught out in the open just after molting. Their exo-skeletons are very soft then and he couldn’t make it from where he climbed out of his shell to his safe cave in time. very sad!

    Lovely creatures and like to hang around a specific part of the tank.

  3. avatar

    Hello Keli, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Sorry to hear about your shrimp but thank you for bringing up an interesting point; I’ve noticed the same with several of my animals. As you say, they do stay to one area. Mine favor caves in which they can fit very snugly – with no room to spare. I think this is why they need to move out into the open to shed. I’m experimenting with caves that allow them a very snug, narrow place to hide, but that also provide a larger area that has enough room to shed, but still offers some protection.

    Also – again just a theory, but they need a good deal of calcium to form the new exoskeleton. While algae tablets http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/10807/product.web and similar foods are good as a basic diet, I also include shrimp pellets http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/10785/product.web as a Calcium source as well.

    Good luck and please keep me posted; we have a great deal to learn about these fascinating creatures, so any observations you might provide would be most appreciated.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Hi, I’ve been breeding cherry shrimps for some time and I’m looking into breeding Vampire Shrimps.. I wonder, have you had any luck in breeding these guys yet?? Most of the information I’ve read said that the larva need brackish to full strength sea water to live, whats your take on this?

  5. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Interesting and very worthwhile project. I have read the same, and, while it is possible that they migrate to the sea to breed, there are populations far enough inland to make this unlikely (but not impossible). I did read of a successful breeding in an outdoor pond, but no details were provided. It may be, as suggested to me by a colleague, that a rise in pH or perhaps salinity is needed – this is the case with many fishes and amphibians that live in shallow streams and ponds – as water levels drop in the dry season, salts, minerals and dead plants change the water chemistry – rains then decrease the salinity and lower the ph – the change is definitely critical to some species, and may be so for Vampire Shrimps. Another difficulty may be that more than 1 species is entering the trade, which confuses what little is known about their biology – we really have much to learn.

    I’ve had a group for over 2 years without any breeding activity, but all I’ve manipulated is temperature. You might consider dropping the water level, increasing temperature by 5F or so, and very slowly raising pH. Adding a bit of salt might be to much, perhaps choose salt or ph. After a month or so, rapidly increase water level and drop temperature back to normal….unfortunately, I’m speculating from work with other species, so no guarantees!

    Good luck, keep at it and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    awesome write up.

  7. avatar

    Hi, we have one of those guys in our aquaponics tank. He used to be doing very well in there enjoying the current the system makes. He has been there for about 1 year now and has molted at least 3 if not 4 times. Ours is reddish or pink in color very cool little guy. He lives in one rock that is actually a cave for shrimp. He shares it with a bumble bee cat fish and a ton of snails. We have put other caves in there but he never goes in the other ones.
    I think he is a hardy shrimp because there was a time we were gone for over a week and there was no one that could go take care of our fish so when we came back all the water in the tank was almost evaporated- there was 3 fingers of water left on the bottom, and he plus all the fish was fine although very freaked out. Now we are changing the type of fish in the tank and I have read he won`t feel good with cichlids and that is what is going into this tank. I want to move him to our 10 gal. tank that he can share with guppies. My question is if the tank is filtered with a sponge filter and has a separate air rock, is this going to make enough curent for the little guy to live in there. Also we have been adding a little salt to the water, should we do a few water changes untill we get the salt out of the water before we add him. If you have any information about that it will be great. I think the cichlids will be too much for him.

    Another thing i have read is when they mold you can leave they their shelf in the tank and they will eat it and it will give them the needed calcium, we do that and actually the shelf is gone in a few days not sure if he eats it or the fish does.

    Thanks for reading this. Have a good day

  8. avatar

    I think you’re right to be concerned about leaving him with cichlids. Bad idea, as even if they don’t bother the shrimp to begin with, he would become a quick meal when he molts and is soft and vulnerable, they also prefer soft water, so unless you’re talking about docile species of South American or West African cichlids like dwarfs it won’t work out long term. The shrimp can move to where the current in the tank is suitable, and you might add a spray bar or small circulation pump to help make the current a little stronger. These shrimp hail from fast moving freshwater streams so salt, even in small amounts might impact them negatively…watch the levels closely if you try to mix them in the guppy tank.

  9. avatar

    Hello there! I need some insight on how I can get one of my viper shrimp out from under one of my resin decorations. It’s a pretty big decoration with a small hole directly at the bottom that my pleco uncovered from the gravel And now my shrimp is making it its home. The problem is I want to replace the big resin decoration with actual wood but I have no idea how I am going to get him out of it if he decides to crawl in further if I take it out !

  10. avatar

    Hi Erica…tricky little guy! I think your best option would be to surprise the shrimp after dark, when it is out foraging. Perhaps keep it hungry for a bit and then feed after dark. Have a net ready to block hole…some of mine would bolt directly for their shelters when disturbed. Do not turn tank lights on in a dark room..can shock fish/inverts. Rather, use the room lights or a small flashlight. I hope all goes well, pl let me know.Best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.