Vampire Shrimp: Your Friendly Guide to this Unique Aquarium Creature

Vampire Shrimp might have a spooky name, but these fascinating creatures are actually peaceful and make a great addition to your aquarium. With their unique appearance and filter-feeding behavior, they’re sure to catch the eye and become a favorite among your aquarium inhabitants.

These freshwater shrimp are wonderful for those looking to add a little variety to their tank. In this guide, we’ll cover all the essential information you need to create a comfortable environment for your Vampire Shrimp, ensuring their health and happiness. So, let’s learn more about these intriguing creatures and how to provide them with the best possible care.

Species Overview

Vampire Shrimp are fascinating creatures, known for their unique color-changing abilities and interesting feeding habits. They are peaceful shrimp that live longer than most other freshwater shrimp species, adding intrigue to any aquarium.

Property Details
Scientific name Atya gabonensis
Common names Vampire Shrimp, Viper Shrimp, African Fan Shrimp, Giant African Filter Shrimp, Gabon Shrimp
Distribution West Africa, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Senegal
Size 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cm), occasionally up to 6 inches (15.2 cm)
Lifespan 3-5 years
Diet Filter feeder
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum tank size 20 gallons (76 L)
Temperature 75-84°F (24-29°C)
pH 6.5-7.5
Water hardness 5-15 dKH
Care level Easy
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate to High
Water Type Freshwater
Breeding Eggs hatch into larvae
Breeding difficulty Moderate
Compatibility Community tank with non-aggressive fish

Remember to provide a well-maintained tank with a proper filter system to accommodate the Vampire Shrimp’s filter-feeding habits. Include plenty of hiding spaces to mimic their natural habitat and ensure they feel safe and secure. Keep their environment peaceful and avoid housing them with aggressive or predatory tankmates, as they are shy and reclusive creatures. Proper care will bring out the best in these intriguing shrimp, making them a fascinating addition to your aquarium.

Vampire Shrimp Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

Vampire Shrimp, also known as Atya gabonensis, can be found in parts of Western Africa and South America. They are mostly found in freshwater rivers and streams, where they use their unique fan-like appendages to filter food particles from the water. These shrimp are relatively shy, preferring to hide during the day and venture out during the twilight and nighttime hours.

Size and Shape

Vampire Shrimp typically range from two to three inches in size, with some reportedly growing up to six inches long. Their appearance is quite distinct, as they are thicker and more robust than other freshwater shrimp species, such as Bamboo Shrimp. Their legs have bumpy points, which may help grip surfaces in strong currents.

Color and Markings

These captivating shrimp come in various color variations, such as:

  • Light blue-ish grey
  • Darker shades of blue-ish grey
  • Cream
  • Pink
  • Green
  • Rusty maroon
  • Brown
  • Blue

Their long, slender antennae on top of their heads are another distinguishing feature that adds to their unique appearance.


The lifespan of Vampire Shrimp can vary, with some living up to three to five years under stable and healthy tank conditions. However, it is essential to provide your shrimp with a suitable environment, proper care, and a balanced diet to ensure a long and healthy life.

Be mindful that these shrimp may die shortly after being introduced to a new tank due to water differences, transportation stress, or their condition. Despite these challenges, Vampire Shrimp’s wide range of colors and potential lifespan make them a truly fascinating and unique addition to your aquarium.

Diet and Feeding

Vampire Shrimp primarily feed on edible plant matter, uneaten fish food, and tiny microorganisms in your tank. To maintain their health, it’s recommended that you supplement their diet. You can use finely ground fish pellets, shrimp pellets, algae wafers, or small flakes for this purpose.

When feeding your Vampire Shrimp, make sure you’ve ground the supplementary foods into a fine powder and add it to the water upstream of the shrimp. This allows the food particles to reach the shrimp directly in its filter fans. With a little practice, you’ll find it easy to accurately feed them with the powdered food.

A varied diet is essential for the overall health and well-being of your Vampire Shrimp. So, ensure their diet includes a combination of edible plant matter, microorganisms, and commercially available shrimp food. However, be careful not to overfeed them, as it can lead to water quality issues in the tank.

Regularly monitor your Vampire Shrimp’s feeding behavior and adjust the amount of food as necessary to ensure their optimal nutrition.

Behavior and Temperament

Vampire Shrimp, scientifically known as Atya gabonensis, may have a somewhat intimidating name, but you’ll be glad to know that their behavior is actually quite peaceful. These fascinating creatures are known for their shy and reclusive nature, which means that they may not always be the center of attention in your aquarium. However, observing their unique feeding habits can be a rewarding experience for any shrimp enthusiast.

During the day, Vampire Shrimp prefer to spend most of their time hiding in various nooks and crannies within your aquarium. They tend to choose spots that provide ample cover and safety from potential predators. This behavior is completely normal, so don’t be alarmed if your Vampire Shrimp seem to be playing an extended game of hide-and-seek.

As night falls, these fascinating creatures become more active and venture out from their hiding places. They are crepuscular shrimp, which means that they are most active during twilight hours and nighttime. This is when they exhibit their distinctive fan-like feeding behavior. Vampire Shrimp use their feathery appendages to catch tiny particles drifting in the water, allowing them to sustain themselves on a diet of microorganisms and other organic matter.

Despite their timid nature, Vampire Shrimp can coexist peacefully with a range of tank mates. They are not aggressive or territorial creatures, which means that they can successfully share an aquarium with other non-predatory fish and invertebrates. Just ensure that all inhabitants of your tank are also peaceful in temperament to avoid any unnecessary stress to your shrimp.

Vampire Shrimp will display interesting and peaceful behavior while adding a unique dynamic to your aquarium. Observing their nighttime feeding activities can be truly mesmerizing, and their gentle nature makes them an excellent choice for budding shrimp enthusiasts or seasoned aquarium hobbyists.

Care and Tank Requirements

Caring for Vampire Shrimp involves providing them with an appropriate environment and meeting their specific needs. In this section, we’ll discuss tank size, water parameters, tank setup and decorations, and filtration and aeration.

Tank Size

To keep your Vampire Shrimp happy, you should start with a 20-gallon aquarium with dimensions of 30 × 12 × 12 inches. This size allows you to house 5 or 6 Vampire Shrimp comfortably. Remember that a larger tank is always better to help maintain stable water conditions.

Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water conditions is important for the well-being of your Vampire Shrimp. Keep the following parameters in check:

  • Temperature: 68-78°F (20-25°C)
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • KH: 3-10 dKH
  • GH: 5-15 dGH

Perform regular water tests to ensure these parameters remain within the ideal range.

Tank Setup and Decorations

When setting up your tank, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  • Substrate: Choose a soft substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, to prevent injury to your shrimp’s delicate fan-like appendages.
  • Plants: Provide plenty of live plants in the aquarium, as they help maintain water quality and provide hiding spots for your shrimp.
  • Hiding Spots: Add caves, driftwood, and rocks to create a natural environment and offer hiding places for your Vampire Shrimp. This will help them feel secure and reduce stress.
  • Current: Vampire Shrimp are filter feeders, so a moderate water current is vital for providing them with the floating food they require.

Filtration and Aeration

Having a proper filtration and aeration system is vital to maintaining a healthy environment for your Vampire Shrimp:

  • Filtration: Use a high-quality filter to help maintain water clarity and quality. A sponge filter is a particularly good choice, as it won’t disturb the substrate and provides gentle water flow.
  • Aeration: Provide adequate aeration using an air stone or air pump to ensure sufficient dissolved oxygen levels in the water, making it easier for your shrimp to breathe.

By paying attention to these care and tank requirements, you’ll be able to provide a safe and comfortable environment for your Vampire Shrimp to thrive.

Vampire Shrimp Molting Process

The molting process of a Vampire Shrimp occurs every couple of months, during which they grow a new shell underneath the old one. As the shrimp molts, it breaks out of its old shell and leaves it behind. During this time, your Vampire Shrimp will feel vulnerable, and it’s essential to provide them with quiet and safe hiding places within the aquarium.

Some common hiding spots for molting Vampire Shrimp include behind power filter water intakes. As a shrimp keeper, you might initially mistake the empty shell left behind for a dead shrimp; however, this is not the case. Within a day or even just a few hours, you’ll notice your Vampire Shrimp reappear sporting its new shell.

It’s generally a good idea to leave the molted shells in the tank for a day or so. This is because other shrimp in the aquarium may eat them, re-ingesting essential minerals in the process. However, it’s important to note that while Amano Shrimp shells are soft and easily consumed, Vampire Shrimp shells tend to be tougher.

Consequently, other shrimp might not be as interested in eating the shells of molted Vampire Shrimp. If you find that other shrimp in the tank aren’t consuming the empty shell, you can go ahead and remove it from the tank after the molting process has been completed.

Suitable Tank Mates

When it comes to finding suitable tank mates for your Vampire Shrimp, it’s essential to select peaceful, non-aggressive species that will coexist harmoniously. The following list provides some great tank mate options for your Vampire Shrimp:

  • Freshwater shrimp: Bamboo Shrimp, Amano Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp, and Ghost Shrimp.
  • Freshwater snails: Malaysian Trumpet Snails, Ramshorn Snails, Mystery Snails, Gold Inca Snails, Ivory Snails, and Nerite Snails.
  • Small peaceful fish: Guppies, Mollies, Danios, and Cherry Barbs.

Remember to avoid aggressive tank mates such as crayfish, cichlids, or Goldfish, as they can pose a threat to your Vampire Shrimp. With careful planning and advice from store clerks, you can create a safe and harmonious environment for your shrimp.

Vampire Shrimp are non-aggressive and can be part of a larger community with other shrimp species. Their size allows them to coexist with smaller fish without being easy targets. Just make sure to avoid any aggressive fish species, like cichlids and Goldfish, to ensure the safety and well-being of your Vampire Shrimp.


Breeding Vampire Shrimp in captivity can be quite challenging and may not be practical for you as a hobbyist. These shrimp primarily available in stores are wild-caught because of the difficulties associated with large-scale breeding. Their offspring go through multiple larval stages and require a switch from saltwater to freshwater environments, which can be hard to replicate in your home aquarium.

To successfully breed Vampire Shrimp, you would need multiple tanks and close monitoring of the conditions within each tank, which is complex and involved. Due to the high level of expertise and specialized equipment needed, it is not suitable for most shrimp keepers. Captive breeding of Vampire Shrimp is rarely seen because of these challenges.

As you enjoy your Vampire Shrimp as fascinating aquarium pets, remember that attempting to breed them might not be the best idea. Instead, focus on letting them live peacefully in their tank. The hurdles in replicating their natural breeding process make it impractical for most enthusiasts.

Common Diseases and Treatments

It’s essential to know that Vampire Shrimp can experience health problems, with bacterial and fungal infections being the most common. Bacterial and fungal spores can enter the closed environment of the tank and pose a threat to your shrimp’s health. Infections can target dead tissue and spread to other parts of the shrimp’s body.

Parasitic infections, particularly Vorticella, can occur when your shrimp ingest plants or rocks carrying the parasites. Vampire Shrimp are most vulnerable to diseases during the molting process when their new shells are thin and soft. After molting, your shrimp tend to hide for a few days to protect themselves from potential dangers.

The good news is that most fungal, bacterial, and parasitic diseases in Vampire Shrimp are treatable. Copper-based medicines should be avoided as they can be fatal to the shrimp. As a shrimp owner, opt for invertebrate-safe medications and quarantine the affected shrimp according to the package instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Vampire Shrimp low-maintenance pets?

Yes, Vampire Shrimp are considered low-maintenance pets. They require a decent-sized aquarium, clean water, and a constant food source of floating particles. Their filter-feeding nature allows them to help keep the water clean. Just ensure they have places to hide, like rocks and plants, to feel secure in their environment.

Do they tend to hide in aquariums?

Vampire Shrimp are shy creatures and tend to hide in aquariums. They prefer to stay well-hidden during the daytime and might be more active during dusk or nighttime. Providing them with plenty of hiding spots, such as rocks, driftwood, and live plants, will make them feel secure and comfortable.

What’s the growth size of Vampire Shrimp?

Vampire Shrimp typically grow to about 2-3 inches, but some individuals can reach up to 6 inches. This makes them larger compared to most dwarf shrimp species. Keep that in mind when planning the size of the aquarium they’ll be living in.

What is their lifespan?

Vampire Shrimp have a longer lifespan compared to other freshwater shrimp species. With proper care, they can live for several years. Ensuring a suitable aquatic environment, maintaining water quality, and providing a steady food source will help them thrive for as long as possible.

Do they get along with other tank mates?

Yes, Vampire Shrimp are peaceful creatures and can coexist well with other non-aggressive tank mates. Due to their shy nature, they are best paired with calm fish species and other gentle aquatic creatures. Avoid housing them with large, aggressive fish that might see them as food or make them feel threatened.