News / Species Spotlight / Interesting Inverts - Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (08/06/15)

Interesting Inverts - Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

In the Wild

Lysmata amboinensis is common throughout the worlds tropical seas, though some literature separates the Atlantic Shrimp into its own species (L. grabbhami). They are ominvores, being predominantly carnivores, but are also excellent scavengers.

They are part of a larger group of Shrimp, generically referred to as "cleaners" because they will remove parasites and dead skin from larger fish. They will hang under ledges and set up "cleaning stations" that fish will actually cue up in front of. Some fish will even take the shrimps into their mouths (and not eat the shrimp).

They will commonly reach a size of two and a half to three inches, and will grow quickly to that size, moulting every three weeks to a month. L. amboinensis are simultaneous hermaphrodites, meaning adults carry functional organs for both sexes. Cross fertilization is required, so a solo shrimp will produce eggs, but they will be infertile. Conversely, any two adult shrimp can produce fertile offspring. Even more interesting, they will switch roles on every moult and those moults will be staggered between spawn events. They regularly produce 200 - 500 eggs per spawn.

In the Aquarium

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp are perfect aquarium creatures. They are quite hardy, very social and interactive, even with other Skunk Cleaner Shrimp. Amongst all the shrimp described as cleaners, these are the most likely to actually do the job in the home aquarium. However, it has to be noted that what fish will get cleaned seems to vary from shrimp to shrimp, which is yet another reason to stock multiples of this critter. In addition they will scavenge uneaten food and detritus, but should also be directly fed meaty foods, at least a couple times a week.

The only notes of caution are large clams and some LPS corals, which the shrimp can pick on, and large predatory fish, which may pick on the shrimp. Frequently neither of these is a concern. In some cases the predators will take no notice of the shrimp except to get cleaned up, but some Triggers and Groupers will definitely develop a taste for them. Lastly Skunks are very exuberant feeders, and will not hesitate to steal food from basically anything. A good way to get around this is to bribe them with a meal of their own before feeding things like LPS corals and anemones; this keeps the shrimp preoccupied while the slower eating inverts get a meal in. This same feeding exuberance will show up if they are underfed, as they will become cannibalistic. This trait is also common during their extended pelagic phase.


Ronald L Shimek, PH.D., Marine Invertebrates, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2004).
Anthony Calfo & Robert Fenner, Reef Invertebrates, An Essential Guide to Selection Care and Compatibility, (Reading Trees and Wet Web Media publications, Monroeville, PA, 2003)
Julian Sprung, Invertebrates, A Quick Reference Guide, 1st ed. (Ricordea Publishing, Miami, FL, 2001)
In House Sources: Eli Fleishauer, Adam Mangino