Pistol Shrimp Care: Tank Setup, Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases & More

Caring for pistol shrimp can be a rewarding experience that requires dedication and attention to detail. I’ve discovered that understanding their unique behavior and habitat preferences is essential for a successful aquarium setup.

Pistol Shrimp require a tank size of at least 10 gallons, water temperature between 72-78°F, and a pH range of 8.1-8.4. They are scavengers and need a varied diet of high-quality pellets or flakes, as well as occasional live or frozen foods. They also require a hiding place and a substrate that allows them to burrow. Regular water changes and tank maintenance are important for their health.

When I first got my pistol shrimp, one thing I noticed is their fascinating symbiotic relationship with certain goby fish. They work together to create safe burrows and watch out for potential predators. This taught me that creating an appropriate environment in which these fascinating creatures can thrive is of utmost importance.

Pistol Shrimp

Species Summary


The Pistol Shrimp, also known as the Snapping Shrimp, is native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. I recall exploring the coral reefs in the Caribbean and being amazed by the diverse marine life, including these fascinating shrimps.


Typically, Pistol Shrimp can live up to 2-3 years in captivity with proper care, which is what I aim to provide my own shrimp.


Their unique appearance is characterized by one enlarged claw, which they use to create a loud snapping sound. These shrimps display various colors such as yellow, red, and blue, which adds vibrancy to my aquarium.


As an adult, a Pistol Shrimp can grow up to 2 inches in length. It’s amazing to see them interact with other inhabitants in the tank despite their small size.

Growth Rate

Pistol Shrimp have a moderate growth rate, reaching their adult size within one year. I’ve always found it fascinating to observe their development over time.

Behavior & Temperament

They are quite social and can form symbiotic relationships with other marine species, like the goby fish. In my own tank, I’ve noticed my Pistol Shrimp sharing burrows, which exemplifies their peaceful coexistence.

Male vs Female

Males and females have subtle differences, with males having slightly larger claws and more vibrant colors. I find it intriguing to distinguish between them in my aquarium.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

When I set up my pistol shrimp’s tank, I ensured it was at least 20 gallons. A larger tank of 30+ gallons is ideal, providing ample space for the shrimp and its symbiotic species.


I found that moderate lighting works well for pistol shrimp, as they like dimmer environments. LED lights with adjustable settings are an excellent choice.

Filtration & Aeration

In my experience, incorporating a powerful filter and airstone helps maintain optimal water quality. Pistol shrimp need a good filtration system to remove toxins and an airstone to promote oxygenation.


I installed an adjustable heater to maintain a steady temperature of 72-78°F (22-26°C) in the tank. Proper temperature regulation is vital for their health and comfort.


For my pistol shrimp’s tank, I opted for fine sand as the substrate. This allowed my shrimp to create burrows, which they find essential for their natural behavior.


To mimic the pistol shrimp’s natural habitat, I introduced live rock structures and hiding spots. My shrimp loved it, and the additional spaces catered to its territorial instincts.

  • Live Rocks
  • Hiding Spots


I incorporated live plants, like Java Fern, in my shrimp’s tank. They provided shelter and contributed to the tank’s water quality, making the environment more natural for my shrimp.

Water Quality

Water Temperature

In my experience with pistol shrimp, maintaining a stable water temperature is crucial. I usually keep the water temperature between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius). A reliable aquarium heater helps me maintain this range.

Water pH

Getting the pH right is vital for your shrimp’s health. I aim for a water pH of 8.0 to 8.4. To measure pH accurately, I use test kits available at my local fish store.

Water Hardness

Pistol shrimp need a specific water hardness to thrive. I maintain the following parameters in my tank:

  • 8 to 12 dKH for carbonate hardness (KH)
  • 8 to 10 dGH for general hardness (GH)

Water Changes

I have found that performing regular water changes is essential for pistol shrimp care. Water changes help remove potentially harmful elements. I typically change 20% of the water in my tank every two weeks. Be sure to use properly treated water to avoid shocking the shrimp.

Tank Maintenance

When it comes to pistol shrimp care, maintaining a clean and healthy tank is crucial. In my experience, consistency plays a key role in making sure the shrimp thrive.

To start, I would recommend a weekly water change of about 10% to 25% in order to maintain water quality. This involves removing old water and replacing it with fresh, dechlorinated water.

Maintaining a stable temperature is also important. I’ve found that keeping the water temperature between 72°F and 82°F (22°C and 28°C) works best for pistol shrimp.

It’s essential to regulate the salinity levels as well. I try to keep the salinity between 1.025 and 1.027. It’s helpful to use a refractometer to measure salinity accurately.

Another key aspect is filtration. A high-quality filter helps keep the water clean and eliminates harmful chemicals and other impurities. I use a hang-on-back filter, but you can also consider a canister filter.

Adequate substrate is crucial for pistol shrimp since they love to dig and create burrows. I use a mix of sand and crushed coral to create a soft, comfortable bed for them to dig into.

Live rock plays a major role in tank maintenance. When I started adding live rock to my tank, I saw a noticeable difference in the overall health of my shrimp. It provides a natural habitat, promotes bacterial growth, and acts as a biological filter.

Lastly, I make sure to test the water regularly for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels to ensure a safe environment for my pistol shrimp. Regular testing helps me catch any imbalances and make adjustments before it can harm my shrimp.

Remember, consistency is vital in maintaining your tank, and it will help keep your pistol shrimp healthy and happy.

Tank Mates

Compatible Fish Species

When setting up a tank for my pistol shrimp, I made sure to choose compatible fish species. These are some ideal tank mates for pistol shrimp:

  • Gobies: Particularly the watchman goby, these fish form a symbiotic relationship with pistol shrimp, providing mutual protection and food benefits.
  • Dartfish: Peaceful and compatible, these fast-swimming fish can easily avoid any territorial scuffles with the shrimp.
  • Cardinalfish: Their calm nature and nocturnal habits make them a suitable companion for pistol shrimp.

Incompatible Fish Species

It’s equally important to avoid pairing your pistol shrimp with incompatible fish species. Here’s a list of fish to steer clear of:

  • Larger predatory fish: Fish such as lionfish, groupers, or eels pose a significant threat to your pistol shrimp.
  • Aggressive fish: Species like aggressive damsels or dottybacks can stress out or even harm your pistol shrimp.
  • Small, slow-moving fish: Nano fish, seahorses, or pipefish may inadvertently become targets for the pistol shrimp’s powerful snap.

Remember, always research before introducing any new tank mates to ensure the safety and well-being of all your aquatic inhabitants.


What To Feed

In my experience taking care of pistol shrimp, I’ve found that they enjoy a varied diet. They primarily eat small aquatic animals like:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Copepods


I feed my pistol shrimp twice a day, making sure not to overfeed, as this can lead to poor water quality and health issues.


When feeding your pistol shrimp, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Size matters: Make sure the food you offer is small enough for them to easily consume.
  2. Variety: Offer a mix of foods to keep their diet balanced and interesting.
  3. Observe: Watch their behavior during feeding to see if they’re consuming the food and adjust accordingly.

I learned from experience that adding live copepods to my aquarium helped my pistol shrimp stay active and engaged.

Common Diseases


As a pistol shrimp owner, I’ve noticed a few common diseases that can affect these fascinating creatures. The most common ones include bacterial infections, shell disease, and white spot disease.


Bacterial infections usually cause red or swollen areas on the shrimp’s body. They might also become lethargic and lose their appetite.

Shell disease is characterized by black or brown spots on the shrimp’s exoskeleton, which may also become rough and damaged.

White spot disease presents as tiny white spots on the shrimp’s body and can cause them to become listless and lose their appetite.


Luckily, there’s a variety of treatments available for these ailments. For bacterial infections, I’ve had success using commercial shrimp-safe antibiotics. Consult with a vet to find the right dosage and treatment duration.

When treating shell disease, it’s essential to improve water quality, and sometimes, using a mild antifungal treatment may help.

For white spot disease, a shrimp-friendly medication containing formalin and malachite green can be quite effective. When I had a white spot outbreak in my tank, I followed the manufacturer’s instructions, and the issue was resolved promptly.


Preventing diseases is better than having to treat them. I always ensure my tank has excellent water quality by doing regular water changes and checking the parameters to prevent bacterial infections and shell disease.

For white spot disease, the key is to minimize stress and maintain good water quality. Quarantining new shrimp and keeping an eye on tankmates are also essential prevention steps that have worked well for me.

Signs of a Healthy Pistol Shrimp

As an enthusiast of pistol shrimp, I can confidently say that recognizing the signs of a healthy specimen is crucial. Pay close attention to the shrimp’s appearance, behavior, and appetite to ensure it thrives in your care.

A crucial indicator of a healthy pistol shrimp is its vibrant coloration. Shrimp with bright and consistent colors signify optimal health. Dull or patchy colors could indicate stress, illness, or inadequate diet.

Another important factor is their behavior. Active and social shrimp are signs of good health. Keep an eye out for regular burrowing, as this is a normal activity for pistol shrimp in the wild.

Appetite is a key area to observe. A healthy shrimp will feed readily on the offered food, like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and other available dietary options. In contrast, a lack of appetite may be a sign of illness or stress.

I once acquired a pistol shrimp that didn’t respond well to a new tank setup. After some research and adjusting water conditions, the little guy perked up and begun eating enthusiastically again.

Finally, check their molting process. Healthy shrimp will molt and grow regularly. They shed their exoskeletons as they grow, so finding molted shells in the tank is a good sign.

In conclusion, by keeping an eye on your pistol shrimp’s appearance, behavior, and appetite, you can ensure that it remains healthy and thriving in your care.

Signs Your Pistol Shrimp Is Sick

I remember when I first noticed something was off with my pistol shrimp. Here are some signs I’ve learned to look out for:

  1. Loss of Appetite: If your pistol shrimp isn’t showing interest in food, it could be a sign of illness.
  2. Lethargy: A healthy pistol shrimp is active and curious. If it’s lying motionless or staying hidden, be concerned.
  3. Changed color: A sudden color change may indicate stress or sickness.
  4. Inflamed Gills: Red, swollen or inflamed gills are a warning sign.
  5. Rapid Breathing: Watch out for labored, fast or heavy breathing.
  6. Abnormal Swimming: Unusual swimming patterns, like swimming sideways or upside down, could mean they’re unwell.

Always consult an expert if you notice any of these signs in your pistol shrimp. Remember, early detection can make all the difference in treatment success.


Breeding Setup

When I first started breeding pistol shrimp, I made sure to have a separate tank specifically for breeding purposes. It’s essential to maintain proper water parameters and a stable environment for the shrimp to feel comfortable and breed successfully.

How To Breed

To initiate the breeding process, I place a few healthy males and females together in the breeding tank. I then provide a variety of hiding spots for them using live rocks or PVC pipes, so they can establish territories and pair up.


Once the shrimp pairs mate, females will carry fertilized eggs in their pleopods. I make sure to offer a nutritious diet that includes various frozen and live foods. This ensures their overall health and increases the chances of successful breeding.

After hatching, it’s crucial to provide the larval shrimp with the appropriate food, such as baby brine shrimp or copepods. They need to be fed multiple times a day to ensure proper growth. Finally, I keep an eye on the water quality and conduct regular water changes to maintain ideal conditions for their development.

Product recommendations for Pistol Shrimp:

  1. AquaIllumination Hydra 32 HD LED Light Fixture: This high-quality LED light fixture can provide the perfect lighting for your pistol shrimp tank.
  2. Fluval Sea EVO XII Aquarium Kit: This aquarium kit is perfect for keeping pistol shrimp and comes with a powerful filtration system to keep the water clean and clear.
  3. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand: This sand substrate is perfect for creating a natural-looking environment for your pistol shrimp.
  4. Instant Ocean Sea Salt: This high-quality sea salt mix can help you create the perfect water conditions for your pistol shrimp.
  5. API Aquarium Test Kit: Regular water testing is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for your pistol shrimp, and this test kit can help you monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your tank.
  6. Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump: This compact and efficient pump can help improve water circulation in your aquarium and provide your pistol shrimp with a more natural environment.
  7. Seachem Stability: This beneficial bacteria supplement can help establish a healthy biological filtration system in your pistol shrimp tank.
  8. Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer: This protein skimmer can help remove organic waste from the water and keep your pistol shrimp tank clean and healthy.
  9. AquaFX Barracuda RO/DI System: This high-quality water filtration system can help you create the perfect water conditions for your pistol shrimp.
  10. Omega One Freeze-Dried Krill: This tasty treat can provide your pistol shrimp with a high-quality source of protein and help promote healthy growth and coloration.


Taking care of pistol shrimp can be a truly rewarding experience for any aquarium enthusiast. As I mentioned earlier, it’s essential to provide them with plenty of hiding spots to feel safe. It’s crucial to maintain a stable environment with appropriate water parameters and a clean tank.

Feeding your pistol shrimp can be quite interesting to observe. Since they are scavengers, offer them a varied diet of both plant and animal matter. Remember, consistency is key. Providing enough nutrients will help your little friend thrive.

In my own experience, adding pistol shrimp to my aquarium has brought a sense of fascination. Watching their unique behaviors and powerful snapping claws in action never fails to amaze me.

Being well-informed about their care and keeping will make your time as a pistol shrimp owner a delightful and successful journey.


How big of a tank do pistol shrimps need?

In my experience, a pistol shrimp thrives in a 10-gallon tank at a minimum. Larger tanks give them more space to create their burrows.

What substrate works best for pistol shrimps?

I recommend using a mix of sand and fine gravel. This allows for easy burrow construction and helps maintain water quality.

What are the ideal water conditions for pistol shrimps?

Keep the water temperature at 72-78°F, salinity at 1.023-1.025, and pH between 8.1-8.4. I always monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to ensure a healthy environment.

What do pistol shrimps eat?

In my tank, I feed them a variety of foods, including:

  • Dry pellets
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp

How do I ensure good tank-mates for my pistol shrimp?

Avoid aggressive or nippy fish that might harass the shrimp. I once had a damselfish who would pester my pistol shrimp, and it was not a good combination.

What is the ideal goby for a pistol shrimp-goby relationship?

I’ve had success keeping a Randall’s goby with my pistol shrimp. They have a symbiotic relationship, and it’s fascinating to observe their interactions.

How often should I clean my pistol shrimp’s tank?

I perform weekly water changes of 10-15% and clean the glass using a scraper. A clean environment is key to keeping your shrimp healthy.

Reference: Wikipedia


Hi there! My name is Jacob, and I'm the founder of this Pet people blog that talks all about aquarium and fishkeeping. I've been passionate about fish and aquatic life since I was a kid, and I've spent countless hours learning about different species, their habitats, and how to create the perfect environment for them to thrive in.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts