Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius): Ultimate Care Guide

The Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius) is a saltwater fish whose natural habitat is the coral reefs of the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. It is native to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bali, and the Philippines. It can be found typically at a depth of about 20–30 meters.

Common names include Fire Shrimp, Red Fire Shrimp, Blood Red Shrimp, Cherry Red Shrimp, or Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp. It is one of the most sought-after invertebrates for saltwater aquariums. This shrimp has a stereotypical shrimp body shape, striking red color, some white spots, and it has white antennae and white legs.

It is a decapod crustacean and has ten legs attached to its thorax. The abdomen is made up of six segments, which enables them to curl up their body. The first five segments have pleopods, or swimming appendages, which are paddle-shaped and help them move through water. The sixth segment has a small, fan-like tail attached.

As a general rule, Fire Shrimp grow up to two inches.

The average lifespan of the Fire Shrimp is two years are longer in the wild and between two and five years with human care.

Fire shrimp are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs. There are many ways to tell the difference between the male and female shrimp. For instance, a male will have a straighter belly, where the female will have a curved underbelly. The male will have long antennae versus shorter ones on the female.

Fire Shrimp Care

The natural habitat for Fire Shrimp is coral reefs.  It is nocturnal and likes to hide during the day, so it needs places to hide away such as rocks, logs, and plants. Fire Shrimp like to eat coral and will nibble at it.

The ideal habitat for Fire Shrimp is a minimum 10-gallon tank, preferably a 30-gallon tank, with structures that provide caves or places for the shrimp to retreat to find refuge. It should have a cleaning station. If you want to have more than one shrimp in the tank, consider one shrimp per 30 gallons as a good starting point.

For the aquarium setting, use a fine-grained substrate on the bottom of the aquarium so the shrimp’s antennae do not get damaged as it moves. Next, add live rock or coral.

This shrimp is sensitive to light, so standard aquarium lighting is a good choice. You will need a filter and an air pump to circulate the water if your filter isn’t strong enough.

Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius)
Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius)

The suitable water temperature for Fire Shrimp is between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. It will not tolerate copper medications and high nitrates. The specific gravity, which measures the level of salt in the water, should be kept between 1.023 – 1.025. Keep the water flow at a low level so a strong current will not prevent the shrimp from being able to get to or hide behind rocks or plants during the day.

Fire shrimp prefer a carnivorous diet. It will eat meaty foods and will clean up uneaten or floating food. It feeds on parasites and dead skin cells found on other fish. It will prey on large and small polyp stony corals. It will also eat frozen copepods, pellets, and flakes and other fish foods placed in the tank for other fish.

Fire Shrimp Breeding

Fire Shrimp are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs and can act as either sex during a single spawning event. This makes pairing up easy as any two can be selected as a pair. Born having only male organs, they develop female organs as they mature. They cannot self-fertilize.

You need to create a perfect environment for a pair to start mating. It needs to be clean, and the water needs to meet their. Give them a nutritious diet so they have the energy needed to breed. Spawning should start without intervention, but you may need to raise the temperature to 82 degrees Fahrenheit to help it along.

Data varies on the average number of larvae per spawner, but it is believed to be between 600 to 900. This number correlates to the weight of the parent. The Fire Shrimp will carry the eggs for the time necessary for incubation (12-16 days) and will release them throughout the tank during the night. The shrimp have no parental instincts and should be removed from the tank after spawning. The eggs will hatch in about two weeks.

Once hatched, the larvae are tiny and phototrophic, using light as its source of energy. Over the next two days, they will molt and transition to stage 2 larvae. They will complete six larval stages before becoming an adult, usually between 50-90 days, although some research suggests it can be 75-158 days. It is believed climate and nutrition play a role in the duration of the larval stages.


Fire Shrimp have low aggression and will get along with many other peaceful neighbors in a reef aquarium, or other fish that will let it clean them. They will hang out on live rock (rubble from a coral reef that has living organisms on or within the rock) and use their antennae to wave and signal other fish to come up to them, at which point the fire shrimp will clean them.

Though it has a community temperature, fire Shrimp can be shy, and they are nocturnal so you may not see much of them. They may be sensitive to bright light and will retreat behind or underneath a live rock structure for safety. Because they are cleaner shrimp, you should have a cleaning station in your tank where fish can swim up for the shrimp to pick off dead scales and skin and remove parasites from the fish.

Fire Shrimp are said to be very smart fish that can start to recognize their owner and will greet the owner when they get near the aquarium. Some Fire Shrimp have been reported to eat directly from their owner’s hands.

Tank Mates for Fire Shrimp

Fire Shrimp make good tank mates with most other community reef fish. However, it is not advisable to place them in tanks with fish that will prey on and eat them. There can be aggression between other shrimp species, so certain species of shrimp should be avoided.

Examples of incompatible tank mates for Fire Shrimp are as follow:

  • Other Fire Shrimp
  • Blood Red Fire Shrimp
  • Cleaner Shrimp
  • Trigger Fish
  • Puffers
  • Larger Hawk Fish
  • Larger Wrasses
  • Morays
  • Lionfish
  • Groups
  • Zoanthids
  • Aiptasia anemone

Examples of compatible tank mates for Fire Shrimp as as follow:

  • Blue Hippo Tang
  • Damselfish
  • Clownfish
  • Pygmy Angelfish
  • Seahorses
  • Basslets
  • Various other small community fish
  • Crabs
  • Snails
  • Most Corals
  • Clams
  • Sponges
  • Sea anemone
  • Feather Dusters

Diseases that plague Fire Shrimp

Fire Shrimp may get any of the saltwater fish diseases, such as ich, dropsy, ammonia poisoning, nitrate/nitrite poisoning, or oxygen starvation. You can perform water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrate/nitrite levels right. Water changes also help control dropsy. You can treat ich with medication from your local pet store. For oxygen starvation, you can limit the number of fish you have in the tank, and you can also decrease the water temperature since higher temperatures require higher levels of oxygen.

Differences and Similarities Between Fire Shrimp and Cleaner Shrimp

Fire Shrimp are part of the cleaner shrimp, or skunk shrimp, species. Both are beautiful, but the fire shrimp has a vibrant red color while the skunk shrimp is more transparent and has spots of red. They are roughly the same size at about 2 inches, and they both are not aggressive. Fire Shrimp prefer to stay hidden, while the Skunk Shrimp is the more active cleaner and will be out in the open more. The Fire Shrimp costs about 30 USD, while the Skunk Shrimp costs about 20 USD, so not too much of a difference in price. Skunk Shrimp have a longer lifespan at three years, versus two years for the Fire Shrimp.

Usually, you can fine Fire Shrimp for sale at Petco for 69.99 USD, but it may also be available from other local and online retailers for as low as 20 USD.