How Do Shrimp Mate?

Whether you have shrimp in your fish tank at home or just have a strange fascination for the sex life of crustaceans, this article will help you to understand the mating procedure for shrimp.

Luckily for male shrimp, the females are easily pleased. There’s no wining and dining involved or rose petals on the bed when it comes to shrimp and they have no problem getting their freak on when required.

Before you have any expectations of your shrimp breeding, you must figure out the gender of your shrimp. This is achieved by sexing them. 

Here are a few helpful tips for sexing your shrimp...

  • Size - Female shrimp are larger than male shrimp, so this should be the first indicator of your shrimp’s gender. Males are also typically slimmer than females, so the size difference should be rather visible. 
  • Saddle - The saddle consists of small undeveloped and unfertilized eggs forming in the female’s ovaries. If you can see a saddle, you can be 100% certain you are looking at a mature female. This is an easy observation to make if you can see the shrimp’s exoskeleton. However, if your shrimp is dark in color, this may become more difficult. 
  • Belly and back curve - Female shrimp tend to have a rounder back curve and belly than male shrimp. If it’s a mature female that has been berried before, the curve of her belly will be significantly rounder than a male’s. This is because the abdomen doesn’t return to its original shape and size after breeding. 
  • Color - It’s important to note that sex-ing shouldn’t be based on the color of your shrimp alone. However, it can be observed and taken into account when following the other steps above. With some dwarf shrimp species, it can work. For example, cherry shrimp. The cherry females usually have more red than the males. Males are less colorful (pale or even almost transparent color).

Once you’re certain of their sex, you can encourage mating by keeping them together in the same tank. Then simply sit back and let the magic happen. Typically most shrimp only reproduce in the summer months and require a warm climate to get freaky. However, some species reproduce all year round. 

Unlike most fish species that typically lay eggs or retain eggs in the body until birth, female shrimp will keep their eggs on the underside of their bodies. Female shrimp that are carrying eggs are referred to as ‘berried’ shrimp.

When she’s ready to breed, the female shrimp will release her sexual hormones into the water. Once a male catches a whiff of this sexy hormone-infused water, he’ll locate the female pretty quickly.

The male’s favorite position in the sack tends to be at a right-angle to the female as this is the most efficient way for him to deposit his sperm onto the female. Who said romance is dead eh? 

To deposit their sperm onto the female, male shrimps use a spermatophore. This is a fancy way of saying ‘a protein capsule containing a mass of sperm.’ The male transfers this to a specialized receptacle on the female’s abdomen.

The female will reciprocate this erotic gesture by passing the eggs underneath her tail. Shrimp sex is notoriously disappointing, as all of this occurs in just under 2 seconds. The eggs stay under the female’s tail, constantly being fanned by the tail until they are ready to hatch.

Fanning helps to provide them with oxygen as just like adult shrimps need oxygen, so do the eggs. They also fan their eggs to keep them clean and ensure that mold and bacteria don’t grow.

Their eggs are usually visible to our eyes and are quite fascinating to see. Some shrimp, such as cherry shrimp, are extremely easy to breed in aquariums, whereas others, such as Amano shrimp, are much harder.  

Once the eggs are spawned, they’ll begin to hatch in around 14-18 hours. They’ll then go through the first larval stage which is known as nauplii, this will last around a day to a day and a half.

They’ll go through a further two larval stages called zoea and mysis. After this final stage, they are then fully developed as shrimp. The shrimp will find near-shore waters and be pushed further inland until they eventually settle into marsh shallow bays and estuaries to feed and grow into adulthood.

If you’re breading shrimp in a tank yourself, however, shrimp will be able to mate after the mysis larval stage, once they’re a fully developed shrimp. 

What’s the best temperature for shrimp to breed in a tank?

Growth and feeding rate is directly related to temperature and varies with size. The optimum aquarium temperature for Red Cherry Shrimp is around 77-81°F (25-27°C). Higher temperatures will lead to faster growth and reproduction rates. The pH for Red Cherry shrimp should be slightly acidic from 6.2 – 7.3.

However, at higher temperatures, growth and breeding might be faster, but their life spans are considerably shorter due to the increase in their metabolic rate caused by those temperatures.

In warmer water, you may also need to add additional agitation/aeration to compensate for the lower amounts of dissolved oxygen.

How many babies do female shrimp have at one time?

Female shrimp will typically have 20–30 eggs, which take roughly 2–3 weeks to hatch. The eggs are green or yellow, depending on the color of the female’s saddle.

They will then turn darker and darker until the young shrimp hatch after about three weeks. Shrimp don’t typically eat their young and can usually be kept in the same tank and reproduction doesn’t damage the mother’s health.