Bamboo shrimp – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding

Bamboo shrimp - Atyopsis moluccensis

Bamboo shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis) is a freshwater shrimp native to southeast Asia. This species has no documented history of introduction despite its use in the aquarium trade in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Holding of Bamboo shrimp has become very popular in Europe and nowadays is becoming increasingly attractive in the USA as well. They are also called many different names such as Fan Shrimp, Filter Shrimp, Asian Filter Shrimp, Wood Shrimp, Timber Shrimp, Singapore Shrimp, Marble Shrimp, Mountain Shrimp, Rock Shrimp, Maluku Shrimp, and Flower Shrimp. I will give you detailed guide about care, diet and breeding Bamboo shrimp.

Bamboo shrimp is probably one of the most strange and interesting shrimp in this hobby. Despite their impressive size, they are very peaceful and quiet. They are gentle giants which do not care about anything but the flow. Their color is relatively variable. Bamboo shrimp can be easily kept with other dwarf shrimp, snails or nonaggressive fish in the aquarium.

They are very cool creatures. It is really fun to watch how they bulldoze their way past other shrimp, plant, rocks and climb over each other to get a better feeding spot.

Bamboo fan shrimp atyopsis moluccensis

Quick Notes about Bamboo Shrimp

Name Bamboo shrimp
Other Names
Fan shrimp, Filter Shrimp, Asian Filter Shrimp, Wood Shrimp, Timber shrimp, Singapore Shrimp, Marble Shrimp, Mountain Shrimp, Rock Shrimp, Maluku shrimp and Flower shrimp.
Scientific Name Atyopsis moluccensis
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy-Medium
Breeding Very Difficult 
Size 8 – 10 cm (~3 – 4 inches)
Optimal Temperature 22 – 28°C  (~70°F – 88°F)
Optimal PH 6.5 – 7.5 (6.0 – 8.0)
Optimal GH 6 – 8 (<15)
Optimal KH 2 – 6 (<11)
Optimal TDS 150 – 200 (100-300)
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Detritivore /omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 6 years
Color Form Brown, red, green, creamy white, and blue.

Taxonomy and Etymology of Bamboo Shrimp

In 1849, De Haan wrote an original description of Atya moluccensis. In 1925, Bouvier E.L. (one of the founding fathers of the shrimp taxonomy) was the first biologist who recognized that Atyopsis moluccensis was different from all of the other species of Atya.

Nonetheless, even nowadays this family faces as many taxonomic problems as the genus Caridina and Neocaridina.

Atyopsis moluccensis and Atyopsis spinipes differenceThe feminine name Atyopsis is derived from the name Atya and the Greek suffix-opsis, having the appearance of, like. Although Atyopsis superficially resembles Atya more closely than do any of the other atyid genera, it seems to be distinguished by many physical characters (difference in pleopods and telson) to justify its separation. Only 2 species are known in this genus:

  • Atyopsis moluccensis.
  • Atyopsis spinipes.

Atyopsis moluccensis Taxonomy Caridina and Neocaridina

Note: Atyopsis spinipes is usually called a dwarf bamboo (fan) shrimp or Soldier brush shrimp. They are practically similar to Bamboo shrimp and can be easily confused. Atyopsis spinipes can grow up to 6-8 cm maximum. Their fans are much smaller than Bamboo shrimp, compared to body size as well. 

Natural Habitat of Bamboo Shrimp

The homeland of this species is Indonesia (Bali, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatera), Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Underwater observations revealed that Bamboo shrimp prefer relatively high water velocity and a coarse substrate (boulder, cobbles etc.). They cling to the underside of underwater rock projections in the most torrential portions of the rivers, often in the full force of the current.

In nature, it is their preferred microhabitat and it is an important factor affecting shrimp abundances in the tropical rain-forest streams. They mostly select 20–40 cm depth with relatively high water velocity (20–60 centimeter per second), at the same time avoiding stream margins (i.e. 0–10% bank distance).

Description of Bamboo Shrimp

One of the unique features of Bamboo shrimp is that these harmless giants have four pairs of fans (instead of claws) which they use to capture and filter the micro-particles of food in the water and then take them to the mouth.

Bamboo or fan-shrimp-atyopsis-moluccensisThey come in a variety of colors including all shades of brown (most common), red, green, creamy white, blue. In addition, Bamboo shrimp have a large creamy yellow-brown (reddish-brown or light to dark brown) race stripe down their back. This back stripe is particularly pronounced in the younger shrimp, weaker in older specimens, but never completely disappears. In addition, some shrimp also have dark side stripes. The patterns are effective camouflage to human eyes, that is why a lot of shrimp keepers “lose” these giants in their tanks.

Also, larger specimens tend to be a little darker than smaller ones.

Note: It is very interesting fact but Bamboo shrimp can change colors in congruence to breeding seasons, throughout the year. These shrimps have a very developed mimicry process. Of course, they are not like true chameleons but their color range (for example, from tan to dark brown) is quite noticeable and they can change their coloring within a few seconds.

Interesting: Because there are many different color types within the huge distribution area, it was initially thought that there were also different species of Bamboo shrimp. The correct classification into a single species took place only in recent years.

Bamboo shrimp can grow up to 8-10 cm (3-4 inches) and live over 6 years if you kept them in a suitable environment where they can be happy and thrive.

Bamboo Shrimp Male and Female Difference

Unlike other ornamented dwarf shrimp, it is very easy to differentiate males and females once they are about two inches long (~4 cm).

male and female Atyopsis moluccensis

  1. The size.
    The body size of males is larger than females.
  1. The first pair of legs.
    The males have a significantly larger the first pair of legs compared to the females. The females have all sets of walking legs about the same size as one another.
    Note: The forelegs of older males are extremely strong and carry a distinct claw at the top. The females have slimmer legs.
  1. The sexual openings.
    Another definite differentiator between the two sexes is the position of the sexual openings. In order to do this, carefully turn Bamboo shrimp onto their back. The females have small openings (Gonoporen) at the base of the third pair, while in the male the Gonoporen are at the fifth pair.

The Behavior of Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo shrimp with their squat body, short rostrum, and strong legs are rather plump and cumbersome compared to the graceful dwarf shrimp. Actually, it makes all the more interesting to watch these giants in our tanks. Especially when it comes to the unique food intake technique.

In moving water, Bamboo shrimp spread their chelae (feather-like front legs – fans) in a filter-feeding attitude. These bristle compartments are unfolded like an umbrella, kept in the flow until enough suspended matter gets stuck in the fan. In order not to be carried away by the current, they cling to stones or roots. In still water, they remain motionless in most cases and usually do not sweep the substrate for food as some Atyids do. Nobody has ever observed them making burrows of any kind.

Warning:

In some cases, Bamboo shrimp can feed on detrital particles, by picking up from substrates. They use their fans to scrap the substrate for food, but this action should be avoided. If Bamboo shrimp are doing this regularly, it is a sign that there is not enough current or food in the current, and this should be resolved.

If there are adequate flow conditions in the aquarium, then Bamboo shrimp usually sit in a small group on the streamed edge of larger stones, roots or other hard substrates in order to filter food particles. Unfortunately, only in a relatively long aquarium can create a sufficiently uniform flow and volume of water. Therefore, this species of shrimp is completely unsuitable for Nano-tanks.

Bamboo shrimp often can be very shy, especially in the beginning. At first, they do not eat or move much. However, after they have settled in, they become bolder and infinitely calm creatures day by day.

Tip: Once you put them in your tank, use the lid. Bamboo shrimp can escape when they are stressed or because they are interested to see if there is another “pond” around.

I need to mention that because they are filter feeders and when they have a comfortable spot, they will rarely move and because of this, they even can have algae growing on their exoskeletons. It is completely harmless to them.

Bamboo Shrimp can be kept by themselves. However, they prefer to live in groups. Although they do not interact between themselves a lot, the group makes them more comfortable and less stressed.

They tend to be a little more active at night. 

Bamboo Shrimp Feeding in Nature

Bamboo shrimpAccording to direct underwater observations and gut content analyses, Bamboo shrimp is a detritivore. It means that they feed mainly on drifting detrital particles by filtering from the water column with the cheliped setae. They trap small (micro) organisms, organic detritus, and algae in these fans and transfer to the mouth. That is why in general, they prefer high water velocity because food intake rate is proportional to current velocity.

Unlike many other types of shrimp species, Bamboo shrimp do not usually exhibit omnivorous feeding habits.

Bamboo Shrimp Feeding in Aquarium

Bamboo shrimp cannot eat things like shrimp pellets. It is absolutely mandatory to give them powdered food to thrive. Because as filter feeders, Bamboo shrimps primarily need smaller food particles that remain suspended in the water for as long as possible.

Therefore, you can supply them with pond plankton, micro-worms, finely ground food flakes, crushed food tablets, spirulina powder and etc.

Note: Oak or almond leaves can greatly benefit Bamboo shrimps. Although, unlike dwarf shrimps, they do not use these leaves directly as a source of food, the substances released by these leaves improve the water quality and make it easier for the shrimp to molt.

It is also preferable to feed them a complete food or just rotating different powdered foods (For example, Shrimp King Atyopsis, Glasgarten Bacter AE, Glasgarten Betaglucan, and Shrimp King Baby – link to check the price on Amazon).

If you do not have any specialized shrimp food, you can also use food for fish fry Sera Micron (or Golden Pearls in the 5-50 micron size, Hikari’s First Bites – link to check the price on Amazon etc). It contains a lot of necessary ingredients and what is more important, it drifts in the water.  

Tip: If your Bamboo shrimp live in a community tank (read more about it here) with fish, you need to be cautious during feeding time. They are not afraid of small fish. However, if the food particles are large enough, your fish can try to grab it from the fans and even bite them by chance. Therefore, it is important to introduce food at night. Otherwise, there is a chance that they will not get enough to eat.

Tip #2: Target feeding. Sometimes it can be easier to feed them with a syringe. Uncontrollable spreading powder food in the tank can cause overfeeding.

Do not forget that calcium plays a huge role for the shrimp. Therefore. I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.

Bamboo Shrimp and Amano Shrimp Feeding Tricks

Some shrimp breeders also advise keeping a few Amano Shrimp in the tank with Bamboo shrimp. The reason is that Amano females release planktonic larvae into the water column, which Bamboo Shrimp will happily consume as they float by in the stream. A ratio of about 9 female Amano’s shrimp seems to keep 3 adult Bamboo shrimp from picking the floor in a clean tank.

Note: However, Bamboo shrimp will not eat newly hatched Neocaridina and Caridina shrimplets. Unlike Amano’s planktonic larvae, they are significantly bigger.

Bamboo Shrimp – Driftwood, Rocks, and Filter

Bamboo shrimp prefer to sit on driftwood, roots, sturdy stem plants or rocks in the stream from which they filter their food. Therefore, provide them with a good perch near the current and you will make them happy.

You can read more “Driftwood in Shrimp tank” right here.

Tip: If the filter flow is not strong enough or simply too clean, it is strongly advisable to use additional flow pump in your tank. The device should be designed so that the shrimp can be in the middle of the current.

You do not need the secondary pump to be big and expensive, it only needs to keep a current running around the tank all the time. 

Keeping Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo shrimp require a rather larger tank due to their unique feeding behavior. In order to keep them, you need to have at least a medium-sized aquarium of 60 to 80 cm (~20-30 inches) in length. 10 Gallons (~40 liters) is the absolute minimum tank size you can keep one Bamboo shrimp in (only if you have a suitably sized pump in there to push the water around sufficiently). Anything smaller and you will have food problems and the shrimp will not be too comfortable either.

The tank should be well cycled and rich with microorganisms. Do not forget that they need careful acclimation as all shrimp.

In general, they do not have special requirements except one – water current. It is absolutely vital for their feeding and survival. That is why you will have to provide a moderate water current for Bamboo shrimp to feed in. For example, a Matten Filter (or any other similar) can be a great choice for that.

Bamboo shrimp do best when kept in a planted tank. However, they benefit from plants, rocks, and wood in the tank environments not only for hiding but because of the organics particles and surface area that they provide along with the microflora and fauna that will live on them.

Bamboo shrimp do not molt as often as other dwarf shrimp species do. Right before and after molting, they stop eating and hide until their new exoskeleton becomes hard enough. In addition, they do not eat the old exoskeleton. However, it will be a good meal for other shrimp. Because of its size and hardness, it can take them 2-3 days to consume it.

Note:  Adult Bamboo shrimp molt roughly every four to eight weeks.

Basic Tank Accessories (links to check the price on Amazon)

*Remineralazers for RO/DI water: Salty Shrimp GH/KH+

Water Conditions for Bamboo Shrimp

They prefer to live in moderate to medium-hard water at temperatures around 22 to 28°C (~70°F – 88°F). However, it is better to have 24-25°C (75-55°C). The water should be clean, but at the same time contain enough suspended solids to filter off. Therefore, such aquarium should not be kept clinically clean because they need some mulch and detritus in the water to filter and feed.

Tip: Experienced Bamboo keepers also advise to whirl the water up from time to time so that the particles can be caught by the fans of the shrimp.

Care must be taken when carrying out partial water changes, as Bamboo Shrimp, like all shrimp species, are sensitive to fluctuating water temperatures. Try to ensure that the new (dechlorinated) water closely matches the temperature of the tank water.

Keep in mind that Bamboo Shrimp need high oxygen water. Unfortunately, people usually forget about it.  

Breeding Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo shrimp are easy to keep but close to impossible to breed. The same as Amano shrimp, their larvae need brackish water in order to survive. They will not develop in freshwater.  The eggs hatch to larvae, which go through several development stages before they convert to shrimplets (tiny versions of adults).

In nature, the larvae are swept by water flow into lagoons where they develop and then young shrimp having to migrate back upstream to freshwater from which they originally came.

However, this is not the only difficulty. Another problem is that the adult Bamboo shrimp will not tolerate salt in the aquarium themselves. It makes transferal and acclimatization of the larvae into brackish conditions even more difficult and risky. In addition, Bamboo shrimp do not molt very often (that is when they are ready to mate). Therefore, even getting a berried female is really difficult.

Artificial productions of postlarvae have been attempted by several different techniques. However, the main problems found were the variability in the number of larval stages, length of the developmental period, food, environmental requirements and morphological changes of larvae during their lifecycle.

These are the reasons why almost all Bamboo shrimp are wild-caught. There have been rumors that some shrimp breeders managed to successfully breed them in captivity. Nonetheless, it is really hard to find any proves for that.

However, if you are willing to try your luck these are the details that you need to know.

Bamboo shrimp Breeding info

According to some German reports, in order to get berried Bamboo shrimp, it is better to have a male to female ratio 1:1.

Beginning with a 4 cm size, the Bamboo shrimp females are capable of carrying eggs. The female carries up to 2000 very small eggs under its abdomen for 30-40 days.

At some point, eggs turn brown (from orange). It is a sign of proper development.

After that, they hatch into tiny, floating larvae (less than 1mm) that need brackish water for their development. The larvae can live in freshwater for 2-3 days maximum, then they die. It means they should quickly be transferred to brackish water. Some sources report that you need 33 – 34 grams of salt per liter. Basically, the same as Amano shrimp.

Tip:  The miniscule size of the larvae means that an appropriately sized sponge medium must be used on the sponge filter in the brackish growing tank. The larvae do not produce a lot of bio-load. However, because of feeding the nitrate level will rise. Thus, the feeding can also be the problem to some degree.

The Bamboo larvae take about 90 days to metamorphose. Due to their tiny size, the larvae need food that is no more than 5 microns in size. Small amounts of green marine water are suggested as a first food. Golden Pearls may work too, in the 5-50 micron range.

After 70 days, the larvae start to metamorphose into shrimplets. It means that from that day you can start lowering salinity to 15-20ppt.

Once Bamboo larvae complete their metamorphose they start swimming only forward (Larvae swim in all directions). Which means that they are ready to go into your main aquarium. However, there should not be any sudden changes from brackish water to freshwater. The salinity must be lowered gradually.

Next, it takes about 70 more days to become the adult Bamboo shrimp.  

Tankmates for Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo shrimp are peaceful animals that feel comfortable in a group of three or four individuals. You can combine them with snails (Ramshorn snails, Nerite snailsMalaysian Trumpet snails, Japanese trapdoor snails, Mystery snails, etc.), virtually all other freshwater shrimp which share the same water requirements (for example, Cherry shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Caridina cf. Babaulti, Ghost shrimp, Amano shrimp, Vampire shrimp, Blue tiger shrimp, Blue Velvet Shrimp, etc), and small non-aggressive fish (providing that they have cover to hide in after molting).

It is not a good idea to keep them with big fish or crabs because despite their size they are absolutely harmless and relatively defenseless.

Bamboo shrimp can be associated with all shrimp species because it does not crossbreed with any other species.

Note: Actually, shrimp and snails make a great team. They benefit each other very well. Just be careful with water parameters. Snails can suffer from shell attrition whilst the pH is under 7 PH.

Conclusion

Bamboo Shrimp is a truly amazing and fascinating species. They are different and unique in so many aspects. Bamboo shrimp’s unique mode of feeding is very interesting to observe. As filter feeders, they will clean your water so whenever you see fine particles floating around that is what these giants eat. Their ability to quickly change the color makes them an outstanding in the aquarium hobby.

While people may purchase them for many reasons the most common and realistic one are that they thoroughly enjoy watching these animals in their natural behaviors sitting in the flow feeding.

They are very undemanding and a great addition to a community tank.

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