Camel Shrimp – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Camel shrimp (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis)

Camel shrimp (Rhynchocinetes  durbanensis) or Dancing shrimp has gained a lot of nicknames over time and popularity within the aquarium hobby, because of its striking color, weird shape and easiness to take care of.

These ornamental shrimp do not require special water values or fancy equipment. This marine invertebrate is a very hardy shrimp, which makes Camel shrimp a great choice for beginners and anyone looking to set up a low-maintenance marine tank.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Camel shrimp care and keeping them in your marine aquarium.

Quick Notes about Camel Shrimp

Name Camel Shrimp
Other Names
Camelback shrimp, Hingebeak shrimp, Dancing shrimp,
Candy shrimp, Rock shrimp, Humpback shrimp
Scientific Name Rhynchocinetes  durbanensis
Tank size (minimum) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy
Breeding Difficult 
Size 5 – 6 cm (~1.5 – 2.3 inches)
Optimal Temperature 22 – 27°C  (~71°F – 80°F)
Water type SG = 1.023 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.0 – 8.5
Optimal KH 8 – 16
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 3 years
Color Form Bright red with white dots and stripes along its body

Natural Habitat of the Camel Shrimp

This species has a circum-tropical distribution throughout the Indo-Pacific region, e.g. South Africa, Ryuku Islands, Philippines, and Indonesia. In Indian waters, Camel shrimp has been recorded from the Karnataka coast, Gulf of Mannar and Andaman waters, where they dwell and thrive among coral crevices and around submerged rocks, slightly covered with coralline algae, at a depth of 2–3 meters where it forms groups consisting of dozens of individuals.

Description of the Camel Shrimp

Camel shrimp are easy to distinguish due to several identifying features on their bodies. Their bodies have distinctive red and white colorings—the Camel shrimp is typically colored in a bright red with white dots and stripes along its body.

Camel shrimp also have a moveable beak—called a rostrum—that is typically angled upwards. Their beak, or rostrum, is turned upwards, giving it the alternative name of “Hinge beak shrimp.”

Difference between Rhynchocinetes durbanensis and Rhynchocinetes uritai
in aquarium. J . Okuno

In addition to the distinctive red and white colors and moveable rostrum, this type of shrimp also has a distinctive hump in their body, which distinguishes them from the Peppermint shrimp. That hump is reminiscent of that found on a camel and gives them the name of “Camel Shrimp.”

The Camel shrimp can grow up to 5 – 6 cm in length (between 1.5 and 2.4 inches). Like most types of shrimp, they usually live around 1.5 – 3 years.   

Note: Sometimes aquarists and even pet stores confuse Rhynchocinetes  durbanensis and Rhynchocinetes uritai. Their general color pattern is very close. Rhynchocinetes uritai is the commonest hinge-beak shrimp in Japanese waters. A close examination of all the specimens at hand revealed that both species in question are distinguished from each other not only by the coloration but also by some morphological characters.

The Behavior of the Camel Shrimp

Camel shrimp have a calm disposition, making them perfect for keeping with other types of sea creatures in your aquarium. They are not aggressive and can peacefully coexist with any other inhabitants.

This species is social. Camel shrimps prefer to cluster with other members of their species.

They are also primarily shy, nocturnal creatures, which means you probably won’t see a whole lot of them in your tank. They frequently hide in crevices and rest during the day and do most of their activity during the night. It is possible to see the Camel shrimp active and moving around just by turning out the lights, which causes them to think that it is safe and they can come out.

Are the Camel Shrimp Reef Safe?

There is some level of disagreement as to whether or not Camel shrimp are safe for aquaria with reefs or not. There are lots and lots of reports that Camel shrimp are not compatible with reefs. Aquarists complain that they completely destroyed their reef aquariums, that they picked at some anemones, eat soft corals and other polyps. So, all these things make them unsuitable for reef tanks.

On the other hand, there are also aquarists (frankly saying – minority) who claim that the Camel shrimp are reef-compatible if they are not hungry.

In general, it seems that owners of aquaria with reefs should approach the Camel shrimp with a great deal of caution. While it is possible that the shrimp will coexist peacefully with the reef in your aquarium, it is just as possible that they will destroy the reef you have carefully worked to build.

In short, proceed at your own risk in purchasing any Camel shrimp for your aquarium!

Feeding Camel Shrimp

The diet of the Camel shrimp makes it an excellent choice for your home aquarium because they will eat almost anything and everything given to them.

This species is an omnivore. They feed on food debris, detritus, dead fish tissue, and organic material in decomposition, etc. It is one of the types of animals that are used to clean an aquarium.

Camel shrimp will sift through sand and consume various pieces of waste that find their way into your aquarium. This is beneficial because it can automatically help to keep your tank clean and mean less work for you, both in cleaning the tank and in feeding the shrimp.

In general, it is easy to feed them because Camel shrimp usually look for food in the aquarium on their own and they might not require a lot of extra food. However, you can add a piece of frozen, freeze-dried, fresh fish, mussels or a sinking shrimp pellet every now and then.

Also, if there is not enough the waste generated inside your aquarium, you can also add some commercial diets to make your Camel Shrimp happier (links to Amazon):

Keeping Camel Shrimp

Camel shrimp (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis)Care for Camel shrimp is pretty easy. These shrimp are undemanding, easy to keep and perfect if you are just getting into the shrimp hobby. The most important factor in keeping your Camel shrimp healthy is a stable nitrogen cycle. Always keep in mind that shrimp are sensitive to ammonia and nitrites.

To get started, all you need is an aquarium of at least 10 gallons for two of these shrimps and 5 more gallons for every additional Camel Shrimp you add to the tank.

Camel Shrimp will thrive in waters that are consistently between 71 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22 – 27 С), and they need hard waters with a pH of 8.0 to 8.5. The specific gravity required is 1.023 – 1.025.

If their other tank mates or live plants do not actually require very strong lighting, you can provide only a small amount, so you can enjoy your Camel shrimp more.

Regarding the substrate, it really does not matter – sand, coral rubble, rocks, anything will suit them.

Tip: The variation of the background color, such as the intensity and type of illumination in the tank, will also play its role. Camel shrimp have a constant concentration of body pigments which they express to a greater or lesser degree depending on the environmental conditions in which they live.

You can read more about it in my article “How to Enhance Shrimp Color?”.

Like most invertebrates, these shrimp also will not deal well with high levels of copper. The presence of this mineral will have a very detrimental effect on the life of your Camel shrimp.

Note: You need to acclimate any shrimp before putting them in the tank.  

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

Camel Shrimp and Hiding Places

Once you put them into an aquarium, they will try and locate a home for themselves. This is usually somewhere covered and remote. Camel shrimp are often drawn to cave-dwelling, so marine ornaments like rocks from the natural environment, PVC pipes, toy skulls or sunken pirate ships make an ideal lair. Somewhere the shrimp can retreat if it feels threatened in any way.

They will search out such a location as soon as they arrive and will venture out and explore their surroundings once they become more comfortable and acclimatized to their new home. 

Another important reason to provide a lot of hiding places in your tank is that according to the study, molting individuals (particularly males) sought shelters because they suffered cannibalism by other individuals in the tanks.

Sexing and Molting Camel Shrimp

There is strong sexual dimorphism in Rhynchocinetes  durbanensis.

The male is easily distinguishable by the presence of elongated maxillipeds above the rostral tip and larger chela of first pereiopods.

  1. Fully grown Camel shrimp males are substantially greater in size and with larger appendages/claws (extended third maxillipeds and major [first] chelipeds) than females.

Note: Although there is no sexual dimorphism in body size between young males and females.

  1. Biologists can all distinguish the gender by using the presence (male) or absence (female) of an appendix masculine and appendix interna with cincinnuli on the endopod of the second and first pleopod respectively. Well, I do not think that an average aquarist can do that.

Mating Camel Shrimp

Such differences in sexual dimorphism are correlated with mating systems. Camel shrimp with large male size and hypertrophied weapons show variations of female defense and guarding, while ‘small male’ species do not and cannot  do that.

During mating, all full-grown males perform similar behaviors (touching, overlapping and holding).

The result of the observations shows that unlike many most types of shrimp, dominant Camel shrimp males are attractive to females and their guarding behavior guarantees successful fertilization of receptive females in the highly competitive environment found in their natural habitat.

Even more, females often rejected young males. It appears that to prefer mating with the larger males, that suggests a dominance hierarchy.

Mating between two Camel shrimp typically happens shortly after molting.

Breeding Camel Shrimp

Camel shrimp (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis) berried female
Berried female

It is possible, although very difficult to breed Camel shrimp in a home aquarium. The point is that the trade is entirely based on wild-caught ones and information on successful captive breeding is very scarce. Nonetheless, I have tried my best to find everything that is possible.

After the male shrimp has transferred sperm to the female, the female will begin to produce large quantities of eggs that she carries above her abdomen. After successful mating and spawning of females, the egg mass can be clearly observed attached underneath the ventral side of the abdomen as a dark mass, which contrasted with the body of this semi-transparent shrimp.

Biologists calculated that tach female can carry from 100 to 700 eggs. The incubation period of developing embryos ranges from 14 to 15 days.

Rearing baby Camel Shrimp Larvae Setup

It is highly recommended to have a separate tank for the Camel Shrimp larvae. Otherwise, it will be eaten by fish, bigger Camel shrimp or sucked into the filter.

To reduce the possibility of physical damage from aeration, do not use air stones and under gravel filtration. Larvae cannot control their movements and air stones often result in high larval mortality. You can keep the same water parameters in the rearing tank.

The simple use of 150 μm mesh size screens inside maturation tanks also allows larval prey (Artemia nauplii) to be provided to larvae immediately after hatching, avoiding the negative effects of early larval starvation.

By the 40th day, the larvae develop pleopod buds. It will molt several times to become juveniles having a coloration and features quite similar to adults in 60 days.

Rearing baby Camel Shrimp Larvae dietCamel shrimp larvae diet (links to Amazon):

Camel Shrimp and Suitable Tankmates

As mentioned before, one must choose the tankmates of the Camel shrimp with care. Many more aggressive species of marine life will simply see the Camel shrimp as prey. Several examples of these include tangs, clownfish, riggerfishes, puffers, larger hawk fish, larger wrasses, morays, lionfish, etc.

There are also some species of fish that get along really well with the Camel shrimp – gobies, dragonets, tetras, grunts, and filefish can be great tank companions.

Some aquarists manage to keep Camel shrimp with crabs. Frankly saying, I do not thank that it will be a good idea. Crabs are opportunistic eaters. They will eat whatever they can catch. Therefore, I would not risk keeping Camel shrimp with them or simply be ready for some losses.

I would not keep them with Harlequin shrimp or Coral Banded Shrimp as well.

The Camel shrimp can coexist quite peacefully with some other species of shrimp (for example, Peppermint Shrimp, Lysmata Debelius, Lysmata amboinensis), but as has also been mentioned before, the Camel shrimp generally prefers to congregate with other members of its species.

In Conclusion

Camel shrimps can make an excellent addition to any marine aquarium because of their coloration and the ease with which they can be kept in captivity.

They are very peaceful and prefer to mingle with their own kind. However, its passive nature does not mean that they cannot cause any problems for your reef tank.

References:

  1. Reproductive morphology and mating behaviour in the hingebeak shrimp Rhynchocinetes durbanensis Gordon, 1936 (Decapoda: Caridea: Rhynchocinetidae) in India. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. August 2016. DOI: 10.1017/S0025315415001083.
  2. On a Record of Rhynchocinetes durbanensis Gordon, 1936 (Decapoda, Caridea, Rhynchocinetidae) in the Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. May 2013.
  3. Effects of predation and habitat structure on the abundance and population structure of the rock shrimp Rhynchocinetes typus (Caridea) on temperate rocky reefs. Marine Biology. September 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-012-1994-6.
  4. Providing a common diet to different marine decapods does not standardize the fatty acid profiles of their larvae: A warning sign for experimentation using invertebrate larvae. Marine Biology. November 2010. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-010-1507-4.
  5. Efecto de la temperatura sobre el desarrollo embrionario y contenido bioquímico de los huevos del camarón de roca Rhynchocinetes typus. May 2016.
  6. Distinction between Two Hinge-beak Shrimps, Rhynchocinetes durbanensis Gordon and R. uritai Kubo (Family Rhynchocinetidae) by Junji OKUNO* and Masatsune TAKEDA.

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