Red-white Cleaner Shrimp – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Urocaridella Antonbruunii (Red-white Cleaner Shrimp) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Urocaridella Antonbruunii, generally known as the Red-white cleaner shrimp are fascinating small shrimp and a great albeit somewhat uncommon addition to a marine aquarium.

The Red-white cleaner shrimp are considered cleaning animals in a saltwater aquarium due to their “medical” skills to prevent infections and contamination even beyond symbiosis with fish. These shrimp are relatively hardy and easy to care for, therefore, they can be recommended even for beginners. 

Although the ecology of these species is poorly researched, in this article, I will tell you everything I know about Urocaridella Antonbruunii and how to care for them.

Quick Notes about Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

Name Red-white cleaner shrimp
Other Names
Bruun’s Cleaner Shrimp, False Anemone shrimp, Clear Cleaner Shrimp, Floating Shrimp, Red Arrow Cleaning Shrimp, Rock Shrimp, Spotted Cleaner Shrimp and Jelly Cleaner shrimp
Scientific Name Urocaridella Antonbruunii
Tank size (minimum) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy-Medium
Breeding Difficult 
Size about 1.5 inches or 3.5 – 4 cm
Optimal Temperature 75 – 79 °F (24 – 27 °C)
Water type SG = 1.023 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.0 – 8.4 
Optimal KH 8 – 12
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Omnivores / Carnivorous
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 3 years
Color Form Transparent with tiny white and red dots

Etymology and Taxonomy of Urocaridella Antonbruunii

It was described by marine biologist Alexander James Bruce in 1967.

This species is named in honor of Dr. Anton Frederik Bruun for his outstanding contribution to international oceanography.

The genus name Urocaridella (Uro – Caridella) derives from Greek ‘Oura’ meaning ‘Tail’, and Latin ‘Carid’ meaning marine ‘Crustacean’.

Distribution and Natural Habitat of Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

Urocaridella Antonbruunii was initially described from the Comoro Islands.

Nowadays, this species has a circum-tropical distribution throughout the Indo-west Pacific region, e.g. Kenya, Australia, New Caledonia, Japan, Hawaii the Comoro Islands, Indonesia, Great Barrier Reef, the Palau Islands, New Caledonia, Dzaoudzi, Pamanzi Island, the Sey­chelles and the South China Sea.

Generally, the Red-white cleaner shrimp can be found in shallow tropical reef waters and crevices regions at 3 – 40 ft (1–12 m) depth. However, in some regions, they were observed at deeper depths, for example, 60 ft (20 m ) in the Comoro Islands, 85 ft (26 m) in Indonesia, and even 200 ft (60 m) in South China.

Description of Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

Urocaridella Antonbruunii is quite small saltwater shrimp species reaching a maximum size of about 1.5 inches or 3.5 – 4 cm (generally, even a little bit less than 1.2 inches or 3 cm) in the aquarium setting.

Distinguishing characteristics of Urocaridella Antonbruunii:

  • Their slender-build transparent bodies have scattered tiny white and red spots or dots distributed over the carapace and abdominal region. Because of their translucent appearance, we can easily distinguish the stomach, digestive gland, and ovary (the latter has an orange or light green color depending on the development of vitellogenesis.
  • They have a very long white-red beak—called a rostrum—that is angled upwards. It has red and white patches at the tip.
  • This specie also has a distinctive hump in its body. The hump of the third abdominal somite bears two red bars and a white line (often intermittent).
  • Red and white bands occur throughout the first and second walking legs (pereiopods). The first pair of claws is smaller than the second. The last three walking legs possess red and white bands with red and white spots in the basal segments.
  • The eyes are translucent, stalked, large, and prominent. 
  • They have long and red antennae and antennules with a few white dots at the base.
  • The walking legs are long and slender. They are semi-transparent with white and red bands.
  • Pleopods (swimmerets) are almost transparent with red and white spots in the basipod.
  • At the base of the telson, Urocaridella Antonbruunii may have a red or white band, followed by 2 or 3 large white dots.

Small shrimp are less pigmented than large ones.

Taxonomy Problems

Urocaridella Antonbruunii is pretty similar in general appearance to the shrimp of the genus Ancylomenes, both in their transparent body structure and color pattern.

However, unlike those shrimp, Red-white cleaner shrimp are not associated with sea anemones. Thus, they are also called False Anemone shrimp.

Also, Urocaridella Antonbruunii is morphologically closest to Urocaridella urocaridella, Urocaridella cyrtorhyncha, Urocaridella pulchella, and Urocaridella arabianensis.

To distinguish all these species, scientists do not only rely on color patterns. They mostly compare the ratio of the rostrum and carapace, length of the fingers and carpus of pereiopods, presence or absence of mandible palp, and 3rd abdominal posterodorsal structure.

Lifespan of Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan for Urocaridella Antonbruunii in the wild.

However, in captivity, Red-white cleaner shrimp can reproduce and live up to 2 – 3 years, if appropriately cared for.

Typical Behavior of Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

Urocaridella Antonbruunii are not aggressive animals and can peacefully coexist with any other inhabitants. On the contrary, they are completely harmless and will not bother anybody in the community tank.

Like most shrimp species, Red-white cleaner shrimp are very social and tend to aggregate in large groups potentially reflecting the small size and limited defensive capability of these shrimps. It makes their life richer and less stressful. The bigger their colony, the safer they feel and more confident they act, venturing out from hiding more often.

Leopard shrimp are also very shy and skittish, especially if they are kept in small groups. They are scared of anything and do not like to be touched or handled in any way.

Urocaridella Antonbruunii is known as cleaner shrimp because of their feeding on external parasites on fishes. However, they are not as effective as, for example, Lysmata amboinensis species.

Red-white cleaner shrimp swim a lot. In addition, these shrimp have an interesting swimming style; their pleopods (swimming legs) are strong enough to allow the shrimp to remain motionless in open water. So, when they swim, the walking legs loosely hang under the abdomen.

According to the study, in their natural habitats, these shrimp are both diurnally or nocturnally active. In aquariums though, they are mostly nocturnal. The pick of their activity starts at sunset and gradually stops before sunrise. A nocturnal lifestyle is an absolutely normal behavior. In nature, it is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.

Features:

  • Social: Yes
  • Active: At night
  • Peaceful: Yes

Are Red-white Cleaner Shrimp Reef Safe?

Generally, yes.

 You should not have any problems with Urocaridella Antonbruunii in reef tanks. They will not harm corals in any way if they are not starving.

Feeding Red-white Cleaner Shrimp 

These marine shrimp can be classified as opportunistic omnivores with a strong preference for high-protein food (such as copepods, small microorganisms, etc.).

In nature, this species has a cleaning symbiotic relationship with fish that remove the ectoparasites, mucus, scales, or diseased tissue. Basically, they clean those items by eating them, which is part of their diet.

Interesting fact: Cleaner shrimp biocontrols are increasingly used in fish farming as an alternative to medicines. These shrimp are not susceptible to fish diseases and parasites. Different cleaner shrimp species vary in their cleaning performance.

Urocaridella Antonbruunii will do best when fed sinking food. They will accept a wide range of fish, shrimp, or sea anemones food. No direct feeding is necessary. Any pellet, flake, and gel foods that provide animal-based nutrition will work. Meaty food with higher fat content can accelerate its growth rate, but the trade-off is risking a problem with water quality.

Important: Do not consider Red-white cleaner shrimp as simple scavengers, with the idea that they can survive off the leftovers from feeding community fishes. These shrimp should not be treated just as aquarium janitors.

If there is leftover food in the tank, it means that you are overfeeding the tank in the first place. Therefore, adding something that will supposedly clean it is not the solution. The solution is to feed less.

Foods Red-white Cleaner Shrimp will enjoy, for example:

  • brine shrimp,
  • copepods,
  • mussel,
  • mysis shrimp,
  • plankton,
  • flaked food,
  • frozen food,
  • small pieces of fish or shrimp.

Caring and Keeping Red-white Cleaner Shrimp 

Urocaridella Antonbruunii is a relatively hardy species. So, keeping them in a marine tank is not complicated because they do not have special water quality requirements.

Basically, these shrimp should be maintained under conditions that are suitable for any other typical marine aquarium.

Tank size:

Because of their small size, there are no minimum requirements. Even a 10-gallon (40 liters) marine tank will be good enough for a few Red-white cleaner shrimp.

Of course, having a larger tank is way better for the stability of water chemistry. The only problem is that these little guys may get lost in large tanks unless you keep them in large numbers.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: The ideal water temperature for keeping Urocaridella Antonbruunii is between the range of 75 – 79 °C (24 – 27 °C).

pH: Maintain optimal pH values of 8.1 – 8.4 for the shrimp to thrive in your saltwater aquarium

SG: The salinity should be in the range of 1.023 – 1.025 as measured using its specific gravity.

Hardness: Keep water hardness values between 8 – 12 dKH

Calcium: The concentration of calcium must be maintained at acceptable levels as well. Keeping calcium concentration in the range of 400 to 450 ppm is optimal, but it can be a bit lower or higher.

Lighting:

Red-white cleaner shrimp do not really need light. Therefore, lighting should be adapted to the needs of your corals and fish in the tank.

Substrate:

Urocaridella Antonbruunii are not diggers and do not have any preference for substrate.

In nature, they are found free-living and on a wide array of substrates (rocky shorelines, hard-bottom reefs, tube sponges, etc.), suggesting that their transparent body is not particularly related to any habitat type.

Water flow:

In the natural ecosystem, these shrimp inhabits shallow waters where the current is very slow-moving.

Therefore, any surface agitation makes them very uncomfortable and causes stress. Avoid fast-moving water flow, if it is possible.

Decorations:

In aquariums, decorations play an important role for the Red-white cleaner shrimp – they provide hiding places (shelter and protection) and minimize stress to your shrimp. 

This is also crucial for the molting process!

If they are going to be in a community tank, there should be plenty of dark areas for them to hide in and these should be created out of rocks, , PVC pipe, plastic tunnels, fake plants, etc.

Acclimation:

Keep in mind that Urocaridella Antonbruunii are mostly wild-caught. So, they are often delivered to pet stores in poor conditions.

Before putting them into the tank, we need to at least temperature acclimate them.

Give them time to acclimatize before adding to the tank. Do not rush the process! Sudden changes in habitat can harm them.

Related article:

Breeding Red-white Cleaner Shrimp

It is possible, although very difficult to breed Urocaridella Antonbruunii in a home aquarium. So far, there have been only a few reports of successful breeding of this species.

As a result, the trade is entirely based on wild-caught ones.

Despite a possible interest for the exploitation of this species in the marine aquarium industry, little is known about the larval, postlarval, and juvenile stages of these shrimp.

Nonetheless, I have tried my best to find everything that is possible about breeding Red-white cleaner shrimp.

  • Sexing

There are a few indicators that give away the sex of Urocaridella Antonbruunii.

  1. The larger shrimp are allMales are smaller.
  2. Due to the fact that females carry eggs, the underside (abdomen) of the females is wider, it goes down to protect the eggs. Males are thinner.
  3. Females have longer pleopods since they have to carry eggs.
  4. The presence of the saddle or the eggs. Because of their transparent body, it is very easy to see the saddle.
  5. By the presence or absence of an appendix masculina on the second pleopods.

You can read more about “Shrimp Gender. Female and Male Difference” right here. 

  • Mating

The life cycle starts with mating. This is a very brief (a few seconds) process.

Females molt prior to mating and release a certain chemical substance into the surrounding water to attract males. This signals to the males that the female is ready to spawn causing the male shrimp to look for her.

Urocaridella Antonbruunii becomes mature when their carapace is around 5.2 mm (a bit over 3/16 inches).  

Ovarian maturation will generally take place if a mated pair is kept under stable conditions. Maturation diets have been shown to affect fecundity and offspring quality. The common practice in shrimp culture is the use of fresh frozen foods supplemented with artificial diets.Such items include squid, mussel, polychaetes, and Artemia biomass, with artificial diets used only as a dietary supplements.
  • Eggs:

The average number of larvae per batch is around 123 ± 23. The fecundity increases with the body length of the females.

  • Hatching:

Larvae are generally produced after 5 to 6 weeks.

It is important to provide adequate food to larvae immediately after hatching to avoid the effects of early starvation.

The main problem of the commercial culture of ornamental shrimp is their long larval development and poor survival rates.

Red-white Cleaner Shrimp and Suitable Tankmates

The ideal situation for Urocaridella Antonbruunii is a species tank, but it can be kept with other fish as long as those species are chosen with care.

Aggressive eaters and large predators (such as triggerfishes, wrasses, hawkfishes, angelfishes, etc.) should be avoided.

These shrimp get along well with others of their kind, so maintaining a group is not problematic. They can also coexist quite peacefully with some other species of shrimp (for example, Peppermint ShrimpLysmata DebeliusLysmata amboinensisSaron ShrimpBumble Bee shrimp), and snails  (Cerith SnailsBumble Bee SnailsConch snailsNassarius snails, etc.).

Do not keep them with most crabs (for example, Sally Lightfoot crab, Arrow crab, Emerald crab) and aggressive shrimp species (Coral Banded Shrimp, Harlequin shrimp, etc.).

In Conclusion

Red-white cleaner shrimp are most notable for their dazzling color pattern, delicate morphology, by being “reef safe”, unusual and useful behavior. They are really unique animals and can decorate any marine aquarium.

They are not only beautiful cleaner shrimp but also stay on the smaller side – perfect for someone with limited space like nano reef tanks.

Unfortunately, this species is relatively hard to find on the pet market. 

References:

  1. Bos, Arthur R., and Charles HJM Fransen. “Nocturnal cleaning of sleeping rabbitfish, Siganuscanaliculatus, by the cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella Antonbruunii (Decapoda, Palaemonidae).” Crustaceana 91, no. 2 (2018): 239-241.
  2. LAL, MAR. “New record of Urocaridella Antonbruunii (Bruce, 1967) from Southern India with taxonomic Keys of UrocaridellaBorradaile, 1915 (Decapoda; Palaemonidae).” Zootaxa 5138, no. 5 (2022): 563-574.
  3. Calado, Ricardo, AntónioVitorino, Gisela Dionísio, and Maria Teresa Dinis. “A recirculated maturation system for marine ornamental decapods.” Aquaculture 263, no. 1-4 (2007): 68-74.
  4. Prakash, Sanjeevi, and J. Antonio Baeza. “A new species of shrimp of the genus UrocaridellaBorradaile, 1915 (Decapoda: Caridea: Palaemonidae) from Papua New Guinea.” JournalofCrustaceanBiology 38, no. 2 (2018): 206-214.
  5. Vaughan, David B., Alexandra S. Grutter, and Kate S. Hutson. “Cleaner shrimp are a sustainable option to treat parasitic disease in farmed fish.” ScientificReports 8, no. 1 (2018): 1-10.
  6. Becker, Justine HA, Lynda M. Curtis, and Alexandra S. Grutter. “Cleaner shrimp use a rocking dance to advertise cleaning service to clients.” CurrentBiology 15, no. 8 (2005): 760-764.
  7. Li, Xinzheng, Alexander J. Bruce, and Raymond B. Manning. “Some palaemonid shrimps (Crustacea: Decapoda) from northern South China Sea, with descriptions of two new species.” TheRafflesBulletinofZoology 52, no. 2 (2004): 513-553.
  8. Vaughan, D.B., Grutter, A.S., Costello, M.J. and Hutson, K.S., 2017. Cleaner fishes and shrimp diversity and a re‐evaluation of cleaning symbioses. FishandFisheries, 18(4), pp.698-716.
  9. Bruce, Alexander J. “Crustacea Decapoda: palaemonoid shrimps from the Indo-West Pacific region mainly from New Caledonia.” Résultatsdescampagnes MUSORSTOM 15 (1996): 197-267.
  10. Fransen, C. H. J. M. “Marine palaemonoid shrimps of the Netherlands Seychelles Expedition 1992-1993.” Zoologische Verhandelingen 297, no. 4 (1994): 85-152.
  11. Bruce, A.J., 1967b. Notes on some Indo-Pacific Pontoniinae III-IX. Descriptions of some new genera and species from the western Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.— Zoologische Verhandelingen 87: 1-73.

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