Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010 : Harlequin Shrimp

Harlequin Shrimp

Gnathophyllid shrimps (family Gnathophyllidae) are a taxon of tropical shrimp in the superfamily Palaemonoidea. They are colorful and very popular for aquariums. These animals dwell in coral reefs, where they live on a diet of starfish. This animal also has unusual front legs that are shaped like paddles. Harlequin shrimps grow only up to 2 inches.

The genus Hymenocera is sometimes separated to form family Hymenoceridae. Harlequin shrimp are completely reef safe, but should not be kept by beginners. Their diet is solely starfish. They will not harm any other tank inhabitants. Will hide most of the time until a starfish is added to the tank, when they will almost immediately come out from hiding and overpower their prey even at 10 times their size. Their front legs act as a pseudo needle type projection that temporarily paralyzes the prey, enabling the shrimp to flip them over and carry them off.

The shrimp consumes starfish alive. Usually working in pairs, the harlequin will keep the starfish alive by feeding on it for about a week, starting on the starfish's tube feet, until it is completely consumed. The shrimp enjoy fresh starfish, so they will keep their food alive by feeding it while in their captivity. Considering this, it is difficult to keep a constant food supply for this pet.

These shrimp are white or a peachy-cream with vibrantly colored spots or splotches. Harlequin found in and around the Indian Ocean typically have blue or purple splotches, whereas ones in the Pacific region have red and orange splotches.

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