I want to convert a 25-gallon
(95-liter) tank into a clown mantis shrimp
(Odontodactylus scyllarus) habitat. Is that
tank large enough to accommodate one,
and are there any special considerations I
have to take into account? Are they easily
kept like other marine shrimps?
Mantis shrimps are marine
crustaceans of the order
Stomatopoda. One thing that
quickly separates them from
other marine shrimps, such as the cleaner
shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) or coral
banded shrimp (Stenopus hispidus), is
their range of sizes. Some mantis shrimps
can reach 12 inches ( 30 cm) in length, with
some growing out to 15 inches ( 38 cm).
When we consider that there are more than
400 mantis shrimp species, you can imagine
that they come in all sizes, shapes, and
colors, hailing from tropical and subtropical
A 25-gallon (95-liter) aquarium would
work for a specimen of O. scyllarus,
especially if the only animal within the tank
is the mantis shrimp. I highly recommended
keeping this species alone, as its notoriously
powerful claws enable it to make a meal out
of many aquarium residents. Even if a fish is
too large for the shrimp to eat, it can fatally
wound the fish with one quick snap of its
O. scyllarus prefers a sandy bottom 4 to 6
inches ( 10 to 15 cm) deep; this species is best
kept with a single large piece of live rock.
This will allow the shrimp to create a cave
as well as allow the aquarist to know exactly
where the shrimp is, which aids viewing.
For diet, mantis shrimps prefer live fishes,
although they can be trained to accept other
meaty foods like crab or squid. It’s vitally
important to remember that the larger
mantis shrimps’ claws can break aquarium
glass. You’re asking for major problems if
you house one in a thin-walled aquarium.
For this reason, I recommend that aquarists
seek out a thick acrylic aquarium when
I am starting to see reef
aquariums with bare bottoms
in lieu of a sand bed. I was under the
impression that sand beds were necessary
to stabilize the biological balance of the
aquarium. Also, doesn’t it ruin the natural
look of the tank? Is it possible to have a
healthy bare-bottom reef?
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Many reef purists scoff when they
see a bare-bottom reef aquarium.
I, too, once held the same opinion
of bare-bottom tanks, although the
old saying remains true: try it and you might
like it. While sand beds, and particularly deep
sand beds, have long been valued for their role
in biological filtration, they have also been
Send your questions about the
saltwater side of the aquarium
hobby to “Q&A,” T.F.H. Publications,
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Forum at forums.tfhmagazine.com.