What Do Peppermint Shrimp Eat? A Guide to Feeding These Colorful Scavengers

The peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) is a saltwater invertebrate that lives in shallow water in the East Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and along the coasts of Florida. It is active at night and eats anything it can find. This animal likes to stay close to coral reefs and sometimes tube sponges because that’s where it finds food and good places to hide.

The peppermint shrimp is considered a cleaning animal in a saltwater aquarium. In fact, these invertebrates have become very popular over the last few years because they take less work to clean the tank. Also, they are cheap, have a unique appearance, and they are very easily available.

Peppermint shrimps, which are in the genus Lysmata, are one of the most popular species on the market because they look nice and can get rid of aquarium pests (Aiptasia). It is easy to find this species in pet stores, and it costs between $5 and $10 USD.

Peppermint shrimp are a popular saltwater aquarium species known for their bright red stripes and ability to eat Aiptasia anemones. Their small size and peaceful temperament also make them a great addition to community tanks.

But what should you feed these tiny shrimp? Are they herbivores carnivores or omnivores? Will they find enough to eat in your tank or do you need to supplement their diet?

I’ve kept peppermint shrimp in my tanks for years. So in this article I’ll share everything I’ve learned about their dietary needs and preferences to help you keep them healthy.

An Overview of Peppermint Shrimp’s Diet in the Wild

In their natural habitat in the Caribbean Sea, peppermint shrimp are omnivores and opportunistic feeders. This means they eat both plant and animal matter, and aren’t particularly picky about what they consume.

Their main food sources in the wild include:

  • Detritus – decaying organic matter that accumulates on the substrate. This includes uneaten food particles, waste products from animals, and dead plant/animal tissue.

  • Aufwuchs – the mix of tiny organisms like algae, bacteria and microbes that grow on underwater surfaces. Peppermint shrimp graze these “biofilm” coatings off of rocks, coral and other surfaces.

  • Parasites – they pick external parasites off of fish and eat them. This is why they are considered “cleaner shrimp.”

  • Plankton – tiny drifting plants and animals suspended in the water column. Peppermint shrimp will filter feed on plankton.

What to Feed Peppermint Shrimp in an Aquarium

The good news about peppermint shrimp is that they are excellent scavengers that will find much of their own food in an established tank.

As members of the clean-up crew, they constantly forage through the tank nibbling on detritus, aufwuchs and other edible material that accumulates. You’ll often see them picking at algae coatings, organic debris and invisible food particles on live rock, decor and substrate.

However, it doesn’t hurt to supplement their diet. This is especially important when first introduced to an aquarium before they find natural food sources. Offering additional foods also provides complete nutrition and prevents aggression between shrimp competing for limited food.

Here are some of the best foods to feed peppermint shrimp:

Shrimp Pellets/Flakes

High quality shrimp pellets or flakes that contain spirulina and other ingredients are perfect for omnivorous peppermint shrimp. They provide all the protein, vitamins and minerals required for health.

Look for pellets small enough for them to easily grab and consume. Feed just enough that they can finish within a few hours.

Frozen and Live Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp are an excellent supplemental food. Both live and frozen brine shrimp are readily accepted. Thaw frozen brine in tank water before feeding.

Mysis Shrimp

Mysis shrimp are another great option. As with brine shrimp, they will eat both live and frozen mysis. Cut larger mysis into pieces for the small shrimp.


Spirulina powder or flakes are an excellent source of nutrition. The high protein and vitamin content of spirulina enhances coloration.

Blended Seafood

For variety, offer a food mixture blended from seafood like shrimp, squid, clam and mussel. This provides protein and mimics their natural carnivorous tendencies.

Aquatic Veggies

Though not a staple, peppermint shrimp will sometimes pick at vegetable matter like seaweed. Offering marine algae helps round out their diet.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Provide calcium-rich foods like crab or lobster shell periodically. This gives shrimp an edible source of calcium for their exoskeletons.

Grazing Tablets

Grazer tablets formulated for shrimp and other invertebrates contain a nutritionally balanced blend of minerals and food particles.Place them in feeding dishes for shrimp to nibble on.

How Often to Feed Peppermint Shrimp

Peppermint shrimp continuously forage for microscopic food particles in your tank. So they don’t need to be fed on a strict schedule.

As a general rule, target feeding your shrimp colony 2-3 times per week. This gives them a nutritional boost without fouling the water with excess uneaten food.

Observe their activity levels and watch for aggression at feeding time. Increase frequency if shrimp seem overly hungry and competitive for food. Reduce feeding if uneaten food accumulates.

Target feedings for evening hours when shrimp are most active. Remove any uneaten food within a few hours.

Signs Your Peppermint Shrimp Need More Food

It’s important to make sure your peppermint shrimp are getting enough to eat. Signs of inadequate diet include:

  • Lethargic behavior and loss of color – Shrimp appear pale and inactive when malnourished

  • Aggression – Peppermint shrimp will fight over food when hungry

  • Declining population – Starvation eventually leads to death

  • Interest in corals or clams – Healthy peppermint shrimp won’t harm corals, but malnutrition drives them to find alternate food sources

If you notice any of these symptoms, try increasing the frequency and variety of foods offered. Target feed 3-4 times per week rather than 2-3 times.

Can Peppermint Shrimp Eat Coral?

While peppermint shrimp are generally considered reef safe, they may nibble on coral polyps if their dietary needs aren’t being met. Soft large-polyp stony corals (LPS) like star polyps seem most vulnerable when shrimp are hungry.

However, healthy well-fed peppermint shrimp should not bother corals in an established tank. I’ve kept them with all kinds of LPS and SPS corals with no issues. Any aggression towards corals is a sign the shrimp require more food.

So be sure to provide a varied diet via supplements along with the microorganisms and detritus they graze on naturally in the tank. This prevents coral nibbling behavior caused by malnutrition.

Compatible Tankmates That Won’t Eat Peppermint Shrimp

When stocking a tank with peppermint shrimp, avoid notoriously shrimp-eating species like:

  • Pufferfish
  • Moray eels
  • Triggerfish
  • Lionfish
  • Groupers
  • Wrasses
  • Hawkfish

Instead choose peaceful community fish that won’t view your shrimp as food, such as:

  • Blennies
  • Gobies
  • Damselfish
  • Angelfish
  • Chromis
  • Clownfish
  • Tangs

Small, docile fish that ignore peppermint shrimp are the best tankmates. This allows the shrimp to scavenge the tank without fear of being eaten.

Now that you know what peppermint shrimp like to eat, providing a healthy diet in your tank is easy. Aim to feed 2-3 times per week, choosing foods like shrimp pellets, mysis, brine shrimp, spirulina and seafood mixes.

Supplement with calcium-rich items periodically too. This gives your shrimp the balanced nutrition they need.

With their appetites satisfied peppermint shrimp will thrive in your tank, keeping it clean while adding brilliant splashes of color. Just be sure to avoid aggressive tankmates and your shrimp will continue happily grazing away.

what do peppermint shrimp eat

Quick Notes about Lysmata Wurdemanni Shrimp

Name Peppermint shrimp
Other Names Candy cane shrimp, Caribbean cleaner shrimp, Veined shrimp, Cleaner Shrimp
Scientific Name Lysmata wurdemanni
Tank size (minimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy-Medium
Breeding Difficult
Size 4 – 5 cm (~1.5 – 2 inches)
Optimal Temperature 25 – 28°C (~75°F – 82°F)
Water type SG = 1.023 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.1 – 8.4 (7.5 – 9)
Optimal KH 8 – 12
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 2 years
Color Form Semitransparent with red longitudinal, transverse, and oblique bands around the body

Peppermint Shrimp and Corals

Some aquarists say that the Peppermint shrimp are not recommended for a reef tank. The main reason is that they eat small polyps and soft corals. People who have put them in these kinds of aquariums before say they saw the corral getting nipped and didn’t know what was going on.

However, there are also aquarists who have never experienced anything like that. Their Peppermint shrimp did not touch corals in the tanks at all.

How is it possible?

Actually, it depends on the Lysmata species. According to the study, even aquatic shops do not know what they sell. Unfortunately, it is very easy to confuse the Lysmata boggessi (the Atlantic Peppermint shrimp) and Lysmata wurdemanni (the Gulf and Carribean Peppermint shrimp). Unless you have a trained eye.

The Lysmata boggessi shrimp have semi-translucent reddish exoskeleton covered with narrow, longitudinal, transverse, and oblique pale red stripes. The carapace has V- and U-shaped oblique and transverse stripes. In addition, we can see a distinctive inverted Y on the carapace.

The Atlantic Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata boggessi) are NOT reef safe. Several of these shrimp can tear up a few corals within a night.

The Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) are reef safe. They will not attack corals. So, do not make a mistake when you are going to buy one.

Peppermint Shrimp Info And Care | All About The Peppermint Shrimp!

Can peppermint shrimp eat fish?

Most of the time, peppermint shrimp will be able to feed on their own. They do an excellent job at finding food, and some aquarists think there often isn’t any need to give them additional food. Still, you should provide them with some sinking pellets or fresh fish meat from time to time. Just make sure you don’t overfeed them!

Is peppermint healthy?

Mint has multiple health benefits. It has antibacterial properties, can help improve digestion, promotes good breath, improves concentration, and also helps improve allergy symptoms.

How do you feed a peppermint shrimp?

Steady water flow and a low-rise current are perfect for the peppermint shrimp. Do not use a strong filtration system that can easily suck it up. The peppermint shrimp is an omnivore and will forage the tank for its own food, eating the morsels left over from its tankmates. This makes feeding it amazingly easy.

Are peppermint shrimp good invertebrates?

Peppermint shrimp are good invertebrates to add to your tank for the following reasons: Peppermint shrimp won’t win a prize for the largest saltwater shrimp species. They aren’t even the flashiest invertebrate out there. But they’re nifty crustaceans that can pitch in as part of your clean-up crew.

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