How To Care For Your New Vampire Shrimp (Atya Gabonensis): Diet Feeding, Breeding & More

March 26, 2024

Of all of the different varieties of shrimp, the Vampire Shrimp is arguably the most interesting of them all.

Their slightly plumper size, as well as their ability to change color, means that many people often become fascinated with these shrimp, and often want to own some for themselves.

How To Care For Your New Vampire Shrimp (Atya Gabonensis): Diet Feeding, Breeding & More

If you’re looking to own some Vampire Shrimp perhaps, or you’ve already just purchased some, then here is a helpful guide on everything you need to know about caring for Vampire Shrimp.


Despite their frightening sounding name, Vampire Shrimp are extremely well tempered little crustaceans and are actually rather shy.

They originate from Western Africa as well as South America, and carry many different names, such as African Filter Shrimp, African Fan Shrimp, Viper Shrimp, and Gabon Shrimp.

Whilst the chilled-out temperament may leave you puzzled as to why they are given such a fear-inducing name, their name actually stems from both their nocturnal schedule, as well as the small spikes on their feet that are thought to resemble the fangs of a vampire.

So they do share some links to their mythological namesakes!


Typically dwarf shrimp don’t grow much bigger than an inch, so in comparison, these Vampire Shrimp are huge!

Growing to about 2-3 inches, but some Vampire Shrimp have been known to reach 6 inches long, meaning they tower over dwarf shrimps!

They are actually much more comparable in size to Bamboo Shrimp, but whilst Bamboo Shrimp only live for 1-2 years, Vampire Shrimp can live for up to 5 years, but have been known to live beyond that! 

Vampire are very distinguishable from other shrimp, being slightly plumper.

They also have bumps which are rather pointy on the sides of their legs, allowing them to grip on when there is a particularly strong or fasrt current.

They also have particularly long antennae, located on the top of their heads, which is because they are nocturnal, these antennae are what help guide the Vampire in the dark.

Vampire Shrimp often appear in various different colours, from pink, to green, and even blue, their color changes often when they molt, and can actually change depending on the color substrate used in their tank.

These shrimp molt roughly every 2 months, and it’s important to be careful if cleaning their tank during this time, as their new shell will be softer than the old one at first.

There are also some distinguishable features between male and female Vampire Shrimp, the females tend to be smaller, whilst also having larger abdominal plates at the start of the abdomen, and the males have a thicker set of first legs than the females do.

Tank Requirements And Habitat

Vampire Shrimp are filter feeds, and eat via their fans, so it’s important that your tank is large enough to accommodate the way the feed.

In addition to this, it’s vital that you have an aquarium large enough for their to be a moderate current to also aid in this feeding process.


When choosing your substrate, it’s best to go with either gravel, rock, or sand, but sand is preferred, especially since it’s common for the shrimp to consume some of it.

Not only does it help with their digestion, but it’s also probably a better resemblance to their native habitats too.


Decoration is a must for Vampire, who are naturally rather shy creatures. So it’s best to give them plenty of hiding places and spots they can retreat to if they feel it’s necessary.

Rocks and general store decorations allow them plenty of privacy for them to hide in and consume the food they collected.

Plants also make for a great addition to a tank of Vampire Shrimp, helping to shed nutrients and as the plant decays, it will also release detritus, which is an excellent form of nutrition for the shrimp.

But whilst it might be tempting to use fake plants for your tank, which will provide excellent cover, the extra mess made by the real plants is worth it, and will help provide additional nutrients to your shrimp!

Water Conditions

Water Conditions

Vampire Shrimp are fairly harder, and can withstand a degree of variation in their water parameters, but it’s vital that what ever conditions you introduce them to, are maintained and stable, because they do not cope well with change.

As previously mentioned, Vampire Shrimp do require a mild water current in order for them to be able to feed off of the filter, this is easily possible, and is done so by adding a second pump at the bottom of the tank.

Specifications for water conditions:

  • Temperature: Between 75°F and 84°F
  • Optimal PH: Between 6.5 and 7.5
  • KH: 3 – 10dKH
  • Ammonia: 00 ppm
  • Nitrite: 00ppm
  • Nitrate: 20 ppm

Aquarium Size

Despite being relatively small, Vampire Shrimp do require a little bit more room, mainly due to the way in which they feed.

So if you’re looking for tanks, it’s best to keep in mind that you’ll need one big enough to accommodate the amount of current they’ll require.

The recommended minimum size for a tank would be 15 gallons, and with this size tank, 4-5 shrimp will be the ideal number.

If you’re looking at bigger tanks, or want more shrimp, the recommended amount of gallons per shrimp is 1 shrimp per 3-4 gallons of water.

Tank Mates

Vampire Shrimp are incredibly peaceful creatures, and are best paired with other peaceful tankmates, like snails, peaceful fish and other shrimp.

Although it’s best to avoid placing them in a tank with a fish that may see them as prey.

It’s important that their tankmates are peaceful and don’t stress them out too much, as not only are they shy and can easily feel threatened, but a stressed out shrimp doesn’t live for as long, and can stress can cause their wonderful color to fade quicker, and develop illness.

Whilst you can keep Vampire Shrimp on their own, they are better off surrounded by other Vampire Shrimp.



Vampire Shrimp are primarily scavengers and filter feeders, however they aren’t aggressive scavengers, so if your Vampire Shrimp is sharing its tank with other animals, fish especially, then it might be best to feed them at night rather than during the day.

Vampire Shrimp use their fans to help them filter food and other nutrients from the water column, and can also use these same fans to collect food from the surface of the substrate.

The substrate actually doubles as a second form of food, so if you see your Vampire Shrimp fanning the substrate often, it might be a sign that they require a little more food, and that the current in the tank is perhaps too weak.

Naturally, Vampire Shrimp eat algae, detritus, and insect parts.

Thankfully, this diet is fairly easy to recreate for your Vampire Shrimp at home, as they will consume microorganisms, some plant matter, leftover fish food, as well as algae that can build up in the tank.

Their diet can also be supplemented with the following:

  • Fish pellets
  • Flake food
  • Algae wafers
  • Shrimp pellets
  • Spinach powder

However, if you’re planning to supplement their diet with any of these, you must ensure they are grounded up fine enough for your Vampire Shrimp to be able to consume them, as if they’re anything more than a powder, they won’t be able to handle the size nor texture. 

Then, simply add the powder into the water current, this will allow the shrimp to catch it in their fans, combining powders is another great way of ensuring they get all the nutrients they require!

Additional nutrition can also come from adding a range of plant life to your tank, one of the most popular choices is Mangrove Leaves, which provide a food source and excellent nutrition for the shrimp once its leaves begin to decompose.


Unfortunately, it is practically impossible for your Vampire Shrimp to breed in captivity, this is because the conditions required for them to breed is not able to be recreated as it is in the wild.

Therefore, when your purchase Vampire Shrimp, it means that they are wild caught.

The larvae of Vampire Shrimp require rather brackish water, and the larvae stage is also incredibly long, usually taking around the 3 months.

Although you may wish to attempt breeding using a separate spawning tank, the survival rate for baby shrimp in captivity is extremely low.

In the wild, female Vampire Shrimp can lay anything from 850 to over 12,000 eggs.

Most of the breeding happens during the rain season, and takes place soon after molting.

This is when the soft shell is able to be fertilized, the female Vampire Shrimp then holds her eggs for upto 3 to 4 weeks and then upon hatching, they must immediately go to saltwater.

Finally, the baby Vampire move to freshwater after 4 weeks.


As is the case with most aquarium shrimp, you should avoid copper at all costs, as it can prove fatal.

When caring for your Vampire Shrimp, maintaining good water conditions is of the upmost importance, and this alone will massively help both your shrimp’s longevity as well as their quality of life. 

Vampire Shrimp are unlike some other species, as they actually require a slightly dirty tank, the algae and microorganisms found in the tank are an excellent source of nutrition and as such, shouldn’t be removed too often. 

As a result of this, you should always be mindful as to what conditions each animal in your tank needs, and should try and curate your tank based upon the conditions in which it allows all the residents to thrive.

You should test the water in the aquarium regularly, consistently checking the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

Ideally, you should also keep an eye on the feeding levels in the tank, as this can lead to an overly dirty tank. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Potentially owning a Vampire Shrimp can be an exciting prospect, however there are often some questions that can leave owners puzzled.

This guide will help to answer some of the most frequently questions asked about caring for Vampire Shrimp.

What Is The Difference Between Bamboo Shrimp And Vampire Shrimp?

Despite being somewhat similar, there are actually a lot of differences between Bamboo Shrimp and Vampire Shrimp, Vampire Shrimps have a lot more color variation, whereas Bamboo Shrimp tend to be a more reddish-brown color.

Vampire Shrimp are also much more thicker than Bamboo Shrimp.

Additionally, Vampire Shrimp have harder shells than Bamboo Shrimp, who have more of a molted shell, which means they’re more likely to be eaten. 

How Long Do Vampire Shrimp Live?

On average, Vampire Shrimp tend to live longer than other species of shrimp, living for upto 5 years, and they can possibly live beyond that too if they are kept into excellent conditions with a good quality of life. 

It is worth noting that anytime you introduce a Vampire Shrimp to a new tank, its mortality rate increases, they’re not particularly great at adapting to new environments, and doing so has the potential to kill them.

You should always quarantine them in a seperate tank to ensure that the parameters of the water are correct before eventually transferring them to their new home. 


In conclusion, Vampire Shrimp are an incredibly interesting species and make a great addition to most aquariums, from their color changing shell to their unique way of eating, you’ll find yourself watching your new additions for hours on end.

As long as you ensure they are eating properly, and that their water parameters are set perfectly, then you should enjoy their presence in your tank for a long time.

Hopefully this guide has helped provide you with all the information you need to successfully own and take care of some of these wonderful creatures!
Jose Viacrucis

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