The Complete Guide to Sexy Shrimp Care

sexy shrimp

Despite their unusual name, Sexy Shrimp is a terrific choice for a saltwater pico or nano tank. Affectionately called sexies by their adoring aquarium keepers, these tiny shrimp put on a great show, are easy to care for, and as an added bonus, do a little tank cleanup.

They are a great choice if you are excited about the aquarium hobby, but are short on space. In this guide, I’ll tell you all about Sexy Shrimp’s origin, behaviors, appearance, tank requirements, diet, and breeding (spoiler alert–it’s not going to work.) Read on to discover everything you need to know about

Sexy Shrimp in order to provide the best possible life for them.

Sexy Shrimp Facts & Overview

sexy shrimp

Care Level:Easy
Color:Orange, white, blue
Lifespan:3 years
Size:8 inches
Minimum Tank Size:5 gallons
Tank Setup:Saltwater with coral reefs
Compatibility:Peaceful community

The sexy shrimp, scientific name Thor amboinensis, is known by many names, including Anemone Shrimp, Dancing Shrimp, High-tailed Shrimp, Pikmin Shrimp, and Squat Shrimp.These tiny shrimp have a symbiotic relationship with anemones. Anemones, of course, gained recognition from folk not in the fish hobby after the success of Finding Nemo.

Sexy Shrimp have a similar symbiotic relationship with anemone that Clownfish do. Anemone protects Sexy Shrimp and Sexy Shrimp help keep the anemone clean.

These tiny shrimp, less than an inch in length, are found across the globe, from the Eastern and Western Atlantic to the Indo-West Pacific to the Eastern Pacific. They are residents of the Bahamas, the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, the Philippines, Florida, and Ecuador, just to name a small sample.

Wherever their location, they will be found in anemone tentacles, dead coral, and cracks in rocks.

Therefore, Sexy Shrimp that reside in a home aquarium will appreciate coral, anemone, and rocks in their aquascape. Fully grown sexies are less than an inch (2 cm) in size, so they will do just fine in a pico tank (5 gallons or less) or a nano tank (30 gallons or less). With proper setup and care, Sexy Shrimp have a lifespan of about 3 years.

Sexies steal your heart right away, and the online aquarium community is abuzz with stories about their fun personalities, adorable appearance, and unique dancing behavior, in which they raise and lower their bellies continuously in what looks like a dance.

Typical Behavior

Sexy Shrimp are really great aquarium pets because they are eternally peaceful but never boring. They just won’t ever bother any other creatures (at less than an inch in size, how much damage could they do even if they wanted to?) and they spend their days dancing joyfully.

Sexies occupy all areas of the aquarium, and they are daytime creatures, so you won’t have to wait until after dark to watch them do their thing. You’ll never tire of watching them holding their abdomens in the air and then waving them up and down.

And because they enjoy being together, you’ll get to see an all-day group dance. In fact, they dance more when they are surrounded by their crew. It’s a spectacular show. Perhaps because they are so small, they need hiding places and also feel more confident when they are in groups. I think they dance more in groups because they are less stressed when they are together.

The ‘Sexy’ Shrimp are extremely interesting in terms of behavior. As I have already mentioned, the common name is coming from its unusual dance, which involves holding its abdomen up in the air and waving it up and down. They do their dance almost all the time. They are completely peaceful creatures and usually do not bother anybody in the tank.

The ‘Sexy’ Shrimp is also very social and tends to aggregate in large groups potentially reflecting the small size and limited defensive capability of these shrimps. They will often share a hiding place, it is not uncommon to see many of them in the same areas. In the group, they feel more relaxed and confident. At the same time, they lack social structure.

Sexies are also fast–they can move across the tank rapidly, and if you look away, you’ll miss it.

Symbiotic Relationship

Although they enjoy symbiotic relationships with anemones, they are not dependent on them like some other species, like Clownfish, who cannot survive without anemones.

However, Sexy Shrimp have symbiotic relationships with at least 12 different types of anemone, while Clownfish only have 10. The symbiotic relationship protects these tiny dancers from predators as the anemones camouflage them and give them hiding places. The benefit for the anemone is that the Sexy Shrimp cleans them, eating slime off of them and eating tiny organisms that get caught in their tentacles.

Reef Safety

For the most part, Sexy Shrimp are safe around coral reefs. The only time you’ll see them eating coral is when they’re hungry and not getting enough to eat, so that’s something you can control.


Sexies are so cute with their orange coloring and large white spots that almost look 3-D because of the blue outline around them.

Physically, their abdomens and tails point up in the direction of their heads, and they have protruding eyes. They are also really small, a little less than an inch in size, or about 2 cm.

Distinguishing between males and females

Although all Sexy Shrimp start their lives as males, they are protandric hermaphrodites and can switch to females when they see the end (for instance, for reproduction.) They can’t transition until they reach a certain size, so female Sexy Shrimp are larger than the males.

In addition, the white stripe across the back of the female is almost always broken. One more way you can tell if you’re dealing with a male or female is by examining the abdomen (not hard to do since they are dancing all the time.) The female abdomen is broader, to accommodate the eggs she will carry.


Sexy Shrimp go through a molting process every 3 to 4 weeks. If you wake up one morning (they molt at night) and see what looks like a dead Sexy Shrimp, don’t panic. It may very well be the skin that the Sexy Shrimp has discarded. Check to see who is swimming and account for all your shrimp before you get too

Habitat and Tank Conditions

I recommend a dedicated tank for the dancing Sexy Shrimp, and given their small size, a pico tank or nano tank will do the job.

Smaller tanks are growing in popularity due to their lower cost and space needs. A nano tank can be a solo operation for a hobbyist in a dorm room or a secondary tank for a hobbyist with another large tank.

Reef nano tanks are especially popular since they are gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing. Smaller invertebrates are obvious choices for these tiny tanks. There are a couple of things you need to watch out for, however. A smaller tank will provide less space for each inhabitant, so curate your pico tank

For Sexy Shrimp, in particular, you’ll want to refrain from adding any territorial fish to their tank; your sexies are in mortal danger from territorial fish.

In addition, you’ll have to be more diligent about water checks and changes than you would be with a larger tank–see the next section for detailed guidelines.

When decorating, make sure to provide plenty of hiding places. If you have coral, they will have lots of places to hide in the nooks of the live rock.

Water Conditions

Sexy Shrimp require the same water parameters as other reef aquarium residents. The most important consideration is that a pico or nano tank has less water, meaning waste will not be as diluted. You’ll have to watch out for elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and phosphates.

Pro tip: Beware of temperature changes and faulty equipment. Pico tanks and nano tanks are of high quality, but temperature fluctuations in the room will affect a smaller tank more quickly than a large tank.

Best water parameters for Sexy Shrimp:

  • Salinity 1.023 – 1.025 (measured using specific gravity)
  • Temperature 72 to 82 F (22 to 28 C)
  • Calcium concentration 400 to 450 ppm
  • pH 8.1 to 8.4
  • Alkalinity 7 to 12 dKH

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

Sexy Shrimp do well in nano or pico tanks. If you keep them in a larger community tank, there is a good chance they will be eaten by larger fish. Also, because they are so small, you might not even see them in a large tank.

They are so fun to watch; you won’t want to miss their dances, which you will be able to see much better in a nano tank.

How Many Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

You can accommodate 3-5 sexies in a 5-gallon tank.

Tank Mates

If you are sticking to my suggestion for a pico tank, you won’t have room for much besides your Sexy Shrimp and an anemone or two. A species-specific tank is best for sexies, but I do understand that having a community tank with a variety of species is appealing.

You definitely want to stay away from mixing Clownfish and Sexy Shrimp, as the competition for the anemone will be one that your Sexy Shrimp will lose. Additionally, because sexies are so small, they are at risk from aggressive fish who might see them as lunch rather than as a neighbor.

Unsuitable tank mates for Sexy Shrimp:

If you decide to mix species, here are some options that would be amenable to Sexy Shrimp, keeping in mind that you’ll likely need a larger tank to accommodate sexies and others.

Suitable tank mates for Sexy Shrimp:

  • Anemones
  • Boxer crabs
  • Bumble Bee Snails
  • Cerith Snails
  • Conch snails
  • Coral*
  • Emerald crabs
  • Nassarius snails
  • Peppermint shrimp
  • Porcelain crabs
  • Red Fire shrimp
  • Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

*Sexy Shrimp are coral friendly if you are feeding them enough. If they are feasting on coral or their polyps, they are likely hungry. Increase their portion to see if that stops the reef snacking.

Keeping Sexy Shrimp Together

Sexy Shrimp do well in groups of three or more. They are more likely to shake their booties back and forth when they are in a group, and in fact, are happier in a group. If the group gets too large, however, you may need to switch from a pico to a nano tank.


If you are keeping anemones with your sexies, you do not actually need to direct feed them, for they will consume the coral slime in your aquarium, as well as organisms that get trapped in the coral. If you don’t have anemones or if your Sexy Shrimp seems hungry, you can direct feed.

Sexies are carnivores, so you can feed carnivore flakes, gels, or pellets. If letting the food sink is not working, you can feed them with forceps or tweezers.

Although they will eat leftovers, they are not cleaner shrimp and should not be seen as such. If you rely on them cleaning your tank for their nutritional needs, you’ll run into trouble as they will likely start eating bits of coral and their polyps.

In addition to pellets, gels, and flakes, you could offer Sexy Shrimp live and frozen meaty protein sources.


The biggest danger time for Sexy Shrimp is during acclimation. Sexy Shrimp do not tolerate changes in conditions well and shifts in pH, temperature, and salinity are extremely difficult for them.

The best thing you can do for your new Sexy Shrimp is to show patience while acclimating them to their new tank. Do not try to add them to a new tank suddenly. Slowly remove some of the water in the acclimation tank and add some tank water every 15 minutes, taking about an hour and 30 minutes to acclimate them (this process is called drip acclimation).

Remember, too, that in smaller pico and nano tanks that have a smaller amount of water, nitrite and nitrate levels tend to be more highly concentrated in fewer gallons. That means you will have to perform regular water checks and tank changes to keep the water clean and safe.


Getting Sexy Shrimp to mate is not exceedingly difficult, but successfully raising fry is not an easy task.

The truth is that the Sexy Shrimp you’ll find for sale are almost entirely wild-caught. Sexies will take care of the mating part — you’ll see the female full of eggs when that happens. You can encourage their breeding by upping the meaty protein sources, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

However, once the shrimplets hatch, it is unlikely that you will be successful in raising them to adulthood. If you don’t have a species-specific tank, the babies will be at risk of becoming food. Even in a tank dedicated to sexies, their chances of survival are slim. They are at risk of starvation, and could also fall prey to corals and even filters.

Fun Facts about Sex and Gender Identity in Sexy Shrimp

There are different types of hermaphrodites in the aquatic world; the Sexy Shrimp is a protandric hermaphrodite, meaning that they are born male and can change to a fully functioning female as the need arises.

Protandric hermaphrodites are much rarer than protogynous hermaphrodites, which start out as females and transition to males. Interestingly enough, Clownfish (the Sexy Shrimp’s primary competitor for anemone space) is also a protandric hermaphrodite.

Mating and Gestation Numbers

  • Sexy Shrimp produce anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs during a single spawn
  • Larvae hatch in 2 to 3 weeks
  • The larval stage is approximately one month, with the complete transformation taking another 10-12 days

Are Sexy Shrimp Suitable for Your Aquarium?

Sexy Shrimp are so fun to watch; I don’t know who wouldn’t want a few. In fact, as you start a community of sexies, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to find your own community online. Fans of Sexy Shrimp are active on the Internet and you’ll enjoy having other Sexy Shrimp lovers to talk with and compare stories.

And let’s face it–many of us are living in small spaces and don’t have space or financial means to invest in a large tank. The fact that you can have a little nano or pico community is a big selling point for Sexy Shrimp. And now, pico tanks are stylish and attractive, and many come in kits with a filter and everything else you need to start your own community.

You will need to make a little more effort to keep the tank clean because it’s smaller and more concentrated, but the payoff is worth it.

Does having a Sexy Shrimp community sound like it’s right for you? Or do you have experience with Sexy Shrimp that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your experiences or questions in the comments below!

About Robert 468 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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