Harlequin Shrimp

Quick Facts about Harlequin Shrimp

Species NameHymenocera picta/elegans
Common NameHarlequin Shrimp
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan7 years
Adult Size2 inches
DietStarfish (mainly Asterias)
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Water ConditionsSaline, Stable
Optimal PH8.1-8.4
Optimal KH7-10

About the Harlequin Shrimp

The Harlequin Shrimp, scientifically known as either Hymenocera picta or Hymenocera elegans, depending on the region, is a striking marine crustacean that captivates aquarists worldwide with its vibrant coloration and unique patterns. Indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region, these shrimp have garnered much attention due to their specialized diet and distinctive appearance. The beauty and intrigue they bring to an aquarium setting make them a popular choice for experienced marine enthusiasts.

Harlequin Shrimp Lifespan

Harlequin Shrimp can live for up to 7 years under ideal conditions. This longevity, combined with their stunning appearance, makes them a valued creature in many marine tanks. Like many marine species, their lifespan can be significantly impacted by water quality, diet, and general care.


Possessing a white body adorned with large blue or lavender spots, the Harlequin Shrimp is undoubtedly a showstopper in any marine tank. Their ornate patterning and flat, plate-like body give them a distinctive look that’s unlike any other shrimp species. The males are slightly smaller than the females, but both genders boast the same impressive coloration.

Average Size

Typically, a mature Harlequin Shrimp will grow to about 2 inches in length, with females often being at the upper end of this range.

Harlequin Shrimp Care

Ensuring the well-being of Harlequin Shrimp requires a deep understanding of their needs and a commitment to meeting them.

Tank Size

For a pair of Harlequin Shrimp, a 10-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size. This provides ample space for them to move, forage, and display their natural behaviors.

How To Set Up Their Tank

A sandy substrate combined with live rock formations provides a natural environment for Harlequin Shrimp. The rock offers hiding spots and a platform for them to hunt their prey. Caves or crevices can also be added to give the shrimp more security.

Lighting Requirements

Harlequin Shrimp do not have specific lighting demands. Moderate lighting, which supports the overall health of the marine tank, is adequate. If you have corals in the tank, then the lighting should be tailored to their needs.

Water Parameters (Water Type, Temperature, Hardness)

Maintaining stable water parameters is critical for the health of Harlequin Shrimp. A salinity level mimicking natural sea water, a temperature between 72-82°F (22-28°C), and a moderate hardness level is essential for their well-being.

Water PH

A pH level between 8.1 and 8.4 ensures a conducive environment for these shrimp.


As tropical marine creatures, Harlequin Shrimp thrive in temperatures ranging from 72-82°F (22-28°C).


Ambient aquarium lighting that meets the needs of other tank inhabitants, especially if housing corals, will suit Harlequin Shrimp perfectly.

Best Substrate for Harlequin Shrimp

A fine sandy substrate is most suited for these shrimp, resembling their natural habitat and facilitating their characteristic behaviors.

Reproduction of Harlequin Shrimp

The breeding process for Harlequin Shrimp is complex and not frequently achieved in home aquariums. Typically, after mating, the female carries the eggs until they hatch, releasing miniature versions of the adults.

Disease Potential

Harlequin Shrimp are fairly robust but can be susceptible to general marine ailments, particularly if water conditions deteriorate. Regular water testing and changes can mitigate these risks.

Food & Diet

The diet of the Harlequin Shrimp is specialized; they primarily consume starfish. This specific diet can make them a challenge to keep, as sourcing and providing live starfish can be both expensive and ethically questionable. However, some aquarists have had success feeding them parts of starfish, allowing the starfish to regenerate between feedings.

Behavior and Temperament

Harlequin Shrimp are relatively peaceful and tend to stay paired with a partner for life. They can often be seen working together to overturn and consume their starfish prey, making them a fascinating addition to observe in a marine tank.

Are Harlequin Shrimp Reef Safe?

Harlequin Shrimp are considered reef-safe, as they do not typically disturb corals or other invertebrates. However, their specialized diet means that they can deplete populations of starfish in a reef tank setting.

Harlequin Shrimp and Suitable Tank Mates

Being peaceful in nature, they can coexist with most non-aggressive marine creatures. However, it’s vital to avoid housing them with potential predators or overly aggressive tank mates.


Breeding Harlequin Shrimp in captivity is a challenging endeavor, given their specific requirements. The key is to recreate their natural environment as closely as possible and ensure a steady supply of appropriate food. With dedication and attention to detail, successful breeding is possible, although rare.

Harlequin Shrimp FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)