The Harlequin Shrimp, Hymenocera elegans is also called the Clown Shrimp for their fancy clown suit. They are a reef compatible, peaceful shrimp, first scientifically described in 1852. Do not keep in a saltwater aquarium with aggressive fish or aggressive invertebtrates. The list includes Trigger fish, larger Hawkfish, Groupers, Lionfish, and large predatory wrasses like the Green Bird Wrasse, Banana Wrasse and more. All may make a meal of the Harlequin Shrimp. Clown Shrimp (I like that name), can be kept singly, in groups, or sometimes you may be lucky enough to find a store with a mated pair of Harlequin shrimp available. Feeding exclusively on starfish, owners often feed inexpensive chocolate chip starfish once a month to keep their Harlequin Shrimp healthy and happy. If your saltwater aquarium often has parasitic Asterina Starfish, Those white-ish tiny starfish that crop up in many aquariums, then let this unique invert the Harlequin Shrimp be part of your cleanup crew. If your saltwater aquarium doesn't contain Asterina starfish you can still keep a unique invertebrate by once a month feeding a starfish for its dietary needs.
The Harlequin Shrimp has a white body with large light blue spots. Males are slightly smaller than the female. It has large claws or chelipeds which are for show only as it does not use them for hunting. The Harlequin Shrimp, Hymenocera elegans is also called the Clown Shrimp for their fancy clown suit. They truly are one of the most stunning and beautiful shrimps to be found. As a matter of fact when discovered it was named for it's elegant beauty, "Hymenocera elegans". With good water quality, a peaceful environment and the proper food, you should have no trouble in maintaining the species for a good many years. The body is of a pinkish-white or white color, splashed with large purple-edged pink spots, and sometimes reddish or light orange toned looking spots. This shrimp remains small, only reaching an average length of 1-1/2 inches. Like with all invertebrates, Harlequin Shrimp are sensitive to copper and high nitrate levels.
As with any marine species, water quality plays an important role in ensuring they remain healthy. Being an invertebrate, Harlequin shrimp do not tolerate poor water quality. If you can provide consistent water quality, you should have no trouble at all in being able to keep it healthy and free of problems. When using a salt mix, prepare the water at least two days in advance to allow it to age and become properly mixed and aerated. Prior to use, ensure the saltwater aquarium pH, salinity and temperature match the water the shrimp are in. They are easily affected by sudden changes so water changes need to be kept on the smaller side to not shock your shrimp. We recommend never doing any more than a twenty percent water change at a time, allowing a day or more rest between changes. For breeding purposes, a tank dedicated to a single mated pair is a must. As pets, taking the simple precautions of having pump inlets protected and any possible predators removed will make keeping this species a simple matter. The Harlequin Shrimp can not tolerate copper or high nitrates and iodine levels must be correct & maintained to ensure proper molting.
Diet and Feeding
Harlequin shrimp are very particular about their diet, eating only on echinoderms, primarily starfish, and a few urchins. The Harlequin require only one large starfish per month for it to stay in good health. When kept in aquariums that often have infestations of small parasitic Asterina Starfish additional feeding is usually not required. For feeding we recommend the Chocolate Chip Starfish. An excellent choice since you can cut off the arms without killing the starfish. Don't forget to feed the Chocolate Chip Starfiish pieces of clams and oyster. Easily found frozen aquarium food at your local aquarium store.
Level of Care Moderate
Reef Compatibility Excellent