Ghost shrimp molting is a bizarre and confusing Physiological drama you would have noticed in your ghost shrimp tank or a community tank where Ghost shrimp is a tank mate.
Molting is an essential physiological process for all the shrimps to grow that includes Ghost shrimp as well. Like all the crustaceans, Ghost shrimp has an exoskeleton or external shell that restricts the shrimp’s growth; hence, it has to break out of its exoskeleton to grow; the same as you keep buying bigger and bigger clothes for your growing child.
However, that can be a concern for you if you think of keeping ghost shrimps or already having some either as a part of the cleaning crew or feeders stock or to add fun into your aquarium tank.
Whatever be the reason, you don’t need to fret about it; in this article, we will talk about how, why, and when they molt? Complications and how to facilitate the ghost shrimp molting process in detail.
What is Molting?
Molting is a phenomenon that happens when a shrimp leaves its tight-fitting exoskeleton to grow large. All the crustaceans have their body covered with the skeletal system to protect; however, it is rigid and cannot enlarge their size. But, the shrimp or invertebrates has to grow; hence they break out of their armor.
Before molting, the shrimp start to grow its new thin skin known as hypodermis; shrimp ingests protein, calcium, and other substance necessary from the old skeletal system and the water to build the new hypodermis; for this purpose stable water parameters is crucial.
The new hypodermis formation will make the Ghost shrimp body look from transparent to opaque; this thin hypodermis will later turn to its new armor.
When it’s time to shed the old shell, they fill their exoskeleton with water till it burst open; it starts to crack at the neck area, and the shrimp will curl its tail into its body and loosen its old shell.
Do not take the shells out from the tank immediately because the Shrimps and other living creatures in the tank ingest nutrients from these shells. You may remove it after a few hours before it starts to decompose.
Ghost Shrimp Molting Behavior
Since molting is an imminent part of any shrimp life, you would want to know as many details, if the Ghost shrimp are part of your aquarium.
Do you know that they will develop specific changes in their behavior before undergoing molting? Yes, you heard that right! They will give a few telltale signs, which will signal that they are ready to molt. The most common sign that you will notice is, they will spend a lot of time standing still in the tank. This reduced rate of activity is an indication of the molting period.
They can even standstill for hours, which might seem very strange to you. Also, ghost shrimps will not eat anything during this period, as they will be completely motionless. The only movement you can see in them is in their antennae.
As they molt, their soft body gets exposed, leaving them vulnerable. Thus, the ghost shrimps will hide for a few days till the new hypodermis hardens to protect them. So, don’t freak out if your Ghost shrimp goes missing in the tank; they will emerge out soon after 4 to 5 days from their hideouts.
Molting forms an integral part of Ghost shrimp breeding; when the female shrimp leaves her shell, she will release a pheromone, encouraging shrimp mating.
NOTE: When you see that a few shrimps are standing still and exhibiting their typical behavior, it is understood as ghost shrimp molting. But if you see many shrimps standing still in the tank, then there is something wrong with the water condition, which you would want to address immediately.
Molting and Growth Rate
Ghost shrimps usually live for a year or two. However, the lifespan can vary based on their place of origin. Though they have a short lifespan, they continue to grow; the molting ensures that they grow regularly and develop a new shell after every molt.
It can happen quite frequently depending on how much they are eating and how fast they are growing. Ghost shrimps’ growth rate is directly correlated with the percentage gain that they obtain per molt.
During the larval stage, ghost shrimps molt every day; during the post-larvae phase, the shrimps molt every 3-4 days and grow up to 20%. They shed after every 4-10 days and grow up to 7% in the juvenile stage. However, the adult shrimps molt approximately every once a month to generate their lost limbs again.
The shred skeleton weighs approximately 5% of the shrimp body weight.
A significant increase in weight gain occurs before and after the molting; this weight gain is attributed to water ingestion to aid the shell’s cracking before the molting and develop the new thin epidermis into hard armor after the molting.
Reasons for Unsuccessful Molting
Though molting is undoubtedly an indispensable part of the shrimp’s life, it can become complicated when your shrimp does not receive proper care.
The potential factors that affect ghost shrimp molting are:
The main reason behind unsuccessful molting is improper water condition. When the water parameters are not at their optimum level for your ghost shrimps, it will result in unsuccessful molting. You need to regularly check the general hardness and carbonate hardness of the tank water. Calcium carbonate is vital for shrimps during molting.
Ghost shrimp ingests 25% of calcium from its old skeleton, and the rest absorbs it from the water to construct its new shell; thus, making calcium an important water parameter where the ghost shrimp resides.
When the general hardness is too low, the shrimp cannot build its new shell in time to molt; however, when the general hardness is on the higher side, it can make the exoskeleton too hard early and thereby making it difficult to crack.
Another critical parameter that you need to check on is TDS (the total dissolved solids)concentration in the tank water.
Sometimes, you might have noticed the death of a colony of your shrimps after performing a water change; you would want to recheck the water parameters.
Another possible cause for improper ghost shrimp molting can be the diet. If your shrimps’ diet is solely focused on calcium and protein content, they will showcase specific issues; feed your shrimps a balanced diet so that they can get adequate nutrition.
You can feed them with blanched veggies, algae wafers, biofilm, and shrimp-specific foods. Snowflakes, rich in protein, are also good food for your ghost shrimps. Besides, snowflake food that contains soybean shells can work magically to improve their growth.
Water change can also cause problems in molting. Are you wondering how? Before and after molting, shrimps break the shells and grow by absorbing more water; they become vulnerable to an osmotic shock.
Supposing your shrimp dwells in and absorbs hard water, but you suddenly do a water change with softer water, then osmotic shock can occur. The soft water will push its way through the hard water, which is already present in the shrimp’s body. And this will cause their cells to expand more, which is undoubtedly very dangerous for them.
Unsuitable tank environment and the tank mates
Consequences of Unsuccessful Molting
Unsuccessful ghost shrimp molting can result in some significant problems for your shrimps. Here is what happens when your shrimps go through an unsuccessful molting experience.
White Ring of Death
What is the White Ring of Death?
Well, you must have seen a solid clear line wrapping around the body of the shrimps just behind the area of their head. When shrimps tend to absorb more water to grow in size and break their exoskeleton, it is expected to split from the top just behind their neck. It allows the shrimps to bend their head and body through the gap and helps them to slide out through the slit to leave behind the shell.
The issue arises when the shell breaks all around their body rather than one point at the neck, exposing their delicate body parts.
Subsequently, the shrimp possess two disconnected exoskeletons, making it difficult for them to bend and get out of the shell. Thus, they get stuck in their molt, leading to their death in a day or two.
Stuck in the Molt
You may sometimes notice the ghost shrimps lying on their side motionless or twitching constantly; this occurs due to some issue in ghost shrimp molting. Such a situation usually implies that they have been trying hard to molt but got stuck in the shell; again, this situation occurs when the exoskeleton breaks from the wrong place, preventing their escape from their exoskeleton.
Unfortunately, you cannot help them if this happens. Either the shrimp eventually free themselves from this situation or will die.
How to Aid Proper Ghost Shrimp Molting?
For facilitating proper ghost shrimp molting, you need to ensure that you are offering them adequate care. To aid perfect molting, provide ideal water parameters, diet, tank environment.
A proper tank setup and the environment is imminent for maintaining Ghost shrimp healthy; it is essential for the molting and breeding cycle.
Keep the tank water clean and proper by changing 25 to 30% of weekly water regularly as it will not alter the general hardness drastically.
Ghost shrimps are shy and feel highly vulnerable after molting; hence they need a good cover to rest, protect and build the new skeleton. Incorporating live aquarium plants such as java moss, java fern, Anubias, dwarf lilies, red aquarium plants, etc., make them feel secured and protected.
Additionally, rocks, driftwood, and the decorations such as caves and tubes can provide them the security they need.
To keep your ghost shrimps healthy and encourage easy molting, you need to ensure zero Ammonia or nitrite in the water. The nitrate level in the water must be less than 20 ppm. After molting, shrimps are exposed; even a trace of Ammonia for a short period can kill your shrimps.
A temperature range of 18 – 28°C (65 – 82°F) and neutral to slightly alkaline 7-8pH. The general hardness and carbonate hardness of water must lie within 3-10dGH and 3-15 dKH.
Maintaining these water parameters helps a smooth molting process.
A proper diet and adequate nourishment are essential for smooth ghost shrimp molting. A balanced diet helps the shrimps to have a very frequent and healthy molting. In case they do not receive adequate nutritious food, they will not have proper growth. So, offer your ghost shrimps a high-quality protein and calcium-rich diet.
Many pros throw cuttlefish shells; shrimps graze on the cuttlefish bone ingest calcium and other nutrients.
Water Change Frequency
The frequent and large volume of water changes builds unstable water parameters, dangerous to the shrimps and other invertebrates.
The right filtration system to treat both the mechanical and biological waste can ensure the (the Nitrogen Cycle) Ammonia and Nitrite level at 0 and the Nitrates at below 20 ppm.
You would want to have a regular 25 to 30% water change per week; this ensures to throw excess nitrates and dilute total dissolved solids as required without throwing the other basic water parameters such as temperature, pH, dGh, and dKH off balance.
Ghost Shrimp Molting – Wrap Up
Ghost shrimps are relatively easy to maintain when you see the benefits they have to offer. They are known for their tank cleaning prowess; keep your tank impeccably by foraging on the leftovers and the algae.
They are great to any peaceful community tank; needless to say, they are excellent feeder stock when you have larger fish species to feed.
Ghost shrimp molting is easy to handle if you know its requirements; relax and enjoy the experience of petting Ghost shrimp!