Pistol Shrimp Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Modified: 31 May 2023

pistol shrimp facts

Imagine a creature bearing a large weapon that can create a punch as hot as the sun’s surface, leaving its victims utterly motionless or lifeless. Think about having to see it face-to-face, would it be very terrifying? Of course, the answer is yes! Does something like that exist? The answer is also a yes, but luckily for us, they come in small sizes, and are harmless to humans. Pistol shrimps are considered to possess one of the deadliest attacks out of all the small creatures that still exist. However, despite their notorious lethal attacks, they are wonderful creatures, both in the wild, and in the aquarium setting. Here are some pistol shrimp facts that we have collated for you to enjoy.

  1. Pistol shrimps are only about 4 cm long.
  2. They weigh around 25 grams.
  3. Despite their name, they are really friendly.
  4. They use shockwaves to kill their prey.
  5. Pistol shrimps are one of the most powerful pound-for-pound creatures that still exist.
  1. They live in coral reefs, oyster reefs, and seagrass flats.
  2. They prey on small invertebrates.
  3. Lionfish, triggers, larger hawkfish, groupers, and large predatory wrasses are their predators.
  4. Some people keep them as pets in tanks.
  5. They can produce an extremely loud pop using their claws.
  6. The pistol shrimp can release high-pressure bubble bullets from its claw to kill its prey.
  7. They cannot break glass. Only mantis shrimps can shatter glass using their clubs.
  8. It looks like a colorful lobster.
  9. They can see 12 colors compared to humans who can only see three.
  10. The bigclaw snapping shrimp is the largest of the snapping shrimps.
  1. Synalpheus pinkfloydi is a pistol shrimp that can produce a sound louder than a gunshot.
  2. The tiger pistol shrimp only grows up to 4 to 5 cm.
  3. They have an uneven claw size.
  4. Gobies are fishes they prefer to be friends with.
  5. They can live for three to four years in an aquarium.
Table of Contents

Don’t be sad if they lose their claws.

If you have a pistol shrimp in your aquarium and noticed that they are missing their prominent claw, don’t panic. They have the ability to transform their other smaller claw into bigger ones while regenerating the other ones into smaller ones. That is why you might find pistol shrimps with different claw placement. It is also the same for pistol shrimps in the wild, which can have their prominent claw either on the left or right, since they can change it within their lifespan.

pistol shrimp facts
Image source: Commons Wikimedia

They form symbiotic relationships.

Though this kind of shrimps is known to have one of the deadliest weapons, they are typically friendly and in fact, form a symbiotic relationship with a fish called gobies. A symbiotic relationship is a bond between two entirely different species that provide benefits for each other. The pistol shrimp provides shelter, while the goby, with its good eyesight, is responsible for security and protection from predators. This is really interesting because they live in the same burrow without any conflicts.

The pistol shrimp has bad eyesight.

This shrimp can’t spot their predators until it’s too late because of its very poor eyesight and near blindness. Being nocturnal, it is common for them to not rely too much on their eyesight. It is also another reason why they need to have a symbiotic relationship with gobies since they serve as a warning system whenever predators lurk around. They spend most of their alone time digging and keeping their burrows intact, leaving no space unturned.

Pistol shrimps are deadly but mostly shy.

They are generally territorial, and most species from different places can be aggressive but they are shy compared to other critters in the tank. They would prefer to be left alone doing their own thing as most people do. However, when disturbed, they won’t hesitate to attack their tankmates with their lethal weapon. It’s best to choose friendly species as tankmates for them or it will not end up well. Generally, pet owners of this shrimp won’t mix other shrimps in the same tank, or else it will eat them.

Red pistol shrimps are good for cleaning your tank.

This species of pistol shrimp is considered a good scavenger and excellent cleaner so putting it in a tank is a great idea. They sometimes get mixed up with the mantis shrimp, but unlike it, the red pistol shrimp is completely harmless. They come in different colors, and their gender can be identified based on the size of their claws. Compared to the mantis shrimp, it can’t break through glass, so don’t worry about spending on your tank’s replacement anytime soon.

You usually need a goby if you want a red pistol shrimp in your tank.

Talking about having red pistol shrimps in your tank, they would probably want a specific fish as a partner, which is a goby. When observed in the tank, the goby and the pistol shrimp would interestingly take turns watching outside their burrow. Moreover, they would live together in the same place, providing each other food, safety, and shelter. It is also the reason why people call red pistol shrimps symbiotic shrimps. Moreover, you need to have a closed tank since gobies are known to jump out from an open one.

pistol shrimp facts, goby fish
Image source: Pixabay

They won’t eat your corals.

You don’t have to worry about red pistol shrimps destroying your coral in the tank because they mostly feed on smaller invertebrates, such as shrimps, scallops, mussels, and many more. You can consider them coral safe and friendly because they eat excess food and algae in the area, thus, maintaining a healthy and clean tank. They can also stand as protectors against two different nudibranchs feeding on soft coral polyps. This is also like having the same symbiotic relationship corals do with crabs inhabiting a stony coral.

For communication, they use their claws.

Aside from creating shockwaves that could leave prey completely stunned or even lifeless, they also utilize their claws for communication. By snapping its claw, a pistol shrimp produces one of the loudest sounds in the ocean. In comparison, a lion can produce a sound around 115 decibels, while a pistol shrimp can top it off at 210 decibels underwater. They produce this loud sound by constantly and rapidly closing their claw. They also create a high-velocity water jet resulting force or shockwave that is capable of rendering their target.

Sometimes, a pistol shrimp has tank issues.

If you see sandstorm forming in your supposedly clear tank, then you can blame it on the pistol shrimp since they are all for digging deep burrows. Sometimes, it creates a series of issues in the tank. Pistol shrimps can cause the collapse of the rock works by digging, that’s why it’s so much better to have a bigger tank with a deep foundation of a good substrate, and stable rockwork that can withstand the constant digging. Also, having a larger tank will prevent fighting and killing between tankmates, as pistol shrimps usually venture around the area for food.

You should avoid adding some species in the tank with Pistol Shrimps.

There are a lot of species that would be a no-no to have when you have pistol shrimps in your tank. For compatibility, you should consider friendly and smaller fishes, corals, and sponges. You should also avoid having natural predators of this shrimp inside the same tank. In addition, pistol shrimps could be defensive even if there is no threat at all, so it might attack anything that comes near them. It is also a big no-no to introduce snails, other shrimps, and small crabs in the same tank because they are prey for a pistol shrimp, and a killing spree might ensue inside the tank.

Goby fish and shrimp
Image source: Wikimedia Commons