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FAQs about Pistol (including Goby) Shrimps, Behavior  

Related FAQs: Pistol Shrimps 1Pistol Shrimps 2, Alpheid ID, Alpheid Compatibility, Alpheid Selection, Alpheid Systems, Pistol Shrimp and Goby Biotopes, Alpheid Feeding, Alpheid Disease, Alpheid Reproduction, & Shrimp Gobies, Shrimp Gobies 2, & Marine Shrimps 1, Marine Shrimps 3, Shrimp Identification, Shrimp Selection, Shrimp Behavior, Shrimp Compatibility, Shrimp Systems, Shrimp Feeding, Shrimp Reproduction, Shrimp Disease, Cleaner Shrimp, Banded Coral Shrimp, Dancing Shrimp, Harlequin Shrimp, Saron Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, Anemone Eating ShrimpCrustacean Identification, Crustacean Selection, Crustacean Behavior, Crustacean Compatibility, Crustacean Systems, Crustacean Feeding, Crustacean Disease, Crustacean Reproduction,

Related Articles: Alpheid Shrimps, Shrimp A Few Common Shrimps for the Marine Aquarium by James W. Fatherree, Shrimp Gobies

Crawlin' the line...

Hi there Bob

My LFS occasionally sells pistol/goby pairs.  Which got me thinking: if I buy a goby will it mean that the pistol shrimp that's been living in my system for month will partner up with it and become more visible.

I think the pistol shrimp arrived on some live rock and I've never actually seen it, I just hear it's clicking.

Also can I ask, when the LFS sells goby/shrimp pairs are they caught as a pair in the wild or do they make friends in the dealer's tanks

Steven, by email 

The hopeful pairing of Alpheids (Pistol Shrimps) and their goby species symbionts (not all are by far) is a tricky business Steven. They don't always get along, not by a far shot'¦ and I do mean as in a pistol shot! I do encourage you to find and flush out (outside the tank seltzer water, in a plastic pan, applied to the hole in the rock you suspect the shrimp to occupy) and try to identify the Alpheid to species, look up on the Net, in books re its natural symbiotic goby species'¦ Sometimes even then, species of shrimp and symbiont goby that are known to pair in the wild will totally ignore each other'¦ at times, one or t'other will show interest only to be shunned by its would-be partner.  Also, do know that there are independent/ solo species that don't live w/ gobies of any sort.

Having collected these animals in the wild, I can tell you first hand, that they are gathered at the same time and place on occasion; as well as being 'introduced' by dealers as strangers to see if they'll bond.

Whichever route you go, either mixing known pair or hoping for a marriage twixt your present one and a novel goby, DO provide plenty of space and rubble for them to choose to be together or not.

Pistol Shrimp Hitchhiker 5/13/2011
Dear WWM Crew,
Just a quick question if you don't mind; I know I have a Pistol Shrimp hitchhiker in my tank, at least I'm willing to bet it's not a Mantis as none of CUC has gone missing and I think a Mantis would have started to come out to feed during regular feeding time.
<Not necessarily, they generally ambush their prey.>
Whatever I have in there makes his popping almost every night and usually during feeding time, and there is something that likes moving around the substrate under and around one of the larger pieces of live rock.
<Either one will do this.>
My question is this: Do you think I'll ever actually get to see that little guy?
<I'm sure you will sooner or later. It likely has it's burrow set up away from your view point.>
I spend hours looking for him but have yet to catch the smallest glimpse. I do have a yellow watchman in there, but I doubt it's a compatible species pair.
<Can take time before they find each other if you have a Pistol Shrimp. If it's a Mantis you have, we'll hope they don't find each other.>
Since he's not hurting anything (yet), I'm leaving him be and not trying to trap him (past my initial freshwater dips I mentioned a few weeks ago).
<I'd continue to diligently observe for now.
Thanks in Advance
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Pistol Shrimp Question/Alpheidae Behavior 8/1/10
Greetings and salutations,
<Hello whomever you are.>
I have a 14 gallon tank with about 10-12 pounds of live rock and a fairly deep sand bed. I bought a pistol shrimp and a Hi-Fin Red Banded Goby. They have already paired up, and the two of them are getting along "Swimmingly".
The Pistol Shrimp has excavated about three different areas under the live rock like a bulldozer in the past 12 hours. My question is this: Will the shrimp eventually settle on one particular spot as his "cave", or will he continue to excavate everywhere like an underground ant.
<Will settle in a chosen area, but these shrimp usually excavate escape routes as you are witnessing. May want to read here.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Pistol Shrimp AWOL/Pistol Shrimp/Behavior 6/23/10
Hello my name is Daniel,
<Hi Daniel>
and I apologize for the long email, but I wanted to be thurough <thorough> and include all info I had. I could not find any answer on your site or any thing Google turned up.
<Is best to include as much info as possible.>
I have a 38 Gal tank with an Aquaclear 70 filter, Koralia 1 (400Gph) powerhead, a SeaClone 100, 50lb of live rock, and about 2 inches of aragonite gravel. My lighting is a plastic canopy with a 20watt actinic florescent <fluorescent> (no coral). I use 100% RO water from a Pure-Flow 24GPD TFC machine. All water test have come back perfect (using API test kits) in the past 14 months (since the tank stabilized). pH 8.2-8.4, KH is 8-12 drops (140-200ppm)
<A little low, the ppm indicated averages about 3.5 dKH. Better to keep at 6-9 dKH.>
(API test kit has you count the drops added and compare to a chart) Ammonia 0 mg/L, Nitrite 0 mg/L, Nitrate 10 mg/L or less, and Phosphate is under 0.25 mg/L. Haven't been doing tests regularly in the past 6 months because they always show perfect. Now I test about once every month, plus I tested last night.
<Yes, best to check on a regular basis, problems are easier to correct if they do not get out of hand.>
The tank has been running for over a year and all fish have been alive for about 8-10 months along with the inverts. I feed 3 times a week; Monday and Friday Mysis shrimp, and Wednesday some pellets or flakes.
I feed till fish seem satisfied.
Fish: 1 Six Line Wrasse about 1.5 inch long, 2 Yellowtail Damsels 1 inch long, and a Yellow Watchmen Goby about 1.75-2 inches long.
Inverts: Some form of Pencil Urchin (spines are green at base and purple at the tips, 1 inch body), Serpent star (9 inch arm span, tan with brown bands down each arm), a Turbo snail, 1 or 2 Blue Leg Hermits (1/2 inch across the legs) (bought nine but they slowly get eaten or die, can only find one now),
<May have starved.>
and a Pistol Shrimp (body is 1inch long) (looks like a Tiger, it is tan with brown bands similar to the Serpent Star, with red antennae).
<Possibly a Alpheus bellulus.>
My question is this: I haven't found my Pistol Shrimp in about 2 or 3 days (usually comes out to feed, sharing with his buddy the Watchman), but now I can't find him in any of the caves he has previously dug out, and the Goby seems more shy.
<Quite possible the shrimp has molted and will remain hidden until his exoskeleton has hardened.>
I don't have an Iodine test kit nor supplement, but I do add Calcium (Kent) about every 2 or 3 weeks (fairly random actually, but only about 5-10 drops).
<Do you not check calcium levels? Drug store iodine/iodide is fine and three drops weekly
should be fine. Iodine does aid shrimp/crabs with the molting process.>
My water changes happen every other Saturday and change 20% tank volume. I mix in Instant Ocean Sea Salt to a SG of about 1.024, and maintain the temperature 78-84F, which seems to have been fine. Urchin commonly has tentacles out and carries shells or chunks of rock (apparently indicating it's happy).
<Not necessarily. I was carrying chunks of rock around the backyard all day and I wasn't a bit happy about it.:)) You may want to search Pistol Shrimp and Sea  Urchins on our site and learn about their needs/care.>
Is my shrimp just molting and buried itself to hide?
<Likely, but do ensure it gets enough food.>
I don't suspect
he is dead as he seems to be able to fight off the Hermit crabs, which are about half his size.
<Small hermits may become a meal to the shrimp.>
Plus, I normally hear him "snap" quite often at night, but not the past few days.
<Generally do not "snap" after molting.>
Again, I am sorry for the long message.
<Is fine.>
Thank you very much for your help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Re Pistol Shrimp AWOL/Pistol Shrimp/Behavior 6/23/10 - 6/24/10
Thank you so much for your response James (Salty Dog)
<You're welcome.>
I apologize for my spelling mistakes, as I was sending that email on my ps3 which does not show me spelling mistakes.
<No problem.>
I doubt my hermits starved because I was feeding a little more then my fish would eat, and my phosphate levels did climb at one point causing a green hair algae overload. I added a little phos lock to my filter and cut back on feeding to bring the algae under control but there is still some around.
<May want to read here and related articles/FAQ's found in the header.
My shrimp has been missing for about a week now, but I think I will get some iodine. He might be taking longer then usual because of lack of iodine.
<Is possible he may have relocated to an area in your tank you cannot view. Should have heard from him by now.>
Anyway thanks for the help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
PS love your site.
<Thank you.>

Observation on pistol shrimp and gobies  11/28/09
Hi WetWeb,
First of all, thank you for being there and taking the time to answer so many questions.
I have a 55 gal DT with a 15 gal sump that I started in May, 2009. It is coming along well and right now I am in the stage of mostly watching what is happening in the tank with the various coral, invert and fish inhabitants. It's so fascinating.
<Ah yes!>
One of the things I really wanted when I started this was a shrimp/goby pair. It was frustrating at first. I acquired a Randall's pistol shrimp and a Yasha goby to start. The Yasha died after 3 weeks. Later I tried a 2nd Yasha and it died in 2 days. The tank was fully cycled at the time and the animals appeared healthy at the outset; I was confused and sad. I didn't want to be responsible for any more Yasha deaths, so I let the shrimp be alone for a few months. I was his surrogate goby and fed him by putting food near the burrow.
It seemed to work as he thrived.
About 2 months ago, I bought 2 more shrimp gobies, thinking perhaps this shrimp has preferences over what species he lives with.
<Could well be>
So, I got one Randall's goby and one Stonogobiops nematodes. For at least a solid month neither paired with the shrimp. They lived on opposite sides of the tank and equidistant from a resident Jawfish.
All the burrowers were eating well and healthy, but unpaired. Then, a couple of weeks ago (the tank is now
6.5 months old) the Randall's paired with the shrimp. Success! It happened overnight. He lived with the shrimp for a week or so and then, again overnight, the partners switched and now the Hi Fin goby lives with the shrimp.
Do you have any insight you can share as to why this happened?
<Perhaps like cats and some men/women... "they" go live where/with whomever "feeds them better">
Do you think the fish or the shrimp has the
dominant opinion in these matters?
<I suspect both are free parties in the matter... that this, in human view is a mutually beneficial, perhaps in the wild, obligate relationship>
What seems strange, is that the tank seems so quiet at night fish-wise.
<Indeed... a prophetic statement of worth: "Things are not often what they appear">
They seem to be asleep. And yet, these behaviors and partner switching things go on.
Mostly just wanted to share, but any insight is appreciated!
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Symbiotic Relationships... worms, goby, Alpheid...    8/5/09
Greetings to the wonderful crew at WWM!
<Hello, Josh here.>
I would like your thoughts on the possibility of another "symbiotic" relationship between the Yasha Hase, Pistol Shrimp, and Bristle Worm(s). In the beginning few months of getting our Yasha Hase and pistol shrimp pair, we noticed that the Nassarius snail and hermit crabs would try to go into the cave built by the pistol shrimp. The pistol shrimp would get very angry and we hear popping noises all day long.
<That sounds about right.>
Lately we heard much fewer "pops" and noticed during our nightly feedings that bristle worms would come out near the end of the feeding and their presence appears to prevent any hermit crabs or the Nassarius snail from trying to get scraps left at the cave entrance. My husband was worried that the worms would harm the Yasha Hase or the pistol shrimp, but I've watched on several occasions where they are literally touching each other without any ill effects!
<Unless the worms get extremely large, bigger than a pencil in length and girth, I wouldn't really be concerned. In fact some people aren't concerned even when they do get large, if it is hurting the goby, he will learn to avoid them.>
One time, I managed to "suck" onto one of the worms with my syringe that I use to target feed, and as I was trying to pull the worm out of the cave, the pistol shrimp came to its rescue and popped his claws at my syringe!
<Interesting, I doubt it was defending the worm itself, and was more likely just disturbed by the syringe more than the worms.>
I let go of course as I love my little pistol shrimp and doesn't want to take his friend...but are bristle worms their friends?
<Friends, I don't know. Do the mind each other, apparently not, the worms are eating due to the presence of the goby/shrimp pair, and also keeping the snails out. That seems like a good relationship.>
I've read that bristle worms are 'bad' but at the same time, I've read that they help with cleaning up detritus and churn up the sand bed, so'¦Next time if I get a chance to grab one of them, should I try to get it out?
<Nope they are actually good for the tank. Just not so great aesthetically.>
Thanks so much for your time!
Jamie Barclay
<Your very welcome,
Josh Solomon.>

Pistol Shrimp/Behavior 4/22/08 Hi, <Hello Melaine or is it Melanie?> I am rather humorously writing about hosting confusion going on in my tank! First I had two clownfish for about two years. Then I put in a Pistol Shrimp. About 8 months later I put in a Long Tentacled Anemone. After about a month, the Pistol Shrimp claimed the LTA. Kind of cute to watch it crawl around in it, "whipping" it with its antennae. They have maintained this relationship for the last 7 months. The clownfish wanted nothing to do with the LTA. About three months ago, my daughter shut down her tank and I was given her pink/blue Spotted Watchman Goby. After being in the tank a few weeks, the goby "decided" it wants to host with the shrimp but can't quite get close enough to it without the LTA getting in the way. Now, in just the last two days, the clownfish have starting hosting with the LTA, which sets the Pistol Shrimp to popping and hiding under its rock, and the goby picking up shells, snails and whatever else it can carry and stacking at the edge of the hole for the pistol shrimp. My question is, should I let this continue as is, or should I move the rock the LTA is attached to that the pistol shrimp hides under, to the other side of the tank, leaving the shrimp with a different rock, so the goby can tend to him? Which would be the least stressful to this confused, busy little group? <Let nature take it's course. I'm sure in due time, both the shrimp and goby will share a home. Do read FAQ's here on this behavior. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alphbehf.htm> Thank you, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Melaine

Re: Pistol Shrimp/Behavior 4/23/08 Hi, <Hello Melaine> Thanks much for your answer. Melaine is correct, it is not Melanie. Often gets changed to that though. <Unusual name, but nice. My wife changes my name occasionally, but I can't print the other names here, Bob would delete before posting.> Thanks again, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Melaine

Traveling Pistol, Alpheid beh.  02/12/2008 Hello all, as always I hope this question finds you well. <<Hello, Andrew here. Fine thank you>> I have had a pistol shrimp and partner goby in my tank for a couple weeks now, seem quite healthy and quite fascinating too watch. I just have two quick questions. 1. I have been spot feeding them they seem to enjoy the food, just curious if there is anything specific I should be feeding them? (I can't seem to find much on this in the F.A.Q's) <<There is nothing specific you need to feed these besides normal food for goby's like Brine, Mysis, Ocean Nutrition, frozen prepared food etc etc>> 2. I understand that the pistol will constantly work and upgrade their home, but mine seems to close his doors at home, and dig a new one about three times a day. Quite often returning to his old "digs" just to change again. I guess my question is, is this a "normal" activity? <<Yes, this is very normal activity. Sometimes I've found that if the shrimp chooses to close up an entrance, it can mean that its not happy with the substrate in that particular area. This is common in tanks that only have sugar fine reef sand as the substrate>> Thanks in advance for your response, Steve <<Thanks for the questions Steve...Regards, A Nixon>>

How does one encourage a pistol shrimp/goby to move to a new location? + other?s Hello, >>Hi, Travis. >I started my first reef tank about six weeks ago.  The tank is a thirteen gallon with about fifteen pounds of live rock, some corals, a tube worm, blue legged hermits, and Astrea snails.  The only other inhabitants are a yellow watchman goby and pistol shrimp pair.  Tank has about 60 watts of light, and a protein skimmer that came with the tank.  The tank and skimmer were made by CPR.  I feed my tube worm about a grain of rice worth of Black Powder around once a week.  Is the Black Powder a sufficient food for the worm?  Should I feed the worm more often?  >>I like to see a variety of foods offered, and if you can see your way clear a culture of rotifers offered to all the filter feeders would be helpful, same thing with plankton in general.  Some also really appreciate getting the "juice" that's exuded from foods such as squid, clams, shrimp, and fish.  Also, you would want to keep an eye on both alkalinity (buffering capacity of the water) as well as your calcium levels.  If you feed but have insufficient biomineral availability you might not see the growth you should. >>As for frequency of feedings, I would like to see them feed a bit more frequently--remember, in nature they're feeding daily. >Also, much of the bottom of my tank is covered with live rock except for a small patch of sand (approximately 6"/6").  Unfortunately, my shrimp and goby have decided to set up home behind the live rock where I cannot see them.  Sometimes the goby peeks around the rock and the shrimp snaps, so I know they are there.  How can I encourage them to take up residence in the open spot so that I can see them? >>This last problem is a much more difficult issue, as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, eh?  The only thing I can offer you is to use a combination of feeding ONLY in a certain area, and possibly recreating the structure that they're so fond of in a more easily viewable area.  Otherwise strategically placed mirrors have been my own solution, though it's never really bothered me that I can't see some things.  I'm just happy to know that they're there and thriving. >>I would also like to encourage you to consider the addition in the future of a refugium.  The development of a 'fuge with a deep sand bed would be of so much benefit you would end up being quite happy with the time and investment.  Good luck!  Marina Thank you very much for your help.  Travis.

Pistol shrimp and goby 3/30/03 I started my first reef tank about six weeks ago.  The tank is a thirteen gallon with about fifteen pounds of live rock, some corals, a tube worm, blue legged hermits, and Astrea snails.  The only other inhabitants are a yellow watchman goby and pistol shrimp pair. How does one encourage a pistol shrimp/goby to move to a new location? <you may encourage the move by providing a tube (plastic pipe) buried in the sand under a rock. They often find this hospitable. Best regards, Anthony>

- Ever Heard of... - Hi guys, I work at the Aquatic Warehouse in San Diego, CA. I have seen a type of pistol shrimp while working there that I cannot seem to find the scientific name or mention of anywhere.  Have any of you ever heard of a Candy Cane Pistol Shrimp... or Miniature Pistol Shrimp? <Not familiar with those common names, but that doesn't mean much as often common names are ad hoc.> I'm not sure if that is the correct common name for it. <Me either.> It is about an inch full sized and much thinner/petite than even the Tiger Pistol Shrimp (which to my knowledge is the smallest of the standard sized pistols)  It is bright red and white striped and has the token pistol claw on one side.  I am very interested in getting one as a companion for either a Stonogobiops nematodes or a White Ray Shrimp Goby (which even my trusty Marine Fishes, by Scott W. Michael doesn't have a full scientific name for.. pg. 356) <Hmmm... I'm using Helmut Debelius' book, Crustacea Guide of the World, and have found two Alpheids with candy-cane type striping, the A. leviusculus and the A. randalli. The latter is actually pictured with a shrimp goby so that might be a better pick.> Please let me know if you have any information on this.. <You now have everything I have. The Alpheids are, if nothing else, diverse... really quite a few of them. I hope the limited amount of information I have will prove helpful.> I am setting up what you might call a bonsai tank.. keeping all miniatures.  (So far it's inhabitants are a pair of Miniature Blue Banded Coral Shrimps and some mushrooms.) -Laura <Cheers, J -- >

- Shrimp/Goby Pairing - I recently got these [Yellow Watchman Goby and Red Pistol Shrimp] and they don't seem to be pairing up... maybe the goby just doesn't know where the pistol has made his home at.  But I have read the FAQ's and didn't read much about the red pistol shrimp type.. but that most watchman will pair up with these kind.... Do you have any idea what might be taking so long... <Need to ask the Goby... no exact science here, so no exact answers.> Also I haven't noticed the pistol coming out of his home, does he just come out at night. <Yes, mostly nocturnal without the help of the Goby.> Thanks: -Roger <Cheers, J -- >

Raising a Pistol Shrimp (3/23/05) I have a few questions regarding a pistol shrimp.  <Shoot. BTW, please capitalize the proper noun "I" and the first letter of sentences. Also, please use punctuation like periods and question marks. We post all queries and replies on our site permanently and want them as readable as possible. Our volunteer crew will have a lot more time to answer queries if they don't have to proofread them. Not only that, some of us older presbyopics have a hard time reading unpunctuated text. Thanks, Steve Allen.>  I just got him from my LFS and he is a baby I want to raise him and then pair him with a watchman goby... <I have a pair in my tank. They're very attractive and interesting to watch.>  ... but I am not sure how long it will take to raise him large enough. What he should be eating as a baby and if the species I have is compatible with a watchman?  <What species do you have? Many genus Alpheus burrowing shrimps will for this symbiotic relationship. As for foods, if the shrimp is very small, then you will need something very fine such as Cyclop-Eeze. If big enough, it will take just about any frozen food such as Mysis. Many will take ground flake foods or tiny pellets. The shrimp should be big enough to be with the goby when it's too big to be eaten and is burrowing.>  He is opaque with black stripes and he looks like he's wearing a prison jumpsuit.  <I'd suggest you compare with pictures in a book that has a lot of shrimp pictures. If you can send me a clear picture, I may be able to help, but I cannot make an identification based on this description. I hope this info is helpful.> 

Goby and Pistol Shrimp Take Off Together WWM Crew, I have a 65 gallon reef tank that is 24" high with a built in overflow. No live rock or coral come within several inches of the overflow grates. Among my tank's inhabitants include a 1 1/2" watchman goby and 3/4" pistol shrimp who, until very recently shared the same "burrow" together in a deep sand bed under some live rock.  <They do this> A few days ago, I found my goby and pistol shrimp in a prefilter bag in the sump below my tank. I understand how it's possible for the goby to have gotten down there (as he can swim, albeit not very well) but how in the world did his friend end up with him? <Scooted over the edge evidently> It's almost as if the shrimp would have had to clamp onto a fin as they made there two foot ascent towards the overflow.  <Some Alpheids do maintain close physical contact... mostly through larger pair of "antennae"> (The overflow is also protected by several jets that blast enough current to only allow the top 1/2 inch of water to pass into the overflow. Any animals going near the overflow would be forced back to the bottom of the tank.) Can the goby carry the shrimp in his mouth. (I know the last question sounds ridiculous.) I am really at a loss here. Thanks. Jack <Neat proposition/speculation... Bob Fenner>  

Pint-sized Pistol -- 5/3/07 Hello and thank you for your help in the past. <Hello. And you are welcome, on behalf of the crew.> We recently heard a clicking sound coming from our tank after reading the FAQs on your site we decided it must be a pistol shrimp. <Very likely.>  After spending a few nights and most of our sanity we found one about 3/4 of a inch long.  Is it possible that was it or is it too small to make that much noise? <Not too small.  If it was only 'clicking' then ¾' is plenty big.  A full grown one makes a cracking sound that makes you think the glass has cracked 2 feet.  Actually it depends on the species and the individual.  My old one used to make a huge cracking noise.  The one I have now just 'clicks'.  Since you never get to see them, this sound is their little addition to your experience.  Some people find the noise stressful.  I kind of like it, a reminder that he is still there.  Now that you know what it is maybe you will enjoy his happy hunting sounds.  Maybe get a watchman goby to go with it if that fits in your stocking plan.  They are a fascinating pair.> Thank you again. Dee <Cheers. Alex>

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