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Related FAQs: Stenopids/Boxer Shrimps 1 Stenopids/Boxer Shrimps 2 & FAQs on: CBS ID, CBS Behavior, CBS Compatibility, CBS Selection, CBS Systems, CBS Feeding, CBS Disease, CBS Reproduction, Cleaner Shrimp FAQs: Cleaner ShrimpCleaner Shrimp Identification, Cleaner Shrimp Behavior, Cleaner Shrimp Selection, Cleaner Shrimp Compatibility, Cleaner Shrimp Systems, Cleaner Shrimp Feeding, Cleaner Shrimp Disease, Cleaner Shrimp Reproduction, Dancing Shrimp, Harlequin Shrimp, Pistol Shrimp, Saron Shrimp, Shrimp Identification, Shrimp Selection, Shrimp Behavior, Shrimp Compatibility, Shrimp Systems, Shrimp Feeding, Shrimp Reproduction, Shrimp Disease Crustacean Identification, Crustacean Selection, Crustacean Behavior, Crustacean Compatibility, Crustacean Systems, Crustacean Feeding, Crustacean Disease, Crustacean Reproduction,

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

/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

The Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus

By: Bob Fenner


Hardy, readily available, interesting and relatively inexpensive, coral banded shrimp and their relatives, the other Boxer Shrimp are very suitable tank-mates for many types of marine reef, invertebrate and even some "principally fish" applications. I'd bet that these are the most popular crustaceans;, surpassing even more than hermit crabs.

Classification: Taxonomy, Relation With other Groups:

Boxer shrimps are members of the Class Crustacea: lobsters, crabs, crayfish, shrimps, with about 26,000 described species. For review; crustaceans have heads with five pair of appendages, the first two as pairs of antennae, the third pair as mandibles (grinding, crushing mouth parts), followed by two pair of accessory feeding appendages, the maxillae.

Superorder Eucarida: 

Carapace (upper shell) fused with all of the thoracic (walking) segments. Stalked eyes; basal section of second antennae of only two segments. Two living orders, the Euphausiacea comprising the krill, are all pelagic marine shrimp-like crustaceans. Their carapaces sides do not tightly enclose the gills and none of the thoracic appendages are specialized as maxillipeds as the second order, the:

Order Decapoda: including shrimp, crayfish, lobsters and crabs; with approximately 8,500 described species. 

The first three pair of their thoracic appendages are maxillipeds, with the remaining five pair as walking legs (hence Decapoda= ten legs). Gills well enclosed within the enclosed sides of the overhanging carapace. Divided into two suborders, the Reptantia (like the reptiles, from the Greek, meaning "crawling"), the lobster, crayfish and crabs and the:

Suborder Natantia, from the Greek= "swimming", the shrimp and prawns. 

They tend to be laterally (side to side) compressed. After the larger three pair of legs, all the others are small and slender. This Suborder is further subdivided into Sections on the basis of the structure of pleura (segmental structures) and legs.

Section Stenopodidea: 

Shrimp whose abdominal pleura on second segment don't overlap the first. The first three pair of legs are chelate (pincer-like), at least one member of the third pair is heavier than the first two pairs. Gills are trichobranchiate (divided into three branches)

Genus Stenopus: Boxer shrimps, so-called for their wide spaced pincers and pugnacious behavior. 

Three pairs of walking legs with pincers. Conspicuous long white antennae. At least eight other described species, some strikingly beautiful (see Debelius).

Stenopus hispidus Olivier 1811, the Coral Banded Boxing Shrimp. Worldwide tropical distribution. Males smaller, more slender than females. Keep in reef settings with a cave of their own. May consume small fishes, other crustaceans. Eat most all meaty foods.  In captivity and N. Sulawesi.

Here's a pair of Stenopus hispidus under a rocky ledge/cleaning station. "Next customer, please", in the Bahamas. 

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Boxer shrimp are pan-tropical in Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans; in zero to thirty meters amongst rocky, coral habitats.

Selection: General to Specific:

Unless you have an absolutely huge system, this group of shrimp should be kept singly or as a "mated-pair". They pair up and mate early in life and are very often found as pairs in the wild. Take a close look at a mated couple; they're sexually dimorphic with the female being slightly larger and broader. The bearing of bright green eggs on the underside of females is a dead give-away. Otherwise mature females may be determined by a greenish/blue color in the ovaries through their translucent body wall.

Single animals tend to be reclusive, whereas pairs may openly parade around at all hours after becoming accustomed to their surroundings. Strynchuk offers a nice illustration and notes on salient structural differences between the sexes.

Do not purchase specimens that have been "on-site" at your source for less than 48 hours. During this critical period many individuals perish. Select your stock on the basis of being active and interested in their environment and feeding.

The absence of a chelae or one to two legs need not remove a candidate from consideration. If the individual is otherwise healthy, these appendages will be replaced in a succeeding molt.



These animals are shy and retiring in the wild; typically only seen by their antennae. Similarly they thrive in captivity only where/when provided hiding spaces.


Boxers have been maintained successfully under a wide range of conditions. More important than particular set of test readings is water quality stability. Some mortality has been attributed to abrupt changes in specific gravity of as little as 2 parts per thousand. Otherwise boxers have been kept in low specific gravities (1.020), high 7 to low 8 pH's, low to no ammonia, nitrite.


Is a critical area. Like most invertebrates ammonia is the principal excretory product. This shrimp excretes a large volume (up to one-third of the body volume daily!) of about equally-osmotic- with seawater urine. Unfortunately they are sensitive to un-ionized ammonia and nitrite at low (just detectable) concentrations. Boxers are relatively tolerant of high nitrates.

Behavior: Territoriality:

Intra-specific competition/aggression can be intense. They will tear each other apart, piece by gaudy piece if crowded or not provided enough nooks and crannies, under-fed... One exception is pairing between males and females. These "couples" are often available and exhibit a great deal of cooperative behavior (Tschortner). Courtship dancing and food-sharing behavior are oft-noted in the literature.

Boxer shrimp ARE... territorial! And able and willing to pull the arms, legs et al. body parts off of other shrimps, small crabs, hermits that "get in their face". If you have Stenopids in mind, make room for other crustaceans to be... and to get away while molting. Here's a challenging CBS in N. Sulawesi (Lembeh Strait).


It's best to put boxers in a system when they can be observed for the first few hours to ascertain compatibility with other tank-mates. Leave some light on outside the tank for low illumination overnight when new specimens are introduced.

Predator/Prey Relations:

Coral-banded and other boxer shrimps are considered non-obligate (facultative, "they can take it or leave it") cleaners of potential predatory fishes, cleansing them of parasites and necrotic tissue. They are however not immune from predation. Under-fed, opportunistic crustacean eaters; triggers, puffers, large angels, wrasses, basses/groupers, Lionfishes and the like must be watched carefully, and are not to be trusted.

Unless your system is extremely large and well-equipped with numerous nooks and crannies, mixing other crabs, lobsters and shrimps is not recommended. They will seek each other out and fight/eat each other.


Specific behavior consists of an elaborate dance by the male, positioning above the female and placement of the sperm-pac in a special pouch for release later by the female. Eggs are laid and fertilized shortly after and adhered to her underside. The young hatch out and continue to live attached to the female for some six weeks, then swim off to the upper water column as plankton, settling after a period of time and molts.


Consists of walking in typical shrimp fashion. They may rapidly beat a retreat lobster-wise on the bottom or into the upper water by quickly "flipping" the abdomen.

Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency, Amount, Wastes

Sheley and others prescribe meaty diets based on daily offerings of brine shrimp, plankton, commercial and homemade formulated foods. I have found these animals to be undemanding in their food preferences, eating all types of prepared, fresh, and frozen fare.

Disease: Infectious, Parasitic:

I was unable to find any citations in the literature re.


There are reports of boxer shrimp surviving in captivity for a few years. Specimens from the Caribbean, the Philippines and elsewhere have proven to be hardy fare, given adequate screening by a wait-and-see before buying approach.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Debelius, Helmut. 1986. Boxer Shrimps-Genus Stenopus. FAMA 11/86.

Muscat, George. 1976. Spawning of Stenopus hispidus. Marine Aquarist 7:7, 70.

Sheley, Tom. 1988. Stenopus personatus. FAMA 10/88.

Strynchuk, Justin. 1990. An Insight Into the Mating Habits of the Banded Coral Shrimp. FAMA 10/90.

Walls, Jerry G. & Ray Hunziker, 1995. Everything you always wanted to know about boxer shrimps. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 1/95.

Young, Forrest. 1979. Spawning and Rearing of the Coral Banded Shrimp. FAMA 3/79.

Zoffer, David J. 1994. Keeping the banded coral shrimp. TFH 7/94.

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