Breeding Saltwater Lysmata amboinensis:

A Guide to Rearing the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp

Saltwater aquarium enthusiasts often find themselves captivated by the vibrant colors and engaging behaviors of marine creatures. Among these fascinating organisms, the Lysmata amboinensis, commonly known as the Pacific cleaner shrimp or the skunk cleaner shrimp, stands out for its unique appearance and symbiotic relationships with other marine species. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the captivating world of breeding Lysmata amboinensis, shedding light on their characteristics, behavior, and the intricacies of rearing these captivating creatures.

Introduction to Lysmata amboinensis

Lysmata amboinensis is a species of cleaner shrimp belonging to the family Hippolytidae. Native to the Indo-Pacific region, these shrimp are renowned for their striking appearance, featuring a predominantly white or cream-colored body with distinctive red or blue longitudinal stripes. They are commonly found in coral reefs and rocky substrates, where they play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem by cleaning parasites and debris from the bodies of larger fish.

Characteristics and Behavior

Cleaner shrimp are well-known for their unique symbiotic relationships with larger fish. They offer cleaning services by removing parasites and dead skin from the bodies of their clients. This behavior benefits both the shrimp, which gain a food source, and the client fish, which enjoy improved hygiene and health.

Lysmata amboinensis exhibit fascinating behaviors, including their distinctive “cleaning dance.” They display their pincers and move in a rhythmic fashion to signal their availability for cleaning. Observing these behaviors in a captive setting can be a source of great joy for aquarists.

Setting Up the Breeding Environment

Breeding Lysmata amboinensis in a home aquarium requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating the ideal breeding environment:

Tank Setup:

Dedicate a separate breeding tank with appropriate water parameters. Maintain stable temperature (75-80°F), salinity (1.020-1.025), and pH (8.1-8.4) levels.

Hiding Places:

Provide hiding spots and crevices in the tank to mimic the shrimp’s natural habitat. Live rock and other structures offer places for the shrimp to hide and molt.

Filtration and Aeration:

Set up a reliable filtration system and ensure proper water circulation and aeration. A protein skimmer can help maintain water quality.


Choose a suitable substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, that allows the shrimp to burrow and molt safely.


Provide appropriate lighting that mimics natural sunlight. Avoid intense lighting that may stress the shrimp.

Pairing and Mating

Selecting Compatible Pairs:

Choose healthy adult shrimp for breeding. Compatible pairs should be observed displaying courtship behaviors, such as the male performing a “nuptial dance” to attract the female.

Courtship and Mating:

Courtship involves the male approaching the female and performing a series of movements and touches. Successful courtship leads to mating, where the male deposits sperm onto the female’s abdomen.

Egg Care and Hatching

Egg Attachment:

After mating, the female carries fertilized eggs under her abdomen. She attaches the eggs to specialized pleopods, where they are protected and aerated.

Caring for the Eggs:

The female cleans and fans the eggs to ensure proper oxygenation and to prevent fungal growth. As the eggs develop, they change color, indicating their progression.

Larval Rearing


After several weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae. Larvae are microscopic and require careful attention due to their delicate nature.

Larval Diet:

Provide appropriate larval food, which typically includes phytoplankton and small zooplankton. Ensure a consistent and nutritious diet to support their growth.

Water Quality:

Maintain pristine water quality, including low ammonia and nitrite levels. Use a sponge filter or another gentle method of filtration to avoid harming the delicate larvae.

Metamorphosis and Juvenile Stage


As the larvae develop, they undergo metamorphosis, transitioning into juvenile shrimp. During this period, the shrimp adopt the characteristic coloration and behaviors of adult cleaner shrimp.

Transition to Aquarium:

Once the juveniles have reached a suitable size and can feed on larger food items, they can be gradually introduced to the main display tank.


Breeding Lysmata amboinensis is a rewarding journey that offers insights into the complex behaviors and life cycles of these remarkable marine creatures. By providing a suitable breeding environment, understanding their natural behaviors, and offering meticulous care during the different stages of development, aquarists can contribute to the conservation and appreciation of these fascinating cleaner shrimp. Witnessing the growth and transformation of these shrimp from eggs to juveniles is a testament to the wonders of marine life and the dedication of passionate aquarium enthusiasts.