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Atya gabonensis
Cameroun Fan Shrimp

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Cameroun Fan Shrimp - Atyopsis gabonensis

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atyopsis1.jpg (20kb)
Photo Credit: Willian Marques

Name: Atya gabonensis
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: West Africa & South America
15 cm 60 L 7.0 24C


In spite of their large size, Cameroun Fan Shrimp, like Malaysian Wood Shrimp and other Atyid (fan shrimp) species, are completely harmless to other aquarium animals. They are filter feeders that use the "fans" on the ends of their forelegs to feed on algae and microorganisms suspended in the water. While the fans can be closed to use for defense by giving an aggressor a sharp poke, these shrimp are non-predatory and much prefer hiding to fighting. I've kept them with tiny fish such as blue-eyed rainbows, West African killifish, and peacock gudgeons and never had a problem.

That said, fan shrimp can be somewhat of a challenge to keep unless they're given the proper conditions. A well-established aquarium is crucial - and by well-established I don't mean one that's just finished cycling. The system should be at least three to six months old, in order to ensure that there is sufficient microscopic life in the water for these shrimp to feed on. Atyids are very retiring, so the tank should be heavily planted. Grass-like plants such as Vallisneria spiralis are ideal. They're also very passive feeders, simply waiting with extended fans for food to drift by, so it's essential to have a current in the tank. Be sure to supplement their diet with defrosted frozen prawn eggs, dissolving sinking pellets, and other fine-grained foods. If you're worried about your fan shrimp getting enough to eat, you can even occasionally squirt some liquid fry food into the water near them, using an eyedropper.

As far as tankmates are concerned, make sure that there aren't any large or aggressive animals in the aquarium such as large cichlids or crawfish, which could make a meal out of the gentle fan shrimp. And if you ever take any furnishings out of the tank, check to make sure a shrimp isn't hiding in them somewhere; I lost a beautiful female when I removed a large piece of driftwood from my tank without realizing she was hiding in it. Don't expect to see too much of them, either; while I occasionally caught glimpses of them moving about or lurking on the fringes of the planted sections, mine spent the vast majority of their time hiding in the plants and feeding. I usually only saw them if I decided to thin out the thickets of Vallisneria in the tank and disturbed them in the process. At the same time, they won't do well without heavy cover, so don't think that you can just leave the tank bare and thus force them out into the open.

Finally, as with all invertebrates, be very cautious about any medications or other chemicals that you add to the tank. Any kind of algae-killing tablets or liquids or any medications containing copper are deadly to shrimp and other invertebrates, so make a habit of checking any chemicals you use in your aquarium for statements about their use with invertebrates. If the package doesn't contain this information, ask your local fish store (i.e., NOT Petsmart or PetCo or any other chain store that doesn't properly train its staff), or call the company to check. With proper conditions and care, these shrimp can be peaceful and unique (if rarely seen) members of any community aquarium, and are especially interesting additions to a West African biotope.

Contributed by Kristina Gabriel

There are several varieties of freshwater shrimp. This particular variety is very peaceful and will not eat community fish. This one is of particular interest because it filters the water with it's fan-like hands. Although the pictured shrimp does not have his "hands" open, it is very neat to watch these little critters do their work. They are nocturnal, but are still active at intermittent periods during the day. If you want sparkling clear, crystal clean water, then these are the critters for you! In addition to being fun to watch, they filter even the smallest of particles out of the water. They are a great addition to any freshwater aquarium and they come with a bonus. In any given group of this species, the dominant male will turn a wonderful, bright red-orange color. What you end up with is a delightfully colored biological filter that can add charm to the bottom of your tank or to the rocks and plants it chooses to climb on. You can keep these in a group or individually. Many times, an individual shrimp will turn a brilliant red, even though it is alone.

Contributed by a visitor

I've had this shrimp in a 100 liter tank with platy fry and it never bothered them. It just sits in the current and filters food particles from the water flow with its feather like claws.

Contributed by Josh Austin

Mine is in a mixed tank which includes even small Kuhlis, and it ignores them. Surprisingly shy for such a big shrimp, but it totally ignores even large clumsy fish like Silver Dollars.

Contributed by Brian Ward

These shrimp are by no means aggressive whatsoever. They are very timid, sometimes a little shy. They like to find an area with good water flow to sit in, sometimes remaining still and filtering the water with their fan-like appendages, sometimes sweeping them through the water, which looks very elegant. They will filter feed, but will also scavenge the substrate for food. Finely crushed foods such as flake or catfish pellets dropped into the filter flow work well. They seem to prefer slightly harder water. I have had mine for 8 months and they have shed roughly once a month in that time, and are currently about 8 cm long.

Contributed by a visitor

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