Do Ghost Shrimp Eat Brown Algae: Exploring the Relationship

By Algal Web

Published on

This content might include affiliate links that could provide compensation if you click or sign up.

Aquarium enthusiasts often encounter the challenge of maintaining a pristine aquatic environment. One common issue they face is the growth of brown algae, also known as diatoms, which can be unsightly and detrimental to the overall health of the aquarium. However, nature has provided us with various aquatic organisms that may help combat this problem. 

Among them are ghost shrimp, small crustaceans known for their scavenging abilities and algae consumption. This article aims to delve into the question: Do ghost shrimp eat brown algae?

By understanding their feeding habits and exploring the effectiveness of ghost shrimp in controlling brown algae, we can gain insights into maintaining a thriving aquarium ecosystem.

Understanding Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.) are fascinating creatures commonly found in freshwater and brackish water habitats. They possess translucent bodies, making them resemble ghosts, hence their name. These shrimp are relatively small, typically growing to around two inches in length, and they are peaceful and non-aggressive towards other tank inhabitants.

Ghost shrimp are omnivorous, meaning they consume a varied diet consisting of plant matter, organic debris, and small invertebrates. Their feeding habits make them excellent scavengers and cleaners in the aquarium.

They actively scavenge for food, constantly foraging on the aquarium substrate and vegetation, utilizing their pincers to pick up and consume edible particles.

Moreover, ghost shrimp are known to be opportunistic feeders, making them versatile in adapting to different food sources available in the aquarium. While they have a preference for protein-based foods, they are also known to consume various types of algae, including brown algae.

Image Credit:

Brown Algae: Causes and Consequences

Brown algae, or diatoms, are a type of microscopic algae that commonly appear in aquariums. They form unsightly brown or greenish-brown coatings on surfaces, including tank glass, rocks, and plants. The growth of brown algae can be attributed to factors such as excess nutrients (particularly silicates), inadequate lighting, or imbalanced water chemistry.

The presence of brown algae can be indicative of underlying issues within the aquarium environment. Excessive nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, can fuel its growth.

Furthermore, improper lighting conditions, such as excessive or insufficient light, can disrupt the balance of the aquarium and create favorable conditions for brown algae to thrive.

Aside from being aesthetically displeasing, brown algae can have negative effects on the aquarium’s inhabitants. Dense growth can impede the access of light to photosynthetic organisms, hindering their growth and potentially causing stress to plants and other light-dependent organisms. 

Additionally, brown algae can outcompete other desirable aquatic plants, leading to a decline in biodiversity and upsetting the visual appeal of the aquarium.

Ghost Shrimp and Brown Algae Relationship

When it comes to the diet of ghost shrimp, they exhibit a natural inclination toward consuming algae. While their primary food sources are typically detritus and decaying matter, they readily consume various types of algae, including green, brown, and filamentous varieties. 

Ghost shrimp possess specialized mouthparts that allow them to scrape and consume algae from surfaces. Several studies and anecdotal evidence support the notion that ghost shrimp are efficient algae eaters. Observations have shown that these shrimp actively feed on algae, including brown algae, as part of their dietary intake. 

Their scavenging behavior often leads them to encounter and consume brown algae in aquariums, contributing to the overall algae control within the ecosystem. Furthermore, ghost shrimp play a crucial role in maintaining the cleanliness and balance of the aquarium. 

They consume organic debris, uneaten food, and decaying matter, preventing them from breaking down and releasing excess nutrients into the water column. By consuming brown algae and other types of algae, ghost shrimp actively contribute to the visual appeal and overall health of the aquarium.

Effectiveness of Ghost Shrimp in Controlling Brown Algae

The effectiveness of ghost shrimp in controlling brown algae growth depends on various factors. Tank size, algae density, and the number of ghost shrimp in the aquarium play crucial roles in achieving successful algae control.

In larger tanks with a significant brown algae infestation, a higher population of ghost shrimp might be necessary to keep the algae in check. Ghost shrimp are relatively small creatures, and their ability to consume algae is limited to their size and population density. 

It is important to strike a balance between the number of ghost shrimp and the amount of algae present in the tank. Additionally, the availability of alternative food sources can impact the effectiveness of ghost shrimp in consuming brown algae. 

If an aquarium has an abundance of other food options, such as excess fish food or detritus, ghost shrimp may show less interest in consuming algae. Therefore, maintaining a balanced ecosystem with appropriate feeding practices can help ensure that ghost shrimp prioritize algae consumption.

It is important to note that ghost shrimp are not the sole algae eradicators. They are part of a holistic approach to algae control and should be combined with other preventive measures. Maintaining appropriate lighting levels, optimizing nutrient balance, and ensuring good water quality is equally essential for a healthy aquarium environment.

Other Methods to Combat Brown Algae

While ghost shrimp can contribute to algae control, they are not the only solution available. Aquarium owners can employ various methods to combat brown algae growth and create a balanced ecosystem.

Adjusting the lighting duration and intensity can discourage algae growth, as excessive light can stimulate its proliferation. Providing the appropriate spectrum and intensity of light for the aquarium’s inhabitants while avoiding prolonged exposure can help maintain a healthy balance and reduce brown algae growth.

Implementing regular water changes and maintaining appropriate nutrient levels through a balanced feeding regimen can also help reduce algae growth. By removing excess nutrients and ensuring well-maintained water chemistry, the conditions that favor brown algae growth can be minimized.

Furthermore, introducing other algae-eating organisms into the aquarium can provide additional assistance in keeping brown algae in check. Fish species such as Siamese algae eaters (Crossocheilus spp.), certain plecos (Hypostomus spp.), and some species of catfish (Corydoras spp.) are known for their affinity for algae consumption.

Combining these species with ghost shrimp can create a balanced ecosystem with multiple contributors to algae control.


In conclusion, ghost shrimp are indeed valuable allies in the battle against brown algae in aquariums. Their natural inclination towards consuming various types of algae, including brown algae, makes them effective algae grazers.

By actively foraging on the aquarium substrate and vegetation, ghost shrimp help maintain a clean and visually appealing tank environment.

However, it is important to remember that ghost shrimp should not be solely relied upon for algae control. They are just one piece of the puzzle. Creating a balanced ecosystem with appropriate lighting, nutrient levels, and other algae-eating organisms is key to effectively combatting brown algae growth.

By implementing a comprehensive approach, aquarium enthusiasts can enjoy a thriving aquatic environment while keeping unsightly brown algae at bay.

Additional Posts:

  1. How to Get Rid of Brown Algae in Fish Tank
  2. Do Nerite Snails Eat Brown Algae: Unveiling Algae Eradicators
  3. Do Otocinclus Eat Brown Algae
  4. What Animals Eat Seaweed: Fascinating Insights
  5. Does Seaweed Expire: The Shelf Life of Seaweed