Seen a Shrimp Molt (202/366)

“A lot of people get impatient with the pace of change.”
~ James Levine

A few days ago, we purchased a Zebra snail and an Amano shrimp from a store in Japantown called Aqua Forest Aquarium – tank mates for Swim Lincecum, the first fish Nick ever owned.

When we first introduced Slow Montana and Detlef Shrimp to the tank (Nick thought of the awesome names), Slow went about munching on the algae that had accumulated on the gravel. After a few attempted nippings by Swimmy, Detlef scurried under the heater and hid out. He actually reemerged on a plant in the corner briefly, later in the evening, but by the morning, he was back under the heater – where he stayed, seemingly perfectly still – for another day and a half. I was getting worried.

I went online to search for what could be wrong with the shrimp. I read that they’re very sensitive to changes in their environment – crud, had we not taken enough time to acclimate him? Did we kill the first shrimp we’d ever owned?

I also read stories from a few owners about their shrimp molting, and the owners initially mistaking their old shell for a dead shrimp, only to find said shrimp (alive) while removing the old shell. One owner even said his shrimp molt every time he changes their water.


I’d never experienced anything like that before, so I wasn’t sure if that might be happening here. Hopefully Detlef was still alive, but I resigned myself to the idea he might have gone to that big hot pot in the sky.  I went back to the aquarium, and lifted the end of the heater, just to give him some space in case he decided to crawl out of there. I also hoped he hadn’t just gotten stuck under the heater and slowly got cooked to death. I know it might sound silly, but I’m paranoid, okay?

When I came back maybe an hour later, I saw that he did in fact move – further back, into the little cave our heater makes where it meets the gravel. Fine, at least he had moved – he wasn’t dead yet.

I actually almost didn’t see him because our little aquarium is situated on our pass-through counter, against a small pillar.  I realized I should probably move the aquarium out from the pillar a bit so we could see what was going on under that heater.  When I did, I realized … he hadn’t moved backward into the heater cave … he really had molted, and it was his old, leftover shell sitting there.  Eeeeeeeew!!!

Oh man, it was so cool and so gross.  I’ve seen old snake skins when snakes have molted, and when I was little we had a pet tarantula (yeah, weird, huh?  Ask my dad about it) and I remember that thing molted, but I had only ever seen scraps of stuff, way long after any sort of molting had occurred.  This leftover shell seemed perfectly intact, like a ghost replica of Detlef.  The main clue that this wasn’t him, was that apparently where he exited his shell it looked like there was a raised hood, making this guy look almost like a dragon.  Oh also … this copy had no eyes!  Aack!

Well, now that I knew Detlef was not only alive, but active, I looked for that little bugger around the tank.  We have a lot of plants in there, which is good for him so he has a lot of hiding places, but it was also making me feel like I was looking for a needle in a haystack.  Imagine my surprise after looking and looking … that the sneaky little thing was STILL under the heater!  Just in a different spot!  Can you see him at the right?  That’s the “real” Detlef – the one on the left is his old, molted shell.  Yeeesh!

Detlef seems to stay pretty still most of the time, so I figured I’d just leave him alone and check on him (and his twin) later.  When I came back, super gross.  He was apparently EATING Clone Detlef.  Mmmm.

Well, he IS a “cleaner” shrimp.  I figured I’d just let him keep cleaning.  There must be good protein or at least calcium in that old shell.  Talk about not letting anything go to waste!  Very gross … but very cool.

Related Links:
Aqua Forest Aquarium SF

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