Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera elegans)
Max Size: 1 1/2 inches
Reef Compatible: Yes
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
The Harlequin Shrimp, first scientifically described in 1852, boasts a striking white body adorned with large light blue spots. Notably, the males are slightly smaller than the females. Distinguishing it from its close relative, the Hawaiian H. picta, which sports purple and red spots. Despite its large claws (chelipeds), the Harlequin Shrimp does not use them for hunting; they serve a purely decorative purpose.
For optimal care, the Harlequin Shrimp thrives best as mated pairs in an aquarium with moderate lighting. However, it must be noted that this shrimp is intolerant to copper and high nitrates, requiring correct and consistent iodine levels for proper molting.
As for its diet, the Harlequin Shrimp is quite selective, solely dining on echinoderms, particularly starfish and a few urchin species. When consuming starfish (Linckia, Fromia sp.), it starts from the tip of the arm and progresses towards the central disc. Unfortunately, this often leads to the starfish shedding the arm, but the damage is typically fatal.
To meet its dietary needs, it is crucial to provide the Harlequin Shrimp with a steady supply of starfish (Asterias rubens for adults, and Linckia for juveniles). Additionally, adult Harlequin Shrimp may also feed on sea urchins. Careful consideration of its specific dietary requirements is essential for the health and well-being of this captivating marine species.