Color-changing shrimp: Chameleon shrimp and Ninja shrimp

Shrimp truly come in every color imaginable. For many of them, it is a matter of survival: being tinier than most fish, they need to hide so that they do not get eaten. It is not uncommon for shrimp to camouflage themselves and become one with the environment: just like chamaleons, many shrimp can change the color of their shell to match their surroundings.


Chameleon shrimp (Macrobrachium scabriculum)

Chameleon Shrimp (Macrobrachium scabriculum) care sheet

What is commonly referred to as “Chameleon” shrimp is actually a genus of over 250 different species! These shrimp start their lifecycle in saltwater as completely translucent shrimp (similarly to the amano shrimp); as they age, they migrate to freshwater where they start changing their color. They may go from red / brownish to blue / green or even black, changing their appearance almost entirely.

It is undoubtedly entertaining to watch a Chamaleon shrimp and observe their color mutations. Keep in mind, though, that these shrimp can be quite territorial – they have a well-developed set of claws and they are not afraid to use them! Beware of keeping them in the same tank as dwarf shrimp or even small fish.

Macrobrachium Chamaleon Shrimp Care

Chameleon shrimp are quite hardy and easy to keep. As they hatch in saltwater, these shrimp are accustomed to high salinity and TDS level. They do not have strong temperature preferences either, although breeding them in captivity can be a challenge.


North Australian Chameleon Shrimp and Caridina babaulti

A few subspecies of Caridina also get the name of Chameleon shrimp. The North Australian Chameleon shrimp (Caridina sp. WA4) has a mottled brown color with various shadings, and cream colored abdomens, and they can change colors to better hide in your tank’s vegetation. Males have large claws that have hair on them, and are considerably larger than the females. Caridina babaulti originate from India, Iran and Iraq, and they come in different variations, one of which is capable of camouflage. These are often much smaller than other caridina shrimp – averaging 2-3cm (~1 inch). Chameleon shrimp may also change colors based on their mood or as a response to different water parameters such as pH and gH.

Caridina Chameleon Shrimp care

Chameleon shrimp are quite adaptable in terms of water hardness, but they prefer a well planted tank with many places to hide. Plenty of bamboo, rocks, and stones are also optimal. They are not especially particular about water temperature and will do just fine in most aquarium settings. Like other caridina, they will live for 1-2 years (up to 4 in exceptional conditions), and eat about everything, but mostly algae. The babaulti are actually such good scavengers they require very little feeding on your side.


Ninja Shrimp (Caridina serratirostris)

Ninja Shrimp (Caridina serratirostris) care sheet

Yet another caridina makes the list! But this colorful shrimp takes a different name, commonly known as the Ninja shrimp. These tiny dwarf shrimp are particularly susceptible to mood swings – when stressed, their color may vary from orange to black to blue to going almost completely transparent (vanishing like, well, a ninja).

Ninja Shrimp care

Ninja shrimp won’t do well at low temperatures, so make sure to heat your tank properly with a thermostat. Compared to other caridina, they are accostumed and prefer warmer temperatures around 75-80.5°F (23-27°C). They are also susceptible to sudden changes in water parameters, and can get easily stressed because of this (leading to them abruptidly switching color). They can tolerate high salinity levels as they need saltwater to breed (in a similar way to amano shrimp). You can feed them pretty much anything.

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