Banded Coral Shrimp

Stenopus hispidus
Image by Alexander Vasenin.

Banded coral shrimp are the largest known cleaner shrimp.

They are also called “boxing shrimp” because of the large pinchers on their third set of legs. They often hold these pinchers erect giving the appearance of a boxer ready to fight. They have three antennae which are two-and-a-half times bigger than the shrimp itself.

They are usually found in pairs which mate for a lifetime. The male banded coral shrimp is usually noticeably smaller than the female of the species. The female can also be recognized by the presence of greenish ovaries visible through the transparent carapace. Mating can only occur when the female is molting. After mating the female holds onto the fertilized eggs under her abdomen which hatch after 16 days. After hatching the larvae remain with the female for a few weeks and become planktonic. They undergo seven stages before becoming an adult.

Lost limbs are regenerated quite easily during the next mould. The banded coral shrimp may live 2-3 years, sometimes longer. They like to live in small crevices and discarded man-made objects – like tires and buckets. They are very territorial and occupy territories of 1-2 metres in diameter; other crustaceans are not accepted within their territory.

They remove then eat parasites, injured tissues, and undesired food from a variety of reef life. They can be seen from their crevice although the shrimp remains hidden unless to lure fish in need of cleaning. To let fish know when it wants to clean, it will be seen dancing to attract attention.