Can Mantis Shrimp Break Aquarium Glass?

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If you’re a Mantis Shrimp lover looking to get one, it’s only natural for you to be concerned about this species’ glass braking capabilities.

After all, Mantis Shrimps are famous for their ability to break through their enclosure’s walls more often than one would feel comfortable with.

But is it just a myth, or can the Mantis Shrimp actually punch through a glass tank wall? And if that’s true, how do people keep Mantis Shrimps as pets?

We shall discuss all these aspects in detail in today’s article.

Can You Keep Mantis Shrimp in Glass Tank?

Most likely, no. The main reason for that isn’t the Mantis Shrimp’s ability to break the tank wall but its behavior.

Just because the shrimp has the ability to do that doesn’t mean it will do it. The problem is that the Mantis Shrimp has both the ability and the willingness to hit the glass wall and watch it crack and crumble.

This can lead to serious flooding issues and loss of lives if your shrimp shares its space with other aquatic creatures.

Before going forward, it’s essential to understand why the Mantis Shrimp likes to pound on its enclosure.

While there isn’t entirely clear why these shrimps focus specifically on the tank’s glass walls, there are a few theories in place:

  • Competitive aggression – It seems like the Mantis shrimp is rather territorial, and it doesn’t like sharing space with others of its species. Whenever the shrimp spots another of its kind around, its territorial senses will begin to tingle. The shrimp uses its dactyl clubs to pound the intruder into oblivion which is bound to lead to a quick death. All it takes is for the shrimp to identify the intruder visually, which includes seeing its own reflection in the tank’s walls. The Mantis Shrimp cannot recognize itself in the mirror, so you see how this will become a problem fast.
  • Insufficient living space – Mantis Shrimp can get stressed out when crammed into a tiny space. That being said, 10 gallons for a 7-8-inch shrimp should suffice for the most part. However, some shrimp may feel threatened by the proximity of the tank wall and decide to take matters into their own clubs. Given the shrimp’s extreme force and delivery speed, we all know what to expect in that situation.
  • Reacting to an outside threat – Mantis shrimp have the most complex eyesight in the animal kingdom, allowing them to appreciate depth and distance incredibly effective. They also possess up to 16 color photoreceptors for multicolored vision input. So, it’s safe to say that Mantis Shrimp can distinguish any potential threats outside the tank wall. This will instigate them to attempt to remove the threat the way they know best – by clubbing it. Or, more precisely, by clubbing the tank’s walls.
  • Just practice – Other theories suggest that the Mantis Shrimp likes to test its limits and strengthen its clubs by poking against hard surfaces. Including glass-made ones. The problem is that they tend to overdo it since they aren’t quite proficient at controlling their strength.

However, all these are just theories in work since there isn’t a definitive answer to the issue.

How Thick of Glass Can a Mantis Shrimp Break?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any conclusive answer I can give you. However, I can provide you with some useful hints.

Consider the following:

  • The Mantis Shrimp will grow on average between 5 to 7 inches
  • The maximum size for a Mantis Shrimp is around 15 inches
  • A 7-inch Mantis Shrimp can easily break a normal 10-gallon glass tank

If a 7-inch shrimp can demolish a 10-gallon tank, imagine what a larger one could do. If I were you, I wouldn’t house the Mantis Shrimp in a glass tank, to begin with.

Let’s say you figure out the right glass thickness to withstand your Mantis Shrimp’s punching power.

We’re talking about an average-sized shrimp revolving around 7 inches. 

In this situation, you will still have some serious problems at hand:

  • The shrimp may grow larger and stronger – Your shrimp may be 7 inches long, but that can change depending on its diet and environmental conditions. And a larger and stronger Mantis Shrimp will be able to deliver a lot more pounding force.
  • The tank will be heavier – The thicker the tank’s walls, the heavier the structure. For instance, this may turn into a problem fast when trying to move the tank into a different room.
  • The glass walls will distort the light – Thicker glass doesn’t allow light to circulate through it as easy. Glass tanks are already known to distort the light moving through them, making the fish appear larger. The problem will increase according to the glass’s thickness.
  • The costs are higher – Imagine you’re investing in a thick and strong glass tank, and then the Mantis Shrimp breaks it anyway. Who knows, maybe your Mantis Shrimp is a freak with unusually powerful dactyl clubs and immense strength. It’s not unheard of. The financial losses in that scenario will be far greater, while the benefits will remain minimal.

So, I suggest forgetting about glass tanks altogether. It’s time to explore other alternatives.

Can a Mantis Shrimp Break Bulletproof Glass?

Most likely, no. There’s little information on the subject, with some claiming different things than others, but nothing really conclusive. That being said, you can do some math.

The bulletproof glass comes in levels, according to the Underwriter’s Laboratory system (UL):

  • Level 1 – Can withstand small-caliber handguns.
  • Level 2 – Can withstand larger caliber handguns, including shotguns.
  • Level 3 – Can withstand at least 3 .44 magnum rounds.
  • Level 4 – Can withstand a .30 caliber rifle shot. 

This goes all the way to level 8 with subsequent increases in durability and strength.

There’s no point in going over all of them until we have decided that the Mantis Shrimp can punch through the level 1 glass. So, can it?

Here’s an approximate calculus:

  • A level 1 bulletproof glass can withstand 3 shots of a small-caliber handgun like an FMJ, traveling at around 1,175 f/s
  • One FMJ shot can deliver a force of around 500 joules, with 3 bullet impacts raising that value to roughly 1,500
  • The force of a Mantis Shrimp punch can go up to 1,260 joules
  • This means that the Mantis Shrimp can break a level 1 bulletproof glass in 2 punches

So, according to the math, a Mantis Shrimp needs 2 punches to break a level 1 bulletproof glass. This makes for an interesting but pretty much useless piece of information since not many people are willing to get a tank built out of bulletproof glass.

And, since we’re here, I should also mention that the force necessary for a bullet to penetrate a human skull is around 1,250 joules.

So, theoretically, a Mantis Shrimp can poke a hole in your head.

How Hard Can a Mantis Shrimp Punch?

The easiest answer is that the Mantis Shrimp can punch at speeds of around 60 mph, which is the speed of a bullet leaving the gun barrel.

The force to expect in such a scenario is around 160 pounds, which is enough to:

  • Break the walls of a glass tank
  • Break your fingers or hand bones
  • Break the skin and inflict severe tissue damage
  • Create cavity bubbles where the water literally boils due to the extreme force and speed, triggering an aquatic shockwave. This is so powerful that it can kill or dismember the shrimp’s prey even if the direct hit misses
  • Obliterate crabs, lobsters, snails, shrimp, or other creatures, be they prey or predators
  • Crush the environment around them to allow for free passage

In short, the Mantis Shrimp is a force of nature that you shouldn’t test. It’s also worth noting that Mantis Shrimps are extremely aggressive creatures that have no time for games.

They will attack whatever moves around them, be it dead, living, or expressing a death wish.

Can Mantis Shrimp Break Acrylic Tank?

It is possible for a Mantis Shrimp to break an acrylic tank in theory but rather unlikely in practice. Acrylic is way more durable and flexible than glass, which is why so many people use it for their shrimp enclosures.

Obviously, there are other advantages to investing in an acrylic tank compared to a glass one, such as:

  • Acrylic is up to 10 times lighter than glass, allowing you to relocate the tank easier when necessary
  • Acrylic is more durable than glass since glass tanks are more brittle in nature. This isn’t a problem when keeping small-to-medium-sized fish, but it becomes when housing vicious creatures like the Mantis Shrimp
  • Acrylic is more versatile, allowing you to craft tanks of different sizes, whereas most glass tanks only come as squares or rectangles

The only problem with acrylic would be that it’s more expensive than glass, and it’s more prone to scratching.

Glass also allows for a clearer view over the fish, whereas acrylic is foggier.

But, given the topic, you’re more interested in the differences in impact resistance for both materials. In this area, acrylic is the winner.

Can Mantis Shrimp Break a Plastic Tub?

It vastly depends on the type of tub and how thick it is. But, generally speaking, Mantis Shrimp won’t be able to go through a plastic tub.

This is why scientists analyzing Mantis Shrimps keep them in plastic containers since these can withstand the creature’s ballistic force.

Glass containers just kept breaking for some reason. Weird, right?

Conclusion

If you’ve fallen victim to the Mantis Shrimp’s charms and have decided to get one, consider the following:

  • Avoid glass-made enclosures for all the reasons we’re already discussed
  • Avoid any type of tank mates since Mantis Shrimps are extremely aggressive, invasive, and carnivorous, and they will attack and eradicate anything that moves 
  • Don’t keep more than 1 Mantis Shrimp unless you have a very large tank with enough room to accommodate more than 1

To set your mind at ease for a bit, the Mantis Shrimp won’t necessarily target the tank’s walls that often.

And just because it hits the tank’s wall occasionally doesn’t mean it will necessarily break it. Just keep in mind that it is in the shrimp’s power to do it.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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