Do Shrimp Shed Their Skin?

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Most of the invertebrates possess an exoskeleton which automatically means that they molt in order to grow. Shrimp also fall into this category.

The molting process may seem confusing at first if you’re not familiar with the behavior because you’ll get to see a lot of dead exoskeletons lying around regularly.

Shrimp tend to shed their skin quite often when growing, as their metabolic rates are higher and they grow faster.

Today, we’ll discuss skin shedding in shrimp and the details to consider when providing them with the ideal conditions for successful molting.

Why do Shrimp Shed Their Skin?

All living beings, with some minor exceptions, shed their skin, including humans. It’s just that the shedding process itself is more noticeable in invertebrates because they shed all of their skin at once.

Humans shed microscopic skin fragments throughout the day. You can even notice your dead skin flying around off of your body in the form of fine particles when rubbing yourself.

The same process happens when taking showers, as dead skin cells break off and flush with the water. This is a normal renewal process that all animals undergo during their growth process, but that’s not the only reason.

The shedding phenomenon is also the result of body cells dying with time and the body producing new ones to replace them.

This phenomenon becomes less frequent with time as the body’s metabolism drops with age. So, the skin shedding behavior is more prevalent when the animal is young than when it gets older.

How Often do Shrimp Shed Their Skin?

The frequency of the skin shedding behavior varies depending on the shrimp’s size, age, and environmental conditions.

Young shrimp will shed their skin every week and get rarer with it as they grow. Adult shrimp will only shed once every 3-4 weeks.

Why Did My Shrimp Die When Molting?

Unfortunately, some shrimp will die during molting. This is a demanding and perilous process, and shrimp are pretty sensitive creatures.

So, you’ll notice some casualties along the way. You can prevent some of the deaths, but others are out of your control.

The main causes to consider include:

Getting Stuck in the Molt

A normal and eventless shedding takes place when the shrimp’s old exoskeleton cracks at the head. The old molt will usually separate at the top, just behind the nape, and that’s the shrimp’s exit point.

The shrimp will force its way out that way and leave the dead exoskeleton quite easily under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately, things are not always so smooth. If the exoskeleton cracks in a different area, the shrimp may have difficulties getting out. That’s because their instinct is to push towards the head to get out.

If the crack isn’t there, the shrimp won’t be able to extract itself from the dead ‘clothing.’ Some shrimp will eventually get out after some struggle, but others won’t.

As a result, casualties will occur.

Experiencing the White Ring of Death

The shrimp’s body is essentially composed of 2 main sections: the head and thorax section and the abdominal section, which also includes the tail.

You can easily notice the separation, as the abdomen, along with the tail, bend at the joint as the shrimp moves and swims.

The White Ring of Death appears when the shrimp’s exoskeleton cracks at that joint instead of the head area where it’s supposed to.

The crack will form a white ring around the shrimp’s body which is nothing more than the shrimp’s white, new flesh visible from underneath the dead skin.

When the White Ring of Death occurs, the shrimp’s exoskeleton will separate into 2 sections, making it extremely difficult for the animal to get out.

It’s counterintuitive for them to push the 2 sections apart, so most shrimp will just wiggle for a while and die due to stress, fatigue, and starvation.

Fortunately, despite its ominous name, the White Ring of Death isn’t necessarily the end. Some mild cases can occur with the shrimp also experiencing the normal head crack, allowing it to molt successfully.

Other, more resourceful shrimp will actually beat the White Ring and molt anyway. But it’s a game of chance that usually doesn’t go in the shrimp’s favor.

Dietary Problems

The shrimp’s exoskeleton requires calcium to strengthen itself. If that doesn’t happen, it will remain more fragile, causing issues during molting.

If the shrimp experiences calcium deficiency and improper feeding, it also won’t have the strength to pull itself out of the old shell.

Shrimp require a stable and nutritious diet to remain healthy and strong and experience successful molting with no incidents.

So, always provide your shrimp with a varied and satisfying diet to prevent health problems or shedding complications, for that matter.

Calcium Deficiency

I’ve included this point separate from the previous one because, although calcium deficiency is a dietary problem, it deserves its own category. That’s because you may be feeding your shrimp more than enough; it makes no difference if they struggle with calcium deficiency.

Now, we’ve already discussed how calcium deficiency affects shrimp over time, but there’s another issue worth mentioning, and this one relates to an odd shrimp behavior.

Some people have reported that their shrimp swarm another in the process of molting to devour its dead exoskeleton while still attached to the shrimp.

This can lead to the molting shrimp dying in the process. The other shrimp don’t kill it intentionally, as death is mostly accidental due to the swarming behavior.

Shrimp are extremely vulnerable when shedding, so they may sustain injuries when swarmed by a pack of calcium-deficient invertebrates. Calcium supplementation should solve this problem.

Accidents

These can happen and can cause death immediately after your shrimp has molted completely. The newly formed exoskeleton is still soft and will take a while to harden.

During this time, the shrimp is more vulnerable than usual and even incidents that are typically harmless can now cause harm.

Maybe some other shrimp picks on the newly molted one, or a fish nips on the shrimp’s body jokingly. Such interactions can cause small physical tears that can get infected, resulting in a quick death. To prevent these issues, only house your shrimp with friendly and docile companions that won’t display overly energetic or curious behavior.

Fortunately, most shrimp complete their molting successfully and without any incidents, provided the environmental conditions are stable and optimal.

That being said, you can help your shrimp molt to some degree, so let’s get into that.

How to Help Your Shrimp When Molting?

Fortunately, you can play a role in your shrimp’s molting success. To make sure that your shrimp molt without incidents, consider the following:

Understand the Relation Between pH and Calcium

The ideal water pH for freshwater shrimp sits at 6.8 to 7.5, with some minor variations, depending on the species. Your goal is to keep the water pH levels stable within the ideal parameters to prevent molting problems.

That’s because the lower the pH gets, the higher the calcium concentration in the shrimp’s exoskeleton.

This causes the shell to become extra-calcified and more hardened, making it more difficult for the shrimp to shed it. So, too much calcium is just as bad as too little, except for different reasons.

You can use a calcium supplement or add crushed eggshells that will gradually seep calcium into the water. This is a good way of keeping calcium levels stable to support your shrimp’s molting efforts.

Tweak the Water Hardness

General water hardness (GH) measures the amount of specific minerals present in the water. Among these, calcium and magnesium are some of the most important as they aid the shrimp in the shedding process.

And they don’t go one without the other. The shrimp uses magnesium to absorb calcium, which is necessary for the formation of a new exoskeleton.

The shrimp will extract approximately 25% of its calcium needs from its old exoskeleton, with the rest coming from the water column.

If the GH levels are below the optimal threshold, the shrimp won’t have sufficient environmental magnesium and calcium to support its new exoskeleton’s growth and formation.

Don’t Go Overboard with Water Changes

Water changes are necessary in any aquatic system. They reoxygenate the environment, clean residues and dilute nitrates, and keep the system fresh and clean.

The problem is that frequent water changes will also negatively impact your aquatic life. Shrimp are especially predisposed to health issues because of it.

That’s because water changes dilute water minerals, causing the fish to ultimately experience some form of nutrient deficiency.

The solution is to adapt to the system’s needs. Go for one water change per week and don’t change more than 15% of the total water volume.

You can then work your way up or down afterwards, depending on the system’s needs.

Mind Each Species’ Requirements

Different shrimp species have different environmental and dietary requirements. So, whatever applies to one may not apply to another.

Make sure you understand your shrimps’ needs to prevent confusion and ensure optimal care along the way.

Don’t Do It!

Many people feel like they need to intervene whenever their shrimps experience molting problems. It’s a natural urge that you need to combat each time it arises.

By involving yourself in the molting process, you can always make things worse; never better.

Shrimp are very sensitive creatures and are especially vulnerable during molting. Any wrong move can cause irreparable damages, leading to a swift death. In case your shrimp is experiencing molting problems, I advise letting nature take its course.

The best you can do is consider the previous points and provide the shrimp with the ideal conditions to shed without incidents.

Do Shrimp Eat Their Molt?

Yes, shrimp will eat their molt because it’s a rich source of calcium and other minerals. That’s a welcomed source of nutrients, especially since shrimps tend to fast for a while when shedding approaches.

If the shrimp itself doesn’t eat its own molt, other tank inhabitants will eat it instead. We’ve already discussed the case of shrimp swarming their brethren in the middle of molting.

They’re quick about it too. The molted exoskeleton is highly nutritious, so multiple shrimps may share the finding, consuming it even before you notice the event.

This can lead to confusion at first since you’ll have a new, white-looking shrimp in the tank the next day but without the ‘evidence’ to explain where it came from.

You’ll understand the phenomenon in time, especially when you’ll get to witness the molting and shell-eating process yourself.

Do Shrimp Molt When Stressed?

No, that doesn’t happen. For a shrimp to molt, it has to have a formed exoskeleton underneath the old one.

It doesn’t matter how stressed the shrimp is; the molting process won’t start unless the shrimp’s new exoskeleton is formed and ready to see daylight.

I’m not entirely sure where the connection between shrimp stress and molting came from, but there’s a lot of discussion on the topic.

This is that much more intriguing as it’s literally a non-issue. There’s no connection between shrimp stress and molt, at least not in the way we’re talking.

Shrimps exhibit various symptoms when stressed, including hiding behavior, lack of appetite, color changes, and even, check this out, hindered growth.

So, if anything, your shrimp will molt less frequently when stressed.

If your shrimp begins to molt soon after first adding them to the tank, rejoice. That’s a sign that they’re happy and comfy in their new environment, and Mother Nature is taking its sweet course.

Conclusion

All shrimp molt constantly throughout their lives, as it’s part of their natural growth process.

So, you better become accustomed to the factors that contribute to successful and safe molting.

It will help you provide your shrimp with better care during their time with you.

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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