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Will Peppermint Shrimp Eat Coral in Your Reef Tank?

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The flashy, red and white Peppermint Shrimp (also called Candy Cane Shrimp) eat coral healthily by nibbling on the decomposing top layer. Feasting on the top layer of coral provides the shrimp with the protein they need to survive and helps the coral maintain optimal health.

Peppermint Shrimp feeds on coral’s decomposing organic tissue, keeping its surface exposed and maintaining its health. This mutualistic side of the shrimp and coral relationship proves how beneficial these two species can be when put together in a reef tank. 

Peppermint Shrimp may feast on the decomposing organic material, keeping the coral fresh and the shrimps fed, good for your reef tank. However, Peppermint Shrimp that eats too much of your coral’s food will cause your ecosystem to suffer. Continue reading to learn more on this.

Do Peppermint Shrimp Eat Coral?

Peppermint Shrimp eats coral’s dead tissue, a mutualistic relationship that keeps the coral healthy. The shrimp won’t eat the whole coral reef. The constant trimmings keep the coral healthy, much like a haircut would for hair.

Anemones species can be damaging to your reef tank. Using cleaner fish like Peppermint Shrimp is an effective way to clean your tank and rid them of these harmful species. 

What Can Peppermint Shrimp Eat Off a Coral?

Peppermint Shrimp can eat the Aiptasia off most kinds of coral. There are a few exceptions to this when it comes to soft coral.

Don’t place the following coral in a tank with Peppermint Shrimp:

  • Torch coral 
  • Brain coral 
  • Elkhorn coral
  • Soft and polyp corals

212369825 / Aquarium © Vojcekolevski |

Soft coral is more delicious to Peppermint Shrimp than hard coral. Letting your Peppermint Shrimp eat a whole coral is damaging to your entire ecosystem. Many animals live in corals, such as sea slugs and prawns. 

Unlike hard or medium coral, a group of Peppermint Shrimps is happy to combat a whole soft coral. Eating soft coral isn’t so straightforward. Soft corals produce poison or harden into spiky thorns as a defense mechanism. It’s best to have your shrimps avoid soft corals so they don’t get hurt.

Are Peppermint Shrimp Reef Friendly?

The Peppermint Shrimp is a relatively reef-friendly crustacean. There are mixed reports on whether Peppermint Shrimp is beneficial or harmful to reef tanks because of its effects on coral. 

Peppermint Shrimp are cleaners that remove invasive species like Aptasia from your reef tank. This shrimp species is an integral part of the ecosystem.

To guarantee that your Pep has the best habitat possible, only pair them with compatible fish. These should be non-aggressive fish uninterested in eating shrimp. Peppermint Shrimp is small and has no way to defend itself against large predators.

What Do Candy Cane Shrimps Eat in a Reef Tank?

The colorful Candy Cane Shrimps typically eat decomposing material, plankton, and other living microorganisms. They’re opportunistic feeders, so they can also eat many other things. Eating living microorganisms is problematic because this steals food from coral. 

Many problems result from stealing food, whether accidental or on purpose. Stealing too much food and consuming too many microorganisms like plankton means that Peppermint Shrimp no longer tends to coral. 

If the coral doesn’t get its food, it can’t survive. A dying coral can lead to the downfall of your tank’s ecosystem. 

Peppermint Shrimp eat the following: 

  • Dead fish tissue
  • Food debris
  • Decomposing organic material (coral, fish)
  • Microorganisms (Aiptasia pallida, plankton, zooplankton, etc.)

What Do You Feed Peppermint Shrimp?

There’s no need to feed your peppermint shrimp. Ideally, your shrimp should just be cleaning. If you want to give it supplemental food, though, it’s best to limit the quantity.

If you pay attention to the purpose of the Peppermint Shrimp, you’ll notice that the Peppermint Shrimp diet revolves mainly around cleaning up your tank. Any alterations to their diet can disrupt the ecosystem as a whole.

Photo 183899922 / Aquarium © Vojcekolevski |

Aside from looking cool, the primary purpose of the peppermint shrimp is to keep the reef tank clean by eating Aiptasia, also called glass anemones. Aiptasia is an invasive species that can damage your reef by spreading across your rocks and stinging or poisoning fish that come near it. 

Peppermint Shrimp naturally removes this invasive species by eating it. Meanwhile, human intervention can cause the anemone to spread even more. By taking the preventative measure of bringing Peppermint Shrimp into your tank, you’re discouraging the spread of this harmful anemone. 

It’s best to avoid feeding Peppermint Shrimp too much food in addition to its cleaning needs because then it can’t do its job. Encourage your Peppermint Shrimp to feed off decomposing material by preventing food stealing.

What Eats Peppermint Shrimp in a Reef Tank?

Large fish with aggressive temperaments eat Peppermint Shrimp. You shouldn’t include your shrimp in a community reef tank with aggressive fish that’ll likely eat it.

Several large reef tank fish are threats to Peppermint Shrimp, including: 

  • Lionfish
  • Pufferfish
  • Hawkfish
  • Large wrasses
  • Marine betta
  • Picasso triggerfish
  • Large dottybacks

Some people do keep peppermint shrimp in a tank with the fish mentioned above. They noticed that their shrimps were rarely seen, fearing that the fish may have eaten them. While the chances for the shrimps to get eaten are high, sometimes they’re just rarely seen because they’re good at hiding.

If you don’t want your shrimps to spend too much time hiding from predators, it’s best to let them live with peaceful fish only.

Peppermint Shrimp is most compatible with peaceful herbivores that are also non-confrontational. Pair Peppermint Shrimp with fish uninterested in eating shrimp, and they’ll live in harmony together.


Peppermint Shrimp is compatible with various coral types. It can be dangerous to put soft coral in some reef tanks because Peppermint Shrimp may eat it all.

Eating coral or stealing food from coral can be dangerous because many types of coral have defensive mechanisms. Coral’s defense mechanisms can attack shrimps and hurt them.

Choosing the right coral is important for the success of your reef tank. Proper coral allows your aquatic animal to hide and prevents your Peppermint Shrimp from eating coral. 

Eating coral is problematic for your reef tank ecosystem as it robs the home of other species.


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