Peacock Mantis Shrimp – Odontodactylus scyallarus
Scientific name: Odontodactylus scyallarus
Common names: Peacock Mantis, Painted Mantis, Harlequin Mantis, Mantis Shrimp
Lench: 1-7 inches (3–18 cm)
Minimum tank size: gallon
Reef Safe: No
Agressiveness: Aggressive. Will attack other aquarium inhabitants.
Water Parameters: 72-78° F, sg 1.023-1.025, pH 8.1-8.4, dKH 8-12
Natural location: Indo-Pacific from Guam to East Africa
Known to scientists everywhere as Odontodactylus scyallarus, this facinating crustaceans is one of the 500 species of stomatopods recognized today. They are predatory crustaceans native to the Indo-Pacific region where they can be found on sandy, gravelly or shelly bottoms often near reefs at depths of 3–40 m. This voracious predator uses sight when hunting, waiting quietly, for its prey to come within reach, then striking using its powerful, clublike second pair of legs with immense speed.
The mantis shrimp are neither shrimp nor mantids, but receive their name purely from the physical resemblance to both the mantis and the shrimp. They may reach 30 centimetres (12 in) in length, although larger specimens have been recorded. The carapace of mantis shrimp covers only the rear part of the head and the first three segments of the thorax. Mantis shrimp appear in a variety of colours, from shades of browns to bright neon colours.
This species is generally not a welcome addition to the home aquarium. Instead this common shrimp is considered a pest, and it is often introduced inadvertently via new live rock. If these aggressive shrimps are introduced into a reef tank they will quickly go to work killing the other residents of the tank. If you hear strange knocking sounds from at night and/or fish are disappearing from the tank, there is a real chance that a mantis shrimp have been introduced into the tank.
But even though many hobbyists consider them pests, the mantis shrimp does have its fans, and many people have begun to set up separate tanks just for these fascinating creatures. When setting up a tank for the mantis shrimp it is important to put in only one shrimp per tank. These creatures are quite aggressive, and they will fight for territory. It is just as important not to attempt to keep any other fish with the mantis shrimp, as they are carnivorous and quite voracious eaters. In the home aquarium mantis shrimps can be fed a diet of frozen squid, shrimp and crab. With time and training some mantis shrimps will learn to eat commercial prepared food, but it is still best to feed them a quality frozen diet.
In order to be happy and healthy the mantis shrimp will need a sandy bottom and some kind of burrow where it can retreat when molting. This burrow does not have to be fancy – Live Rock and reef rubble will do. If no live rock in the tank a small piece of PVC pipe works very well. In order to keep their shells in good condition hobbyists should avoid harsh lights for their mantis shrimp tanks – bright lights will cause problems with their shells and make the shrimp susceptible to disease.
One final word on these fascinating but sometimes difficult creatures – large mantis shrimps should only be housed in acrylic tanks. The force of the strike of a large specimen approaches that of a 22 caliber bullet. Large specimens have been known to actually break the glass in their tanks, either by digging in the substrate or by running directly at the glass. That is why it is so important to house them only in quality acrylic tanks.
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