Skunk Cleaner Shrimp – Ultimate Care Guide

In this article, you will learn how to care for the Skunk cleaner shrimp which is also known as the Scarlet Skunk cleaner shrimp.

I like to think of them as the doctor for your saltwater tank. They are one of the most important members of a cleanup crew and perform a very crucial task.
They are known to set up a cleaning station in the tank where they attract certain fish over to them for cleaning. It’s quite impressive to watch.

They are effective in cleaning and removing parasites like ich from the bodies of fish. They will even clean inside the fish’s mouth. 


skunk cleaner shrimp care

What are they actually cleaning?

The Skunk cleaner shrimp is removing parasites and dead tissues from the fish and eating it. They will clean the fish of these items while obtaining food for themselves. You will often see them crawling all over the fish giving it a welcomed cleaning.

The fish are not bothered by this and certainly enjoy a routine checkup. This cleaning is also great for preventing disease on the fish. They will also clean mucus from the body of a fish. In the event of an injury, this is very helpful as it will help clean the wound and heal the fish.

They also help reduce the stress for fish that may be sick or injured. It is a very natural procedure that all cleaner shrimp will perform. It’s like having a health clinic in your tanks. It’s been proven that cleaner shrimp can reduce parasites by up to 98% and are very effective in parasite control. 

Overview and appearance



The Skunk cleaner shrimp is one of the most popular shrimps kept in saltwater tanks. They are very peaceful and colorful, commonly kept in reef tank environments. 

They have a very distinct appearance which includes a pair of bright red stripes giving them the “skunk” look. They have mostly red, white, and brown/yellow colors with black eyes. 

These shrimp also have long white colored antenna and can reach sizes of 2-3”. They are great for beginners and easy to care for. 


Water parameters

In order for Skunk cleaner shrimp to stay healthy, the following water parameters should be met.

Temperature: 75-82F

PH: 8.1-8.3

Specific Gravity: 1.023-1.025

Dkh: 8-12

Like all inverts, the cleaner shrimp will not tolerate copper-based medications, high level of nitrates, water parameters that are not consistent. 


cleaner shrimp care


Skunk cleaner shrimp – Acclimation 

It’s very important to acclimate your Skunk cleaner shrimp properly before introducing it into your tank. These shrimp are fairly sensitive to changes in water conditions so to avoid stress and shock, you should use a drip acclimation method. This will ensure that they are conditioned into your tank the right way. 


Tank size

The Skunk cleaner shrimp will only grow to around 2-3” so they do not need a large tank. An aquarium size of 20 or 30 gallons will be sufficient. They move around quite a bit so ensure the tank has plenty of space for them with plenty of live rock. Once they find a comfortable place in the tank, they won’t move around as much. 


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Temperament/tank mates – are they aggressive?

Cleaner shrimp are not aggressive and will get along with most tank mates. They will do well in any peaceful saltwater tank. It’s possible that they can chase another shrimp in the tank, but if they have enough room, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Avoid having large aggressive fish in the tank with them as usually, they will end up as a snack. Do not put cleaner shrimp in a tank with triggers, Lionfish, or any other predator fish. 


Feeding requirements

Feeding a cleaner shrimp is very easy. They are omnivorous so make sure to give them a variety of foods. They will accept pellets, flakes, and most frozen foods. They are great at eating up scraps and any foods that are on the bottom of the tank. They will sense feeding time easily and as soon as the food hits the water, they will come out from hiding and grab what they can.


Exoskeleton shedding

If you wake up one morning to see a cleaner shrimp body shell at the bottom of your tank, don’t worry the shrimp is not dead. It is normal for them to shed their exoskeleton shell periodically and grow a new one. If you see this extra shell in the tank, have a look for the shrimp to confirm it is alive and well. 



The Skunk cleaner shrimp does not have a very long lifespan. 3-4 years is what to expect. 



The Skunk cleaner shrimp is very common and easily available to purchase from local saltwater aquarium shops. They generally will cost $35-$40. 


Should you add a Skunk cleaner shrimp to your aquarium?

Yes, you should keep a cleaner shrimp in your tank providing your tank and tank mates are suitable for them. They are a valuable member of your crew and provide many benefits. They are fun to watch and will provide some great color to your tank.

They won’t bother other invertebrates or corals in the tank. They are reef safe and other than the occasional time they will run across a coral, you won’t have any issues. If you don’t have a Skunk cleaner shrimp in your tank, you should consider adding one.