Camelback Shrimp (Hinge Beak Shrimp)

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Camelback shrimp
Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia CC 2.0

Camelback shrimp are easily identified by their characteristic "hump" for which they are aptly named. They are sometimes confused with the similarly colored peppermint shrimp. They have ornate markings and large reflective eyes. The size of their eyes is an indicator of their natural ability to maneuver in low-light conditions. Despite their beauty, they are capable of wreaking total havoc in reef aquariums.

Characteristics

Scientific Name

Rhynchocinetes uritai

Synonym

Rhynchocinetes durbanensis

Common Names

Camelback shrimp, hinge beak shrimp, dancing shrimp, candy shrimp, humpback shrimp, and peppermint shrimp (erroneously)

FamilyRhynchocinetidae
OriginIndo-Pacific oceans
Adult Size1.5 inches
SocialSemi-aggressive
Lifespan3 to 5 years
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
DietCarnivore
BreedingEgg-scatterer
CareDifficult
pH8.1 to 8.4
Hardness8 to 12 dGH
Temperature64 to 77 F

Origin and Distribution

Camelback shrimp hail from the tropical waters of the East Indian Ocean, Australia, Indonesia, East Pacific, and central/west Pacific. Camelback shrimp are found in small groups in rock crevices, rocky overhangs, coral rubble, and rock caves.

Colors and Markings

Species coloration and markings may vary, but usually, these shrimp are vibrant cherry-red in color and the body is accented with markings of various patterns of bright white dots and/or stripes.

A characteristic hump differentiates a camelback shrimp from a peppermint shrimp. Members of this genus also have a pronounced foldable rostrum or beak, which has also earned them the alternative common name of hinge beak shrimp. This beak is usually turned upward.

Tankmates

These shrimp are good tank cleaners, however, because they eat corals and other polyps, this makes them unsuitable for reef tanks.

Do not keep them with zoanthids or other soft corals like colonial anemones, disc anemones, mushroom corals, and soft leather corals. It generally leaves bubble coral and stinging anemones alone. Even a few of these shrimp can decimate a healthy colony of star polyps in no time at all.

It is usually peaceful towards fish and other invertebrates, but it can be a target for aggressive fish or other invertebrates. Potential fish tankmates can include peaceful fish such as tangs or clownfish.

Camelback shrimp are very sociable with one another and should be maintained in large colonies of at least six individuals. Avoid keeping alongside fish that prey on crustaceans. 

Camelback Shrimp Habitat and Care

Like most shrimp species, camelback shrimp are a nocturnal crustacean that usually hides during daylight hours, coming out at night to feed. When the light is dim or turned off, you might be able to bring this shrimp out of hiding. It is not unusual to see them picking materials and debris from rocks and other hard surfaces in the aquarium. This type of shrimp is best suited to tanks with an abundance of live rock.

To help with proper molting of this or any shrimp, supplemental iodine should be added to the system, but with caution.

Too much iodine can cause premature molting and shorten its expected lifespan. Regular water changes with a high-quality salt mix usually provide enough supplementation, but extra supplements may be needed in reef tanks or in tanks with heavy invertebrate loads that use up iodine and other minerals rapidly. If water changes with new, fresh saltwater are not done regularly, the minerals can get depleted; Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates may accumulate and can also be detrimental to the crustaceans and other invertebrates. As with other crustaceans, camelback shrimp cannot tolerate exposure to copper sulfate.

Also, shrimp tend to molt under environmental stress such as water changes, rapid changes in conditions, or during shipping. Always acclimate shrimp slowly to avoid sudden changes in their environment.

Camelback Shrimp Diet

This shrimp can be a beneficial tank member as it is a proficient sand-sifter that will feed on waste materials and can generally help keep the tank clean. In the wild, this shrimp is a carnivore. But in captivity, it is more of an omnivore. This shrimp will scavenge at the bottom of the aquarium, filter through the sand, and pick at the debris that settles on rocks and other hard surfaces.

It will accept a varied diet of prepared fresh and frozen foods suitable for carnivores, vitamin-enriched flakes, fine sinking pellets, freeze-dried krill, frozen or freeze-dried plankton, live adult brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, finely chopped prawn, mussels, clams, or cockle meat, or nauplii (crustacean larvae). It is best if it is fed at least once per day.

This shrimp will eat corals and other types of polyps.

Sexual Differences

The males of this species tend to have larger pincer claws than the females. These shrimp are gonochoristic, which means they have distinct males and females that do not change sex. Females are often seen full of eggs.

Breeding the Camelback Shrimp

Camelback shrimp do breed in the home aquarium, but raising the young is very challenging. Mating occurs soon after a molt. Mating occurs with the male at a right angle to the female, transferring a package of sperm to a specialized receptacle on the female’s abdomen. Six to 20 hours after mating, the female begins to produce a large number of eggs, which she carries under her abdomen. After developing, the eggs are released and eventually hatch into larvae.

Camelback shrimp needs to undergo molting as it grows. Molting is a process in which Rhynchocinetes uritai sheds its current and tight exoskeleton to replace it with a new and larger one. Camelback shrimp molt at night. The shrimp lies on its back to shed its old exoskeleton. The new exoskeleton is then secreted by its body which forms and hardens completely in a few hours time. The shrimp probably feels vulnerable without its outer shell, so it usually hides in rock crevices or rock caves during the molting process to allow the new exoskeleton to form and completely harden.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

If camelback shrimp appeals to you, and you are interested maintaining a saltwater aquarium, check out other saltwater fish that may be compatible with these shrimp. 

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater or saltwater fish.