The banded coral shrimp (Tenopus hispidus) is also known as the banded cleaner shrimp and the Boxer Shrimp. They are shrimp-like decapod crustaceans belonging to the infraorder Stenopodidea. Their bright red and white coloration with their long antennae make an unusual and attractive sight.
Stenopus hispidus reaches a total body length of 60 millimetres and has striking red and white colouration. The base body colour is transparent where as the carapace, abdomen and the large third pereiopod are all banded red and white. The very long antennae and other pereiopods are white. The abdomen, carapace and third pereiopods are covered in small spines.
IN THE WILD
Banded coral shrimp are usually found in pairs hiding in crevices and small caves on the reef. Research indicates that when separated the pairs are able to individually recognize each other probably through chemical sensing. Other studies show that males follow the females and protect them. During the night they come out of their holes and await clients to clean and feed off of. In places where there are many concentrated in small areas, territorial fights sometimes break out.
These usually involve a lot of posturing and the smaller one will usually back away. In one area on Big T Reef in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania there is a feature on the top of a wall with a small cave some three meters wide that faces outwards off the wall, an area of high current and fish traffic. Clearly this is an advantageous spot as there are some 20 to 30 pairs packed into the cave. If one stops off at the cave on a dive even for a few minutes, the territorial posturing can be viewed. Each pair has a small piece of territory and the larger the specimen , the larger the area around them. The smaller specimens are pushed to the sides indicating that the middle is the prime spot.
In experiments conducted on pair formation, they were on some occasions found to fight to the death. Occasionally as can be seen in the image above, the males have their large claws missing. These are probably lost in territorial disputes because they seem to have few if any predators. Banded coral shrimp are most often found in areas with lots of fish traffic, such as on prominent outcrops and large caves or under overhangs.
Banded coral shrimp have a pan-tropical distribution extending into some more temperate areas. They are found up the east African coast from South Africa northwards, across to Australia and New Zealand and up to Japan. In the Atlantic ocean it is found from Canada to Brazil including the gulf of Mexico. In the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico. They are found from depths of one meter to at least 35 meters on the Tanzanian coast and reportedly have been found as deep as 200 meters.
DNA studies indicate that the Atlantic population is older and more diverse than the Indo-Pacific Population which are today separated by currents. This gives food for thought and may possibly be used to date climatological changes on the earth which resulted in changes in ocean currents.
Banded coral shrimp are usually nocturnal feeders , emerging from their holes once it is dark. They wave their long white antennae around and exhibit a dancing swaying movement. This to attract client fish to clean. In areas where many fish congregate they may be found in the company of the standard cleaner shrimp. They will also scavenge to supplement their diet.
Usually a fish approaches a banded coral shrimp and allows the shrimp to begin removing the parasites from him. It uses its large chelipeds and three sets of smaller claws called maxillipeds to scrape and pick off food and parasites from the fish hosts body, mouth and gills or wherever needed.
The Banded coral shrimp seem to have no known predators, although on one occasion two exoskeletons were found by researchers in the stomach of a grouper.
Banded coral shrimp have been successfully bred in laboratory conditions, but with low survival rates. The female can only mate at a certain stage of moulting. Research indicates this is just after moulting. The moult removes the residue from the old eggs and any unhatched eggs and mating seems to occur within a day of a moult. The females moult every three to six weeks and just after the moult the male approaches the female and performs a dance and then transfers sperm to the female. The fertilized eggs are then placed on the lower abdomen and swimmerets of the female as in the image below. Once the eggs hatch the larvae undergo a complex series of changes before becoming adults.
They are collected for Marine aquariums and in some areas this collecting has substantially reduced the population. Hopefully the new breakthroughs in captive breeding will remove this threat. Possibly once they can be captive bred to some extent, they can be used in fish farming to reduce the use of antibiotics and other such drugs
With their striking coloration they make an attractive addition to an aquarium. Only a mated pair may be kept in one tank and these form a monogamous relationship. If you are not certain that the pair is indeed a mated pair, it is best not to take the risk as they will fight with each other. They are easy to care for and soon take food. They make a very attractive addition to certain types of aquariums and have a lot of character with their over sized antennae.
BANDED CORAL SHRIMP CALASSIFICATION
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser