“Stomatopods are awesome,” says
marine biologist and researcher Mi-
chael Bok at the University of Mary-
land and author of the popular blog
Arthropoda. “They have super strength,
raptorial appendages that can be de-
ployed at lightning speeds, and can
seek out their prey with an advanced
suite of visual and chemosensory or-
With the growing enthusiasm for
nano-aquariums and small species
tanks, the intentional keeping of ex-
treme predators such as the mantis
shrimps is becoming less and less un-
common. Indeed, some species of sto-
matopods available in the aquarium
trade exhibit amazing colors, thrilling
acrobatic talents, great intelligence,
and endlessly fascinating behaviors.
One, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp,
Odontodactylus scyllarus, has been
called the most beautiful creature of
the coral reef.
“They are among the most intelligent, if not the most intelligent, of
the arthropods,” says invertebrate
zoologist Ronald L. Shimek, Ph.D. “A
mantis shrimp can be an exceptionally
good pet in a species tank. It has a lot
of “personality” and will soon learn
to recognize different people and respond to them differently.”
The NoTorie Ty Fac Tor
As amazing as they are, the mantis
shrimps are routinely seen as a curse
and dreaded by many in the marine
aquarium hobby, where they have acquired an almost monster-like aura.
All manner of controls have been and
continue to be tried to remove an unwanted mantis shrimp from a reef
aquarium, where it has hitchhiked in
with live rock. Such interlopers often
elude notice until small fishes, ornamental crustaceans, snails, clams,
and others begin to disappear or the
aquarist starts to notice snapping
sounds coming from the reef at night.
Some recommend going as far
as using an octopus to scavenge any
stomatopods out of a batch of newly
imported live rock, and indeed the
cephalopod can scour the niches in
such rock and use its arms to extract
its favorite food—shrimps—from the crevices. Others
have used triggerfishes and crustacean-hunting moray
eels, such as the common Snowflake and Zebra Morays,
to rid a tank of small, elusive mantis shrimps.
Lysiosquillina lisa, a large spearing mantis shrimp, in its burrow.
On closer examination one can see partner shrimps on its
body, apparently cleaning it and simultaneously benefiting
enormously from its protection. it is likely a commensal
relationship, with the small shrimps gaining the benefits.