Congratulations on befriending a singing shrimp! The world of caring for these creatures is as magical and unique as the animals themselves. This guide will help you understand all of the major components of care—from setting up an aquatic environment to helping create a lucrative music business for your new companion. Let’s jump right in.
When setting up a dwelling for your singing shrimp, the most important aspect to understand is that the singing shrimp is a saltwater creature. Unlike the standard pet-store goldfish, your shrimp requires a solution of dissolved salts—mostly NaCL—to the tune of roughly 6,000 parts per million (ppm). If you have nothing else, 5 glass walls and properly salted water will make for a livable habitat where your shrimp can practice its vocal warm-ups in relative comfort.
However, this guide aims to prepare you to truly care for these lovable creatures, so we'll be going a bit deeper. In the wild, singing shrimp often make their homes by bringing together a number of sea sponges, usually stashing them beneath the protective blanket of a sea anemone. In short, these crustaceans are used to lives of comfort, protection, and luxury. As a responsible companion, it's your duty to try to replicate this comfort as much as possible-and maybe even offer some new perks the shrimp has never seen before!
The components typically found in a shrimp's habitat include (but aren't necessarily limited to):
- A cave
- A live sea anemone
- A resting pad hidden in the cave
- A raised dais for practice, usually in the middle of the tank
- A "toy" that can be explored-it can be as complex as a treasure chest or as simple as an old crushed can of soda
- A waterproof boom mic for recording
After considering the core elements of the livable space, perks and add-ons are almost infinite in possibility. Some of the most successful splurge items include:
- Warming pads for post-singing recovery
- Hydraulic tube mazes for high-energy fun
- Soft lights and current generators to set the mood for slower, ballad-style crooning
Despite your best efforts, the shrimp's habitat will eventually become covered with algae. It's a good idea to employ a few sea snails to periodically clean the glass and rock structures. You'll also want to regularly scrape the glass of the aquarium with a razor to cut away any hard-to-reach algae.
In the event that you have a bubble algae outbreak, it's imperative you act quickly. They may be shiny and attractive to look at, but they can quickly pollute the water and may even cause your shrimp's vocal chords to weaken. Your first response might be to purchase an emerald crab (Mithraculus sculptus), but this can lead to the singing shrimp tormenting or attacking the crab. It's theorized that the shrimp sees the crab's beauty as something of a threat. This ties in directly to ego issues with singing shrimp. (We'll cover this later in the guide.)
The best way to deal with bubble algae is to simply reach-with permission-into the tank and pull it off of the rock and other surfaces. As a last resort, you'll need to empty the tank and start fresh. Just be sure that your shrimp friend has a comfortable waiting area in the interim.
Once your singing friend is nice and comfortable, you'll want to make sure it stays that way, because a hungry shrimp is rarely a melodic shrimp. As an omnivore, your crustacean will consume both plants and animals for sustenance. Unlike standard shrimp, the singing variety are much more particular about their food sources. They steer clear of eating algae—hence the necessity for snails or other animals to prevent overgrowth—and only scavenge in the most dire of circumstances.
Organic microgreens are a good place to start as an everyday meal. From there, consider adding in some heavier proteins. (Mix them up every other day or so to keep the shrimp interested.) Raw hamachi slices, cashew butter, and even some poached egg whites are great options for a well-balanced meal. Consider pouring some freshly squeezed juices into the tank for extra vitamins and minerals.
Occasional treats are great ways to celebrate when your shrimp has behaved well or has overcome significant milestones (hitting notes outside of its natural vocal register, for instance). Selections like high-quality P.E.I. oysters or a spoonful of sturgeon caviar go a long way toward letting your melodic companion know that you appreciate them.
Unlike other pets, a singing shrimp requires a bit more than simple physical care. If you’re lucky enough to be caring for one of these majestic animals, it’s important to understand why you’ve been chosen. The shrimp looks to you as a coach as well as a caretaker. This means it expects to receive regular encouragement about its musical abilities. Compliment its tone and breathing techniques. Note when a song works well for its vocal range. But don’t be too lavish with praise, lest the creature think you’re patronizing or pandering to it. If this does happen, give it some space for 2-3 days so it can begin to appreciate you again.
Regular vocal routines
Regular vocal routines keep your singing shrimp in peak condition and help maintain a strong bond between you and your pet. You’ll want to maintain a practice routine of at least 10 minutes per day and then extend them up to an hour as the two of you grow together. If you’re new to vocal warm-ups, it’s a good idea to start with solfege (think “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music). Having a piano nearby will help you and your shrimp match tones. From there, variety is key. Do lip trills while your shrimp blows bubbles in harmony. Throw in some improvisational scatting if the routine starts to become too tedious or dull. The most important thing is that the two of you are spending time together and having fun while you do it. Don’t take it too seriously!
Occasionally your invertebrate friend will push him or herself too hard and end up suffering for it. It takes time to understand one’s vocal limits, but the limit can hit hard when it’s reached. Vocal nodules are relatively common ailments among singing shrimp, especially those in more brackish waters. (Saltwater naturally acts as a cleansing agent for the vocal chords.) Keeping the salt levels around the aforementioned 6,000 ppm will go a long way toward preventing this issue. However, nodules can still occur in even the most pristine environments. Signs to look for include hoarseness and a weakened pitch range. If you suspect your shrimp has nodules, gently suggest they take it easy for a week or so. If the symptoms persist, consult a doctor for an expert opinion.
A year or two into its life, your singing shrimp will begin shedding its carapace to make way for what we call the “performer’s shell.” Once this transformation is completed, your shrimp may seem to be radiating light from within. This is because the new coating carries a powerful reflective, glittery sheen. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a sequined outfit. Once this process occurs, you’ll know it’s time to begin promoting your companion in the music industry. Failure to do so will often distress the shrimp, potentially resulting in vocal degradation or shell loss.
The music industry is a complicated entity controlled by a few powerful sources. You’ll want to make the decision early in the shrimp’s career to either attempt to court a major label or pursue success independently. Signing with a label grants access to valuable promotional tools as well as entry to some of the most popular venues. However, be wary of iron-clad contracts that can lock you and your shrimp into years of toil with little support. Alternatively, independent musicians can struggle considerably, but they may find their hard work rewarded in the long run. If nothing else, you can negotiate a stronger deal with a record label when that time comes.
Dealing with ego trips
If you’re lucky enough to nurture a successful music career, you may find that your responsibilities with your shrimp have suddenly doubled or tripled. Your pet may begin acting out if their every need isn’t met. This is a totally natural response to unfamiliarity with fame, money, and the complications therein. It is imperative that you stand your ground during these first few transitional months. Make a few key compromises to show that you’re listening and understanding, but be wary of giving too much. Eventually the shrimp will likely throw a tantrum. Again, hold your ground, and you should be able to weather the storm. There is, of course, the possibility that your shrimp will not give in and will fire you as their manager and caretaker. This is as natural an event as the shrimp shedding its carapace or discovering its falsetto for the first time. If a firing does occur, appreciate the time the two of you shared together, and be ready to set your shrimp free.
Hopefully you aren’t too intimidated by all of the information in this guide. Caring for a singing shrimp can be one of the most rewarding experiences a pet owner can have! These incredible, lovable animals will enrich your life in ways you could never have possibly imagined. So get out there, sing an aria or two, and enjoy your time with your singing shrimp.