Peacock Mantis Shrimp: Nature’s Feisty Technicolor Boxer

By Jules Portnoy

Despite their name, these colorful marine crustaceans are actually not shrimp at all. The order Stomatopods diverged from its relatives in the class Malacostraca approximately 340 million years ago. 450 species of mantis shrimp have since been discovered and are divided into two categories of “smashers” and “spearers” based on the shape and function of their specialized forelimbs. Spearers typically prey upon soft bodied creatures such as worms, squid, and fish while smashers can produce the force required to break through the harder shells of bivalves, snails and other crustaceans.

Photo by Roy Caldwell

The peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) is classified as a “smasher” with dactyl clubs that can move at speeds over 50 miles per hour. Its punch can exert up to 15,000 newtons of force, causing the water to boil around the clubs. This voracious predator is native to the seabeds of the Indo-Pacific where it can usually be found in U-shaped burrows or hiding in rock formations. Impressive physical abilities aside, mantis shrimp are known to exhibit complex social behaviors. They are known to engage in ritualized fighting and are one of very few crustaceans that mate for life. Their amazing compound eyes with up to 16 photoreceptors allows them to perceive UV, visible, and polarized light. Their eyesight plays a role in mating rituals, fighting for dominance, and identifying their neighbors.

Photo by Jon Hanson

Peacock mantis shrimp have gained popularity in the aquarium trade due to their unique rainbow coloration and impressive abilities. While they are hardy creatures and are relatively easy to care for, a proper set-up is always important. A 20-to-30-gallon tank with sand and gravel substrate 1.5–2 times the body length, live rock and plenty of hiding spots would make a great home for a peacock mantis shrimp. Even though they can and will eat live foods, tong-feeding a variety of frozen options including krill, clams, scallops, and squid are a great way to ensure your pet is getting a healthy varied diet. Due to their carnivorous diet and aggressive nature, it’s not recommended to keep peacock mantis shrimp with other animals. If you are looking for a colorful invertebrate friend with the punching force of a .22 caliber bullet, the peacock mantis shrimp is definitely the species for you.

Our M-1 certified employees at Absolutely Fish would love to help you design a set-up or answer any questions you may have about peacock mantis shrimp, feel free to come into the store or give us a call at (973) 365- 0200. For more helpful information on peacock mantis shrimp, check out Aquarium Breeder’s article linked below.