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Red Claw Macro Shrimp

Macrobrachium hendersoni sp.

Male Red Claw Macro Shrimp


The Red Claw Macro Shrimp (Macrobrachium hendersoni sp.) is also known as the Freshwater longarm prawn.  It originates in India, is very popular in the European hobby, but is seldom seen in the United States.  They are easy to keep and breed and make a very interesting pet.  Watching them feed and pick through the gravel with their many “hands” is extremely fascinating.  Their long antennae help them sense other animals and they are constantly moving.  They can be very quick jumping backwards but are easy to catch in a net because of that.  Adults have bodies that are quite translucent except for their claws, which can be bright red and stronger in the dominant male.  Males are larger and have bigger claws also.  Their claws are very long, almost to the point of looking cumbersome, hence the name “longarm prawn”.  Their adult body size is 2 ½ to 3 inches, not counting their claws, which can add 1/3 to ½ body length more.  Females have shorter, less colorful claws and they are smaller in size.  They can live several years, which is better than dwarf shrimp, which only live one or two years.  They can be quite aggressive, especially between males, and it is recommended that a tank have only one male, who will get along fine with several females.  There have been occasional reports of them sneaking up on resting fish and clipping fins or eating a small fish.  Fighting males often lose claws, legs, and antennae, but will regenerate them in time.  When they molt and form a new exoskeleton, their bodies are soft and vulnerable, so hiding places like caves are recommended for them to retreat into.


Red Claw Shrimp will do well in clean medium hard water, and eat just about anything, including flake, pellets, worms, and frozen brine shrimp.  I sometimes feed mine scraped frozen beef heart and they will grab a chunk and retreat to an area where they can chew on it.  They leave plants alone but will feed on hair and string algae as well as pond and ramshorn snails (a good reason itself to keep them).  I have not found them able to eliminate trumpet live-bearing snails from a tank.


Breeding Red Claw Shrimp is quite simple.  The female lays around 100 eggs and holds them under her tail section until they hatch.  She often will retreat to a hiding place and stay out of sight.  When the fry hatch they are a small version of the adults and can fend for themselves.  This is not true of most shrimp, which have a larval stage.  Soon the fry are moving about the gravel and picking out small bits of food from it.  They are quite small and completely translucent at first, but in a month or six weeks will start showing some red color in their claws.  I kept mine in a 20 gallon tank with an undergravel filter and they did well.  I fed the fry by putting fine dry food on the water surface and then stirring it with a stick so it was dispersed about the aquarium.  Within 20-30 seconds the fry would come out of hiding and be feeding all over the tank.  A large clump of Anubias was in the center and most shrimp hid there.  I feel it best to scatter the food because each shrimp needs a certain area to feed in or they are constantly jumping out of each others way, and there was close to 100 fry in the tank.  The adults were left in the tank with little apparent loss of fry.  The fry seemed to sense the presence of an adult and would quickly jump away backwards when it moved towards them.  It takes around 4 months for them to mature.

I would highly recommend the Red Claw Shrimp as an interesting addition to anyones’ collection.  They are quite hardy, easy to keep and breed, and do a great job of vacuum cleaning the bottom.  I predict that you will spend many happy hours watching them!

Young Red Claw Macro Shrimp working the gravel