Easily one of the most beautiful ornamental shrimps available in the hobby, the Harlequin Sis becoming more widely available. Its vivid colouration has also caused it to be referred to as the Painted Shrimp. This shrimp is sometimes confused with its Hawaiian cousin, H. Picta, which has purple and red spots.
The Harlequin Shrimp has a white body with large colourful spots in shades of red and blue. Generally the spots are red with a blue outline but this is not always the case. It has two large front claws that are for decoration only and are not used in hunting. It’s appearance has been described as being similar to that of a praying mantis.
This colourful shrimp is generally found in the Indo-Pacific and Central Pacific Oceans but there are also records of it being found in the eastern Pacific off the coasts of South and Central America. They are often found on rubble piles outside of coral reefs as opposed to the actual reefs themselves. Unlike many shrimps, the Harlequin Shrimp is an active daylight hunter in the wild and this behaviour translates to the home aquarium as well, perhaps adding to their popularity. Any hobbyist wishing to keep harlequin shrimp requires ample rockwork, both for the shrimp as well as their found source.
Apart from its striking colours the Harlequin Shrimp’s main attraction also adds somewhat to the difficulty of keeping them in captivity. Their diet consists almost exclusively of starfish, specifically Asterias rubens. While the Harlequin Shrimp provides a service by consuming these starfish, which can be harmful to corals, many hobbyists find that the starfish population in their aquarium is quickly decimated. In this case, starfish will have to be added in order to provide food for the shrimp. While some aquarists report success feeding them mysis shrimp this should not be relied upon. If a mated pair of Harlequin Shrimp can be introduced into a tank together they will hunt as a team which is a fascinating behaviour to watch.