Stomatopod Log Entry: Peacock Mantis Shrimp Burrow Construction (Nov 13, 2000)

Contributor: Adam Jones

A first hand account of burrow construction in a tank-living stomatopod.


There just aren't all that many critters that can safely live with a mantis shrimp. Aside from being a ruthless predator, my mantis shrimp is the ultimate bulldozer. During the three months mine was in my refugium, the only two things that didn't get moved and/or buried were two pieces of live rock that weighed more than five pounds. My 15 cm (6 inch) mantis moved every other piece of live rock, every snail shell every piece of rock rubble. Much of the macro algae got buried and died off.

On June 25, 2000 I moved the mantis into its own dedicated 20 gallon acrylic tank.

The substrate is #10 grade crushed coral, 5 inches (12 cm) deep. The mantis seems to have a harder time making burrows out of this than he did the aragonite. He also makes zero mess. I used the biggest size crushed coral I could get locally; probably I should have used a smaller size like #5 grade. It was kind of cool to see the mantis in a tank without a burrow - no place to hide. But from the little I have read, it seems mantis shrimp need a burrow to feel safe and be healthy, just like many fish do. I've added some empty snail shells and bits of rock; we'll see if that's enough burrow building material.

The mantis molted the day before I moved him out of the 29 gallon tank. His (her?) colors keep getting better with each molt. The top of its carapace was an ugly beige-brown a couple of months ago. Now much of it has turned a dark olive green, starting at the tail and moving toward the back of its head.

The macro algae I planted in this tank during the move isn't doing any better than the original macro algae in the 29 gallon tank. I think Halimeda algae or the larger variety of bubble Caulerpa would work; unfortunately neither is available in my area. The smaller varieties of Caulerpa I've been using get shredded by the mantis' daily roaming, and end up decaying in the filter.

I moved all the rocks in the old 29 gallon tank to get a look at the burrow the mantis made. The burrow more or less caved in when I moved the rocks, but it was obvious the mantis had put a lot of work into fortifying the walls of the burrow. I removed 15 snail shells and about 20 small pieces of live rock that the mantis had used to fortify the walls of the burrow. The mantis built the burrow by laying a foundation of rock/shells and then piling sand on top of that. In some areas there were multiple layers of rocks, shells and sand. The finished burrow was roughly a "T" shape, although the mantis blocked the right-side entrance, leaving two entrances/exits. The burrow was about 14 inches long and 8 inches (34cm x 20cm) wide.

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