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Missouri's Freshwater Shrimp

Aug 13, 2018

Forrest Gump’s pal Bubba said that shrimp was the "fruit of the sea". They can also be found in our rivers and lakes.

Two kinds of freshwater shrimp live in Missouri waters.

The Mississippi grass shrimp, also known as glass or ghost shrimp, is common to sluggish, freshwater habitats. You can see their organs as their body is transparent like glass. At little more than an inch long, they are small and inconspicuous. These shrimp are relished by fish and other predators.

A much larger species, the Ohio shrimp, lives in fresh and brackish waters and may reach four inches long. They were known to migrate along the Mississippi river from the Gulf of Mexico and back. Ohio shrimp were commonly harvested for food in the 1800's. Today they are rare in our state.

Freshwater shrimp are food for fish and other wildlife and may live in the waters where you fish and boat. They are closely related to crayfish and are an important element of some Midwestern habitats.

Clear as Glass

  • In Missouri, the glass or ghost shrimp is a very common freshwater shrimp that lives among aquatic vegetation in the shallows and backwaters of slow-moving lowland streams and in pools and swampy areas.
  • This species occurs in Missouri’s eastern counties along the Mississippi River and in the Bootheel.
  • Freshwater shrimp are not eaten by people and are not important as bait. However, the freshwater “ghost shrimp” commonly sold at pet stores are usually some species of Palaemonetes. You might also have heard of cleaner shrimp, which are in the same family; they are popular in marine aquariums.
  • Freshwater shrimp are a favorite prey of fish and other animals. They are important in estuary habitats, transferring food energy from the simple plants and decaying plants and animals they eat, to the carnivores that eat them.
  • Researchers use freshwater shrimp as indicators for evaluating pollutants in a body of water.

For more on glass shrimp, visit MDC’s Field Guide.

mississippi_grass_shrimp_8-7-15.jpg

Photo of a gravid Mississippi grass shrimp in an aquarium.
Mississippi Grass Shrimp (Glass Shrimp; Ghost Shrimp)
Of Missouri’s two species of freshwater shrimp, the Mississippi grass shrimp is by far the most common and widespread.

ohio_river_shrimp_8-7-15.jpg

Photo of an Ohio shrimp with small grayish pincers in the foreground.
Ohio Shrimp (Ohio River Shrimp)
Of Missouri’s two species of freshwater shrimp, the Ohio shrimp is certainly the rarest.

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