Stenopus hispidusredbanded coral shrimp, 'opae-huna

Geographic Range

Stenopus hispidus is cosmopolitan. It can be found in tropic waters throughout the Indo-Pacific Region from the Red Sea and southern Africa to the Hawaiian Tuamotu. It is also found in the western Atlantic, from Bermuda and off the coast of North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico and southern Florida to the northern coast of South America. (Zhang, et al., August 1998)


Stenopus hispidus can be found in a variety of reef habitats from coral ledges to rocky ledges and crevices, but are occasionally found in undercut mats of rhizomes of Thalassia or discarded man-made objects such as car tires and buckets (Colin, 1978; Limbaugh et al., 1961). They are found in 2 to 4 meters of water, usually beyond the turbulent zone, but have been observed as deep as 210 meters (Limbaugh et al., 1961; Williams, 1984). (Colin, 1978; Limbaugh, et al., 1961)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef
  • Range depth
    2 to 210 m
    6.56 to 688.98 ft
  • Average depth
    2-4 m

Physical Description

Animals in the family Stenopodidae have spines on their body and on the larger chelipeds. The antennae are larger than their body (Limbaugh et al., 1961). Stenopus hispidus grows up to 6.2 cm (Williams, 1984).

Stenopus hispidus has a red and white-banded body and claws, with the bands sometimes bordered in purple. Banded coral shrimp have two pairs of long, white, hair-like antennae, the first of the antennae being uniramous (Humann, 1992). The walking legs and some parts of the body appear translucent while the third, or middle, pair of legs is enlarged and supports large claws (Humann, 1992). The claws have the ability to automize, or break off by natural means, when the individual feels threatened. The claw can regenerate and often results in unequal claw size (Colin, 1978). (Colin, 1978; Humann, 1992; Limbaugh, et al., 1961; Williams, 1984)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    6.2 (high) cm
    2.44 (high) in


Nine larval stages have been described (Williams, 1984). After being laid, the eggs hatch 16 days later (at 28 deg C), and usually at night (Zhang et al., 1998; Debelius and Baensch, 1997). Teleplanic larvae may be able to delay metamorphosis until reaching suitable habitat (Williams, 1984). Depending on diet and temperature, adult banded coral shrimp molt every 3 to 8 weeks (Debelius and Baensch, 1997). (Debelius and Baensch, 1997; Williams, 1984; Zhang, et al., August 1998)


Males and females pair off to mate, possibly pairing off as juveniles and remaining together for years. (Limbaugh, et al., 1961)

Mates may go through a courtship ritual when a male is equal or larger than a female (Williams, 1984). The female Stenopus hispidus mates with her paired male immediately after molting (Zhang et al., 1998). The eggs initially appear as a greenish mass and are placed on the swimmerets underneath the female’s abdomen. The eggs hatch 16 days later (at 28 deg C), and usually at night (Zhang et al., 1998; Debelius and Baensch, 1997). (Debelius and Baensch, 1997; Williams, 1984; Zhang, et al., August 1998)

  • Breeding season
    Year Round

The eggs are placed on the swimmerets underneath the female’s abdomen until hatching. (Williams, 1984)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • female


Stenopus hispidus juveniles often pair and grow together (Limbaugh et al., 1961). Adults are usually found in pairs and remain in the same area for days, months or even years (Colin, 1978). More specifically, S. hispidus has never been observed to move a distance greater than half a meter unless disturbed, and even then, the paired individuals attempt to stay together (Limbaugh et al., 1961). Depending on diet and temperature, the banded coral shrimp molt every 3 to 8 weeks (Debelius and Baensch, 1997). (Colin, 1978; Debelius and Baensch, 1997; Limbaugh, et al., 1961)

Communication and Perception

Crustaceans have setae and sensilla found all over the body. Sensilla covering the body function as mechanoreceptors or chemoreceptors. Special chemoreceptors are on the antennae. Well developed receptors provide info about appendage position and movement. Crustaceans also have simple and compound eyes.

Food Habits

S. hispidus consumes the parasites, injured tissue and undesirable food particles it “cleans” from cooperating coral reef fish species. (Limbaugh, et al., 1961)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
    • eats other marine invertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton


There are no regular predators of Stenopus hispidus, but they do not entirely escape predation. Some complete individuals have been found in the stomach of some groupers such as Epinephelus merra. (Debelius and Baensch, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

Stenopus hispidus is a “cleaning shrimp.” Individuals remove and consume parasites, injured tissue and rejected food particles from some coral reef organisms (Limbaugh et al., 1961). S. hispidus perches near the opening of the cave or ledge in which they are living and wave their antennae to attract fish (Humann, 1992). These locations sometimes become known as cleaning stations. Individuals have the freedom to enter the mouth and gill cavities of host organisms, without being eaten, but usually remain in contact with the substrate when cleaning. Species that S. hispidus has been known to clean include morays, tangs, grunts and groupers (Limbaugh et al., 1961). (Humann, 1992; Limbaugh, et al., 1961)

Mutualist Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

S. hispidus is one of the first species to be imported for use in the tropical marine aquarium trade. It is sometimes difficult to raise because of its territorial temperament. (Debelius and Baensch, 1997)

Other Comments

There is still much that is unknown about the development, lifespan and conservation efforts of Stenopus hispidus, but further research is ongoing.


Renee Sherman Mulcrone (editor).

Kristen Sanderson (author), Hood College, Maureen Foley (editor), Hood College.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Brusca, R., G. Brusca. 1990. Invertebrates. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc..

Colin, P. 1978. Caribbean Reef Invertebrates and Plants. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications Inc. Ltd..

Debelius, H., H. Baensch. 1997. Baensch Marine Atlas, Vol 2. Morris Plans, NJ: Tetra Press.

Humann, P. 1992. Reef Creature Identification. Jacksonville, FL: New World Publications, Inc.

Limbaugh, C., H. Pederson, F. Chace Jr.. 1961. Shrimps that clean fishes. Bulletin of Marine Science Gulf and Caribbean, 11(2): 237-257.

Williams, A. 1984. Shrimps, lobsters, and crabs of the Atlantic coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institute Press.

Zhang, D., L. Junda, L. Cresevell. August 1998. Mating behavior and spawning of the Banded coral shrimp *Stenopus hispidus* in the laboratory. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 18(3): 511-518.