Do Bamboo Shrimp Play Dead? (Reasons + How To Determine!)

Note: Our website is reader-supported. We earn commissions when you buy through our links.

Shrimp are far from being modern-day Houdinis, but they sure can pull some fast ones over you. In fact, many Bamboo Shrimp owners report that their shrimp appeared dead for days only for the shrimp to burst back to life within a week.

So, Bamboo Shrimp play dead, but not on purpose. Instead, they molt and eat their exoskeleton on occasion, which makes them appear dead. It’s imperative to know how to determine a dead Bamboo Shrimp from an alive one so that you don’t flush a Bamboo Shrimp that is simply molting.


To learn how to determine if your Bamboo Shrimp is playing dead, keep reading. I fully explain why these creatures appear to play dead and what you can do to make the best decisions based on your shrimp’s health.

Do Bamboo Shrimp Play Dead? Yes!

There are tons of reports of Bamboo Shrimp appearing dead for days. The owners are unsure whether or not the shrimp is really dead, so they leave it there.

The shrimp may stay in place for days, but it will pop back to life within a week or so.

For many owners, this behavior is similar to playing dead. The shrimp simply look dead at the bottom of their tank, despite being very much alive.

Read: Can Shrimps Get Sucked Into Filter? (+How To Prevent!)

Why Do Bamboo Shrimp Play Dead?

Why exactly do Bamboo Shrimp play dead in the first place? For starters, understand that the shrimp are not trying to trick you.

It is not like a possum appearing dead to evade a predator, nor is it like a dog that is trying to impress its owner.

Instead, the shrimp is fulfilling natural needs and happens to look dead at the same time. 

#1. Molting

If a Bamboo Shrimp is playing dead, it most likely is molting. Molting is whenever the exoskeleton sheds from its body as the body grows. Shrimp are very sensitive during the molting time and prefer to stay really still. It may appear that your shrimp is dead when it is just molting.

Furthermore, some shrimp will eat the exoskeleton after molting. This causes the shrimp to stay still for even longer. If you suspect that your shrimp has recently molted but can’t find the exoskeleton, it most likely ate it.

#2. Filter Feeding

There is another possible reason why Bamboo Shrimp play dead. Sometimes, shrimp will be filter-feeding, which is essentially the process of sucking in food particles and small organisms from the water.

Although filter-feeding does not require the shrimp to stay still, some do during the process.

Related Read: Do Shrimps Eat Fish Poop?

How To Determine If Your Bamboo Shrimp Is Dead

Because it is possible for shrimp to appear dead even when they are not, it’s important to know how to distinguish a molting shrimp from a dead one. Luckily, this task is relatively easy if you use the following techniques.

#1. Watch The Other Fish Method

Whenever a shrimp dies inside its aquarium, the other shrimp, fish, and organisms will begin to feed on the dead carcass almost immediately. For this reason, shrimp that are playing dead are easy to spot.

If the shrimp is playing dead, you will not see any other organisms on it. In contrast, a dead shrimp will attract other organisms.

If you do not see any other fish or creatures trying to eat at the carcass, leave the shrimp be for several days, but continue watching it. More than likely, the shrimp is molting or filter-feeding and will be active again shortly.

#2. Poke The Shrimp Method

Another way that you could determine if the shrimp is dead is to physically touch it. Shrimp that are molting or filter-feeding will move when poked. If the shrimp responds to being touched, you know it is not dead.

Between these two methods, I recommend going with method one over method two. Although the poking method is effective, you run the risk of injuring the shrimp in the process. There’s no use taking this risk when you could just pay attention to the other fish in the aquarium.

It’s best to only poke the shrimp if it has been lying still for over a week. Once it’s been lying still for this long, you might want to double-check the status of your shrimp by poking it. However, poke the shrimp as gently as possible so as to do as little damage as possible.

What To Do If Your Bamboo Shrimp Is Playing Dead vs Actually Dead:

If you notice your shrimp is laying at the bottom of the aquarium, it’s natural to panic. Here is what you will need to do in either case of your shrimp playing dead or actually being dead:

#1. Playing Dead

If you suspect that your shrimp is just playing dead, leave it be. Although you might want to rouse the shrimp, letting it molt or filter feed is the best choice. Simply leave the shrimp where it is, but pay attention to it for the next couple of days until you confirm it is alive or dead.

#2. Actually Dead

If you find that your shrimp is actually dead, it’s important to remove the shrimp as soon as possible. Do not allow it to sit in the tank longer than it should.

Even though the other creatures will try to eat the shrimp, you don’t know why it died. If it was infected, the other shrimp may die too. Not to mention, leaving a dead carcass in the water will pollute the water. Even if the shrimp died due to natural causes, the chemicals produced in the decomposition process will negatively affect the water and fish inside.

For these reasons, use a net to get the fish out as soon as possible. Have a plastic bag ready. Put the shrimp inside the plastic bag while you are transporting it to its final location.

There are several ways that you can then dispose of the shrimp’s body. Because it is so small, they are all very easy and straightforward. Here are some of the best disposal options for a shrimp:

  • Bury in backyard
  • Bury in potted plants
  • Cremate
  • Throw away in trash

Burying the shrimp is the best option if you have a close relationship with it. You can bury the shrimp in your backyard if you have your own property. You can also bury the shrimp in a potted plant. Shrimp are small enough that you can bury them practically anywhere.

Cremating is more of an option when you have many shrimp. Because of how small Bamboo Shrimp are, cremating a single shrimp isn’t always the most practical option, but you might want to consider it if you do not have a property to bury your shrimp on.

You can always simply throw the shrimp away. Because of the size of the shrimp, it should not stink up your home. Especially if you dispose of the trash bag quickly, you don’t have to worry about the odor or germs of the dead shrimp spreading into your home.


Bamboo Shrimp are funny creatures. They are known to play dead, especially whenever they are molting. During the molting process, shrimp may appear dead. This is especially true if the shrimp decides to eat its exoskeleton after molting. Shrimp can also appear dead when filter-feeding.

In any of those cases, the shrimp isn’t intentionally playing dead. Instead, it is trying to fulfill a natural desire or need. It simply happens to look dead at the same time. Even so, make sure you thoroughly evaluate the shrimp before disposing of it.

As a rule of thumb, the shrimp is playing dead if none of the other creatures are feeding on its carcass. As soon as you see other fish eating the shrimp, dispose of it immediately. Regardless of whether you decide to bury or throw away the shrimp, fish it out of the tank quickly so as not to harm any of the other fish in the aquarium. 

Hopefully, your shrimp is just playing dead!

Recommended Reading: