Acquiring your first stomatopod (Updated:April 10,1998)
Should you get a mantis shrimp?
Like everything else in life, I guess the answer is that "it depends."
If you simply want one in order to see it in action as it gobbles up some unfortunate live fish or invertebrate, then you might want to reconsider your urge to buy one. It is a heck of a lot cheaper to feed the things bits of shrimp and other frozen foods than to give it a daily diet of live animals. I also read somewhere that a continuous diet of FW fish may cause liver failure in marine orgs in the long run (although the writer did not explain why).
If you like "pets" that boldly display their colors and provide much needed color to an aquarium, then these invertebrates may still not be for you, since most are retiring animals, and do not regularly venture forth unless in an extremely hungry mood.
If, however, you are interested in studying and caring for animals that are behaviorally complex and interesting, as well as relatively easy to care for and sometimes colorful to boot, then the stomatopods may be a viable option for you. These things are pretty hardy, and their reputation as extreme killers and destroyers of marine aquaria has (I believe) been somewhat overblown. I noticed, for example, that the disappearance of a tank inhabitant has been almost always been blamed on mantis shrimps in the aquarium-related ngs and discussion forums. They have, unfortunately, become the "boogeymen" of the hobby.
Where and how can I acquire a mantis shrimp?
Many of the mail order companies offer Odontodactylus scyllarus for $10 or less (see When is a Clown Mantis not a Clown? for warnings). I prefer to simply request or order the things from local fish stores, because the relative inexpensiveness of the animal makes ordering by mail (with the additional handling, shipping, etc costs) grossly inappropriate.
How easy is it to find these critters?
Not very easy, believe it or not. This is because there is almost no consumer demand for these animals, mainly due to the extremely bad press surrounding mantis shrimps in the marine aquaria field. In addition, some retailers or suppliers do not want to deal with this type of marine life, and may strongly urge the customer not to purchase mantis shrimps. For example, when I asked the proprietor of a NY shop whether they had any mantis shrimps, one of the help quipped (only half-jokingly) that he "hoped not."
Here's a list of some shops in the NJ area that seem to get them regularly or periodically:
How much do they cost?
Gonodactylus sp are usually found as excess "baggage" in the live supplies of LFS, and you should be wary of assertions by shops that they order the things from suppliers. These specimens, which measure around 4-5 cm or less, should be worth less than $7 (in U.S. Dollars). Larger, relatively drab looking specimens in the 7-10 cm range should be between $7-15, and even the largest and most colorful individuals should not have a price exceeding $20-25, although special orders push this up significantly. The rules regarding pricing are not rigid, however (and in fact I've come across quite a few proprietors who had no clue as to what price to charge), and may fluctuate widely based on other factors such as temporary current demand, availability of the specimens etc.
Should I take any precautions when buying one?
Web Site Author: A. San Juan
Site Created February 3, 1998