Raising Fire Shrimp for the Marine Aquarium Trade

Erin Gaglias

Erin Gaglias, RWU Class of 2019

Major:  Marine Biology
Minor:  Aquaculture and Aquarium Science

For an entire summer and fall semester, Erin Gaglias worked in the Wet Lab at RWU on an innovative research project that no other scientists in the world are attempting: how to raise Fire Shrimp for the marine aquarium trade.

With hands-on learning opportunities as the cornerstone of an RWU education, we empower students to undertake deep research projects and gain valuable skills and experiences in their undergraduate programs. A jack-of-all-trades scientist and engineer, the project required all of Gaglias's skills from marine biology to  aquaculture and aquarium science, as she investigated the optimal conditions for the shrimp's growth, designed and built the aquarium systems in which the crustaceans lived during her experiments. 

Fire Shrimp
A Fire Shrimp in RWU's Wet Lab.

Her hard work earned her second place student poster at Aquaculture 2019, the world's largest aquaculture conference and trade show, where she outperformed mostly master's and Ph.D. students to claim the award for best research presentation.

A vital player in the health of coral reef ecosystems, the fire-engine-red crustaceans are highly sought after for hobbyist’s tanks and with all captured from the wild, evidence suggests their species are being exploited, Gaglias said.

Rearing them from larvae to adults, Gaglias experimented with optimizing the shrimp’s first feedings, salinity and temperature levels for successful aquaculture.

“If we can optimize the process for aquaculture in a lab, they can be raised on a larger scale, which would mitigate the need for taking them from the wild,” she said. “This isn’t just scientific research – it was also a cool engineering project. You have to be a carpenter and you have to be a plumber. I even make my own saltwater because the shrimp need a specific salinity.”