The Emotional Life of Cherry Shrimp

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So, the shrimp for my work aquarium finally arrived. When this posts, they’ll have been in the tank for a little over a week. Picked up on the way in for a late shift, the car was already nice and warm and they didn’t suffer any ill effects even though I had to stop for gas. A little extra water testing to make sure things are all good, a little bit of water spillage, and the Jacques Pack was released, not into the wild exactly, but into their new home. Hopefully they’ll be happy, although I really don’t know what shrimp psychology is actually like.

Are they capable of being happy? I’ve recently gotten a little involved in the idea of animal psychology from a completely different direction, but are shrimp more or less evolved than, say, reptiles? They response to stimulus, but what responses can I expect from them, and what is the, for lack of a better phrase, emotional content of the shrimp? Can they be happy? Can they be miserable? How do you tell the difference?

Apparently, you can do 5 to 10 shrimp per gallon. I’m not 100% sure how many I got, but I think there are 15 altogether for my 9-gallon tank. The store only charged me for 12, apparently because I’ve been so patient during the extra month it took for them to come in. I don’t know that I got a completely accurate count because there was some floating weed in the bag to help them final someplace to hide and have something to hold onto while I drove them to work.

So, I have a very good idea of what they need to survive, what they need eat, the water conditions they prefer, temperature and so on, and I’ve taken steps to ensure that the population density is relatively low, although the long-term population density is up to them, really. While they are tiny and delicate creatures, I do not expect the mortality rate be very high. I do expect to lose them, because they aren’t particularly long lived creatures and there’s no way to know how old any particular shrimp is when you get it. And they do tend to breed when kept together. So, I know enough, I think, to give them an adequate environment.

Does that mean I will be meeting all of their needs?

Most mammals are relatively easy to read in terms of general emotional content, and that’s because they, generally speaking, have emotions like we do. Not as complex, necessarily, but recognizable emotions. Cats and dogs, in particular, given a history of domestication on the order of 10 to 15,000 years, are fairly easy for most of us to figure out. But, really, most mammals we can figure out at least a little something about their emotional states, even if it does get harder farther down the ladder we go. Romans, for example, we can tell general states by watching them, but not nearly to the same detail, unless we make a serious study of it. And it’s also worth noting two things: first, that every species is different, and second, that the individuals of making up those species are individuals. While you can make certain sweeping generalizations about guinea pigs, for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean the guinea pig in front of you is going to fit all of those expectations.

Reptiles and amphibians are something else again. I have a little more experience with reptiles than amphibians, but, typically, I don’t see the same set of emotional states. Not that they don’t have emotions, but those emotions tend to be much simpler, much more primitive, and in a narrower range than the mammals of my acquaintance. The range of responses can be much more limited as well. And they don’t have the same set of neurological equipment that mammals or even birds do.

But shrimps are crustaceans, and, however you want to simplify things, crustaceans are essentially water bugs. Bugs are, as far as other life forms go, essentially alien to us. They have evolved completely differently, and there really is no easy comparison when it comes to neurological structures. There may be structural similarities, but those similarities may or may not mean anything.

Which brings me right back to asking what kind of emotional and psychological life shrimp have?

Might be something I’m trying to figure out the next a while. I’m going to avoid adding fish to the tank for a few weeks, at least, to have a look at some of their undisturbed behaviour. Be well, everyone.

Several members of the Jacques Pack through the too-reflective wall of the aquarium.
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