Shrimp Muscular Necrosis: Causes, Prevention, Treatment

Have you ever noticed the tail of your shrimp turning white or milky color? Then, it’s a matter of danger. The symptom of the whitetail in shrimp refers to shrimp muscular necrosis causing 40-100% mortality. If you’re a shrimp owner, you may look for the causes, prevention, and treatment of shrimp muscular necrosis.

Shrimp muscle necrosis means the death of cells in the tail of shrimp. Gradually, the decay of cells starts spreading to the surrounding cells. Poor water quality, low dissolved oxygen, sudden changes in water parameters, malnutrition, and stress can be responsible for this white muscle disease. Although you can prevent this disease, there is no possible treatment for shrimp muscular necrosis.

In this article, I’ve explained the signs, possible causes, prevention, and treatment for shrimp muscular necrosis. If you want to ensure the good health of your shrimp, you must read this article.

So, let’s dive into this article to know more about shrimp muscular necrosis.

Signs of Muscular Necrosis In Shrimp

Muscular necrosis, a critical condition in shrimp, often eludes detection due to its minimal signs. Known also as white tail disease, its earliest indicator is white lesions in the shrimp’s tail.

According to shrimp expert Abhisek Mallick, proactive measures are crucial in shrimp care. He emphasizes the need for vigilant maintenance of tank parameters and advises against the use of harmful substances like insecticides near shrimp tanks.

Mallick also cautions against combining elements like active soil, Indian almond leaves, and alder cones, which can dangerously lower pH levels.

The vital sign of this disease is the white lesions in the tail area of shrimp. The word ‘necrosis’ derives from the Greek word “Necros”. It means death. The death of cells causes an opaque state in shrimp when these crustaceans are affected by muscular necrosis.

Such discoloration or whitish color starts in the tail side or abdomen area of the affected shrimp. Gradually, the progress of discoloration goes towards the head of the shrimp. When the muscles of the cephalothorax and abdomen get fully affected, the shrimp might become ivory white.

The signs of muscular necrosis become clearly recognizable among the colorless shrimp at the first stage. Such as Amano shrimp. The affected muscles of these colorless shrimp turn into milky white. So, the shrimp owner can readily detect that something must be wrong with their shrimp.

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8 Causes of Shrimp Muscular Necrosis

To prevent muscular necrosis in your shrimp, you should be aware of its root causes beforehand. I’ve enlisted 8 causes that are responsible for muscular necrosis in shrimp.

These mentioned reasons cause premature death of the cells by autolysis or unregulated digestion.

So, let’s take a look at the following causes.

1. Low Dissolved Oxygen

To keep your shrimp healthy, you must ensure that no external factors can cause the death of their cells. On the other hand, oxygen is a must-needed component for the survival of cells of any living. 

The cells of any part of the shrimp will die off when those cells are deprived of oxygen. When you keep your shrimp in water of low dissolved oxygen, the cells of your shrimp will not survive. As a result, your shrimp will suffer from muscular necrosis.

2. Inappropriate Water Parameters

Poor water quality is one of the top-listed reasons behind muscular necrosis among shrimp. Poor quality of water comes with inappropriate water parameters. When the water parameters for shrimp do not remain optimal, the water quality must be degrading.

As a result, the dissolved oxygen may get low in the water. From the above-mentioned reason, you must realize how low dissolved oxygen can be the cause of shrimp muscular necrosis. So, the root cause can be poor water quality or inappropriate water parameters of the shrimp tank.

It can be caused due to overcrowding, lack of filtering water, the presence of ammonia, etc. When you notice opaque coloration in the abdomen area, you should check the water parameters first.

3. Presence of Poisonous Substance

 Some reports are showing that the gills of shrimp exposed to cadmium suffered from muscular necrosis. Several toxic elements and heavy metals are lethal for any living species including shrimp.

If you follow the water parameters for shrimp, you must keep no ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and heavy metals in the water. Several poisonous substances can cause stress to shrimp. Such as nickel, lead, tin, chromium, cadmium, etc.

Long-term exposure to these poisonous substances is responsible for the autolysis of the cells of shrimp. Your shrimp may die off muscular necrosis if there remain toxic elements and heavy metals in the water. 

4. Sudden Changes In Salinity

In the case of keeping shrimp, salinity is a significant factor in ensuring their survival. There are different types of salinity levels depending upon the species of shrimp.

In addition, the growth level, homeostasis, and survival rate of shrimp are highly dependent upon the salinity level. If the salinity level changes suddenly, your shrimp will get a salinity shock. This shock may cause muscular necrosis in your shrimp.

5. Temperature Shock

Temperature shock or heat shock may cause muscular necrosis in shrimp. When your shrimp comes to exposure to extreme cold or heat, the cells of the affected shrimp produce heat shock protein (HSP). However, shrimp are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature.

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Shrimp tend to survive in the temperature of 60-76 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature suddenly goes too low or high, this may cause an opaque lesion in the abdomen of the shrimp. Sudden changes in salinity and temperature can make your shrimp affected by muscular necrosis.

6. Viral Infection

The researchers found some viruses responsible for muscular necrosis in shrimp. Penaeus vannamei Nodavirus or PvNV causes skeletal muscular necrosis disease in shrimp.

As a result, there will be massive cell deaths in the shrimp. You’ll notice the coloration of the tail of the affected shrimp turning into milky, white coloration.

7. Lack of Nutrients

Nutritional deficiency is another reason behind muscular necrosis in shrimp. When a cell of any living deprives of the required nutrients, there will happen necrosis and apoptosis. So, the cells of shrimp will die off when you do not feed them varieties of nutritious foods.

Sometimes, not giving supplementation is an additional reason for lacking nutrients. As a result, your shrimp may suffer from muscular necrosis.

8. Stress

You should know that prolonged exposure to stress can lead to the damage of proteins, DNA, RNA, lipids, and macromolecules among cells. There can be external and internal stress factors for shrimp.

Thus, stress is responsible for the apoptosis of cells. Not to mention, it leads to muscular necrosis, which starts from under the abdomen area to the head area of the shrimp.

6 Prevention Tips For Shrimp Muscular Necrosis

You might know that shrimp muscular necrosis has around 40-100% mortality rate. So, you should take proper steps to prevent this fatal disease from attacking your shrimp.

By taking small steps, you can also stop the progress of muscular necrosis in shrimp. Let’s take a look at the following steps for prevention.

1. Make A Large Water Change

When you notice the signs of milky coloration among your shrimp, you should take the initiative at that moment. There is a huge possibility that the tank water is the main reason behind the attack of muscular necrosis among your shrimp. So, you can make a large water change to stop the progress of the lethal disease.

2. Keep The Water Parameters Right

The basic rule of avoiding shrimp muscular necrosis is keeping the water parameters right. Depending on the type of shrimp species, their parameters are different.

Let’s take a quick look at the water parameters of Neocaridina shrimp and Caridina shrimp.

Temperature72-76 degrees Fahrenheit68-72 degrees Fahrenheit
Ammonia0-0.3 ppm0-0.3 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm0 ppm
Nitrate0 ppm0 ppm

Since your shrimp will leave excretions and uneaten foods, the water parameters may change fast. Hence, the experts suggest keeping a filter in your shrimp tank.

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Otherwise, there will add nitrite, nitrate, and other harmful components if the tank water isn’t cycled properly. Not to mention, the shrimp are sensitive to changes in water parameters. To prevent cell death, you should adjust the filter in your shrimp tank.

3. Feed A Nutritious Diet

To prevent muscular necrosis in your shrimp, you should feed them varied nutritious foods regularly. The nutrients of diverse diet help keep the cells of shrimp alive and healthy. Don’t forget to add supplements to fulfill the needs of minerals, calcium, and other required vitamins.

4. Keep Brown Leaves In Your Shrimp Tank

The researchers found that fallen brown leaves have beneficial components for shrimp. Such leaves are Indian almond leaves, Oak leaves, Catappa, etc.

These leaves release such components that have antibacterial and antifungal properties. So, these released components help your shrimp become resistant to bacterial and fungal inflation. As a result, these brown leaves may prevent shrimp muscular necrosis.

5. Keep The Temperature Constant

Temperature shock is a vital reason behind the death of cells in a shrimp. So, you must keep the temperature constant to prevent muscular necrosis.

For this, you can adjust a thermostat regulating under the tank heater. It’ll regulate the temperature level in the tank. In addition, you can keep a thermometer to check the temperature regularly.

6. Removing Stress Factors

To keep the shrimp cells alive and healthy, you must remove all types of stress factors for your shrimp. Shrimp can get stressed due to several reasons. Such as poor water quality, incompatible tank mates, toxins in water, overfeeding, etc.

You should recognize the signs of stress in your shrimp to find out the stress factors. There’ll be loss of color, loss of appetite, lethargy, molting problems, decreased growth, etc.

How Do You Treat Muscle Necrosis In Shrimp?

If your shrimp is at the primary stage of muscle necrosis, you can take measures to stop the growth. This disease can get fatal to your shrimp if the white coloration spreads to the abdomen area.

The first thing you should do is quarantine the sick shrimp. Since muscle necrosis is infectious, you should keep a separate tank for the affected shrimp and others.

Keep changing partial water in the quarantined tank. If you’re lucky, your affected shrimp may recover. Otherwise, there is no treatment for muscular necrosis in shrimp.

Freshwater Shrimp Diseases, Prevention & Cure

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Before You Go

In this article, you’ve learned about deadly shrimp muscular necrosis. There’s another life-risky issue of shrimp named Shrimp’s white ring of death. You can go through the following article to know about possible causes and preventions to deal with this deadly problem.

How To Deal With Shrimp’s White Ring Of Death!

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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