I like to make my compost and know that you can add a lot of organic materials like leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste to it. But I had some leftover shrimp shells and wanted to know if I could add those to the compost pile as well.
Yes, you can compost shrimp shells whether they are raw or cooked. The shells will decompose and be broken down by the microorganisms into organic compost. The compounds in shellfish are beneficial to maintain soil health as well.
In this post, I’ll help you understand why it’s beneficial to add shrimp shells to compost and how you can do this in the best possible way.
Let’s take a look.
Are shrimp shells compostable?
Yes, shrimp shells are compostable and you can add them to the compost pile as part of your nitrogen-rich green material.
The shells are made of chitin, which contains a good source of nitrogen and calcium that will get added to the compost. There are also beneficial bacteria that thrive on the shells and will help with the composting process.
Shrimp shells can be composted, but it is important to keep in mind that they will take longer to break down than other organic materials. The shells are made of chitin, which is a tough natural polymer that can be difficult to break down. To speed up the decomposition process, you can grind the shells into small pieces before adding them to the compost pile. Additionally, you can add other carbon-rich materials, such as leaves or straw, to help balance out the high nitrogen content of the shrimp shells. – Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love
Why should you compost shrimp shells?
You should compost shrimp shells because they are organic material that you can avoid sending to the landfill. You can make it part of the compost and use it in your garden. This will help you protect the environment and save some money as you make your own compost.
Composting is the method where you add organic materials to a compost pile and let it sit for several weeks or months. The organic material breaks down because of the air and moisture in the pile.
This happens because of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil that decompose the organic material. After several months, the result is a dark, crumbly material rich in nutrients for your plants.
So by making compost you are saving organic waste from reaching the landfill and you’re creating rich, organic material for growing healthy plants.
When you add shrimp to your compost pile, they provide the beneficial microorganisms with rich compounds suitable for their growth. This will help the microorganisms grow and break down the other organic waste in the compost pile.
Shrimp shells contain chitin which is composed of proteins and minerals which actually help your soil with adding good quality nutrients. It is also known to help feed the bacteria and fungi in your compost, which makes it easier for your soil to break down. Shrimp shells also have a good amount of calcium which helps your composting soil to be good for adding to your plants as it is good for root development and growth. – Steve Eakin, Founder of Love My Bonsai
How do you compost shrimp shells?
Only use the shrimp shells and not the meat
The entire shrimp, including the shell and meat, is organic matter and you should be able to add the whole shrimp to the compost pile, right?
I would suggest to only add the shrimp shells to the compost pile. The shrimp meat can attract animals like cats, dogs, raccoons, and foxes to your compost pile.
It could also leave an unpleasant smell in the pile if you have placed it at the top. Shrimp can be quite expensive at the market and you don’t want to waste throwing the whole shrimp in the compost pile.
You can eat the shrimp as part of your meals and just use the shrimp shells for creating compost.
To ensure that all of the shrimp meat has been removed from the shrimp shell before discarding, squeeze firmly from the base of the tail to the top where the shrimp will more readily be available.
But, before tossing the shrimp shells into your compost, it is important to ensure that the remaining shreds of shrimp have been removed from the shell.
You can choose to use a fork or other utensil to scrape the shrimp out of the shell. You can also use a rolling pin or another solid object to crush the tail and roll the remaining shrimp out of it.
Dry and crush the shrimp shells for faster composting
You don’t have to do this process, but it can help in two ways. The process can help reduce the odor and prevent attracting pests. It can speed up the decomposition process.
You can boil the shrimp shells for 30 minutes and then leave them to sun-dry for a few days until they are brittle. Now you can crush the shells before adding them to the compost.
Once you have ensured that the shrimp shell is empty, you may choose a slow or a quick composting method. Either will work well and provide you with the benefits that shrimp shells can offer.
But, you can choose how quickly you would like to make room for other food (or more shrimp shells in the future) in your compost.
To use shrimp shells in compost, they should be broken down into small pieces before adding them to the pile, as this will help them to break down more quickly. They can be added to the compost pile along with other organic materials such as food scraps, yard waste, and coffee grounds. It’s not recommended to use shrimp shells directly into the soil, as the shells will not break down quickly enough to release their nutrients, and may even attract pests such as insects. It’s better to add them to a compost pile where it will be broken down by microorganisms and release the nutrients slowly into the soil. – John Ehrling, Garden Savvy
Use fast composting method with shrimp shells
When choosing to compost your shrimp shells with a fast composting method, be sure to crush the shells before placing them in the compost. Broken shrimp shells will decompose more quickly. Then, spread the broken down shrimp shells in a 3×3 foot spread along with other grass and leaf clippings.
The method of using shrimp shells in compost is the same as with any other green material such as dried leaves, grass clippings, or straw. You add the green and brown materials in the right ratio, such as 2 parts brown materials for every 1 part green materials.
You can add the green and brown materials in alternating layers as those are available to you, including the shrimp shells. Check your compost pile daily to ensure that there is adequate moisture (moist but not soggy to the touch).
If the compost is turning try, sprinkle a little water to get the moisture back into the pile. Rake through your compost to allow oxygen to permeate the pile and aid in the decomposition process.
Using a compost thermometer, you can make sure that the decomposition process is creating an internal heat of 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit, and if it is not in this range, then you can add or retract water or oxygen by repeating the previously mentioned steps. This will help to propel the quick composting. You should see results much more quickly this way.
Use slow composting method with shrimp shells
If you are not in as big of a hurry to compost your shrimp shells, you do not have to break them down, though it is still recommended. Either way, place your shrimp shells in a pile and cover them with about 10 inches of compost.
Then, you can leave them be and allow nature to take its course. Doing the slow composting method could take up to a year to completely decompose if internal temperatures average between 80-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Are shrimp shells good as fertilizer?
Shrimp shells can also be used as a fertilizer for your plants. The main reason shrimp shells are excellent fertilizer is the chitin compound that slowly adds nitrogen to your soil in a non-toxic method (safer than nitrogen-infused fertilizers).
This slow release of nitrogen can be absorbed by the fruits, vegetables, or whatever other plants you are attempting to grow.
Shrimp shells fuel the bacteria in your fertilizer with this chitin compound, and thus the bacteria can help in the organic process that fuels the decomposition of harmful fungi and propels the growth of helpful materials.
Finally, since shrimp shells (along with other shellfish) contain a healthy amount of calcium carbonate, they can be a great source of calcium when added to your soil.
If you’re going to add shrimp shells to the soil, I would suggest burying them at least 2-4 inches below. This will prevent pests like rodents from being attracted to the shells and digging into the soil. Avoid just throwing the shrimp shells on top of the garden soil.
If you want to reduce the chances of pests, you can dry the shrimp shells for a few days and crush them to a fine powder. Then add it 2-4 inches into the garden soil.
Can shrimp shells go down a garbage disposal?
If you are unfamiliar with the composting process, then you might be tempted to dispose of your shrimp shells in another way. Perhaps you would like to avoid placing them in your garbage bin for fear of them attracting unwanted pests. So, you consider the garbage disposal to avoid ever seeing these discards again.
Unfortunately, shrimp shells should not be dumped into a garbage disposal. Not only do the shells take a while to be broken down by the blades of the garbage disposal, but they can stick to the sides of the drain and hinder other discards from more quickly passing through.
Because of this, you will need to find another way to dispose of your shrimp shells. Of course, you can place them in your garbage bin. But, if you want to benefit more greatly from your shrimp shells, then discard the shrimp and place the empty shrimp shells in your compost instead.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.