I like to make my own 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.
Shrimp shells can go in compost 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.
I’ve written a lot more details on why shrimp shells are a good addition to your compost and their benefits as a fertilizer. You should also be aware of some materials that should not be added to your compost pile.
Why Should You Compost Shrimp Shells?
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 starts to break down due to the air and moisture in the pile.
This happens due to the beneficial microorganisms in the soil that decompose the organic material. After several months, the end 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.
How Do You Compost Shrimp Shells?
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 a bad 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 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.
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.
Fast Composting for 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 3x3foot spread along with other grass and leaf clippings.
Check your compost pile daily to ensure that there is adequate moisture (moist but not soggy to the touch). Rake through your compost to allow oxygen to permeate the pile and aid in the decomposition process.
Using a compost thermometer, you can check to 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.
Slow Composting for 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.
What Should You Not Put in Compost?
I would suggest not to put meat and dairy products in your compost pile. They can attract unwanted pests and animals to dig into the pile and cause problems in the composting.
You also don’t want to add any materials that could be toxic like wood chips coated with paint, chemicals, ink (including red and black ink such as on newspapers), and fecal matter.
Not only do these cause an imminent risk to the process of decomposition that should otherwise take place in your compost, but they will cause you not to be able to use the compost as fertilizer.
This is because the toxins and hazardous materials that are found in these items will not simply break down and disappear in the compost. Rather, even if they do begin to decompose and blend in with the other compost food items, they will add their toxicity to the material, so the remaining soil will not be healthy or safe to use in your garden.
You should also not put plants that have been infected with pests or diseases in the compost pile. Don’t put weeds that you pulled out in the compost pile. You would think that the high temperature in the compost pile would kill the weed seeds but some of them may still be present and would invade your plants when using the compost.
Are Shrimp Shells Good Fertilizer?
Shrimp shells can also be used as a fertilizer for your plants. The main reason shrimp shells are good 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 are able to 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.
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 placed down 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.