Freshwater Shrimp As Pets by John Harris (Aiptasia)

I never thought i’d be keeping freshwater shrimp as pets, but it’s a strange hobby with a lot of cool twists and turns. There are predominantly two main genus types for the more colorful freshwater aquarium shrimp in the hobby: Neocaridina and Caridina Shrimp. Both come from the same original wild stock from China but have been selectively bred for new colors and patterns over several thousands of generations of shrimp all around the world. Other types of freshwater shrimp that are less colorful (glass shrimp, amano shrimp, etc.) will be covered in a future article. This article is specific to the colorful little jellybeans seen most often in the hobby. They are perfect in a small species tank on their own or as a bottom dwelling invertebrate in a shrimp safe community tank. Are Freshwater Shrimp good at algae control or do they just look amazing? Read on to learn how to care for your new freshwater shrimps.

Neocaridina: 

Neocaridina shrimp include several colorful varieties such as red cherry shrimp, blue dream shrimp, and yellow shrimp. Neocaridinas are the answer to a colorful jellybean variety in your tank and answer the question of which freshwater shrimp can be kept together. Neocaridina shrimp are excellent algae and biofilm grazers and you can put them to work using freshwater shrimp to clean your tank. They prefer slightly alkaline water conditions with a pH between 7.0 and 7.6. They like some calcium and other elements in their water to buffer the General Hardness of 6-8 (approx 150-300 tds) and a carbonate hardness of 2-5. They do not require a heater and prefer temperatures between 65f to 75f (18-24c). They like slow moving water. Neocaridina have a life span average of 18 months (one and a half years).

Caridina:

Caridina shrimp include varieties such as Crystal Red Shrimp, Taiwan Bee Shrimp, Blue Bolt shrimp and Amano shrimp. All except the Amano shrimps prefer very clean soft water with a pH range of 6.2 to 6.8 and a very low GH/KH level of 2-4 GH/1-2 KH (less than 150 ppm TDS).  They also prefer lower temperatures similar to their Neocaridina relatives. Amanos prefer water parameters more similar to neocaridina. Caridina shrimps are also excellent algae, detritus and biofilm eaters. Amano shrimp are slightly larger and have been bred to consume algae almost exclusively. Both have a similar lifespan to their Neocaridina cousins.

Feeding:

All varieties of freshwater shrimps enjoy eating biofilm from decomposing plant matter, algaes and even a little insect protein now and then. They’re omnivorous detrivores and enjoy grazing on: Indian almond leaves, dried stinging nettle leaves, alder cones, amaranth leaves, oak leaves and mulberry leaves. They will also consume spinach leaf and other edible leafy greens that humans eat. There are specific diets and pellets made for freshwater shrimps but they will also consume fish food and dried bloodworm as a treat food. Just make sure whatever food you’re offering doesn’t include a high concentration of copper as an ingredient. Look for low to no copper containing foods. Whichever foods your shrimp prefer, be sure to use a feeding dish in your shrimp aquarium to avoid spreading wasted food in your tank. We do not advocate the use of bacterial foods in shrimp tanks. It is our opinion they cause more harm than good.

Acclimation &  Tank Maintenance:

Both types of shrimp require a long and slow acclimation process. It is best to use a clean cup or bowl and drip acclimate them with water from their future tank. We prefer to start with reverse osmosis water that is completely pure and add shrimp re-mineralizer salts back to it to reach just the right mineral level for each type of shrimp. Drip the new tank water into your cup or bowl full of shrimps and let it drip about one drop every five seconds or so drip rate. If you have very expensive shrimps, it doesn’t hurt to keep drip acclimating your shrimps for up to six or even twelve hours. Some freshwater shrimps can be very sensitive to changes in water parameters. 

When doing water changes, smaller changes more often are preferred to bigger water changes less often. To keep your tank water stable, perform 10% water changes once a week for good health. You can use a gravel vacuum but be careful not to suck up any juvenile or adult shrimp with the tank water.

Shrimp Molts:

This part always freaks out new shrimp owners the most. Freshwater shrimp, just like their saltwater counterparts, have a hard chitin based exoskeleton instead of skin. This means that when a freshwater shrimp is ready to grow, it must shed its hard outer chitinous armor and shed it off in a molt. You might be lucky enough to spot a shrimp molt and mistakenly think that a shrimp has died, but it hasn’t. When a shrimp emerges from it’s molt, it usually hides for a few hours until it’s new chitin begins to harden. Shrimps will consume the molt for the  chitin and the calcium it contains so they won’t be in your tank long if you see one. It will get eaten. Supplemental mineral stones can help with shrimp molts as well as small additions of cuttlebone to a shrimp tank.

Breeding:

Breeding freshwater shrimps is generally pretty easy. To keep your shrimp colors the same, only keep like colored shrimp in the same tank (this is only for breeding, you can mix and match adults all you want). Females emit a powerful pheromone into the water just after molting when they are of breeding age. Females will hide at this time in plants or leaves. Males will become very active and attempt to track her down and mate with her.  You can spot a newly pregnant female when you can see small saddles of eggs form under her carapace, one on each side just behind her eyes along her back.

It generally takes a few days for her eggs to mature enough for them to be moved to her swimmerettes underneath her tail. The eggs can be any hue or color and often aren’t the same color as the adult shrimps, but don’t worry. Here, she will hold the eggs for around 40 days until they hatch. These species of freshwater shrimps have a benthic larval development, which means they are fully formed versions of adult shrimps when they hatch and don’t go through a free swimming larval stage like other shrimps do. Babies can be raised on  finely powdered spirulina based foods, one or two grains of bee pollen, brewers yeast and marine phytoplankton.

Some other general care tips at breeding time include being very careful with water changes and pregnant females. Sudden changes in water quality and temperature can cause her to drop and abandon her eggs. Also, be careful to protect newly hatched shrimplets from filter overflows and pipes. Add a sponge filter or sponge material to protect shrimplets from getting sucked into them.

Tankmates:

Let’s be honest, freshwater shrimps are a major part of every carnivorous and omnivorous fish’s diet. Even a strict herbivore has been known to accidentally suck up a baby shrimp every once in a while. So, the ability to find suitable tankmates will partially depend on your comfort level for the odd shrimp or two  disappearing. In a large tank with a huge colony of shrimp in it, you might not even notice. If you are breeding shrimp or are uncomfortable with them being eaten, it’s best to keep all fish out of a shrimp tank. Add a few olive nerite snails and call it a day.

If the odd shrimp being eaten doesn’t bother you, I would suggest: Mollies, Endler’s livebearers, guppies, plecos and suckermouth cats of all kinds and corydoras. I’ve also found that some species of killiefish also do well with them, such as the rocket panchax.

If you’d like to learn more about Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp, join us by clicking here to visit our online forums section.

Aiptasia

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