Freshwater Shrimps – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

If you’re a new aquarist, shrimp probably aren’t the first thing to come to mind. It’s more likely you’re thinking of neat, colorful fish for your new tank.

It’s true that fish are the most common creatures in aquariums. But freshwater shrimp are becoming more popular with both beginners and experts.

Shrimp can be satisfying and incredibly useful additions to your tank. Certain species of freshwater are particularly popular and simple to take care of. Once you have some general knowledge of shrimp-keeping, you’ll easily be able to pick the shrimp species that’s best for you.

Popular Fresh Water Shrimps

The multitude of freshwater shrimp species can make picking one difficult. Still, there are still some species that remain as popular as ever. Here’s a breakdown of a few most common choices:

Red Cherry Shrimp

These shrimps are known for – you guessed it – their beautiful red colors. Females tend to have a deep, lush hue while males are paler in color. These shrimps are one of, if not the most common choice for new shrimp keepers. They are incredibly simple to care for and easily found in nearly any aquarium store.

Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo Shrimp – sometimes called Wood Shrimp – are particularly good at cleaning your water. They eat up particles of food and thus are easy to feed. Their color is a mix of red and brown, and they tend to be on the larger side. Keep in mind that their size requires tanks of at least 20 gallons.

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp are popular scavengers of the freshwater shrimp world. They tend to leave other shrimp be in search for food. This makes them very easy for other species to get along with. Aside from their friendly nature, they’re translucent color looks especially neat.

Bee Shrimp

The bee shrimp, usually only as long as 1 inch, can be a bit trickier to keep than others. They like water on the warmer side and can be a bit more difficult to keep healthy. Still, there are many beautiful color variations of bee shrimp. Consider the bee shrimp if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge.

Crystal Shrimp

Crystal shrimp are picky when it comes to their tanks. They need precise water temperatures and pH levels at all times. Because of this they can be difficult to keep if you’re starting out. Crystal shrimp are good, however, at absorbing nitrates. If you keep a crystal shrimp, add plants to your tank to finish your nitrogen cycle faster.

Neocaridina Shrimp

The neocaridina is especially easy for beginners to breed. They deal well with wider ranges of water conditions as well. Interestingly, they are related to the red cherry shrimp and sometimes are called the “yellow shrimp”. However, they can actually sometimes like translucent. Yellower neocaridina shrimp tend to be more expensive than their ghost-like brethren. However, the yellower the shrimp the better they light up your tank.

Red Rili Shrimp

Like the neocaridina, red rilis are also related to the red cherry shrimp. They are much smaller though and usually only grow to be one inch long. The red rili loves to munch on algae, so bring plenty of plants to your tank. These are also simple to breed even for beginners. Keep your tank between 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit. From there you can let your red rili start to breed on their own.

Blue Velvet Shrimp

Another relative of the red cherry shrimp, the blue velvet shrimp is adored for its color. These scavengers have big appetites and will eat anything from protein pellets to algae. They are simple to breed for beginners and are rather hardy. Keep your tank between 72- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit for blue velvet shrimp.

Blue Bolt Shrimp

Similar in color to the blue velvet variety, blue bolt shrimp have a wonderful whiteish blue hue. They are particularly peaceful and get along well in community tanks. Blue bolts are relatives to the bee shrimp and are great cleaners. These dwarf shrimp will thrive in aquariums of around 10 gallons. Keep their tank temperatures between 65- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels between 6.2 and 7.8.

Blue Tiger Shrimp

That’s right, we’re officially on a blue species streak now. The blue tiger shrimp – or sometimes the Orange Eye Blue Tiger – is another great community addition. Like the blue bolt variety, blue tiger shrimp are peaceful and play well with other shrimp species. Guppies, for example, are a great choice of small fish to pair them with. They’ll get along just fine with at least 10 gallons of water that’s between 65- and 75- degrees Fahrenheit.

Blue Pearl Shrimp

Rounding out our blue species of shrimp is the Blue Pearl Shrimp. Blue pearls have a faint blue hue and have gone through many generations of selective breeding. This has been to squeeze out as many color variations as possible. Blue Pearl Shrimp like their water a bit water, around 62- to 72-degrees Fahrenheit. They do especially well with plants in their tank and are fairly simple to breed.

Snowball Shrimp

The Snowball Shrimp is a relative of the blue pearl variety. Their namesake comes from the eggs they lay, which – you guessed it – look like tiny snowballs. Their water parameters are very similar to their blue pearl relatives. They like to shed their exoskeletons, which can sometimes startle new aquarists. Keep them as you would like a blue pearl, and make sure to give them ample vegetation in their tank.

Pinto Shrimp

The pinto shrimp is a relative newcomer to shrimp-keeping. Sometimes called the Fishbone Shrimp, the pinto sports black and white patterns all over its body. They thrive in warmer temperatures between 62- and 76-degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your pH levels between 5.8 and 7.4. They can be a bit tricky to handle for newcomers and tend to be pricier too. A single Pinto Shrimp can run you upwards of $20.

Indian Whisker Shrimp

Perhaps the most aggressive and touchy on our list is the Indian Whisker Shrimp. The Indian whisker species looks like a larger Ghost Shrimp. They can reach lengths up to 2 or more inches. They will outright kill most species of shrimp they share a tank with. It’s recommended that you keep them in their own tanks of at least 5 gallons. They also thrive in some of the warmest parameters on our list. Keep them in temperatures between 72- and 82- degrees with pH levels around 7.0 to 8.0

Vampire Shrimp

Closing out our list is one of the rarest shrimp species known to the hobby. The Vampire Shrimp looks almost like a crayfish given its size. They can reach sizes as big as 6 inches and look mostly translucent. Uniquely, they use small fans to grab particles of food floating in their tank. These shrimp are not recommended for beginners since they can be difficult to feed. Give your Vampire Shrimp baby shrimp food for best results.

Diet – What do Shrimps Eat?

Feeding freshwater shrimp is almost always straightforward and simple. Shrimp tend to be versatile eaters and will adapt to many diets.

Many popular shrimp species for sale love to eat algae. The dwarf freshwater shrimp, for example, regularly eats up algae and smaller particles. But it’s not difficult to find other food sources for your shrimp. Freshwater shrimp will eagerly eat nearly anything you give them, within reason.

Other popular shrimp like the bamboo shrimp will eat microorganisms and other tiny particles. You can also consider flakes, algae rounds, and pellets depending on the size and number of shrimps.

It’s best to change up your shrimps’ diet regularly. Consider changing out foods most days for a balanced diet. As a rule of thumb, you should give your shrimp only what they can eat in a couple of minutes. Overfeeding your shrimp can bloat them and cause long-term issues.

Breeding – How To Breed Freshwater Shrimp?

Breeding freshwater shrimp can be tricky business. Hatcheries and wild shrimp have the most success when it comes to breeding. But if you’re on your own, you’ll need to be very diligent.

If you’re determined to breed your shrimp yourself, consider the species you have. Successfully breeding freshwater shrimp depends heavily on the species. This is one of the reasons why it’s common to breed captive shrimp.

However, one of the best species for breeding is the Red Cherry shrimp. This sturdy type of shrimp breeds quickly and gets along with its species. A trick to breeding these shrimps is to raise your tank temperature to around 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you do decide to breed your shrimp, consider buying plant covers. Thick patches of this cover make your shrimp feel safe enough to breed. You can pair these covers with harder water to raise calcium and mineral levels. Doing this can help your shrimps’ eggs mature more quickly.

It’ll be pretty obvious when your female shrimp are pregnant. You’ll be able to spot eggs under their tails, which need oxygen to stay healthy. If your shrimp are pregnant, it’s highly recommended that you use an aerator or filter wool. This will prevent damage to eggs and your pregnant shrimp.

For the best results, do research on your specific species to see if breeding is an option. It’s also a good idea to have at least a few shrimps when you’re starting out to see if any start breeding. It can be tough to begin breeding, so try and be patient starting out.

Setting Up Your Freshwater Tank

It’s important to get your tank ready for freshwater shrimp before you buy them. Many new aquarists think that keeping shrimp is only for experts. And while it’s true that these shrimps are fragile, they are not difficult to handle.

The first thing to consider is your tank’s water condition. Water quality is your best friend, no matter what species of shrimp you’re keeping. And the bigger your tank is, the easier it will be to control your water quality. Smaller tanks will wreak havoc on your little critters if you’re not careful.

So you now that a larger tank is the way to go. But just how big do you need to go? How many gallons are you going to need for your new shrimp colony?

The answer is that it depends, especially on your species of shrimp. A 5-gallon tank might work for a small colony of dwarf shrimp. A 10-20-gallon tank is better suited to a larger colony in general. Research your species to figure out what tank space works best.

You do have more wiggle room when it comes to making mistakes if you have a bigger tank. Having more room makes it easier to grow a large shrimp colony. And thankfully, larger tanks don’t usually cost much more than smaller ones. It’s worth the investment to go bigger if you’re going to have a shrimp colony.

Filtrating Your Tank

Shrimp will need filters in their tanks as much as your fish. A quality aquarium filter system lets your tank run cycles. These cycles help your tank become a sort of ecosystem. This ecosystem will filter out compounds and nitrates that can harm your shrimp. A good filtration system is just as important as regularly cleaning your tank.

At this point, you may be worried about picking a tank filter. “What if I accidentally kill my fish with the wrong filter?” This is valid if you’re new to keeping shrimp. But picking your tank filter doesn’t need to be complicated.

Most importantly, you should purchase an aquarium filter that is safe for your shrimp. Some popular choices for shrimp owners are: 

  • Sponge Filters: The sponge filter is a wildly popular choice for both new and experienced shrimp owners. These filters use air pumps and are great for tanks that hold between 15-20 gallons.
  • Internal Filters: All-purpose filters for general-purpose needs. These usually work no problem in a tank with shrimp. But make sure your filter’s design doesn’t put your shrimp at risk.
  • Canister Filters: These are for the aquarist who wants the best possible water quality. Consider using these only if your tank is on the larger side.

The filter that you decide on should be safe for your shrimp and fish. Also make sure that whatever you pick creates proper water currents. If your current is too powerful your shrimp will be at risk.

Taking Care of Your Water

Up until now, you may think that freshwater shrimp are easily damaged. But in fact, shrimp can stay hardy under the right conditions.

Water quality is key to creating proper conditions for your shrimp. Always keep ammonia and nitrate levels to an absolute minimum in your tank. No matter what, you need to be using filters. These filters should go on your inlet tube, so they don’t suck up your shrimp.

The best water for shrimp like crystal and bee shrimp has low pH levels. But other shrimp, like the Caridinia and Sulawes, need higher levels and more alkaline. Overall, freshwater shrimp can withstand some change in water quality. But the kind of shrimp you own will determine the best water conditions for them.

Adding plants to your tank also makes sense if you keep shrimp. Plant supplements can encourage algae to grow that your shrimp can clean. If you’re interested in adding plants, it’s always important to do proper research.

Some plant supplements have copper that can harm your shrimp. You will also need to keep a close eye on your filter and exchange your water every few weeks. You must regularly change your tank water to keep your shrimp safe from certain compounds and heavy metals.

You should try to change your tank’s water by at least 30 percent on a weekly basis. You can go a step further and let your water sit with a de-chlorinating solution. De-chlorinating will get rid of harmful compounds from your tank water. This will also give your water a chance to mature.

Getting Your Shrimp Ready to Move

Moving your shrimp to their new tank can be intimidating. Especially as a novice, you may be worried that one small mistake will cause permanent harm. But as long as you pay attention to your water stability, you should be good to go.

Be absolutely sure that your tank’s pH levels and temperatures are ready for your shrimp. These are vital for long-term health for these critters. You’ll want to add your shrimp to a large bowl with your tested water. Your shrimp don’t like fast changes, so make sure you’re using the right water.

Once they’re settled in, they should get used to your water if you tested properly. Shrimp are hardy creatures and can withstand pH levels or temperatures that vary a bit. Be warned, however, that badly tested water will quickly kill your new shrimp.

Tank Size

By now, you’ve likely settled on what shrimp species you’ll buy. You’ll need to have a clear idea of how big your shrimp are when picking a tank. You also need to think about whether you’re adding more shrimp to your tank. Ff you’re just sticking with one, you don’t need as much space.

The species of shrimp you have is also important to consider. Various shrimp species tend to do better in different sizes of tanks. Amano shrimp and bamboo shrimp will get along just fine with anywhere between 10 to 55 gallons in a tank. Tinier ones like the red cherry and crystal shrimp will need even less space.

Also keep in mind the maturity of your aquarium. If you’re a beginner with a new tank, certain shrimp won’t do well in your conditions. For example, dwarf shrimp won’t survive for long in a brand new tank setup. More mature tanks tend to have more stable water hardness or softness and pH levels.

If you’re still concerned about your tank environment, consider vegetation or sponge filters. It’s a good practice to keep live vegetation and sponge filters with your shrimp. You can also try using substrates that have neutral pH levels. You can use these specifically for certain freshwater shrimp species.

Are Freshwater Shrimp Right For Your Aquariums?

New aquarists should know about keeping shrimp when they’re starting out. Keeping shrimp as a beginner can expand your knowledge and is incredibly enjoyable.

Keeping shrimp as a hobby continues to become more popular. This makes it easier than ever to learn about how to keep them. It also means that there are communities you can use for help and advice.

Some of the best reasons to keep shrimp are their cleaning abilities. Aside from being good tank mates for fish, freshwater shrimp are great cleaners. They will remove particles of food and rid your tank of algae. And if you have a larger tank, you can easily create a healthy shrimp colony.

No matter your experience level, consider keeping some shrimp in your tank. They are easy on beginners and highly satisfying for detail-oriented experts.

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