Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Species, Tank Requirements, Feeding, and More
Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King).
Aquaristics has seen a huge boom in the use of dwarf shrimps in recent years. In contrast to the 2 to 3 species that were available in the USA ornamental fish market 5-6 years ago, today there is a wide variety of species in the aquariums of importers, breeders and wholesalers. Brightly coloured bred varieties in brightly contrasting colours from Europe or Asia, along with invariably new wild catch from all parts China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, are reaching American aquarianists.
Today, shrimp is the most invertebrate in our aquariums. We have more than 20 years experience with shrimps and would love to help the hobbyists and trades to avoid making mistakes. It is the best hobby! Although the shrimp we have in our hobby are from different genera and families scientifically, what is common is that they spend most of their lives in fresh water, particularly as adults. Some species cannot reproduce without the help of marine water, as they are not completely independent from the environment where their ancestors lived. These species are the primitive type, and they produce large numbers of small eggs per batch. These eggs hatch into larvae that are released into open water. They form part of plankton and then go through many stages. They begin a benthic existence on the ground only after their time as larvae. They also return to pure freshwater around this time.
Shrimp species can vary greatly due to the variety of habitats they live in. This has led to some amazing forms and varieties. Their sometimes truly impressive colours and patterns are the result of their adaptation to the different living conditions in their habitats. Only three of the many species of shrimp are known to have made it into our aquariums: dwarf ornamental shrimps, fan shrimps, and long-arm shrimp. They differ in body size and form as well as in their habits. They have the same requirements for their environment, but they are not very different between shrimp belonging to each of these groups. Most shrimp that are available for trade fall under one of these categories. Dwarf shrimp are the most prominent and also the most popular among them. They are now common in aquariums and the hearts of keepers around the globe.
Shrimp of the genus Caridina, which includes over 290 species of shrimp, are one of most diverse families within the Atyidae. Recent research has shown that there are numerous discrepancies in this genus and it needs to be reviewed scientifically. Neocaridina is a genus that has been represented by thirty species. It has also been widely distributed in the hobby.
Shrimp and Invertebrates: Food for Shrimp
Omnivores eat both animal and vegetable food, sometimes in different amounts and sometimes in a balanced way. Most freshwater dwarf shrimp in the hobby belong to this group. They eat plants and (usually) dead animals in their natural habitats, as well as biofilms high in protein. Egg-bearing females and growing juvenile shrimp eat slightly more food of animal origin as they need more protein, whereas adult males and females that are not berried seem to focus more on a vegetable-based diet.
The holistic food concept of Shrimp King takes this fact into account. All Shrimp King shrimp foods have been formulated taking into account the unique feeding habits of shrimp. These foodstuffs provide shrimp with all the nutrients, tissue-building blocks and trace elements they need to grow healthy. Every food stick comes with a variety of high-quality ingredients. For the production of Shrimp King foods, we exclusively use food-grade all-natural ingredients in a composition that makes sense for the nutrition physiology of your dwarf shrimp. Shrimp King foods do not contain artificial colors or additives. They do not contain antioxidants, preserving agents or attractants, no fishmeal, no fishery by-products or cheap by-products of vegetable origin. Each food variety’s protein content was carefully selected to avoid food-related molting issues.
Shrimp King Complete is the main feed for your shrimp. It is a good idea to replace Shrimp King Complete twice a week with Shrimp King Protein if there are many growing juvies and berried males. This will give your shrimp an extra dose of highly digestible, valuable protein. If you want to create a grazing ground for your shrimp, use the recently developed Yummy Gum as a perfect food for omnivores.
In very soft water and if you have growing juveniles, we recommend a targeted mineral supplementation with Shrimp King Mineral twice a week. The minerals in this food have a high bioavailability, and they are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
For enhancing the intensity and the brilliance of the colors in omnivorous shrimp we have developed the variety Shrimp King Color, with natural colorants (amongst others, from microalgae, crustaceans and corn). It has been enhanced with color boosters astaxanthin (canthaxanthin) and beta-carotene. This provides the most vivid color variations of Caridina or Neocaridina genera such as Crystal Red, Sakura Red and Sakura Orange. This food can also be used to boost the color of dark-colored shrimp, such as Blue Dream and Carbon Rili shrimps.
The freshwater snails we have in the aquarium hobby (with the exception of the Assassin snail) also belong to the group of omnivores; they are by no means vegetarians. We have taken this fact into consideration when creating the Shrimp King Snail Stixx variety. They not only contain valuable plant materials but also protein, which snails require to build their shells. We’ve taken into account the biofilm-eating requirements of snails and selected microorganisms for protein in our food. This is exactly what freshwater snails have become accustomed to in their natural environment. Yummy Gum, a food variety that can be easily applied to any surface, is ideal for omnivores. With this food you can very easily create a food film for biofilm eaters to graze on.
Fan shrimp also belong to the omnivorous group of invertebrates. We have created a special, very finely-ground food variety for them that floats in the water for a long time and that can thus easily be caught by these highly specialized shrimp. When creating Shrimp King Atyopsis we have taken the elevated energy needs and the special life strategies of fan shrimp into account.
Another group of omnivores are dwarf crayfish. We took their special food requirements into consideration when we created Shrimp King Cambarellus; this food variety does not only contain insects and crustaceans but also valuable plant-based ingredients like stinging nettle, spinach and Spirulina algae. The consistency of these sticks is adapted to the feeding behavior of crayfish – as they are very messy eaters, we have made the sticks relatively hard so the crayfish lose less food when eating, which reduces water pollution.
Carnivores eat foods rich in protein of animal origin. Invertebrates that are carnivorous include the Geosesarma small, colorful land crabs, and many other species.
Assassin snails are also carnivores – they mainly feed on snails but will also gladly eat other protein-rich food if they do not find any snails.
Long-arm shrimp, which are the largest members of the shrimp group, are mainly carnivores. They can eat fresh-dead, frozen, or freeze-dried food as well as food sticks high in protein. Shrimp King Protein, which is high in protein but very digestible, is a great food choice for carnivorous vertebrates. The Artemia Pops are rich in protein as they contain brine shrimp and daphnia. They are particularly processed to allow them to be broken down in the aquarium to create a food rug on a slightly larger surface. This reduces feeding stress, even for those who are more picky.
Five carefully chosen leaves make up the 5 Leaf Mix: stinging net, birch and mulberry. Shrimp, snails, dwarf crayfish and crayfish alike just love them.
There are various Pops of vegetable origin, which are a great supplement to the main food. Snow Pops made of pure soybran are a great option. They don’t pollute the water, give you inverts vital fibre and nutrients, as well as high-quality proteins from vegetable origin. Algae Pops also contain Chlorella or Spirulina algae, while Moringa Pops include Moringa leaves and Fennel.
The vast number of positive ingredients makes the Shrimp King Pops a great supplement to the main food that adds variety to the diet of the invertebrates. They encourage healthy growth and a high rate of reproduction.
Shrimp King Snow Pops are a very valuable snack, ideal not only for shrimp, but also for crayfish, omnivorous crabs and snails.
This is something that makes Crayfish unique. Crayfish are unique in this respect. While adult crayfish (especially those from the genus Cherax) will eat mainly vegetables, young crayfish must eat a lot of proteins. They will become cannibalistic if they don’t get enough protein in their daily diet. Young crayfish from the genera Procambarus Cambarus, Cherax, and Cambarus need to eat more protein than adults.
Aquarium and Habitat
Diseases and Poisoning
Shrimp keepers shouldn’t have to worry about disease if they have the right conditions. Small, mechanical injuries to shrimp shells can lead to blackening around the affected area. Unless deeper tissues have been affected, such injuries should be cured by the time they next shed their skin.
If several shrimps die within a short time in an aquarium, this is generally due to poisoning. Particularly, shrimps are extremely sensitive to heavy metals like copper. This can happen from copper pipes in the aquarium or hot water boiler heating coils. Even small amounts of these metals can cause death, especially in soft water. Water conditioners can help reduce the risk, but it is best to use water completely free from copper in shrimp tanks.
Copper is also an active ingredient in many medicines for ornamental fish and algae conditioners. Such agents should never be used in aquariums containing shrimps! Shrimps may also be affected by aquatic plants purchased from nurseries. In particular, if these plants have been cultivated above water, they will have been treated with spraying agents to protect them from pests and fungal diseases. However, many of these substances are extremely poisonous for shrimps. For this reason, new plants should be watered for several weeks before being planted in a shrimp aquarium.
Tissue cultured plants will not be affected and can be used immediately.
Anyway, these robust inverts are impressive and highly enjoyable companions for an ornamental tank and will develop greatly when kept in the right conditions. The water parameters are not an issue for most species. The pH range of dwarf shrimps in the genus Caridina is 6.0 to 7.7, and sometimes even 7.0 for some species. Shrimps from the Neocaridina genus can tolerate pH 6.0 to 7.8.
The water’s oxygen content is vital for all dwarf shrimp species. Insufficient oxygen can cause disease or death in shrimp. A well-aerated and filtered tank is essential for a successful shrimp keeper. They also enjoy low light and hideaways, which is why they are able to stay at night.
The majority of dwarf shrimps are from subtropical climate zones with water temperatures between 15-25 degrees Celsius. Sometimes when shipped some packages arrive with water temperatures less than 15degC and especially in autumn or winter when in some states the temperature drops to less than 12degC the shrimps can become very still or fall into a stiff state and when the water gets warmer they just continue to be active.
The shrimp offered in the trade today are rather variable in size. Dwarf shrimp with a total body length of around 15 mm to 40mm (0.5 to 1.5 inches) can be perfectly kept in aquariums from 10 litres (2.6 gallons) upwards. Sometimes, however, it is easier to maintain an aquarium with 50 to 70lb (13 to 18gallons), as this provides enough space for the shrimps to reproduce. When setting up an aquarium for dwarf shrimps, one or more roots, dry twigs or dry autumn foliage from beeches or oak trees can be recommended in addition to a layer of gravel as the substrate and several plants. These wooden objects are not only decorative but also provide the shrimps with a variety of hiding places and refuges. And, more importantly, this material will soon be colonised by a multitude of micro-organisms such as paramecium and vorticella, microscopically small species of worm and slime mould. These micro-organisms provide dwarf shrimps with their natural food source. They can clean the surfaces with their bristles and also consume parts of slowly decaying wood – a healthy source for food for the shrimps that are rich in roughage.
Minerals and salt
The shrimp salts are a key invention in shrimp keeping. The salts have been especially developed to improve the growth of bacteria in the shrimp aquarium that in turn are getting eaten by shrimps.
Bee Salt GH+ is a targeted hardening agent for rainwater, osmosis and purified water. It was specifically designed for breeding and keeping shrimps from soft water biotopes like bee and bumblebee shrimps. It provides all the vitamins, trace elements, minerals and vitamins that shrimps need to grow vibrantly, reproduce abundantly, and have healthy growth.
Bee Salt can create water with an increase in total hardness but no carbonate hardness. This is similar to the way soft-water shrimps have grown to it in their natural habitats. At the same time, it promotes the activity of filter bacteria and promotes plant growth. It is fast to dissolve and simple to use.
It creates ideal water conditions for successful breeding and keeping soft-water shrimps like bee shrimps and bumblebee shrimps. pH 6.0 to 6.5 – This product has a slightly acidic pH of approximately.
Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”
Crystal Red Shrimp, Red Bee Shrimp Origins: Japan, Taiwan
It is the undisputed queen of all shrimp, and with its myriad of colour morphs and patterns it has become the most popular freshwater shrimp in the aquarium hobby ever. The red colour morph is said to have been discovered by a Japanese shrimp enthusiast, Hisayasu Suzuki, in one of his shrimp tanks in 1991. Through selective breeding and backcrossing, he was able to obtain a true-breeding species and laid the foundation for their triumph march around the globe.
Bee Shrimps are found in dense vegetation near the creek banks. The water is cool and has a strong current. The creek’s bottom is made up of rocks and dead leaves.
In March, the water temperature was only 16.6degC (61.9degF) during rainy weather. The water bodies can experience significant temperature fluctuations throughout the year. During the summer months, water temperatures may reach up to 24°C (75°F).
In the aquarium, Bee Shrimp can be kept without a heater. If temperatures drop below 18degC (64.4degF), they will stop reproducing. The Bee Shrimp lives exclusively in fresh water, and the females produce only a few but rather large eggs.
Crystal red shrimp
Caridina mariae “Tiger”
Tiger Shrimp Origins in southern China
There are many varieties of shrimp that can be traded and they are known as “Tiger Shrimp”. Recently, Tiger Shrimp were described as Caridina mariae. Although they are interbreeding, the species of Tiger and Bee Shrimp is not the same. Both belong to the Caridina serrata species group. The Tiger Shrimp’s wild forms have distinctive vertical stripes on the abdomen and pleon, which reminds us of a tiger pattern.
Depending on the location where the animal was originally collected, these stripes may be thicker or thinner. You may notice a difference in the colour of the tail fan or the head carapace. In the aquarium hobby, though, several colour morphs have been established, among them the uniformly Black Tiger Shrimp, Blue and Red Tigers. The wild forms all come from southern China, where they are collected in creeks and on flooded grassland. If you mimic the natural temperature curve when keeping them in an aquarium, they can be highly productive and will have considerably more offspring than Bee Shrimp. It is fine to keep them at room temperature. However, they will not tolerate high temperatures in summer.
Shadow Shrimp or Taiwan Bee Shrimp
Hong Kong: A New Generation of Origins
In the last few years, new color morphs from Taiwan have created a lot of excitement on the shrimp market. The breeders at first gave them imaginative names like Panda Bee, King Kong, Blue Bolt, Black Diamond, Red Amber or Red Ruby. These shrimp are all known in Europe as Taiwan Bee Shrimp. These shrimp are known in Asia as Shadow Shrimp, Shadow Bee Shrimp, or Shadow Bees.
Red Cherry Shrimp, Red Fire Shrimp Origins Japan and Taiwan
The most widely spread shrimp in the hobby is usually called Cherry or Red Cherry, sometimes Red Fire Shrimp. This highly diverse species comes from Taiwanese and Chinese waters. It can be found in more than 15 colors and different patterns. Shrimp with transparent parts are called Rili Shrimp. This species is easy to care for and recommended for beginners. The aquarium size should be chosen well; too small a tank is soon overcrowded, as Neocaridina davidi is a highly productive species. The shrimp do not require a heater and are very flexible with water parameters.
Red cherry shrimp
Amano Shrimp, Yamato Shrimp Origins: Japan, Taiwan
Its ability to rid an aquarium of unwanted algae makes these shrimp, together with nerite snails of the genus Vittina, an ideal first stock in a tank. They don’t have any particular requirements and can be found in all aquariums. Caridina multidentata comes from the southern part of Central Japan, where it is mostly found in rivers leading to the Pacific Ocean. It can also be found in the rivers of Taiwan that lead to Pacific Ocean.
The females grow much larger than the males. These shrimp can be sexed easily because of the dotted pattern at their pleon. The female can carry up to 2,000 eggs under her pleon. For larvae to thrive, they need to be exposed to brackish water and marine water. In fresh water they will die off after a few days. If you want to raise the larvae you need a separate breeding tank with a salinity of 25 g per litre (6.6 g per gallon). The larvae consume Liquizell, or other similar micro-foods.
It is really astonishing that these shrimp will live to be eight years old and over, especially if you keep in mind that usually, most dwarf shrimp species only reach an age of two to three years. Amano Shrimp can be co-housed with other shrimp species quite well but can be rather dominant especially when it comes to feeding. Make sure the large, robust Amano shrimp do not leave the smaller shrimp without food.
Please make sure you inform yourself carefully before you socialise shrimps with other inverts, fish or plants in order to avoid grave and possibly critical errors. You will not be able assess their needs if you don’t have a good understanding of them. If you choose aquarium inhabitants just like you choose the colour of your substrate or your backdrop, i.e., solely for aesthetic reasons, you will most probably run into severe problems and face utter disappointment sooner or later. Even organisms that live together in nature may cause trouble in the confined space of an aquarium.
Dwarf Shrimp with Other Shrimp
It is also not recommended to mix shrimp species. Long-arm shrimp should never be kept together with other shrimp, for example. For them, dwarf shrimp are nothing but a highly welcome addition to their daily food.
Fan shrimp and dwarf shrimp can be socialized. However, the offspring of newly hatched dwarfs shrimp are potentially live food for them and their survival rates are susceptible to falling. If the dwarf shrimp species are closely related, they will likely hybridise in one tank. Shrimp species that are known not to hybridise will still not do too well when kept together in the long run as sooner or later one species will dominate the other, and the suppressed species will slowly dwindle away and disappear entirely after some time.
Dwarf Shrimp with Crayfish
Keeping shrimp in the same tank as crayfish is possible, given that you choose compatible species. In many subtropic habitats, there are dense shrimp populations in the waters, and some of their members are eaten by the crayfish there. However, the shrimp compensate for this fact with a strong reproduction rate. Socialisation may even work with less productive shrimp in an aquarium if you make sure you never keep small crayfish species like those of the genus Cambarellus with dwarf shrimp, e.g., of the genus Caridina.
Socialising larger crayfish with small shrimp is much more favourable. The presence of shrimp in a crayfish tank may even have very positive effects on the tank biology as dwarf shrimp are great for cleaning up after the crayfish have eaten. Large fan shrimp (of the genera Atya and Atyopsis) are often hurt or even killed by crayfish, though, especially after moulting. Long-arm shrimp are hardly suitable for social tanks at all, and most representatives of this group pose a critical danger even for crayfish larger than themselves. After moulting the crayfish will be attacked and severely hurt or even killed, if not earlier.
Dwarf Shrimps with Crabs
Any attempt to keep shrimps together with crabs will most probably not be successful. Even small crabs can be a problem for shrimps, and crabs after the last moult will likely kill shrimp.
Dwarf Shrimp with Snails and Mussels
It is possible to keep fan shrimp, dwarf shrimp, and mollusks together. The snails will be viewed by long-arm shrimp as a tasty snack. However, only the most productive species of shrimp will live for longer periods of times if they are socialized with them.
Dwarf Shrimps and Aquatic Plants
Shrimp are not harmful to aquatic plants. Among the three groups, there are no species that are known to damage aquatic plants severely. Mussels are the same, although they can cause damage to aquatic plants by digging into the ground.
Shrimp do not eat aquatic plants. You can plant your tank however you like. Although many shrimp come from waters with low plant growth, they don’t mind living in densely populated tanks. In a tank dedicated to fan shrimp please make sure these somewhat plumper shrimp still have room to move without hindrance, though. They prefer to live in unplanted areas without rocks or stones.
Lighting and Dwarf Shrimp
Light can have a significant impact on the behavior of certain shrimp species and the formation of microorganisms in a shrimp tank. These are important parts of the everyday diet of most dwarf ornamental shrimp, and thus your lighting system ought to be well-adapted to the species you want to keep. If the behavior of your shrimp tells you they find their tank too bright you can use floating plants to somewhat diffuse the light in the tank without having to invest into a new lighting system. Shrimp keepers use a variety of mosses that do not require much light. A strong, bright light that imitates the sun on the other hand can improve the density of colours.