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. Aquarianists in the USA are now able to access vibrantly colored bred forms, in strikingly contrasting colors from Europe and Asia, as well as new wild catches from every part of China and Hong Kong.
Today, shrimp is the most invertebrate in our aquariums. We have over 20 years of experience in shrimps. We want to help hobbyists as well as the trade avoid mistakes and enjoy the best hobby. Scientifically speaking, the shrimp that we collect belong to various genera and families. However, one thing unites them all is that they spend their entire lives, or at least most of it, in freshwater, especially as adults. Some species are dependent on the original habitat of their ancestors the sea. They need fresh water to reproduce. These species belong to the so-called primitive type and produce large numbers of very small eggs per batch. The larvae born from these eggs hatch in open water. There, they become part of the plankton. They begin a benthic existence on the ground only after their time as larvae. Around this time, they also migrate back to pure fresh water.
There are many habitats that shrimp can live in, which has created a wide range of species and stunning variations in their appearances. The result of adaptation to their different habitats is what gives rise to their amazing colours and patterns. 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 are different in terms of their body sizes and habits. There are no differences in the requirements of shrimp from each group when it comes to their environment. Practically every shrimp available in the trade belongs in one of the three groups, under systematical aspects. 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.
With over 290 species, shrimp of the genus Caridina are one of the most diverse groups within the Atyidae family. Recent research has shown that there are numerous discrepancies in this genus and it needs to be reviewed scientifically. Neocaridina, which has 30 species, has also had a wide distribution in hobby.
Shrimp and other Invertebrates Food
Omnivorous animals eat food of vegetable as well as of animal origin, sometimes in different proportions, sometimes in an absolutely balanced way. These are the majority of freshwater dwarf shrimp that we have in our hobby. They feed on both plants and (usually dead!) animals, but also on biofilms that are rich 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.
Shrimp King’s holistic food philosophy takes this 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. With the many high-quality ingredients used, every food stick is provided with a diverse diet. Shrimp King foods are made only from food-grade, all-natural ingredients. We use a combination that is suitable for the nutritional physiology of the dwarf shrimp. Shrimp King foods contain no artificial colorants or additives. They do not contain antioxidants, preserving agents or attractants, no fishmeal, no fishery by-products or cheap by-products of vegetable origin. The protein content of each food variety was carefully chosen so food-related molting problems can be practically ruled out.
The main feed Shrimp King Complete provides your shrimp with everything they need. If you have a large number of growing juvies and berried females in the tank, replacing two meals of Shrimp King Complete with Shrimp King Protein per week is a good idea – this will give them an additional portion of valuable, highly digestible 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. These minerals are readily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and have a high bioavailability.
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 enriched with the color boosters astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene, which provides especially the red, orange and yellow color variants of the genera Caridina and Neocaridina like for example Crystal Red, Red Fire, Sakura Red, Sakura Orange and Yellow Fire with a natural basis for a good color development. 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. This fact was taken into account when we created the Shrimp King Snail Stixx. They do not only contain valuable plant products but also proteins, which the snails need as building-blocks for their shell. We took into consideration the needs of biofilm-eating snails and chose microorganisms to provide protein in this food, just like freshwater snails. Yummy Gum, a food variety that can be easily applied to any surface, is ideal for omnivores. You can easily make a food film that biofilm eaters can eat.
Fan shrimp are also part of the group of omnivorous invertebrates. For them, we have developed a very special food variety that floats in water for long periods of time. This allows the shrimp to be caught easily by highly skilled specialists. Shrimp King Atyopsis has been created keeping in mind the high energy requirements and special life strategies of fan-shrimp.
Another group of omnivores are dwarf crayfish. Shrimp King Cambarellus, which is a food variety that includes insects and crustaceans, was developed with them in mind. It also contains valuable plant-based components like spinach, stinging nettle and Spirulina. 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.
Carnivorous animals eat food that is rich in proteins of animal origin. The colorful small land crabs from the genus Geosesarma, along with many other species of crab, are some examples of carnivorous insects.
Assassin snails can also be considered carnivores. They primarily eat snails, but will also eat other protein-rich foods if they don’t find any.
The larger representatives of the shrimp group, the long-arm shrimp, are also mostly carnivores. They hunt and eat live food, but also accept fresh-dead, frozen or freeze-dried foods or food sticks with a high protein content. The Shrimp King Protein is a good choice for carnivorous insects. Its high protein content makes it easy to digest. Artemia Pops are high in protein because they include brine shrimps 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.
The 5 Leaf Mix is a combination of five carefully selected leaves. It includes stinging nettle (birch), mulberry, walnut, peppermint, and mulberry. Shrimp, snails, dwarf crayfish and crayfish alike just love them.
Pops of vegetable origin are great as a supplement to main food. You can choose between Snow Pops consisting of pure soy bran that hardly pollute the water and give your inverts crucial fibre and vital substances besides high-quality proteins of vegetable origin, or Algae Pops, which contain Chlorella and Spirulina algae besides the soy bran, or Moringa Pops, with Moringa leaves and fennel in addition to the soy bran.
Shrimp King Pops is a fantastic addition to the main meal and an excellent way to add variety to your diet. They enhance a balanced, healthy growth and a good reproduction rate.
Shrimp King Snow Pops are a very valuable snack, ideal not only for shrimp, but also for crayfish, omnivorous crabs and snails.
Crayfish are somewhat special in this respect. 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. Insufficient protein intake can lead to them becoming cannibalistic, and they may begin eating their conspecifics. Especially young crayfish of the genera Procambarus, Cambarus and Cherax need an elevated protein level in their food, much more than adult crayfish.
Aquarium and Habitat
Diseases and poisoning
Shrimp keepers will rarely encounter diseased shrimp if they have the right living conditions. Small injuries to the shrimp’s skin can cause darkening of the affected areas. These injuries, unless they have affected deeper tissues, should be treated before the shrimp sheds 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! Aquatic plants bought from nurseries can also be dangerous for shrimps. 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. These substances can be extremely toxic to shrimps. For this reason, new plants should be watered for several weeks before being planted in a shrimp aquarium.
Tissue cultured plants are not affected and could 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. Most species are very tolerant of water parameters. The pH preference of dwarf shrimps belonging to the genus Caridina ranges from 6.0-6.7, sometimes to 7.0. Shrimps of the Neocaridina genus are tolerant to pHs between 6.0 and 7.5.
The oxygen content in the water is crucial 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. Moreover, these animals like low light and many hideaways where they can stay during the day.
Most of the dwarf shrimps come from moderate to subtropical climate zones, where the water temperatures are around 15-25degC. Sometimes packages may arrive in cold water, especially when they are being shipped.
Today’s shrimp are quite 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. This material will be colonized by many micro-organisms, including paramecium or vorticella. These micro-organisms are microscopically tiny species of worms and slime molds. These micro-organisms are the dwarf shrimps’ natural source of food. By cleaning the surfaces with their bristles, parts of the slowly decaying wood are also consumed – a healthy source of food for the shrimps, rich in roughage.
Minerals and salt
Shrimp salts are one of the most important innovations 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+ was created for targeted hardening of osmosis water, rainwater and purified water and was developed especially for keeping and breeding shrimps from soft-water biotopes such as bee and bumble bee shrimps and their varieties. It has all the necessary minerals, trace elements, and vitamins that shrimps require for vibrant colours, healthy growth, and abundant reproduction.
Bee Salt allows water to be made with a higher total hardness and no carbonate hardness. This is the same as what soft-water shrimps are used to in their natural habitats. At the same time, it promotes the activity of filter bacteria and promotes plant growth. It is quick to dissolve and easy to use.
It creates ideal water conditions for successful breeding and keeping soft-water shrimps like bee shrimps and bumblebee shrimps. pH 6.0-6.5 – Boosts growth as valuable supplementary nutrition, especially for young shrimps – Promotes balanced growth, health, vitality and high breeding success – Increases total hardness, does not increase carbonate hardness – Includes essential vitamin C and vitamin B complex – Designed with a biologically balanced calcium-magnesium ratio – Creates the perfect conditions for problem-free moulting – Provides the perfect conditions for successful breeding – Extends the useful life of the substrate, as it does not increase carbonate hardness – Dissolves quickly and is easy to use
Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”
Origins of Crystal Red Shrimp, Red Bee Shrimp: 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 bottom is composed of rock with dead leaves.
We measured the water temperature at 16.6 degrees Celsius (61.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in March during rain. However, the water bodies are subject to considerable changes in temperature in the course of the year, and during the summer months the water may reach temperatures of up to 24degC (75degF).
In the aquarium, Bee Shrimp can be kept without a heater. If the temperature drops below 18degC (64.4degF), then 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: south 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. Tiger and Bee Shrimp interbreed but do not belong to the same species. Both belong to the Caridina serrata species group. The Tiger Shrimp wild form has vertical stripes along their abdomen or pleon that reminds one of a Tiger pattern.
These stripes can be thicker, or thinner depending on where the animal was collected. The colour of the tail fan and the head carapace may also be different. In the aquarium hobby, though, several colour morphs have been established, among them the uniformly Black Tiger Shrimp, Blue and Red Tigers. All wild forms are from southern China. They are found in streams 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 and Taiwan Bee Shrimp
A New Generation Origins: Hong Kong
The shrimp industry has been abuzz with new colour morphs that originated from Taiwan in recent years. At first, the breeders gave them creative names such as Panda Bee, King Kong and Blue Bolt. All of these shrimp are known as Taiwan Bee Shrimp in Europe. 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
Cherry or Red Cherry Shrimp, also known as Red Fire Shrimp, is the most common variety of shrimp. This highly diverse species comes from Taiwanese and Chinese waters. It can be found in more than 15 colors and different patterns. Rili Shrimp is a type of shrimp with transparent parts. 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 is a species that comes from the south of Central Japan. It can be found in rivers that lead to the Pacific Ocean. It can also be found in the rivers of Taiwan that lead to Pacific Ocean.
Males tend to grow larger than females. These shrimp can be sexed easily because of the dotted pattern at their pleon. The female can hold up to 2000 eggs under its pleon. To grow up, larvae require brackish or marine water. After a few days, they will die in fresh water. A separate tank is required to house the larvae. It should have a salinity level of 25 g/litre (6.6 g/gallon). The larvae eat Liquizell or similar micro food.
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. You must ensure that the larger, more robust Amano shrimp don’t eat the smaller shrimp.
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. Without an exact knowledge of their requirements you will not be able to assess what these animals really need. 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 Mixed with Other Shrimp
It is also not recommendable to just socialise any shrimp species with another. For example, long-arm shrimp shouldn’t be kept together. Dwarf shrimp is a welcomed addition to their daily meals.
Dwarf shrimp and fan shrimp can be socialized; however, freshly hatched dwarf shrimp offspring are potential live food for the latter, and survival rates are prone to decline. 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. The shrimp make up for this by having a high 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
It will be difficult to keep shrimps and crabs together. Even small crabs can be a problem for shrimps, and crabs after the last moult will likely kill shrimp.
Dwarf Shrimps with Snails & Mussels
Mollusks (snails and mussels) and dwarf shrimp as well as fan shrimp can be kept together without any problems. Snails, on the other hand, are viewed as a welcome snack by long-arm shrimp. Only highly productive species can be kept together for longer periods of time.
Dwarf Shrimp and Aquatic plants
Shrimp don’t cause any damage to healthy aquatic plants. There aren’t any species among the three that can cause serious damage to aquatic plants. The same applies to mussels, which may uproot a plant when digging into the ground but are otherwise completely harmless.
The majority of shrimp don’t eat aquatic vegetation so you can plant it however you wish. Although many shrimp come from waters with low plant growth, they don’t mind living in densely populated tanks. Fan shrimp should be allowed to roam freely in a tank that is not too crowded. They prefer to live in unplanted areas without rocks or stones.
Dwarf Shrimps and Lighting
In a shrimp tank, light does not only influence the behaviour of some shrimp species but also the formation of algae and microorganisms. 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 your shrimp are unhappy with the lighting in their tank, you can add floating plants to diffuse the light. Many shrimp keepers only use different types of mosses to lighten their tanks. A strong, bright light that imitates the sun on the other hand can improve the density of colours.