Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Species and Tank Requirements, Feeding and More
Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King).
In recent years, aquaristics has experienced a boom in the number of dwarf shrimps. 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. With more than 20 years of experience in shrimps we would like to support the hobbyist and also the trade to avoid making mistakes and have fun with the best hobby of all. The shrimp common in our hobby belong to different genera and families, scientifically speaking, but what unites them is that they spend all of or at least the most part of their lives, especially as adults, in fresh water. Some species have not become entirely independent of the original habitat of their ancestors, the sea, and they need brackish or marine water for reproduction. These species are the primitive type, and they produce large numbers of small eggs per batch. The larvae born from these eggs hatch in open water. There, they become part of the plankton. Only towards the end of their time as larvae do they start a benthic life on the ground. Around this time, they also migrate back to pure fresh water.
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. There are no differences in the requirements of shrimp from each group when it comes to their environment. Most shrimp that are available for trade fall under one of these categories. The most well-known and most loved shrimp is the dwarf shrimp. 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. However, recent research has found that this genus is in urgent need of a scientific review and re-structuring as there are many discrepancies to be found. The genus Neocaridina has up until now been represented by 30 species and has also found wide distribution in the hobby.
Food for Shrimp and Other Invertebrates
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 eat plants and (usually) dead animals in their natural habitats, as well as biofilms high in protein. Growing juvenile shrimp and egg-bearing males eat more meat-based food, while adult males and women that are not berried eat more vegetable-based foods.
Shrimp King’s holistic food philosophy takes this into account. For the composition of all Shrimp King shrimp foods, the special feeding habits of shrimp have been taken into consideration, and these foodstuffs give shrimp of all ages all the nutrients and tissue-building blocks, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fibre they need for healthy growth. Thanks to the numerous high-quality ingredients, a varied diet is automatically provided with every food stick. Shrimp King foods only use food-grade all natural ingredients. This ensures that your dwarf shrimp receives the right nutrition. 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. 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. 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.
We recommend that you supplement your water with Shrimp King Mineral two times a week if you have young children. The minerals in this food have a high bioavailability, and they are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
We have created Shrimp King Color to enhance the intensity and brilliance in the colors of omnivorous shrimp. It contains natural colorants, including microalgae and crustaceans. 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 color-boosting food is also good for dark-colored shrimp such as Blue Dream, Chocolate and Carbon Rili shrimps as well as Black Tiger shrimp.
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. These valuable plant products not only provide protein, but also important building blocks for the snail’s shell. 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. This food can be used to create a food film suitable for biofilm-eaters.
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 was created taking into consideration the unique life strategies and high energy requirements of fan shrimp.
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.
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 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. A good food for carnivorous invertebrates is the Shrimp King Protein variety, as its protein content is elevated yet extremely digestible, as is the Shrimp King Artemia Pops food. 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 variety consists of five carefully selected leaves: stinging nettle, birch, mulberry, walnut and peppermint from controlled cultivation. Shrimp, snails, dwarf crayfish and crayfish alike just love them.
Pops of vegetable origin are great as a supplement to 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.
Shrimp King Pops are a wonderful addition to the main food and add variety to the diet for invertebrates due to their large number of positive ingredients. 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.
This is a unique trait of Crayfish. Whereas most adult crayfish, especially those of the genus Cherax, will mainly eat food of vegetable origin, growing juvenile crayfish need a large proportion of proteins in their food. They will become cannibalistic if they don’t get enough protein in their daily diet. Procambarus, Cambarus, and Cherax are the most vulnerable crayfish species. They need more protein than adults.
Aquarium and Habitat
Poisoning and Diseases
With the right living conditions, shrimp keepers should only rarely be confronted with diseased creatures. Small injuries to the shrimp’s skin can cause darkening of the affected areas. If the injury is not to deeper tissues, it should be treated by the next time they 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.
Also, many medications for ornamental fish or algae conditioners contain copper as an active ingredient. Such agents should never be used in aquariums containing shrimps! Newly purchased aquatic plants from nurseries may also be harmful to 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 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.
All-important for the entirety of dwarf shrimp species is the oxygen content of the water. A low level of oxygen can lead to diseased shrimps, or even death. This is why a properly filtered or aerated tank is essential for any shrimp keeper. These animals also like low light and hiding places where they can rest during the day.
The majority of dwarf shrimps are from subtropical climate zones with water temperatures between 15-25 degrees Celsius. Sometimes packages may arrive in cold water, especially when they are being shipped.
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 wood items are decorative and offer shrimps a place to hide or retreat. 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 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 provides all the vitamins, trace elements, minerals and vitamins that shrimps need to grow vibrantly, reproduce abundantly, and have healthy growth.
With Bee Salt, water can be created with an increased total hardness, but no carbonate hardness, similar to that which soft-water shrimps are accustomed to in their natural habitats. It promotes the growth of plants and encourages the activity in filter bacteria. It is quick to dissolve and easy to use.
– Provides the perfect water value for breeding soft-water shrimps, such as bee shrimps or bumblebee shrimps. pH 6.0-6.5 – Boosts growth and provides valuable supplementary nutrition, particularly for young shrimps.
Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”
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. Hisayasu Suzuki (a Japanese shrimp enthusiast) discovered the red color morph in 1991 in one of his shrimp tanks. By selective breeding and backcrossing he managed to get a true-breeding strain, and thus he laid the basis for their victory march around the world.
Bee Shrimp can be found in dense vegetation along the banks of creeks. The waters are cool and have a fast 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, water temperatures can fluctuate greatly throughout the year. In the summer, water temperatures could reach 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 only lives on fresh water. Females only produce a small number of eggs, which can be quite large.
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”. Tiger Shrimp have recently been described as Caridina mariae. Although they are interbreeding, the species of Tiger and Bee Shrimp is not the same. Both belong to the species group around Caridina serrata. 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. There may be a variation in the colour of both the tail fan’s and head carapace. In the aquarium hobby, though, several colour morphs have been established, among them the uniformly Black Tiger Shrimp, Blue and Red Tigers. All of the wild forms originate from southern China. These animals are often found in rivers and on flooded pastureland. 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. Room temperature is sufficient; however, keep in mind that Tiger Shrimp do not like too high temperatures during the summer months.
Shadow Shrimp and Taiwan Bee Shrimp
Hong Kong: A New Generation of Origins
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. These shrimp are all known in Europe as Taiwan Bee Shrimp. In Asia and among breeders in all the world, they are called Shadow Shrimp, Shadow Bee Shrimp or Shadow Bees.
Red Cherry Shrimp, Red Fire Shrimp Origins Japan, Taiwan
Cherry or Red Cherry shrimp are the most popular in the hobby. Red Fire Shrimp is also known as Red Cherry shrimp. This highly variable species originates from Chinese and Taiwanese waters and meanwhile you can find it in more than 15 different color and pattern. 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. No heater is required, and the shrimp are not very demanding when it comes to 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 is also found in rivers that run to the Pacific Ocean in Taiwan.
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 hold up to 2000 eggs under its 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. You will need to have separate tanks with a salt level of 25g per litre (6.6g per gallon) if you wish to raise the larvae. 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. Although Amano Shrimp can live in co-houses with other shrimp species, they can still be quite dominant when it comes time 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. Long-arm shrimp should never be kept together with other shrimp, for example. Dwarf shrimp is a welcomed addition to their daily meals.
Although dwarf shrimp and fan shrimp can be socialized, newly hatched dwarf shrimp offspring may be potential food for the former, and survival rates tend to decrease. If they are closely related, dwarf shrimp species can hybridize in one tank. This may produce a more or lesser attractive result. Even if shrimp species are not known to be able to hybridize, they will not fare well when kept together over the long-term. The dominant species will eventually take control and the rest will disappear.
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 and Crabs
It will be difficult to keep shrimps and crabs together. Even small crabs will bother shrimp severely, and after the next moult at the latest the crabs will kill the shrimp for sure.
Dwarf Shrimp with Snails, Mussels and Snails
It is possible to keep fan shrimp, dwarf shrimp, and mollusks together. 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 do not do any harm to healthy aquatic plants. There aren’t any species among the three that can cause serious damage to aquatic plants. This is also true for mussels. They can uproot plants when they dig into the ground, but otherwise are completely harmless.
The majority of shrimp don’t eat aquatic vegetation so you can plant it however you wish. Many shrimp are raised in water bodies that have low plant growth. However, they will not mind living in densely planted 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.
Lighting and Dwarf Shrimp
The light in a shrimp tank can not only affect the behaviour of certain species of shrimp but also causes the growth of algae and microorganisms. These parts are essential to dwarf ornamental shrimp’s daily diet. Your lighting system should be well-suited to your species. 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. Many shrimp keepers only use different types of mosses to lighten their tanks. Bright, intense light that simulates the sun can increase the colour density.