Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Species, Feeding, and Tank Requirements
Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King).
Dwarf shrimps have experienced a real boom in aquaristics 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. Vibrantly coloured bred forms in starkly contrasting colours from Europe and Asia as well as invariably new wild catches from all parts of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are reaching US 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! 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 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. The larvae born from these eggs hatch in open water. There, they become part of the plankton. After their time as larvae, they begin to live a benthic lifestyle on the ground. Around this time, they also migrate back to pure fresh water.
The abundance of different habitats has resulted in a great variability in shrimp species and in stunning forms. They adapt to different habitats and can display 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 vary in size, form, and their habits. They have the same requirements for their environment, but they are not very different between shrimp belonging to each of these groups. Under systematical aspects, almost every shrimp in the market is in one of these three groups. Dwarf shrimp are among the most prominent and popular. 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. 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. 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. This group includes most freshwater dwarf shrimp found in the 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.
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. 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. So food-related problems such as molting can practically be eliminated, the protein content of each food variety has been carefully chosen.
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. Yummy Gum, a food that is perfect for omnivores, can be used to create a grazing area for your shrimp.
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.
Shrimp King Color is a variety of shrimp that enhances the intensity and brilliance, among other things, by using natural colorants from microalgae, corn, and crustaceans. 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 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. They not only contain valuable plant materials but also protein, which snails require to build their shells. We have taken the requirements of biofilm-eating snails into account and have chosen microorganisms as a source of protein in this food – just as our freshwater snails are accustomed to in nature. The food variety Yummy Gum is also ideal for omnivores and can easily be applied to any hard surface. You can easily make a food film that biofilm eaters can eat.
Fan shrimp is also included in the omnivorous invertebrates group. 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. Shrimp King Cambarellus was created with their food needs in mind. This food variety not only contains insects and crustaceans, but also valuable plant-based ingredients such as spinach, stingingnettle and Spirulina alga. 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. Invertebrates that are carnivorous include the Geosesarma small, colorful land crabs, and many other species.
Assassin snails are carnivores as well. They prefer snails to their main food, but will eat any protein-rich food.
The long-arm shrimps, the larger members of the shrimp family, are mostly carnivores. They eat fresh-dead or frozen food. 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.
There are many Pops from vegetable origin that can be used as an addition to your main meal. 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 promote healthy, balanced growth and good reproduction rates.
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. 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. Young crayfish from the genera Procambarus Cambarus, Cherax, and Cambarus need to eat 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 mechanical injuries to the shrimp’s shell cause black colouring around 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! Shrimps may also be affected by aquatic plants purchased from nurseries. These plants may be especially harmful if they have been raised above water. Many of these substances, however, are highly poisonous to 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.
These robust inverts can be a great companion for ornamental tanks and are very easy to care for. 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.
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. 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. 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
One of the most important inventions when it comes to shrimp keeping is the shrimp salts. 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 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. It also promotes the growth and activity of bacteria filters. 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 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. Hisayasu Suzuki, a Japanese shrimp enthusiast discovered the red colour morph in his shrimp tank in 1991. He was able to create a true-breeding variety through selective breeding and crossbreeding, which he used to help them win the war 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.
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 temperatures drop below 18degC (64.4degF), they will stop reproducing. The Bee Shrimp is a solitary creature that lives in fresh water. Only a few, but very large, eggs are produced by the females.
Crystal red shrimp
Caridina mariae “Tiger”
Tiger Shrimp Origins: southern China
Many shrimp species are traded as “Tiger Shrimp”. Recent research has described Tiger Shrimp as Caridina marae. Tiger and Bee Shrimp interbreed but do not belong to the same species. 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.
These stripes can be thicker, or thinner depending on where the animal was collected. 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 and Taiwan Bee Shrimp
Hong Kong is a New Generation Origins
In the last few years, new color morphs from Taiwan have created a lot of excitement on the shrimp market. 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. They are also known as Shadow Shrimp in Asia, Shadow Bee Shrimp and 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 are transparent 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. 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 is found in the southern part of Central Japan. It can also be found in the rivers of Taiwan that lead to Pacific Ocean.
Females are larger than males. These shrimp are easy to seduce because they have a dotted pattern along their pleon. The female can hold up to 2000 eggs under its pleon. The larvae need brackish to marine water in order to grow up successfully. After a few days, they will die in fresh water. 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 will eat Liquizell and similar micro foods.
These shrimp live to eight years and more, which is quite remarkable considering most dwarf shrimp species usually only live for two to three years. While Amano Shrimp is able to be housed with many other species of shrimp, it can also be dominant in 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 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.
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. 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 strong reproduction rate of shrimp makes up for this. 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
Any attempt to keep shrimps together with crabs will most probably not be successful. Even tiny crabs can cause severe irritation to shrimp, and the crabs will eventually kill them.
Dwarf Shrimp with Snails, Mussels and Snails
It is possible to keep fan shrimp, dwarf shrimp, and mollusks together. Long-arm shrimp, in contrast, will regard snails as highly welcome snack, and only highly productive species will last for a longer time when socialized with them.
Dwarf Shrimp and Aquatic Plants
Shrimp do not do any harm to healthy aquatic plants. Among the three groups, there are no species that are known to damage aquatic plants severely. 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. Even though many shrimp originate from water bodies with no higher plant growth, they do not mind living in a densely planted tank at all. 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.
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 parts are essential to dwarf ornamental shrimp’s daily diet. Your lighting system should be well-suited to your species. If your shrimp are unhappy with the lighting in their tank, you can add floating plants to diffuse the light. Most of the shrimp keepers have just different kind of mosses in their tanks that don`t require a lot of light. The density of colours can be increased by bright, strong light that mimics the sun.