When most people think about pets, it’s not overly common to consider getting shrimp. However, shrimp can make wonderful pets for anyone looking to set up a tank, especially a planted one. Like all other animals, they just need proper care in a suitable environment with tank-mates that they’ll get along with.
Shrimp, like most aquatic pets, are observational animals. Their bright range of colours and their graceful swimming make them wonderful pets to watch and can help liven up a tank. The most common pet shrimp are freshwater shrimp, which tend to be a lot smaller than saltwater shrimp, and the most popular kind to own as a pet are the Cherry Shrimp. When looking for pet shrimp, it’s important to be careful about the ones you chose to buy and house together. There’s also a large number of shrimp that come in many different colours from orange, to yellow, blue, black, green, and many more.
Like with all animals, shrimp are sorted into groups; Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus(Genera), and Species. These groups become more and more specific the further down they go. Freshwater shrimp have two different genera; Caridina and Neocaridina. When housing shrimp in a tank, it’s important to make sure that no more than two types are bought; one from each genus. If two Caridina shrimp of different species (like a Crystal Red and a Taiwan Bee which are both of the Caridina genus) are housed together, they will breed together, which will lead to their offspring being a muted grey colour, and cause them to have weak traits. This is why it’s important to choose a type of shrimp from the Neocaridina genus, and a type from the Caridina genus to keep together so they will only breed within their own species.
When a female shrimp is ready to reproduce, she will attract a male by releasing hormones. She will deposit eggs from under her tail that the male shrimp will fertilise. While the eggs are waiting to hatch, the female keeps them attached to the underside of her body where they’re fanned by her tail until they hatch.
Shrimp are omnivores, meaning they feed on dead organic material. Their main source of food is algae, but they also eat other plant matter, and will even scavenge parts of dead fish or other dead shrimp for their food. However, it’s also necessary to provide shrimp with shrimp food, preferably sinking pellets since they’re mainly bottom dwellers.
Tank Setup and Supplies
Due to the need for shrimp to have plant matter to eat, it’s important to keep them in a planted tank. This means the tank must have aquatic plants growing and therefore need a suitable plant substrate that won’t raise pH levels. When buying plants, it’s usually the best option to search online for stores that sell aquatic plants. If purchasing from a chain of pet stores, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up with diseased or decaying plants since these pet stores don’t grow these plants in their own facilities. Since they only have these plants shipped in to them, they don’t know what condition they’re in, so they’re much more likely to die.
Aquatic plant shopping online means that you’ll be buying plants right from the companies that grow them, meaning they’re aware of the conditions the plants are in. This creates a much higher chance of these plants growing and thriving in your tank. There are some who feel hesitant about buying online as it means the plants will be shipped to them, but it’s actually very low-risk, and the plants still remain healthy and likely to survive.
After planting the plants in a layer of substrate 3-4 inches deep inside of the tank, the water can be added. (Add any rocks or other decorations inside before adding the water. Lava rock is recommended for shrimp since algae grows easily along it’s rough surface.) A mix of tap water and distilled water is recommended for the tank, ensuring the TDS (total dissolved solids) and gH (general hardness) are neither too high or too low. It’s also important to add a tap water conditioner that will remove chlorine and other contaminants from tap water in order to make it safe for the aquarium. (Recommended brand: API).
Other supplies needed for a tank are a submersible heater, a thermometer, a sponge filter and air pump, airline tubing, and airstones. Sponge filters are the best filters for shrimp, as they graze on the porous surface of the filter, and it also prevents any shrimp from being sucked in by the filter. Airline tubing and airstones often come with the sponge filter, but if they don’t, make sure to purchase some separately. (Link: how to set up a sponge filter).
Cleaning supplies are also essential. A gravel vacuum, tongs, and water quality tester kits. When it comes to testing water quality, it’s important to not just purchase testing strips, as those can be vague and inaccurate. In order to get more precise readings, an actual kit for testing water is required. (Recommended brand: API).
Before getting shrimp, it’s imperative that you leave your tank to cycle for a few months (2-4 ideally.) This will allow plants to grow and algae to begin forming, giving shrimp an important food source.
When you do get your shrimp, one of the most important steps is how to get them in the water. It’s incredibly important to use the drip acclimation process to allow the shrimp to get used to the water in your tank.
First, get an empty bucket and place the bag/container with the shrimp and their water inside. Open the bag/container and gently empty the water and the shrimp into the bucket. Next, get a length of airline tubing and place one end inside the tank. Gently suck on the other end of the tube to start the flow of water (be careful to not let the tank water reach your mouth). Tie a knot in the tubing so water is only dripping out, and place this end inside the bucket. Let the water drip into the bucket for a few hours, or until the water level has doubled. Then use a small net to carefully transport the shrimp from the bucket into your tank.
Drip acclimation is a crucial step, because if you simply move the shrimp right into your tank, the change in water temperature and parameters will likely send the shrimp into shock and cause them to die. (link: how to drip acclimate aquatic pets.)
Another important thing to do is to make sure tank parameters are suitable for the type of shrimp you are getting. Average tank parameters for most shrimp are;
Temperature: 72-74 °F
gH- 5-6 °dKH or 89.5-107.4 ppm(mg/L)
KH- 3-4 °dKH or 53.7-71.6 ppm(mg/L)
TDS- 100-120 ppm
Nitrate- Ideally 0, never above 20 ppm
Nitrite- 0.1-0.2 mg/L
Ammonia- 2-3 mg/L
However, tank parameters vary between different types of shrimp so it’s important to research the specific tank parameters for each species of shrimp you’re getting and to make sure the tank parameters for each shrimp are close to the other in order to ensure they can be housed together.
Shrimp molt every 3-4 weeks in healthy living conditions. Molting is when shrimp shed their tight exoskeleton so they can begin growing a larger one. However, young shrimp molt more often, about every 1-2 weeks since they are growing quickly. In most cases, it’s safe to leave the molt inside the tank to allow it to break down so the shrimp can eat it.
After a shrimp molts, they’re likely to hide for the next 48-72 hours since their new skin is still very thin and delicate, which can leave the shrimp vulnerable. Therefore, they hide out of instinct after shedding so their shell can harden up again.
Shrimp are good tankmates for snails, some fish, and small crabs such as Thai Micro crabs. It’s most common to house Mystery Snails with shrimp as they’re very peaceful and eat much of the same food. As for fish, most small, non-aggressive, and non-predatory fish who eat mostly plants are good tank-mates. An example of a compatible fish would be a guppy. However, fish such as Betas can be aggressive and therefore aren’t very good to keep with shrimp.
Where to get Shrimp
Like with buying plants, it’s ideal to purchase shrimp from an online store. In pet stores, the animals aren’t bred in an environment that’s known and regulated by the stores. Since breeders who sell to stores often expect many of the shrimp to die, they don’t often give them the best care or attention, meaning they’re unaware of any irregularities or issues.
It often unnerves people knowing that the shrimp they order from online breeders will be shipped to them through the mail, but in actuality this method of shipping the animals is very safe. If done right, the animals have a very low risk of dying. Since they are packaged in many layers of bags, bubble wrap, styrofoam, and often a heat pack to keep them warm, they’re protected from jostling during their travel, and, if anything, just get a little stressed in the process.
Two of the top recommended sites to buy shrimp from are Flip Aquatics (https://flipaquatics.com) and Live Aquaria (https://www.liveaquaria.com). Flip Aquatics specializes in the breeding of shrimp, and sell a variety of different species of shrimp as well as the majority of any equipment and food needed. Flip Aquatics sells a whole range of aquatic animals from freshwater to saltwater. They also have a variety of shrimp, but less equipment designed specifically for shrimp.