Some of the most overlooked denizens for inclusion in aquaria by the general home aquarist, are freshwater shrimp. In particular most Caridina, Neo-Caridina and Sulawesi Freshwater shrimp all make great, and relatively low maintenance pets even for the beginning hobbyist. Freshwater shrimp typically do best in relatively small biotopic displays that are densely packed with live plants, which allow them to feel safe while proving an area for them to scavenge through detritus or a quality sinking dry food. By small, even pico sized desktop tanks are appropriate for many species. Freshwater shrimp also include a substantial amount of algae in their diet, so they also provide a service to the plants which they should be housed with by eliminating a competitor for them. Freshwater shrimp are peaceful and many species can be densely packed to create a stunning display that doesn’t demand a high price or expert level hobbyist care. No matter your resources, tank size or skill level there are undoubtably several of these aesthetically pleasing crustaceans that are right for you.
With a few exceptions such as the Ghost Shrimp, a larger species commonly used as feeders from the Southern regions of North America, most of the freshwater shrimp available to the hobbyist are from Eastern Asia. Many shrimp such as Cherry Shrimp are easily bred in captivity for the aquarium shrimp whereas some of the more difficult to rear species such as Amano Shrimp are still regularly collect in the wild.
One of the most pleasing aspects of caring for freshwater shrimp is their activity level, unlike most marine shrimp which are benthic scavengers preferring to take refuge, freshwater shrimp are extremely active throughout the day as they forage for food. Due to this many aquarists prefer to keep dedicated tanks for shrimp, going fishless. In smaller tanks a simple sponge filter will suffice but if you choose a hang not he back filter or canister filter, the intakes should be covered with sponges that are routinely changed and cleaned. In the case of the canister filter, consider modifying the return to have multiple nozzles or a spray bar to limit linear flow which can disturb not only your shrimp but your substrate and plants as well. For your hardscaping materials, you’ll want to utilize rock that is pH neutral and porous such as dragon stone, which is also known as Ohko stone. Your substrate should also be inert with the exception of some Caridina shrimp such as cherry shrimp that require an active substrate to buffer the water to a Ph around 6.5. They are also compatible with an assortment of freshwater snails, such as nerite snails, as well as non-predatory small fish like smaller tetras and danios as well as some smaller catfish such as Corydoras.
Regarding the shrimp themselves, we’ll go over a few popular and appropriate choices for the home hobbyist;
Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
The Red Cherry Shrimp is a very low maintenance crustacean that is perhaps the most appropriate choice for the home planted aquarium. They can be kept in small groups in aquariums as small as five gallons. Red Cherry Shrimp are also one of the easiest shrimp to breed and population explosions can happen. To encourage this keep temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s. The opposite effect occurs when the temperatures are lowered. Red Cherry Shrimp will also graze on algae but this can be supplemented with a quality sinking pellet or small algae wafer. They are also great at consuming left over food and other organic detritus if they are kept with fish. You will find the last statement true for most of the fish on this list.
Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.)
Considered by many to be a dither crustacean, not belonging to the designer shrimp label but rather of more use to entice finicky carnivores to eat, the ghost shrimp is a great candidate for new aquarists due to its ease of care. Keep water parameters stable, especially watching nitrate levels (10ppm or less is ideal) and other dissolved organic levels. While a densely planted aquarium would display them best. Ghost shrimp are resilient and easily obtainable enough to risk being kept in busier aquaria that features a lot of fish, often with good results so long as they aren’t being preyed upon.
Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)
Likely the most famous shrimp on this list is the Amano Shrimp, names for the even more famous late Takashi Amano, a Japanese aquarist who has created some of the most breathtaking aquaecapes you’ll ever see. If you’re looking for algae eaters to help maintain your planted aquarium, these are by far the best choice to employ. While name for Takashi Amano, these shrimp are found not only in Japan but Korea and Taiwan as well. While like others mentioned in this artilce, Amano Shrimp are extremely easy to care for, however due to their larvae requiring a brackish environment to develop, they are not easily captive bred. Amano Shrimp would ideally be kept in something larger than a pico tank as they do best in groups of five or more.
Blue tiger shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)
If you’re looking for a stunning contrast against the lush green scenery of a planted aquarium, look no further than the Blue Tiger Shrimp. Like most Cantonesis species, these shrimp are omnivores so occasionally their diet needs to be supplemented with meaty foods, or a high protein content sinking pellet. The only concern with introducing more meaty foods on a regular basis is rising ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels as they tend to be more sensitive to it than other shrimp discussed here.
While they may appear fragile and daunting, provided you accommodate the needs touched on above, freshwater shrimp can prove to be a very striking and low maintenance pet.