Cherry shrimp, scientifically known as Neocaridina davidi, have become an increasingly popular freshwater shrimp to keep in home aquariums. Their bright red coloration and peaceful temperament make them a gorgeous addition to planted tanks. But before you run out and buy these tiny crustaceans, it’s important to understand how many can comfortably live in your tank. This comprehensive guide will provide all the details on cherry shrimp stocking density, optimal water parameters, tank mates, feeding, breeding, and more!
What Are Cherry Shrimp?
Cherry shrimp, red cherry shrimp or RCS, are a species of dwarf freshwater shrimp native to Taiwan. They get their name from their vibrant red coloration, ranging from deep wine red to bright cherry red.
These shrimp reach an adult size of around 1-2 inches, making them perfect for nano tanks and compact aquascapes. They have a lifespan of 1-2 years.
One of the reasons cherry shrimp are so popular is that they are exceptionally easy to care for. They have very low bio loads, are highly adaptable to various water parameters, and readily breed in captivity. This makes them an excellent beginner shrimp for those new to the aquarium hobby.
How Many Cherry Shrimp Per Gallon?
The general rule of thumb when stocking shrimp is around 5 shrimp per gallon of water. However, the number can vary slightly depending on tank size. Here are some guidelines for ideal shrimp counts:
- 5 gallon tank: 10-15 shrimp
- 10 gallon tank: 20-30 shrimp
- 20 gallon tank: 40-50 shrimp
- 30+ gallon tank: 50-60+ shrimp
In a heavily planted tank with plenty of hiding spots and surface area, you may be able to keep slightly higher numbers safely. However, overcrowding the tank can cause problems with the shrimp’s health and water quality. It’s generally better to err on the side of caution.
Unlike fish, shrimp have a very small bioload. This means they produce very little waste compared to their size. However, they are sensitive to water parameters like ammonia and nitrite. When keeping large groups, perform regular partial water changes and filter maintenance to prevent a dangerous buildup of toxins.
Water Parameters For Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp prefer soft, acidic freshwater with moderate temperatures. Here are the ideal water parameters to provide:
- Temperature: 65-85°F. They do best between 70-78°F.
- pH: 6.2-7.8. Aim for a pH between 6.5-7.2.
- GH: 4-8 dGH. They prefer soft water.
- KH: 2-5 dKH
- TDS: 150-300 ppm
- Substrate: Fine sand or gravel. Adding mineral supplements boosts exoskeleton growth.
Fluctuations in water parameters can stress cherry shrimp. A liquid test kit monitors ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and GH levels. Perform regular partial water changes to replenish minerals and prevent accumulation of nitrates above 20 ppm.
Providing Proper Housing For Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp have modest habitat requirements, but providing an optimized living environment will keep them healthy and encourage breeding. Here are some tips:
- Tank Size: A 10 gallon tank is suitable for a starter colony of 10-20 shrimp. Larger is always better to maintain stable water parameters.
- Filtration: A sponge filter provides excellent biofiltration without sucking up baby shrimp. Supplement with an air stone for surface agitation.
- Substrate: Sand or fine gravel gives shrimp places to sift and forage. Add mineral supplements to replenish exoskeletons.
- Plants: Moss, java fern, anubias, floating plants, etc. Plants improve water quality and give ample hiding spots.
- Decor: Driftwood, rocks, coconut huts, etc. Provide areas to explore and graze aufwuchs growths.
- Lighting: Low to moderate intensity lighting. Too much light stresses shrimp.
Daily 10-15% water changes are performed using remineralized RO or distilled water to maintain clean, mineral-rich water. Avoid tap water containing chlorine, heavy metals, and fluctuating pH levels that harm shrimp. The ideal cherry shrimp tank has lush plant growth and plentiful hiding places among the hardscape.
What Do Cherry Shrimp Eat?
Cherry shrimp are omnivorous scavengers that forage for food among plant leaves, substrate, and hard surfaces. In the aquarium, they thrive on a varied diet including:
- Algae: Algae naturally grows in tanks with light and nutrients. Cherry shrimp will graze on soft green algae.
- Aufwuchs: The mix of microorganisms, debris, and algae coating surfaces in established tanks. This is an important natural food source.
- Biofilm: The thin bacterial layer covering all surfaces in a tank. Shrimp scrape and filter feed on nutritious biofilm.
- Sinking wafers/pellets: Made for bottom feeders and loaded with shrimp-healthy nutrients like calcium and protein.
- Blighted foods: Small amounts of blanched veggies like zucchini, cucumber, spinach, etc. are relished by shrimp.
- Supplements: Powders to replenish exoskeletons and enhance color like calcium, minerals, and astaxanthin.
Cherry shrimp have tiny mouths and feed constantly by grazing. Provide a small amount of food daily and remove any excess. Overfeeding fouls water quality and can kill shrimp.
Ideal Tank Mates For Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp have a peaceful temperament and make excellent tank mates for small, non-aggressive fish species and invertebrates. Suitable options include:
- Small tetras: Ember tetras, neon tetras, green tetras, etc. A larger school is recommended so aggression is spread among themselves.
- Rasboras: Harlequin rasboras, lambchop rasboras, chili rasboras. Avoid fin nippers like tiger barbs.
- Small catfish/loaches: Pygmy corydoras, habrosus corydoras, kuhli loaches, otocinclus catfish.
- Snails/shrimp: Nerite snails, rabbit snails, ghost shrimp, Amano shrimp.
- Gouramis: Sparkling gouramis, honey gouramis, pygmy gouramis. Avoid larger gouramis as they may prey on shrimp.
- Killifish: Least killifish, pygmy killifish, clown killifish.
- Guppies, endlers, mollies, platies: Only in heavily planted tanks. They may snack on baby shrimp.
Ensure potential tank mates do not have a high bioload or aggressive temperament. Shrimp are very sensitive to water quality and may become prey if housed with incompatible fish. Provide plenty of plant cover and hiding spots like moss, driftwood, rock crevices, etc.
Breeding Cherry Shrimp In Aquariums
One of the most enjoyable aspects of keeping cherry shrimp is watching a population boom from breeding. They are prolific breeders, so just a few individuals can produce dozens of offspring in months. Follow these tips to encourage breeding:
- Water parameters: Maintain the ideal ranges for temperature, pH, GH, etc. Fluctuations can disrupt the breeding cycle.
- Diet: Feed blanched veggies and calcium-rich foods before breeding to boost health.
- Plants: Hornwort, guppy grass, moss, etc. provide surfaces for the eggs to adhere to.
- Tank space: Don’t overcrowd the tank. Adult shrimp may become aggressive and eat young if cramped.
- Water changes: Partial weekly changes with remineralized water maintains cleanliness for vulnerable babies.
The breeding process involves several stages:
- Courting: Males actively chase and court females through complex dances and flicking movements.
- Mating: The male fertilizes the female’s eggs as they are released. She may carry 500+ eggs.
- Berried: The female develops a saddle of fertilized eggs under her tail. They are carried securely until hatching.
- Hatching: After 3-4 weeks, the eggs hatch into tiny larval shrimp. These will become free-swimming after a few days.
- Growth: Given proper conditions, the larvae mature into juveniles resembling miniature adults in weeks.
Culling excess juveniles helps maintain a healthy population size. Alternatively, you can sell or give away the babies to other aquarists! Breeding cherry shrimp is rewarding and can offset their initial cost.
Common Cherry Shrimp Diseases
Though generally hardy, cherry shrimp can be susceptible to a few diseases if their living conditions decline. Knowing the signs of illness allows prompt treatment. Common diseases include:
- Vorticella: White cottony growths on the body caused by these external protozoan parasites. Improve water quality and treat with medications like formalin.
- Scutariella: Fluke infestations that look like white dots on their body. It is caused by poor water quality. Treat with medications like praziquantel.
- Muscular Necrosis: Degeneration of the abdominal muscle tissue, leaving a milky white band. Usually fatal. Improve diets and environment.
- Rust Disease: Rust-colored spots near the tail caused by bacteria. Increase water changes. Treat with antibiotics like chloramphenicol.
- Fungal Infections: Cottony white or gray patches on the exoskeleton. Treat with antifungal medications like methylene blue.
- Planaria: Free-swimming flatworms that prey on shrimp. Use planaria traps or treatments like fenbendazole to eradicate.
Quarantine new shrimp before adding to an established tank to prevent introducing diseases. Maintain pristine water quality and varied diets to keep shrimp disease-free. Remove molts promptly since they harbor pathogens. Only use medications after positively identifying an illness to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use.
Breeding Selectively For Color Variations
Selectively breeding cherry shrimp has led to some stunning color morphs beyond the classic red. Desirable color variations include:
- Painted red: Solid red covering the entire body and legs.
- Fire red: The reddest and most opaque/intense form.
- Bloody Mary: Deep burgundy red with white legs.
- Carbon rili: Red head with clear/black body and legs.
- Blue velvet: Solid dark blue coloration.
- Green Jade: Translucent green/blue body.
- Shadow panda: Clear with black stripes and accents.
- Orange sunkist: Vivid orange hue.
To selectively breed shrimp for color, isolate the most vibrant individuals exhibiting the desired traits. Cull any dull or wild-type shrimp from the breeding pool. Provide optimized conditions and supplement foods like astaxanthin to intensify hues. With each generation, the color should improve through this selective process.
Tips For Keeping Cherry Shrimp Thriving
Follow these best practices when keeping cherry shrimp and they will reward you with vibrant good health and rapid breeding:
- Perform weekly 10% water changes with remineralized RO or distilled water to replenish minerals and prevent nitrate accumulation.
- Test water parameters like GH, KH, pH, etc. regularly to catch fluctuations that could stress shrimp.
- Avoid using medications or copper-based algaecides which can be toxic to shrimp.
- Provide ample plant cover, grazing surfaces like hardscape, and hiding spots to mimic the natural habitat.
- Crush calcium supplements into powder to dust foods. This replenishes the shrimp’s exoskeleton.
- Blend their diet with veggies, algae wafers, biofilm, calcium powders, etc. to ensure balanced nutrition.
- Cull dead or dying shrimp immediately to prevent a buildup of ammonia. Remove discarded molts promptly as well.
Keeping shrimp can be very rewarding! With a thoughtfully setup tank and proper care, cherry shrimp make active, colorful additions that will readily breed to produce endless generations. Now that you know how many shrimp per gallon are ideal, you can confidently stock these aquatic jewels.
Setting Up a Cherry Shrimp Tank
Now that you know the ideal water parameters, tank mates, feeding guidelines and other care tips for keeping cherry shrimp, let’s walk through how to set up the perfect tank from scratch.
Choosing a Tank
A 10 gallon tank is a good starting size for a starter cherry shrimp colony. This provides adequate swimming space and water volume to help maintain stable water chemistry.
For larger colonies, upgrade to a 20 gallon long tank or larger. The extra space allows natural shoaling behavior and territory establishment.
Make sure the tank has a tight-fitting lid. Cherry shrimp are adept escape artists!
Cherry shrimp sift through substrate constantly in search of edible matter. A fine, smooth substrate prevents damage to their delicate legs and makes it easy to spot leftover food.
Good substrate options include:
- Fine sand
- Pool filter sand
- Smooth aquarium gravel
- Fluorite black sand
- ADA Aquasoil
Supplement powdered minerals into the substrate to replenish exoskeletons during molting.
Cherry shrimp enjoy exploring a tank filled with plants, rocks, driftwood, and other surfaces.
Aim for a naturalistic aquascape using materials like:
- Spiderwood, manzanita, and Mopani driftwood
- Seiryu stone, dragon stone, or lava rock
- Coconut huts and banana leaves for hiding spots
- Aquarium safe branches, vines, and leaves
Arrange hardscape creatively to make little caves, overhangs, and climbing areas. This provides security and stimulates natural behavior.
Planting a wide variety of flora generates the biofilm and infusoria shrimp feed on. It also improves water quality.
Some excellent plants for cherry shrimp tanks include:
- Java moss
- Java fern
- Floaters like duckweed, frogbit, salvinia
- Moss balls
- Guppy grass
Choose a mix of fast and slow growing plants. Plant densely to create the micro-ecosystem shrimp thrive in.
Cherry shrimp do not require strong water flow. A simple sponge filter provides ample filtration.
Use low flow powerheads and air stones to circulate the tank gently.
Other equipment like heaters (for tropical setups) and LED lights complete the system.
Cycling and Water Parameters
Cherry shrimp are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrite. It is crucial to fully cycle the tank before adding them.
Use bottled bacteria and/or media from an established tank to quickly colonize the filter. Test water parameters daily and only add shrimp once 0ppm ammonia and 0ppm nitrite are maintained stably.
Refer back to the recommended water parameters earlier in this guide. Maintain proper temperature, pH, GH, KH, etc. through partial water changes to provide ideal living conditions.
Use a slow drip acclimation over several hours when introducing shrimp to a tank. Open the bag and use an airline tube to slowly drip tank water into the bag, allowing the shrimp to adjust to the new parameters.
Then carefully net shrimp out of the bag and into the tank. Dim lights, provide hiding spots and avoid sudden water changes for the first few weeks as the new shrimp settle in.
With the steps above, you’ll have a thriving cherry shrimp colony in no time! Proper setup and care lead to bright red, active shrimp that will readily breed to produce endless generations. Just sit back and enjoy the antics of these microcrustaceans!