Cherry shrimp are vibrantly colored little creatures that have captured the hearts of aquarium hobbyists worldwide. Their bright red and white stripes make them stand out in any tank. But these popular shrimp are more than just eye candy. They also serve a useful purpose in the aquarium by munching on algae. So do cherry shrimp eat algae? Let’s find out!
An Overview of Cherry Shrimp and Algae
Cherry shrimp, scientifically known as Neocaridina davidi, are a species of dwarf freshwater shrimp native to Taiwan. Due to their bright coloration, they are one of the most popular shrimp kept in home aquariums.
These little crustaceans grow to around 1-1.5 inches in size when fully grown. They thrive in planted tanks with gentle water flow and plenty of hiding spots. Cherry shrimp are peaceful and can be kept with small fish and other shrimp species.
Algae are diverse organisms that can rapidly spread and take over aquariums. While algae play an important role in aquatic ecosystems, excessive growth can damage home aquariums by blocking light, starving plants, and ruining aesthetics.
Controlling algae in aquariums involves balancing light, nutrients, and maintaining stable water parameters. Clean up crews like shrimp can provide an additional line of defense against algae.
Do Cherry Shrimp Consume Algae?
The short answer is yes, cherry shrimp do eat some types of algae. They constantly graze in the tank and consume soft green algae, brown diatoms, and hair or thread algae. Their small size lets them pick away algal growth on decor, glass, and slow-growing plants.
Cherry shrimp use their front appendages to scoop or scrape algae into their mouths. They then pass the food to their mouthparts to consume. These shrimp spend hours browsing and grazing in the tank.
However, cherry shrimp do not eat all forms of algae equally. They have preferences and limitations on which algae they can tackle.
Preferred Types of Algae for Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp relish certain types of algae that are soft and easily removed from surfaces. Here are the top algal foods for these hard-working shrimp:
- Green algae, or green water algae, occur as tiny suspended algal cells. They cause a green hue in tank water when populations explode.
- Cherry shrimp will filter feed on floating green algal cells. However, green water reduces visibility and indicates an imbalance in aquarium conditions.
- Hair or thread algae consists of long strands attached to surfaces like plants and decor. It waves in the current like hair.
- Cherry shrimp nibble away at hair algae stands. Their small size lets them access hard-to-reach spots and clean decorations thoroughly.
- Brown algae, or diatoms, often plague new tanks as the nitrogen cycle establishes. They coat surfaces in a brownish slippery film.
- Cherry shrimp find brown algae an excellent food source and devour diatom coatings on plants, glass, and decor.
Soft Green Spot Algae
- Soft green spot algae grows in round circular spots on tank surfaces. The spots are easily removed by scraping.
- Cherry shrimp pick at these spots, slowing their spread. The shrimp cannot eat tough, adhered spots.
- Aufwuchs is a mix of microorganisms like algae, bacteria, and protozoa coating surfaces in established tanks.
- Cherry shrimp graze on aufwuchs as part of their varied diet. The mix provides protein and nutrients.
- Algae wafers are a supplemental shrimp food made by compacting algae. They provide a balanced plant-based diet.
- Cherry shrimp will eagerly feed on sinking algae wafers along with other shrimp. The wafers are a good dietary addition.
Limitations of Cherry Shrimp Algae Consumption
While they tackle some algae, there are certain types that cherry shrimp do not eat due to preferences or difficulty accessing growths:
- Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, form dark green, black, or blue-colored slimy clumps and sheets.
- Cherry shrimp avoid consuming blue-green algae, likely due to compounds that make it unpalatable or indigestible.
- Staghorn algae have fuzzy antler-shaped branches that can overtake plants. Pieces break off and spread in the current.
- Cherry shrimp may pick at loose pieces of staghorn but generally avoid eating attached growths.
Green Spot Algae
- Tough, rigid green spot algae tightly adheres to tank surfaces in circular spots. The spots are hard to scrape off.
- Cherry shrimp struggle to remove adhered spots of green spot algae on glass and leaves. Only new soft growths can be grazed.
Black Beard Algae
- Black beard algae forms wiry black strands that attach to plants like moss. It can quickly smother the plants.
- Cherry shrimp may pick at BBA but are unlikely to eat substantial amounts. Other control methods are needed against beard algae.
- Rhizoclonium is a thick, bright green algae with a strong root system and tough structure.
- The durability and adherence of this algae make it impossible for cherry shrimp to eat. They do not consume rhizoclonium.
Can Cherry Shrimp Survive on Algae Alone?
Cherry shrimp cannot live on algae alone. While algae does provide sustenance, cherry shrimp need supplemental foods and a varied diet to thrive. Relying solely on naturally occurring algae risks malnutrition.
These shrimp have an omnivorous diet in the wild, eating algae, microorganisms, insect larvae, and decaying plant matter. Their dietary needs include protein, roughage, and calcium. Captive cherry shrimp should be fed a mix of foods, including:
- Protein-rich foods: Shrimp pellets, blanched vegetables, fish food
- Fiber sources: Algae, shrimp wafers, spirulina powder or flakes
- Calcium-rich foods: Spinach, calcium supplements
Offering blanched veggies, quality shrimp pellets, and wafers will provide balanced nutrition. Supplements can be used to address any deficiencies.
With proper, varied feeding, cherry shrimp colonies will thrive, breed, and keep your tank algae-free. Relying solely on naturally occurring algae risks starvation, failed molts, and death.
Do Cherry Shrimp Help Clean the Tank?
Yes, cherry shrimp help clean aquarium surfaces by consuming algae and detritus. These activities contribute to their value as tank clean up crews.
1. Algae Consumption
As discussed above, cherry shrimp eat several common types of algae in freshwater tanks like hair algae, diatoms, and soft green spot algae.
Though they do not consume all algae, their constant grazing helps control algal growth and slow its spread in the tank. Their efforts keep plant leaves, decor, and viewing panes clearer.
2. Detritus Cleaning
Cherry shrimp sift through substrate and pick at detritus accumulation on tank surfaces. Their actions help:
- Break down fish waste and uneaten food
- Disturb debris piles that can rot and alter water chemistry
- Prevent dead zones with poor circulation from developing
Their efforts reduce organic debris levels and supplement filtration and water changes. Tanks with shrimp tend to stay cleaner than those without.
Limits to Tank Cleaning Ability
While they contribute greatly to tank cleanliness and algae control, a few caveats exist:
- Relying solely on shrimp risks underfeeding and malnutrition
- They cannot fully replace regular maintenance like water changes, filter cleaning, and glass scrubbing
- Aggressive algae like BBA may need chemical or manual removal
- Overstocking leads to excess waste and counteracts their efforts
Cherry shrimp are excellent supplemental cleaners but not a substitute for aquarium husbandry. Their algae grazing and detritus cleaning should be supported by proper tank maintenance.
Cherry Shrimp Algae Consumption in Special Cases
Cherry shrimp help control algae in tanks, but how well they tackle specific types of algae growth comes down to the individual case based on:
- Algae type, growth stage, and location
- Tank size and number of shrimp
- Presence of other algae eaters like snails or fish
- Overall aquarium conditions and maintenance
Here is a quick rundown of cherry shrimp algae eating capabilities for some common scenarios:
- Do cherry shrimp eat algae wafers? Yes, shrimp eagerly consume sinking algae wafers meant as supplemental foods. The wafers provide fiber and nutrients.
Black Beard Algae
- Do cherry shrimp eat black beard algae? They will pick at BBA strands but are unlikely to consume large amounts. BBA grows in thick tufts that are difficult for shrimp to dismantle.
- Other removal methods like manual scrubbing, Excel or peroxide spot treatment, and addressing tank balance issues are needed to control beard algae. Shrimp can help maintain after the bulk is removed.
- Do cherry shrimp eat blue-green algae? No, they typically avoid consuming cyanobacteria due to compounds that make it unpalatable. Relying on them to remove blue-green growths will likely be ineffective.
- For severe cases, manual removal, blackouts, antibiotics, and tank disinfection may be needed. Shrimp play a minimal role in blue-green algae control.
- Do cherry shrimp eat brown algae? Yes, shrimp eagerly graze on brown diatoms coating surfaces in new tanks during the nitrogen cycle. They help clean plants and decor until the diatom phase passes.
- Do cherry shrimp eat hair algae? Yes, cherry shrimp will readily consume hair algae. Their small size allows them to access deep strands among plants and decor. They can keep growths under control.
- Do cherry shrimp eat plants? No, these shrimp do not generally consume healthy aquatic plants. They may pick at dying leaves or debris trapped on plants. Keeping them well-fed prevents any grazing.
Red Cherry Shrimp
- Do red cherry shrimp eat algae? Red cherries have the same dietary habits and preferences as regular cherry shrimp. They will eat soft green algae, hair algae, diatoms, and other common growths.
- Do shrimp eat algae off glass? They will pick at and help control soft green spot algae and diatoms on viewing panes. Tough adhered algae is harder to address.
- Will shrimp get rid of algae? Cherry shrimp will not eliminate algae alone but provide an added line of defense when part of a clean-up crew. Their efforts are most effective when the root causes of algae are also addressed.
The Maximum Size of Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp are dwarf freshwater shrimp, meaning they stay relatively small compared to larger shrimp species. Under ideal conditions, adult cherry shrimp can reach a maximum size of around:
- 1 – 1.5 inches (2.5 – 3.8 cm) in total body length
Selectively bred variant lines like painted fire red and bloody mary shrimp may fall on the lower end of this size range. Wild-type cherry shrimp typically reach the upper size limit.
Genetics, diet, tank conditions, and molting issues can influence growth. But most healthy adult cherries stay under 1.5 inches in length. Their petite size lets them effectively clean algae and navigate planted aquariums.
Juvenile cherry shrimp are smaller, starting around 0.1 inches and growing progressively with each molt. Size and color intensity help gauge maturity. By 5-6 months, shrimp typically achieve maximum size and coloration.
Can Shrimp Eliminate Aquarium Algae?
While they graze on algae, cherry shrimp alone cannot eliminate it entirely or serve as the sole method of algae control. Their limitations include:
- Inability to consume all algae types equally
- Struggle reaching tightly adhered algae growth
- Potential population crashes if algae is the sole food source
- Waste output that adds nutrients and encourages algae
Relying entirely on shrimp to remove algae will likely result in persistence or regrowth. Their algae eating should be supported by:
- Addressing the underlying causes of growth such as light, fertilizer, and stocking
- Manual removal methods like scrubbing, siphoning and targeted chemical treatments
- Maintaining stable water parameters and optimal nutrient levels
- Providing supplemental foods to prevent malnutrition
When combined properly with these other algae control measures, cherry shrimp can help maintain cleaner tanks by nibbling away at any new growth. But the root problems also need to be corrected.
Cherry shrimp consume certain algae types, especially soft green algae, brown diatoms, and hair algae. Their constant grazing helps control algal growth and maintains clearer plant leaves and decor. However, they cannot live on algae alone and need proper nutrition. When supported by additional algae removal techniques and stable tank conditions, cherry shrimp are an excellent cleanup crew addition. Though they will not eliminate algae, their efforts contribute to overall aquarium cleanliness and health.