Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp for Beginners

Starting a freshwater aquarium with shrimp can be an exciting yet challenging for beginners. Shrimp add visual interest and help keep tanks clean through their scavenging. However, they also have specific care requirements. This comprehensive guide provides essential information to keep freshwater shrimp successfully.

From types of shrimp to proper tank setup and maintenance, you’ll learn the basics of shrimp keeping. Read on to discover how to choose shrimp, care for them, and even breed them. With the right know-how, freshwater shrimp can be a fun, rewarding way to explore the aquarium hobby.

Why Keep Shrimp?

Before diving into the specifics of shrimp keeping, let’s overview the main benefits of adding these creatures to freshwater aquariums:

Visual Interest

With bright colors and active behaviors, shrimp bring visual pop and interest to tanks. Their small size allows them to inhabit the lower levels and foreground of the aquascape. Shrimp varieties feature unique colors like red, blue, orange and more. Their colors will be especially vibrant when conditions are optimal.

Cleaning Ability

Many shrimp species are excellent algae eaters and detritivores. They forage for leftover fish food and debris, helping keep tank surfaces and substrate clean. This natural cleaning helps reduce the maintenance workload for aquarists. Popular “cleaner shrimp” choices include Amano shrimp and Red Cherry shrimp.

Peaceful Nature

Shrimp are non-aggressive and generally safe for community tanks with small, peaceful fish. Their tiny size and nature allows them to coexist well. They even do fine alongside other shrimp varieties. Their peaceful persona makes them ideal for nano aquariums too.


While improper care will shorten their lifespan, many common freshwater shrimp species are fairly hardy when provided with proper tank conditions. This makes them ideal starter inhabitants for beginners. Red Cherry shrimp and Ghost shrimp are some of the hardiest species.


If given the right environment, most dwarf shrimp will readily breed in captivity. Watching a population grow and thrive can be rewarding. Shrimp populations may also provide a live food source for predatory fish. However, culling is needed to prevent overpopulation.

Popular Shrimp Species

There are numerous freshwater shrimp species for home aquariums. Some key types suitable for beginners include:

Neocaridina Shrimp

Neocaridina, commonly called “cherry shrimp”, are among the most popular freshwater dwarf shrimp. They come in bright colors like red, blue, orange and yellow. Some common Neocaridina species include:

  • Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi): The most common and hardy Neocaridina shrimp with bright red coloration. One of the best beginner options.
  • Blue Velvet Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Blue): Striking blue color morph of the Red Cherry Shrimp. Also easy to care for.
  • Orange Sakura Shrimp: Features a vibrant orange color. A color variation of the Red Cherry Shrimp.
  • Yellow Shrimp: Yellow colored morph of Neocaridina shrimp. Less common but similarly cared for.

Neocaridina shrimp stay under 2 inches in size and do well in typical community tanks when conditions are stable. They have a lifespan around 1-2 years. While color intensity depends on quality, their bright hues stand out against planted backgrounds. Their hardiness, breeding ability and cleaning behaviors make them a versatile starter shrimp.

Caridina Shrimp

Caridina shrimp, like Amano shrimp, prefer slightly different water parameters than Neocaridina shrimp. They demand clean, stable conditions. Some popular Caridina species are:

  • Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata): The classic algae eater shrimp. Need estabished tanks with some algae growth to graze on.
  • Crystal Red/Black Shrimp (Caridina cantonensis): Selectively bred for their intense red and black color morphs. Require pristine water quality.
  • Bamboo Shrimp (Caridina cantonensis): A larger shrimp species that filter feeds. Need strong current and special diet.

Caridina shrimp are not quite as hardy as Neocaridina species but make good cleaner shrimp. The striking Crystal shrimp varieties demand more care. Amano and Bamboo shrimp reach larger sizes over 2 inches.

Other Notable Species

Some other common shrimp species are:

  • Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.): Nearly transparent shrimp good for feeding fish. Very hardy.
  • Vampire Shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis): A larger shrimp with clawed fans for filter feeding.
  • Bumblebee Shrimp (Microbrachium pilimanus): Requires brackish water and has attractive black/yellow bands.

Water Parameters

Ensuring proper water conditions is key to shrimp health. Each species has preferred parameters. Some general guidelines:

  • Temperature: 68-80°F for most species. Neocaridina prefer 70-75°F while Caridina do best 70-78°F.
  • pH: Varies by species. Neocaridina tolerate pH 6.5-7.5. Caridina need acidic pH around 6.2-6.8.
  • Hardness: Softer for Caridina, medium hardness for Neocaridina. 4-8 KH/GH typically.
  • TDS: 150-250 ppm is a safe range for most shrimp. Neocaridina tolerate more.

Stable, pristine water quality helps shrimp thrive. Test kits are essential for monitoring conditions. RO/DI filtered water is recommended to control parameters for tricky species like Crystal shrimp.

Perform regular partial water changes around 10-15% weekly. Use remineralized RO/DI water if possible. Gradual acclimation when introducing shrimp is a must.

Tank Setup

Proper tank setup goes hand in hand with maintaining the right water parameters for shrimp. Follow these guidelines:


A 5-10 gallon aquarium is ideal for a shrimp-only tank. This allows stable water conditions. For community tanks, 10-20 gallons works well. Remember, shrimp have a small bioload.


Shrimp sift through substrate looking for edible matter. Fine gravel or sand allows for easy foraging. Some good options:

  • Fine gravel
  • Sand
  • Aquarium soil
  • Bare bottom

Avoid sharp substrates. Soil substrates help buffer water. Bare bottom tanks are easier to clean.

Plants & Decor

Shrimp enjoy grazing on algae in planted tanks. Some good plant choices are:

  • Java moss
  • Java fern
  • Anubias
  • Bucephalandra
  • Moss balls

Provide plenty of hiding spots with driftwood, rock caves and aquarium-safe decorations. Cholla wood offers ample nooks.


A hang-on-back or sponge filter provides gentle water flow. Make sure intake slots don’t trap baby shrimp. A sponge pre-filter prevents this. The breeder box method also works during early life stages.


Use a submersible heater to maintain temperatures in the ideal range for your shrimp species. 50-100 watt heaters work for nano shrimp setups.


Subdued lighting allows shy shrimp to feel secure. An LED aquarium light around 6500-8000K looks natural. Dimmable lights help adjust intensity. Provide 8-10 hours of light daily.

Acclimating Shrimp

Gradual acclimation over 1-2 hours helps shrimp adapt to new water parameters and prevents shock. Follow these steps:

  1. Turn tank lights off to reduce stress.
  2. Float the unopened bag for 15 minutes to equalize temperatures.
  3. Open bag and remove shrimp using a net or small container.
  4. Add a half cup of tank water to the shrimp container every 10-15 minutes.
  5. After 1-2 hours, release shrimp into the tank.

Monitor newly added shrimp closely. Offer blanched veggies to encourage eating.

Feeding Shrimp

Shrimp are omnivores and scavengers by nature. In a mature tank with algae, they will graze on biofilms and algae naturally. But they still need nutrient-rich foods. Some options:

  • Sinking shrimp pellets
  • Algae wafers
  • Bacter AE
  • Blanched vegetables (zucchini, spinach, cucumber)
  • Calcium-rich foods like cuttlebone

Feed just enough that shrimp can consume within a few hours. Overfeeding pollutes water. Alternate foods to provide variety. Supplementing the diet with calcium and minerals is ideal for exoskeleton growth.

Tank Mates

When housing shrimp in community tanks, choose peaceful tank mates. Some suitable options:

  • Small tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Snails like nerites
  • Peaceful shrimp like Neocaridina

Avoid aggressive fish like bettas, cichlids and goldfish that may prey on shrimp. Introduce shrimp last so tanks are mature and stable first.


Providing proper environmental conditions will encourage breeding behavior in most dwarf shrimp. Here’s an overview:

  • Sexing: Females have broader abdomens while males have narrower tails.
  • Ideal Conditions: Stable water parameters, pH, temp, etc. Abundant hiding spots and food sources promote breeding.
  • Gestation: After mating, eggs are carried under the female’s tail for 3-4 weeks before hatching.
  • Culling: Culling helps manage populations by removing less desirable shrimp.
  • Separation: Establish separate breeding tanks if populations explode.

Culling and separating shrimp helps sustain color grades and genetic traits in selectively bred shrimp like Crystal Reds/Blacks.

Molting Process

Shrimp molt by shedding their exoskeleton as they grow. The stages include:

  1. Pre-Molt: The shrimp stops eating to prepare for shedding its shell.
  2. Molting: The shrimp emerges from its old shell which splits away.
  3. Post-Molt: For 1-2 days after molting the new shell hardens and the shrimp eats voraciously to recover.

Provide additional calcium-rich foods before and after molts. Leave cast-off molts in the tank rather than removing them. Observe shrimp closely for signs of successful molting.

Common Diseases

When provided with proper tank conditions, shrimp are fairly hardy. Some potential health issues to watch for:

  • Vibriosis: Caused by Vibrio bacteria, it creates white marks on the shell.
  • Muscular Necrosis: Leads to white, opaque abdominal muscle tissues from bacteria.
  • Fungal Infections: Visible white fungal cotton-like growth.

Quarantine and treat sick shrimp immediately. Use medications like methylene blue cautiously. Test water quality and perform partial water changes to improve conditions.

Caring for Baby Shrimp

Baby shrimp (also called shrimplets) require special care right after hatching:

  • Fine Mesh: Use sponge filters, mesh covers and other means to prevent babies being sucked into filters.
  • Infusoria: Feed infusoria and powdered foods during earliest stages.
  • Dense Planting: Ensure planted tanks have many hiding spots and grazing surfaces.
  • Remove Predators: Introduce baby shrimp before adding predatory fish.

With attentive care and proper conditions, baby shrimp mature rapidly as they grow and molt through stages. Enjoy the rewarding experience of spotting tiny juveniles emerge and thrive!


From Red Cherry Shrimp to Amanos, freshwater shrimp make excellent starter inhabitants for nano tanks. Their bright colors, behaviors and cleaning abilities are big benefits. Match shrimp to your tank size, water parameters and experience level for the best results.

Focus on providing a stable environment and high-quality diet. Test water parameters routinely. With the right know-how, freshwater shrimp can readily breed and populate your aquascape with minimal effort. Embark on your shrimp keeping journey today and add a new dimension to your home aquarium!