Beyond the Basics: Advanced Breeding Tips for Freshwater Shrimp in Nano Aquariums

From stunning blue bolts to vibrant red rili shrimp, freshwater aquarium shrimp are some of the most striking inhabitants for small aquariums. If you’re looking for a new challenge as an aquarium hobbyist or have a spare tank and don’t know what to fill it with, consider breeding freshwater shrimp.

All it takes is a handful of shrimp to start a colony and, before you know it, you’ll have a self-sustaining breeding population going. Here’s everything you need to know about breeding freshwater shrimp in nano aquariums.

Setting Up Your Tank

The beauty of many freshwater aquarium shrimp is that they’re small enough to be kept in nano tanks. A 5-gallon tank is adequate for a small starter colony, though you may eventually need to size up or set up additional tanks as your population grows.

Remember, nano tanks aren’t necessarily easier to maintain than larger tanks. Think ahead when selecting your tank so you don’t find yourself with too many shrimp and nowhere to house them.

Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up a freshwater shrimp breeding tank:

  • Install some kind of gentle filtration to keep water quality high and to support the tank’s biological filter—sponge filters are ideal for shrimp tanks.
  • Decorate the tank with a variety of hardscape installations and live plants to provide places for your shrimp to hide and surfaces on which biofilm and algae can grow.
  • Choose tank lighting to meet the needs of your tank—planted tanks may require different lighting than shrimp-only tanks.

Most importantly, give your tank time to fully cycle before you add your shrimp. Test the water several times a week, seeding the tank with fish food or ammonia to get your biological filter going. Ammonia and nitrite levels will spike at first, but once they settle back down to 0ppm and nitrate levels remain low, your tank is ready.

Choosing Your Breeding Stock

As your nano tank is cycling, you can start shopping around for freshwater shrimp. If you’re breeding freshwater shrimp as a casual hobby, you can always stop by your local fish store to see what interesting varieties they have in stock. If you have a particular strain in mind or if you plan to breed your shrimp for grade, you may find more and better options online.

Here are some tips for choosing freshwater shrimp for breeding:

  • Find out the conditions the shrimp were raised in and try to create a similar environment in your tank—this will help your shrimp acclimate more easily.
  • Have a quarantine plan in place if you already have inhabitants in your tank, especially if you’re getting your shrimp from another hobbyist or local breeder.
  • Purchase juvenile shrimp instead of adults—this gives them a better chance of adapting to your tank and will give them a longer life to produce more offspring.
  • Start with at least 10 shrimp so there’s a good chance you’ll have several females for every male—sexing juvenile shrimp may be tricky, so a larger group can increase your chances.

After acquiring your breeding stock, introduce them to your tank. Be sure to acclimate your shrimp slowly, giving them plenty of time to adjust to the tank temperature and water chemistry. Keep the lights off for the first few hours or overnight so your shrimp can recover from the stress of transfer and explore their new environment.

Feeding and Caring for Your Shrimp

Many species of Neocaridina and Caridina shrimp breed readily, so your primary task is to maintain stable tank conditions and make sure your shrimp get enough fish food to eat. Test your tank water daily for the first week or two after introducing your breeding stock to make sure you haven’t overloaded your biological filter. Perform small water changes as needed and monitor the tank temperature closely.

Unless your nano tank has been established for quite some time, there may not be sufficient algae or biofilm accumulation to sustain your shrimp. Offer your shrimp small amounts of nutrient-rich food several times a day to get them into condition for breeding. Include plenty of variety in the diet, taking care not to offer too many high-protein foods which could contribute to rapid growth and issues with molting.

How long your shrimp take to start breeding depends on their age, conditions in the tank, and diet. As long as you keep the tank stable and provide an adequate diet, your shrimp will start breeding on their own.

Hatching Eggs and Raising Baby Shrimp

Monitor your shrimp for signs of breeding. When your female shrimp reach maturity and are preparing to breed, they may start hiding more. Eventually, the female shrimp will molt and release a pheromone into the water that lets the male shrimp know they’re ready to breed.

At this point, you may notice your male shrimp swimming erratically in search of the female. During the mating process, the female shrimp will likely remain in hiding, so you might not see them again until the process is complete. The sign of a successful coupling is when the female can be seen carrying fertilized eggs under her tail. She’ll carry them for 20-40 days until they hatch, fanning them and cleaning them throughout.

Once the eggs hatch, the adult shrimp don’t provide any further parental care. The baby shrimp will look like miniatures of the adults and can be cared for the same way. Stick to small, nutritious foods like baby brine shrimp or artemia until the shrimp grow large enough to accept bigger foods.

Notes on Color and Grade

If you’re a casual freshwater shrimp enthusiast trying your hand at breeding for the first time, you may consider your mission accomplished at this point. A small colony of shrimp can double in size in as little as three months, however, so think about how you’re going to accommodate the new shrimp.

For more experienced hobbyists, the challenge of hybridizing different varieties or breeding high-grade shrimp may be appealing.

In this case, it’s wise to have multiple tanks set up and ready to go. Once you have baby shrimp, you may choose to separate them into a different tank to prevent them from breeding with the original colony. As they develop, you may choose to cull specimens that don’t have the desired color, pattern, or intensity. Selective breeding of freshwater shrimp requires patience, but it can yield highly satisfying results.

Contact us today to start your perfect freshwater aquarium.
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