Cherry Shrimp Care Guide
• Species Name: Neocaridina davidi
• Common Names: Cherry Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp, Fire Shrimp
• Size: 1.5 inches
• Lifespan: 1 year
• Native Distribution: Taiwan
Native to the freshwater streams of Taiwan, Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) are small, red shrimp that have become popular among freshwater aquarists for their scavenging and algae-eating habits. These little shrimp are brightly colored and relatively easy to care for, but they’re also delicate and may not be a good fit for all aquariums.
Anatomy and Appearance
Cherry shrimp exhibit the typical shrimp shape – they have long, slender bodies with muscular abdomens and ten pairs of legs. Five pairs of legs are located on the thorax and used for walking while the other five are used for swimming. Cherry shrimp also have three pairs of feeding appendages located on the abdomen.
These shrimp have six overlapping shell segments on the abdomen and a pointy nose called a rostrum. The eyes protrude from either side of the head on stalks and there are four antennae.
Cherry shrimp are named for their vibrant red coloration but there are specific names for various grades:
• Standard Cherry Shrimp: transparent or pale with red markings
• Sakura Grade Cherry Shrimp: red coloring on the body with clear patches
• Fire Red Low-Grade Cherry Shrimp: almost entirely red in color
• Fire Red High-Grade Cherry Shrimp: completely red in color except the legs
• Painted Fire Red Cherry Shrimp: full-coverage, solid color including the legs
Female cherry shrimp tend to be bolder in color than males, though both sexes tend to lose color when stressed and as they age. Cherry shrimp can be selectively bred to produce color morphs like green jade, blue velvet, and yellow Sakura.
Ideal Aquarium Setup
Cherry shrimp are best added to an established aquarium because they’re sensitive to sudden changes in tank chemistry. These shrimp prefer highly oxygenated hard water.
While cherry shrimp only grow to about an inch in length, we recommend housing them in a tank no smaller than 5 gallons. As a general rule, your tank should be limited to 5 to 10 shrimp per gallon.
The number of shrimp a tank can accommodate may be limited by the amount of food available. Planted tanks are perfect for cherry shrimp because live plants collect biofilm which is a valuable food source. Certain aquarium plants like java moss also provide cover for these shy little shrimp.
They’re very sensitive to changes in water chemistry, so they should only be added to an already established aquarium. Do not use cherry shrimp to cycle a new tank. For step-by-step instructions on how to cycle a new Cherry Shrimp tank, check out our article here.
The ideal tank parameters for cherry shrimp are:
• Temperature: 65°F to 85°F
• pH Level: 6.5 to 8.0
• General Hardness: 7.0 to 14.0 dGH
• Carbonate Hardness: 3.0 to 7.0 dKH
To maintain high water quality, you’ll also need a filter. Just keep in mind that shrimp are delicate – a sponge filter may be the safest option. If you choose to use a Hang-on-Back Filter or a Canister filter, we recommend a pre-filter intake to prevent shrimp from being sucked into the filter.
For the first few months of a new tank, be sure to test your tank water bi-weekly to catch spikes in nitrite and ammonia before they harm your shrimp. It’s wise to record your readings in a notebook so you get a feel for what chemistry is normal for your tank – this will help you identify changes quickly so you can take action to remedy problems.
When it comes to decorating a tank for cherry shrimp, the primary concern is providing cover – especially if you’re adding shrimp to a tank with fish or other inhabitants. Shrimp do particularly well in heavily planted tanks. It’s also a good idea to add driftwood or rocks as surfaces on which algae can grow to provide food for your shrimp.
Cherry shrimp don’t have specific requirements for lighting, so you can tailor your tank lighting to the needs of your aquarium plants. The same is true for substrate, though it’s a good idea to make decorative choices that mimic the natural habitat of cherry shrimp. Fine pebbly substrate works well.
Diet and Feeding
Like many invertebrates, cherry shrimp are scavengers – they feed on anything they can find. This includes uneaten fish food, algae, plant matter, and microorganisms.
While cherry shrimp make valuable additions to the aquarium cleanup crew, it’s wise to supplement their diet with nutritious foods. Cherry shrimp will accept everything from algae wafers to blanched vegetables. We recommend our own home-made shrimp food that can be found here.
Because these shrimp are very small you should be careful to avoid overfeeding. Leftover food will break down and cause ammonia levels to spike which can be dangerous for your shrimp. It’s best to feed in very small amounts and, if possible, remove uneaten food after 4-6 hours.
Temperament and Tank Mates
Cherry shrimp are very mild-mannered but tend to be fairly shy and nervous. It’s common for them to hide for a few weeks after being introduced to a new tank. They’re also likely to hide when they’re molting. Once they feel comfortable, however, they’ll wander all over the tank, eating algae from the walls of the tank and tank decorations.
Because cherry shrimp are small, they make tasty snacks for large and predatory fish like Oscars and other cichlids. It’s important to choose peaceful tank mates for this species.
Some of the best tank mates for cherry shrimp are peaceful community fish like small tetras, livebearers like guppies, Corydoras, and otocinclus catfish. They also get along well with other invertebrates like mystery snails and Thai Micro Crabs.
Breeding Cherry Shrimp
Cherry shrimp are some of the easiest freshwater aquarium shrimp to breed. You’ll need a group of at least 10 shrimp (males and females) in a heavily planted, well-established tank. To guarantee that you'll receive an ideal ratio of males and females, check out our Cherry Shrimp Breeder Packs. Feed the shrimp a high-protein diet of shrimp pellets to condition them for breeding.
When a saddled female shrimp molt, they will begin releasing hormones into the water. This attracts the male shrimp and they will instinctively find the females and deposit their sperm. The females then transfer the eggs from their saddle to their abdomen, fanning the eggs to keep them oxygenated.
It takes about 30 days for shrimp eggs to hatch. There is no need to separate the adults from the baby shrimp – the adults won’t harm the babies and the babies are independent from birth. You simply need to keep the tank conditions stable and provide the right food. For the first few days, the baby shrimp will feed on biofilm and algae, but they will quickly transition to eating what the adults eat. We recommend supplementing with powder food to ensure that the shrimplets have sufficient food.
Other Interesting Facts
• While cherry shrimp typically live for about a year, they are capable of living up to twice that long. The problem is that they’re very sensitive to the changing water conditions that are common in home aquariums.
• Cherry shrimp are very social and need to be kept in large groups of 10 or more. The larger the group, the more likely you are to be successful in breeding as well.
• Shrimp and other invertebrates are highly sensitive to copper and other water treatments like malachite green. You’ll need to monitor tank conditions carefully to protect your shrimp.
• Young cherry shrimp molt as often as every one to two weeks and adults every three to four weeks. Poor water quality can cause issues with molting like the “White Ring of Death.” This develops when the shrimp’s exoskeleton splits in to, causing the shrimp to get stuck in its shell and die.