Freshwater aquarium shrimp are a popular addition to nano tanks and smaller aquariums, particularly as members of a cleanup crew. They’re relatively easy to care for and they can help keep your tank clean. It’s important to realize, however, that while freshwater shrimp are fairly hardy, they have specific requirements for care like any other aquarium inhabitant.
Many aquarium hobbyists make the mistake of assuming that caring for shrimp is the same as caring for fish. While there are similarities, falling victim to freshwater shrimp misconceptions could result in the death of your shrimp.
Here we’ve debunked 6 myths and misconceptions about freshwater aquarium shrimp. Keep reading to learn how to properly care for these little crustaceans.
Myth #1: You Don’t Need to Feed Aquarium Shrimp - FALSE
Freshwater aquarium shrimp are scavengers – that’s what makes them so effective as members of a cleanup crew. They’ll feed on everything from algae and biofilm to decaying plant matter and uneaten fish food. Don’t make the mistake of assuming, however, that your tank will automatically provide all the food your shrimp need to thrive.
In a shrimp-only tank or a tank with a limited fish population, you may need to feed your shrimp a few times a week. Offer a variety of foods including algae wafers, sinking pellets, and fresh veggies. Be careful not to offer too many high-protein foods.
While you may need to offer supplemental food for your shrimp, it’s important not to overfeed them. In any aquarium, overfeeding can lead to ammonia spikes which can be deadly for your tank inhabitants. How often you need to feed your shrimp depends on the size of your tank, how densely planted it is, and how many shrimp you’re keeping.
Myth #2: Your Shrimp Will Prevent Algae From Becoming a Problem - FALSE
It’s a common freshwater shrimp misconception that algae will never be a problem in a shrimp tank. While it’s true that aquarium shrimp eat algae, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to keep pace with its growth. The rate at which algae grows in your tank depends on numerous factors.
First and foremost, algae growth is determined by lighting and the availability of nutrients. In a heavily planted tank, aquarium plants will compete with algae for nutrients, so it is less likely to become a problem. It’s still important, however, to strike the right balance between lighting, fertilization, and supplemental carbon dioxide (CO2).
Myth #3: Shrimp Make Great Tank Mates for Betta Fish - FALSE
This one is tricky because it’s certainly possible to keep freshwater shrimp with a betta fish, but not always. Betta fish are carnivorous, so they’re likely to regard shrimp as food if they’re small enough to eat. That said, every betta has their own personality. If your betta fish tends to hang out at the top of the tank, shrimp on the bottom of the tank might be perfectly safe.
If you’re going to keep shrimp in a betta fish tank, make sure the shrimp have plenty of protection. Decorate the tank with driftwood and plenty of plants that can shield the shrimp if your betta gets hungry. These decorations also create more surface area on which algae and biofilm can accumulate – these are valuable sources of food for your shrimp.
Myth #4: Shrimp Can Be Used to Cycle a New Tank - FALSE
The nitrogen cycle is an essential element in the maintenance of a healthy aquarium environment. It takes time for a new tank to cycle, and it requires the addition of biological material for beneficial bacteria to break down.
Some aquarium hobbyists introduce hardy fish into uncycled tanks to get the nitrogen cycle going but the process can be stressful and harmful to the fish. It’s equally unwise to use freshwater shrimp to cycle a tank. Though shrimp can be easy to care for, they are sensitive to changes in water chemistry and an uncycled tank is not a healthy environment for them.
It’s best to add shrimp to your aquarium only after it has fully cycled. If you have access to a mature aquarium, you can use water and filter media from that tank to speed up the nitrogen cycle in your new tank. You can also purchase nitrifying bacteria by the bottle. You may still need to “feed” the tank by adding small amounts of fish food, so the bacteria have something to break down.
Myth #5: You Don’t Need to Clean a Freshwater Shrimp Tank - FALSE
An aquarium that has been properly cycled will be easier to maintain than an uncycled tank, but you’ll still need to clean it from time to time. How often you need to clean the tank depends on its size and how many shrimp and other tank inhabitants you have. The more crowded your tank, the more often you’ll need to clean it to maintain high water quality.
The best method for cleaning a freshwater shrimp tank is to perform regular water changes and vacuum the substrate. Vacuuming the substrate helps remove uneaten food and other waste products that accumulate over time and affect water chemistry. You may also need to clean the filter from time to time but avoid vacuuming the gravel and cleaning the filter at the same time or you may kill off beneficial bacteria and cause the tank to cycle again.
Myth #6: Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp Eat Their Young - FALSE
Breeding aquarium shrimp is fairly easy as long as the conditions in the tank are healthy. Freshwater dwarf shrimp produce eggs which the female carries under her tail after they’ve been fertilized. It generally takes 20 to 40 days for the eggs to hatch, during which time the female fans the eggs to provide oxygen. Once the eggs hatch, shrimp do not exhibit any parental care.
Though aquarium shrimp don’t care for their young once they’ve hatched, neither do they eat them. In some cases, however, a female shrimp may release unhealthy eggs in order to improve the chances of survival for healthy ones. Dwarf shrimp like cherry shrimp and jade shrimp tend not to eat their own eggs or dead of their own kind.
The reason behind this freshwater shrimp misconception may be that, because shrimplets are so small and fragile, they don’t always survive. That said, caring for newly hatched shrimp is no more difficult than caring for adult shrimp. They’ll feed on algae and biofilm until they’re large enough to accept other foods, so there’s no reason they need to be separated from the adults.