Setting the Stage: A Comprehensive Guide to Freshwater Shrimp Setup

Freshwater shrimp are both entertaining and rewarding to keep but proper care comes with some challenges. Like any aquatic inhabitant, shrimp require an environment tailored to their unique needs to thrive and thoughtful preparation is key.

Successfully cultivating freshwater shrimp involves more than simply adding a few shrimp to a spare tank. The size of the tank determines the size of the colony it can support. The equipment you choose affects water quality and maintenance requirements. Most importantly, however, the tank needs to be balanced and fully cycled before you add your shrimp.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of freshwater shrimp setup from choosing your equipment to cycling the tank. You’ll also learn the differences in tank setup for caridina versus neocaridina species.

Choosing Your Tank and Equipment

The first step freshwater shrimp setup is, of course, choosing the tank. Because they’re small, freshwater dwarf shrimp are well-suited to nano tanks. Consider, however, the maintenance involved in maintaining ideal conditions in a nano tank versus a slightly larger aquarium. If you also factor in the propensity of these shrimp to reproduce, you may find a larger tank preferable.

Start with a tank no smaller than three gallons in volume for a small group of shrimp. Five to eight gallons is ideal, though you can certainly go larger. If you plan to keep peaceful community fish or nano fish with your shrimp, a minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended.

In addition to the tank itself, you’ll need the following:

  • Filter
  • Substrate
  • Hardscape
  • Plants

Depending on where you live, you may also choose to add a heater to maintain stable water temperature in your tank. Neocaridina and caridina shrimp can survive in cooler temperatures ranging from 65°F to 75°F but tropical species like Sulawesi shrimp need warm water between 78°F and 84°F.


In a freshwater shrimp tank, filtration serves several purposes. Water circulation improves oxygenation and filters help remove solid waste from the water column. Most importantly, however, it supports the nitrifying bacteria that help control ammonia and nitrite in the tank.

Sponge filters are generally ideal for small shrimp-only tanks because they support biological filtration without producing a lot of suction or water flow. If you use a hang-on-back or cannister filter instead, consider covering the intake with a piece of foam to prevent shrimp and shrimplets from being injured.


When choosing a substrate, consider whether you’ll be adding plants to your tank. Nutritionally complete substrates are ideal but can be covered with a layer of sand or fine gravel if you prefer that look. Think about the appearance of the shrimp you plan to cultivate as well. Many freshwater shrimp look most striking against the dark substrate.


The term hardscape refers to the solid decorations in a tank—things like driftwood and rockwork. In a shrimp tank, these serve not only as decoration but as surfaces on which essential food sources will grow. Porous rocks and driftwood are the best surfaces to grow algae and accumulate the biofilm on which your shrimp will feed. They can also be arranged to give your shrimp places to hide.


Aquarium plants are not required for a freshwater shrimp tank, but they are incredibly beneficial. Not only do they provide additional surfaces for algae and biofilm to accumulate on, but they help maintain water quality. Plants also give your shrimp tank a more natural appearance.

A guide to freshwater shrimp setup.

Cycling the Tank

The nitrogen cycle in an aquarium is the process through which nitrifying bacteria convert ammonia—a byproduct of the breakdown of organic waste—into nitrite and then nitrate. Both ammonia and nitrite are toxic to aquarium inhabitants, though nitrates may be tolerable in small amounts.

Cycling a shrimp tank involves giving the tank time to accumulate a sufficient colony of beneficial bacteria to maintain this process once live inhabitants are added. These bacteria require water, oxygen, and organic waste to thrive and reproduce.

There are several ways to go about cycling a shrimp tank, some methods being faster than others. If you have another established tank, using some of the water, substrate, or filter media in your new tank will help move the process along. Other methods involve “feeding” the tank with small amounts of fish food or adding liquid ammonia directly to the tank.

Because freshwater shrimp are sensitive to water quality, it is not recommended to cycle the tank with the shrimp in it. Learn more about cycling a neocaridina shrimp or caridina shrimp tank on the Shrimpy Business blog.

Caridina vs. Neocaridina Shrimp

Depending on the variety you choose, freshwater shrimp have specific care requirements. It’s wise to stick to a single genus of shrimp, though you may be able to mix different species or varieties if you aren’t concerned about crossbreeding.

Here are a few specific tips for setting up and maintaining a tank for neocaridina versus caridina shrimp.

Caridina Shrimp Tank Maintenance

Shrimp from the Caridina genus prefer soft, slightly acidic water ranging from 65°F to 72°F. The ideal pH range for these shrimp is 5.8 to 6.4 and general hardness should be kept between 3 to 4 dGH with carbonate hardness as close to 0 dKH as possible. Intermittent supplemental feeding and routine water changes are recommended to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0ppm and nitrate as low as possible.

Neocaridina Shrimp Tank Maintenance

Shrimp from the Neocaridina genus prefer medium to hard, neutral to slightly alkaline water ranging from 65°F to 76°F. The ideal pH range for these shrimp is 7.0 to 8.0. General hardness should be kept between 7 and 12 dGH with carbonate hardness between 4 and 8 dKH. Intermittent supplemental feeding and routine water changes are recommended to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0ppm and nitrate as low as possible.

Whether you’re cultivating caridina or neocaridina shrimp, a mature and fully cycled tank is a must. If you rush the process, your shrimp might be exposed to unsafe levels of ammonia or nitrite which could negatively impact their health and longevity.

Taking the time to carefully select your equipment and cycle your tank creates a foundation for successful shrimp cultivation. Learn more about caring for freshwater shrimp in this detailed guide

Contact us today to start your perfect freshwater aquarium.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.