Guide to Freshwater Shrimp Care

Welcome to the world of freshwater shrimp! Interested in taking the plunge in keeping these wonderful freshwater invertebrates but have no idea where to start? Have no fear! Shrimpy Business has got you covered. We have compiled a list of important aspects to the Freshwater Shrimp hobby to equip hobbyist with the necessary knowledge to be successful.

1. Types of Freshwater Shrimp

It is first important to understand the different varieties of Freshwater Shrimp because each variety will require different parameters. The following is a high-level overview:

Neocaridina Shrimp
This is a hard water shrimp variety, however, Neocaridina shrimp can survive in a wide range of water parameters if acclimated appropriately. We recommend beginners to start with Neocaridina shrimp as they typically can survive in most conditioned tap water in the USA.

Caridina Shrimp
Caridina Shrimp require soft, acidic water. They typically require remineralized RO/DI water and an active substrate to bring down the PH. If you would like to read more about how to setup a Caridina tank, we have a separate article here.

Sulawesi Shrimp
These shrimp are only found in the Sulawesi region of Indonesia and are the smallest among all the shrimp we carry. Sulawesi are a hard water variety and require warm water in the range of 80F to 84F. These shy shrimp are natural rock dwellers and require rock in their setup for them to graze algae off of and for them to feel safe.

Other Freshwater Shrimp varieties
Amano Shrimp, Bamboo Shrimp and Vampire shrimp are the other varieties that technically do not fall into the categories above (Amano Shrimp is technically a Caridina variety as well, but we’ll leave that for another blog 😊). These 3 shrimp will do well in a Neocaridina setup.

 

2. Water Parameters for Freshwater Shrimp

Water Parameters or Water Chemistry is the most important topic to master when it comes to Freshwater Shrimp Care. For hobbyist who have been familiar with keeping freshwater fish, the compounds that might be familiar are Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia which makes up the Nitrogen Cycle. Ensuring the aquarium is cycled is important for freshwater shrimp, however, freshwater invertebrates have very different anatomy compared to freshwater fish. Invertebrates also go through a molting process as they grow and mature, unlike freshwater fish. Because of the difference in anatomy and the molting process, General Hardness (GH), Carbonate Hardness (KH) and Potential Hydrogen (PH) are very important parameters to watch out for to ensure our freshwater shrimp friends go through a healthy molting cycle.

a) General Hardness (GH)
GH is a measure of the concentration of Calcium ions (Ca2+) and Magnesium ions (Mg 2+) per volume of water. The unit of measure of most test strips is Parts Per Million (ppm). However, we recommend using the Liquid API GH test kit as we find that the liquid test kit is more accurate compared to the test strips. The unit of measure of the liquid API test kit is in Degrees of General Hardness or dGH. 1 dGH is roughly 17.9 ppm. Soft water basically means that the the water has a low GH, and Hard water means that the water has a high GH. The following are the dGH ranges for soft water, water with medium hardness and Hard water:

Soft Water: 0-3 dGH
Medium Hardness: 4-6 dGH
Hard Water: >7 dGH

Type of Freshwater Shrimp Recommended dGH Range
Neocaridina Shrimp 7 to 12 dGH
Caridina Shrimp 3 to 4 dGH
Sulawesi Shrimp 6 to 8 dGH



b) Carbonate Hardness (KH)
“K” in the abbreviated term KH actually comes from the German word of Carbonate, Karbonatharte. KH is a measure of the concentrate of Carbonate and Bicarbonate ions in the water, which correlates to the buffering capacity of the water. In other words, KH keeps the PH stable. The higher the KH, the more forgiving the water chemistry will be to additions that might normally alter the PH. The unit of measure of most test strips is Parts Per Million (ppm). However, we recommend using the Liquid API KH test kit as we find that the liquid test kit is more accurate compared to the test strips. The unit of measure of the liquid API test kit is in Degrees of Carbonate Hardness or dKH. 1 dKH is roughly 17.9 ppm.

Type of Freshwater Shrimp Recommended dKH Range
Neocaridina Shrimp 4 to 8 dKH
Caridina Shrimp 0 dKH
Sulawesi Shrimp 3 to 8 dKH



c) Potential Hydrogen (PH)
PH measures the concentration of Hydronium (H+) ions in water, and it measured based on a scale of 1 to 14. 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic.

PH for Neocaridina Shrimp
The PH for Neocaridina shrimp is not as important because it correlates with KH. If the KH is in an acceptable range, the PH will most likely be between 7 and 8, which is OK.

PH for Caridina Shrimp
The PH for a Caridina shrimp setup is determined by the active substrate that is being used. The substrate we recommend is SL-Aqua soil which buffers the PH at about 5.8 to 6.4. The active substrate does exhaust itself after a certain period, the sign that the substrate is reaching its end of life is when the PH starts increasing. If the PH starts increasing, the substrate will have to be changed out. We find that SL-Aqua substrate lasts about 2-3 years. If the KH is above 0, the PH will most likely be higher and the lifespan of the substrate will be shortened.

PH for Sulawesi Shrimp
We find Sulawesi Shrimp do well in a higher PH setup. To buffer the PH above a 7, we use a substrate that is rich in Carbonates like Seachem Onyx Sand. It usually buffers the PH around an 8. 

Type of Freshwater Shrimp Recommended 
PH Range
Neocaridina Shrimp 7 to 8 
Caridina Shrimp 5.8 to 6.4
Sulawesi Shrimp 7.5 to 8.5 


d) Temperature
Both Neocaridina Shrimp and Caridina Shrimp are cold-water shrimp species. Therefore, most aquariums do not require heaters if the room temperature is within the range stated below. Sulawesi shrimp on the other hand are a warm-water shrimp species and require a heated setup.

Type of Freshwater Shrimp Recommended 
Temperature Range
Neocaridina Shrimp 65F to 76F
Caridina Shrimp 65F to 72F
Sulawesi Shrimp 78F to 84F


e) Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
TDS as its name suggest is a measure of all dissolved solids in the water. A TDS measure can be obtained with a TDS pen. If TDS of a tap water is measured, it will measure EVERY Dissolved solid in the water. Not limiting to metal compounds, carbonate compounds, and other chemicals that are added to make the water safe to use. Therefore, it is not really a useful measurement if tap water is being used. Therefore, if tap water is being used in a Neocaridina setup, the TDS measurement can be disregarded.

Where TDS comes in handy is when remineralized Reverse Osmosis / Deionized (RO/DI) water is being used. We’ll use a Caridina setup this for example. Since RO/DI water is pure water, the TDS measurement should be 0 ppm (or close to zero). If a GH+ product is added to the water to increase just the GH, only GH compounds are added and nothing else. Therefore, the TDS measurement will measure the concentration of GH that is present in the water. For the GH+ product of our choice, we know that 80 to 90ppm will correlate to around 3 GH (through our own testing and per the information on the bottle). Knowing this, we can add the GH+ product into a new batch of RO water until the TDS is around 80-90ppm. Getting a TDS number is obtained by simply dipping the TDS pen into the water, this so much simpler compared to performing a GH test after each addition dose of GH. In summary, TDS is mainly used to make our lives as freshwater shrimp hobbyist easier.

 

3. Freshwater Shrimp Diet

Shrimp are natural scavengers and will eat a wide variety of food. It is important to have a fully cycled and mature tank prior to adding shrimp. This is a crucial step because it provides biofilm and algae for adult shrimp and baby shrimp to constantly feed on. To supplement the tank, most high-protein fish food will do OK. However, to encourage breeding and to ensure the shrimp are healthy, we recommend a high protein, high vitamin and high mineral diet specially formulated for shrimp. We feed our own line of shrimp food here

If heater is not used and the tank fluctuates with the room temperature over the year, we find that shrimp metabolism slows down significantly when it is cooler, therefore, their appetites will be significantly smaller. If a heater is used, and temperature is constant the shrimp appetite will usually stay the same throughout the year. We recommend feeding daily. Figuring out the amount of food to feed can be tricky. We recommend starting with very small amount of food and remove any leftovers (if any) after 4-6 hours. If there are leftovers after 4-6 hours, the amount of food introduced is probably too much, and the amount of food should be reduced until little or no leftovers are remaining after 4-6 hours.

 

4. Water changes for a Freshwater Shrimp Tank

If the shrimp tank is not overfed frequently, nitrates should not get out of hand because freshwater shrimp has a very low bio-load. Therefore, they do not need large and frequent water changes. We recommend 15-20% water change every 2-3 weeks by dripping new water back into the tank via an airline tubing or a drip system. This is to prevent large water parameter swings in the aquarium.

We hope this helps you along with your Shrimpy journey! Don't hesitate to reach out to us at info@shrimpybusiness.com for any questions regarding this post or shrimp care in general. We'll be more than happy to help! :)

 

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