How to Breed Freshwater Shrimp?

We understand that it can be a little frustrating to have an established shrimp tank for a while and have little to no breeding activity. However, these awesome little critters breed pretty easily if their tank is setup adequately and proper husbandry is being practiced. In this article, I'll cover a few tips and tricks that will help you be successful in breeding freshwater shrimp. 

How to Sex Freshwater Shrimp

First, let's cover how to sex these shrimp. This is important because it is pretty safe to say that we'll need a male and a female to breed. :)  There are other methods to sex Caridinas compared to Neocaridinas. However, I'll cover mainly how to sex Neocaridinas which also can be used to sex Caridinas. Keep in mind that young juvenile shrimp are pretty impossible to sex. We can tell them apart at around 1/2" in size or so. The following are the main differences.

  1. The main obvious distinction is that males have a "straight" or slightly        concaved belly while females have a rounded belly. The rounded belly is to carry eggs after they have been fertilized.
  2. Males tend to be less colorful compared to females.
  3. This typically only applies to lighter color variations. Females have a "saddle" on their backs, which are unfertilized eggs, while males do not.

 Male Cherry Shrimp - Shrimpy Business

The photos above show a male cherry shrimp on the left (notice the straight belly) and a female cherry shrimp on the right. 

Freshwater Shrimp Breeding Process

Let's cover the breeding process of freshwater shrimp. The breeding process begins when a saddled female molts. She will release pheromones which will cause the males to go into a frenzy to search for the berried female(s). At this stage all the males in the tank frantically swimming around the tank in search for the female. One lucky male will then find the female and breed with her. After fertilization has occurred, the fertilized eggs will them be transferred to the bottom of her belly. She will then carry the eggs until they hatch, which usually takes 2-3 weeks. The photo below shows one of our berried Orange Pumpkin Shrimp. 

 Berried Neocaridina Shrimp

Freshwater Shrimp Tank Setup

Cycling a Freshwater Shrimp Tank

One of the most crucial steps is to adequately cycle a freshwater shrimp tank prior to adding freshwater shrimp. If you need help with cycling a new freshwater shrimp tank, we have blog articles will be able to help here:

How to Cycle a Neocaridina Shrimp Tank

How to Cycle a Caridina Shrimp Tank 

Shrimp Tank Filters Choices

The main concern when choosing a filter for a shrimp tank is to ensure that the shrimplets or the adult shrimp will not get sucked into the filter. The following are 3 of our recommendations that have worked well for us.

  1. Sponge filter
  2. Hang on Back Filter (with pre-filter intake sponge)
  3. Fluidized Media Filter

Shrimp Tank Size

Freshwater dwarf shrimp are relatively small animals so they don't necessary need a large aquarium, you can even have a 1 gallon shrimp tank (to prevent overstocking, we recommend not getting more than 10 shrimp per gallon when stocking the tank). However, we find the best success in breeding freshwater shrimp in 20 gallon long aquariums. We find that it is the ideal size where it is not too large where it becomes hard to manage in a home setting and not too small where evaporation drastically changes water parameters. It also has a large "footprint" compared to the height of the aquarium which maximizes the surface area for shrimp to graze on. If a 20 gallon long is too large for what you're looking for, our second choice will be a 10 gallon aquarium. 

Substrate or Bare-Bottom Tank?

Neocaridina shrimp can technically be kept in a bare-bottom tank. However, we don't recommend it if the goal is to develop a healthy colony of shrimp. I have experimented with bar-bottom tanks, tanks with deep substrate levels (3 inches deep or so) and tanks with shallow substrate levels (0.5 inch to 1 inch). I found that the ones with substrate do a lot better in terms of breeding activity compared to the bare-bottom tank. It is probably due to the increased surface area that the substrate provides for biofilm to grow on which will definitely help keep shrimp healthy and provide a constant food source for shrimplets. If you are going for a planted tank and prefer a tank with deeper substrate levels, I definitely recommend rooted plants to prevent the compaction of substrate and they are good for the water parameters in general. I personally prefer a shallow substrate with some moss to keep things simple. However, either way will work.

Light for Shrimp Tanks

What I have found is that light is crucial for healthy shrimp growth and development. It also encourages algae and biofilm growth which provide shrimp with a constant food source. However, keeping the light on for too long will stress out shrimp too much and will probably cause excessive algae growth. We typically have a outlet timer and we shoot for around 5-6 hours of light per day.

Freshwater Shrimp Water Parameters

Setting up a tank with the proper water parameters is crucial for having success in breeding freshwater shrimp. If you need help in understanding the different parameters for each freshwater shrimp variety, we have another blog post here that covers it in detail. 

What to Feed Freshwater Shrimp

Another factor for healthy shrimp and to improve shrimplet survival rate is to feed high-quality foods. We recommend a high-protein food for the berried female shrimp so that they have the proper nutrition for the shrimplets and a lower protein, high-mineral food to keep things balance. 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. After there are shrimplets present in the tank, we will then supplement with a powdered food as well. Be careful when feeding the powdered food as it is very easy to overfeed and cause and ammonia spike, I recommend feeding very sparingly at first and add more as the colony grows. We alternate the high protein and high mineral food daily and we feed powdered food (sparingly) to the tanks with shrimplets every day.

Water Changes for 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. Water changes will sometimes trigger breeding activity as the females will typically molt after water changes. 

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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