How to Set Up the Perfect Freshwater Shrimp Aquarium

If you love the idea of having an aquarium but you’re not sure you have the time for a lot of maintenance, a freshwater shrimp tank might be the perfect alternative. Because they’re small, freshwater shrimp don’t require a large tank. As long as you make sure the tank is stable before you add your shrimp, they’re easy to care for.

Before you make up your mind, learn how to set up a freshwater aquarium for shrimp. Shrimp tanks generally require less maintenance than aquariums for fish but there’s still some planning involved. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Freshwater Shrimp?

Aquarium maintenance requirements vary depending on tank size and inhabitants. It may sound counterintuitive, but large tanks are often easier to maintain than smaller tanks simply because fluctuations in water parameters don’t happen as quickly with higher volumes. Bigger tanks take up more space, however, and they have their own challenges in terms of equipment and maintenance.

If you want to cultivate a freshwater aquarium but have limited space or time to work with, consider freshwater shrimp.

Freshwater aquarium shrimp don’t need a large tank and, as long as you keep the water clean, you don’t need any fancy tank equipment. In fact, shrimp do a lot of the work keeping the tank clean themselves. They’re scavengers, so they’ll find all the little bits of food on the bottom of the tank and will help keep algae at bay as well.

Shrimp also make for entertaining pets. They may be small, but once they get comfortable with their environment they can be very active. They’re social creatures that prefer to live in groups and can get along with other peaceful tankmates like snails and small fish.

Tank Size and Setup

The beauty of freshwater shrimp is that they’re small. Popular species like cherry shrimp grow to a maximum length of around 1.5 inches while crystal black shrimp and jade shrimp are even smaller. It’s easy to keep a group of shrimp in a 10-gallon tank, though it’s wise to add extra tank capacity if you plan to keep groups of ten shrimp or more together.


The key to keeping your shrimp happy and healthy is maintaining high water quality in your shrimp aquarium. It’s essential to let your tank cycle completely before adding your shrimp and then provide adequate filtration with regular water changes.

Filtration is essential for healthy shrimp aquariums because it helps remove potentially harmful substances from the water column. Fish aquariums often utilize a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration but shrimp are delicate. Sponge filters are ideal for freshwater shrimp aquariums because they help collect solid waste while also providing a surface on which beneficial bacteria can thrive. You may also want to include a bubbler to increase oxygen levels in your tank water.

The perfect freshwater shrimp aquarium setup.

Water quality is key, but you may also want to install an aquarium heater to keep your shrimp tank temperature stable. Lighting may not be necessary unless you plan to cultivate live aquarium plants. If you’re new to the hobby, it may be best to start with a low-tech shrimp tank and upgrade to a planted tank later once you learn the basics of aquarium maintenance.

Nitrogen Cycle Basics

If you’re new to the aquarium hobby, you’ll need to learn about the nitrogen cycle. It’s simply the cycle through which organic matter like fish waste and uneaten food breaks down, producing toxic compounds including ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. The term “cycling” as it applies to aquariums involves cultivating a colony of beneficial bacteria sufficient enough to consume those compounds and convert them into less toxic forms which can then be removed from the tank through water changes.

It takes time for a new shrimp aquarium to cycle – anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. You can jumpstart the process by adding live nitrifying bacteria from an established tank or you can purchase it bottled from a pet store.

You don’t just need to add beneficial bacteria to your shrimp aquarium, however. You need to create an environment in which it can thrive and reproduce. This is generally referred to as biological filtration. Sponge filters are ideal for biological filtration and are gentle enough for freshwater shrimp. 

Types of Freshwater Shrimp

Freshwater aquarium shrimp come in a wide range of colors and patterns, though the most popular species belong to one of three genera: Caridina, Neocaridina, and Palaemonetes.

Here’s an overview of some of the most popular freshwater shrimp:

1. Cherry Shrimp

One of the most popular Neocaridina species, cherry shrimp are named for their bright red color. These shrimp grow up to 1.5 inches long and can be bred into color morphs like green jade or blue velvet.

2. Jade Shrimp

A green color morph of the cherry shrimp, green jade shrimp are a little smaller – they grow 0.75 to 1.25 inches in length. Though most green jade shrimp are primarily green in color, some have yellowish, blueish, or even black coloration.

3. Crystal Black Shrimp

Also known as black bee shrimp, crystal black shrimp are a Caridina species. These shrimp grow 0.75 to 1.25 inches in length and they’re considered a type of dwarf shrimp. Crystal black shrimp come in six different grades (as do cherry shrimp) depending on the amount of black versus white color they have.

4. Blue Bolt Shrimp

Another Caridina species, blue bolt shrimp are a blue variant of the Taiwan bee shrimp. They are a cross between the Taiwan bee shrimp and either the crystal red or crystal black shrimp, so they have a combination of blue and white coloration.

5. Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimp were named after the legendary Aquarist Takashi Amano, for his use of these shrimp in his beautiful aquascapes. The scientific name of these shrimp is Caridina multidentate. They are great shrimp for any nano aquarium due to their adaptability to many water parameters and their appetite for algae.

Feeding and Maintenance Tips

Freshwater shrimp are, like many invertebrates, scavengers. This means they’ll eat just about anything they can find in the tank from algae and microorganisms to plant matter and uneaten fish food. Though your shrimp may subsist just find on things they find in the tank, it’s wise to supplement their diets with small amounts of shrimp-appropriate foods like shrimp pellets, algae wafers, and blanched veggies.

Maintaining a shrimp tank is easy and oriented around a single goal – keeping the water clean. Many freshwater shrimp species are adaptable to varying water parameters but significant changes in water chemistry can be harmful. Change 20% to 30% of your tank water once a week, using a gravel vacuum to remove accumulated detritus from the bottom of the tank. Refill the tank with conditioned water as close to the current tank temperature as possible to avoid stressing your shrimp.

Whether you’re completely new to the aquarium hobby or you’re an experienced aquarist looking for a new adventure, a shrimp aquarium can be the perfect fit. Just be sure to take the time to let your tank cycle completely before adding your shrimp and you’ll find they’re a delightful, low-maintenance pet. Contact us today to start your perfect freshwater aquarium.

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