Few things are as impressive as a large aquarium stocked with multiple species of vibrant fish. Though visually striking, such tanks may not be the biggest challenge an aquarium hobbyist can take on. Maintaining a small tank can be much more difficult, especially when it holds inhabitants who are still relatively unknown in the aquarium hobby.
For aquarium hobbyists looking for a new challenge, freshwater shrimp present a unique opportunity. In recent years, selective breeding has resulted in numerous new varieties, each one more beautiful than the last.
If you’re thinking about getting into the dwarf shrimp hobby, consider looking beyond the common varieties like cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) and Caridina shrimp-like crystal shrimp (Caridina cantonensis). Below you’ll be introduced to a handful of lesser-known types of freshwater shrimp.
1. Sulawesi Shrimp
Native to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, Sulawesi shrimp (Caridina dennerli) are also known as cardinal shrimp for their deep red color. They’re thought to be extinct in the wild but several varieties have been achieved through selective breeding.
Some of the most vibrant varieties of Sulawesi shrimp include:
- Galaxy Sulawesi Shrimp – Black instead of cardinal red, these Sulawesi shrimp are covered in white or light blue spots that resemble stars.
- Blue Ghost Sulawesi Shrimp – These Sulawesi shrimp are deep blue and black rather than red.
- Tigris Sulawesi Shrimp – Seen in red-and-white or brown-and-white, this Sulawesi shrimp variety is identified by its tiger-like stripes.
Sulawesi shrimp are some of the smallest freshwater dwarf shrimp, growing up to 1 inch long. Due to their size and selective breeding, they can be more sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters than other varieties. They’re still relatively easy to breed in the home aquarium but may reproduce at a slower rate than other dwarf shrimp, producing only about 15 eggs at a time.
2. Bamboo Shrimp
Larger than the previous variety, bamboo shrimp grow up to 3 inches in length. They’re named for their reddish-brown color and striped pattern that gives them the appearance of being covered in woodgrain. There are two species of bamboo shrimp, both native to Southeast Asia:
- Bamboo Shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis)
- Dwarf Bamboo Shrimp (Atyopsis spinipes)
The primary difference between these two species is that the dwarf variety has only 2-6 teeth on the underside of the rostrum while the bamboo shrimp has 7-16. Both species of bamboo shrimp have fan-like appendages that they use to filter food from the water column. This is why they’re also sometimes called fan shrimp. Due to their unique feeding style, bamboo shrimp can be challenging to keep.
3. Vampire Shrimp
Even larger than bamboo shrimp, vampire shrimp (Atya gabonensis) grow up to 6 inches in length and they resemble crayfish more than dwarf shrimp. Where this species gets its name from the fang-like appendages they use to feed—this species is also nocturnal. Another unique thing about vampire shrimp is that they can change color depending on their surroundings or mood.
Like bamboo shrimp, vampire shrimp are filter feeders. They require a large tank with sufficient flow to move edible matter around. Despite their predatory name, vampire shrimp can be kept with dwarf shrimp varieties like Neocaridina and Caridina shrimp. The trick is to offer small amounts of food frequently, making sure it is distributed throughout the tank instead of sinking to the bottom.
4. Opae Ula Shrimp
Also known as Hawaiian red shrimp or volcano shrimp, Opae Ula shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are native to Hawaii where they can be found in small pools of brackish water. Like many dwarf shrimp, Opae Ula shrimp exhibit a range of colors, though all on the red spectrum—this includes red, pink, orange, and yellow. Specimens from Maui are said to have the deepest red coloration.
The challenge with keeping Opae Ula shrimp is providing the ideal brackish environment. The salinity in your tank should be maintained between 1.008 and 1.018 sg with as little variation as possible. Due to their unique tank requirements, finding tankmates for Opae Ula shrimp can be difficult but Malaysian trumpet snails may work well when properly acclimated.
5. Babaulti Shrimp
If you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly option that still exhibits a unique appearance, consider the babaulti shrimp (Caridina babaulti). These shrimp come in shades of red, brown, yellow, and green, often with obvious dark striping. This variety’s care requirements are similar to other Caridina species—they’re relatively low maintenance, as long as water parameters are kept stable.
Other lesser-known varieties of freshwater shrimp include:
- Large-Arm Shrimp (Macrobrachium) – Similar in appearance to crayfish, these freshwater shrimp are easily distinguished in that the second pair of claw bones is enlarged (in crayfish, the largest claws are always found on the first pair).
- Ghost Shrimp (Paleomonetes sp.) – Also known as glass shrimp, these shrimp are almost entirely translucent. Often sold as feeder shrimp, ghost shrimp are beautiful on their own.
- Pinto Shrimp – Achieved by breeding tiger shrimp with Taiwan bee shrimp, pinto shrimp are dual-colored and may exhibit a striped or half-spotted pattern.
- Red Rili Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Rili) – Similar in appearance to the cherry shrimp but much less common, the red rili shrimp has translucent patches that give them a unique look.
- Snowball Shrimp (Neocaridina zhangiajiensis) – Like ghost shrimp, snowball shrimp are often translucent in color. They get their name from the white snowball-like appearance of their eggs which can often be seen through their translucent bodies.
No matter what types of freshwater shrimp you plan to cultivate, it’s important not to rush the decision. Freshwater dwarf shrimp are most likely to thrive in a mature, fully established aquarium, so give your tank plenty of time to cycle. Decorating with live plants, driftwood, and porous rockwork will help you achieve the ideal natural environment for your shrimp.
Beyond cycling, it’s wise to give the tank time to accumulate enough algae and biofilm to support a shrimp colony. Keep in mind that supplemental feeding may still be required, particularly if you plan to expand your colony through breeding.
Contact us today to discover more types of freshwater shrimp so you can build your perfect freshwater aquarium!