Colorful Marvels: Exploring the Stunning Varieties of Sulawesi Shrimp

Freshwater dwarf shrimp add color and activity to the home aquarium. Popular varieties like cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) and crystal shrimp (Caridina cantonensis) are easy to find, but hobbyists looking for something unique might be interested in Sulawesi shrimp.

Sulawesi shrimp (Caridina dennerli), also known as white glove shrimp, are rising stars in the aquarium hobby. These dwarf shrimp are beloved for their bright coloration which, as for many freshwater shrimp, ranges depending on the variety. Let’s explore the stunning varieties of Sulawesi shrimp and dive into their care requirements.

What Are Sulawesi Shrimp?

Nicknamed for their land of origin, Sulawesi shrimp are a small species of freshwater shrimp native to an island in Indonesia called Sulawesi. The species’ scientific name comes from the German company Dennerle which funded the expedition that led to its discovery and scientific description. These shrimp are also known as cardinal shrimp due to their deep red coloration.

Sulawesi shrimp are endemic to Lake Matano, the deepest lake in Indonesia and the 11th deepest lake in the world. Lake Matano is classified as an ultra-oligotrophic tropical lake. It formed an estimated 1 to 2 million years ago and supports a significant amount of endemic flora and fauna, including shrimp, snails, and crabs. What makes this lake particularly notable is its layers of iron-rich soil and rocks.

Like most freshwater shrimp, Sulawesi shrimp are scavengers that feed on detritus in their natural habitat. They remain very small, growing up to 1 inch (2.5cm) in length. Though this species is native to a very nutrient-poor environment, they are sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters in captivity. 

Sulawesi Shrimp Varieties

Unfortunately, pollution and introduced predatory fish species such as the flowerhorn cichlid have decimated wild populations of C. dennerli. None have been recorded in Lake Matano since 2013 and the species is thought to be extinct in the wild. Like other Caridina species, however, Sulawesi shrimp are widely cultivated for the aquarium trade. Selective breeding has led to the development of several different color varieties.

Some of the most attractive Sulawesi shrimp varieties include:

  • Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp – The most common variety of Sulawesi shrimp, this type exhibits rich red all-over color with tiny white spots.
  • Blue Ghost Sulawesi Shrimp – A selectively bred variety not found in the wild, blue ghost Sulawesi shrimp exhibit a deep blue and black coloration.
  • Tigris Sulawesi Shrimp – Named for their striped pattern, Tigris Sulawesi shrimp come in red-and-white or brown-and-white varieties.
  • Galaxy Sulawesi Shrimp – This variety is a black version of the cardinal Sulawesi, sporting all-over black coloration with white or light blue spots.
  • White Orchid Sulawesi Shrimp – Similar in appearance to galaxy Sulawesi shrimp, white orchid or Starry Night Sulawesi shrimp are brown and tan with light-colored spots.

Because Sulawesi shrimp have spots rather than bands of color, they are not graded in the same way as other Caridina species like cherry shrimp or crystal shrimp. For example, crystal red shrimp (Caridina cantonensis) are graded for color and pattern. The more solid the color and the more white versus red, the higher the grade.

Grading of dwarf shrimp primarily comes into play in selective breeding. While breeding Sulawesi shrimp is relatively easy, this species lays fewer eggs than others. Females only lay about 15 eggs at a time and it takes them roughly 20 days to hatch and become free-swimming. With enough time, however, Sulawesi shrimp will generally breed on their own as long as a male and female are present.

Spotted Sulawesi shrimp.

Care Tips for Sulawesi Shrimp

Sulawesi shrimp are generally easy to care for, though they do require an established aquarium. Like all dwarf shrimp, they’re sensitive to water parameter changes and they do best in a planted tank. 

Species Information:

  • Scientific Name: Caridina dennerli
  • Origin: Lake Matano, Sulawesi (Indonesia)
  • Color: Red with white spots
  • Size: Up to 1 inch (2.5cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 2 years
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons or larger
  • Tank Type: Established planted tank

Best kept groups with others of their own species, Sulawesi shrimp require at least a 5-gallon tank. Stability in their environment is essential, so consider a larger tank where minor fluctuations in water parameters are less likely to cause an issue. Equipping your shrimp tank with a sponge filter, heater, and air pump will help keep conditions within the ideal range.

Sulawesi shrimp are native to the tropical island of Sulawesi, so they require warm tank temperatures between 77°F and 80°F. The pH should be neutral to slightly alkaline – a pH around 8.0 is ideal for this species. Water hardness should remain low, between 3 and 10 dKH.

Ideal Tank Parameters:

  • Temperature: 77°F to 80°F
  • pH: 7.0 to 8.5
  • Water Hardness: 3 to 10 dKH

Planted tanks are ideal for Sulawesi shrimp because they simulate the species’ natural habitat and provide plenty of surface area on which algae and biofilm will accumulate. These are two of the species’ primary food sources, though you may need to supplement their diet occasionally. The larger your tank, the less supplemental feeding your shrimp are likely to require.

Decorate your Sulawesi shrimp tank with dark sandy substrate, rocks, and driftwood. Porous rocks are preferable to smooth stone because algae will grow more easily on them. Include a variety of aquatic plants and make sure your lighting is adequate to sustain them.

In terms of tankmates, Sulawesi shrimp present some challenges. Not only are they likely to become prey to fish, but their high pH requirements are not compatible with many of the typical community fish species. Sulawesi shrimp may be best kept with other endemic Sulawesi species such as Sulawesi snails.

Final Thoughts

While Sulawesi shrimp may be more difficult to find than more popular varieties of dwarf shrimp, they’re well worth keeping. Their bold red color stands out in planted tanks and their spotted pattern makes them unique. Just keep in mind their high pH requirements when choosing Sulawesi shrimp tankmates. It may be best to simple keep them in a tank with a large group and to get all your favorite shrimp from Shrimpy business.

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