Feeding Time Fun: What Do You Feed Freshwater Shrimp?

From vibrantly colored cherry shrimp to translucent ghost shrimp, freshwater aquarium shrimp make stunning additions to the home aquarium. While they can be valuable as members of a community tank cleanup crew, the best way to enjoy them is in a shrimp-only tank. Keeping a shrimp-only tank enables you to tailor your shrimp’s environment and makes it easier to meet their unique dietary requirements. 

As omnivorous scavengers, freshwater shrimp will eat a wide range of foods they find throughout the tank. But if you want your shrimp to thrive, you’ll need to put some thought and effort into maintaining a tank that provides natural food sources. Even then, some supplemental feeding may be required.

Here’s what you need to know about what do you feed freshwater shrimp:

Nutrition Basics

Freshwater shrimp are omnivores, which means they’ll eat a wide variety of meat- and plant-based foods. In the wild, shrimp feed primarily on algae, decaying plant matter, and biofilm. Captive shrimp will continue to eat these foods but will also accept algae wafers, shrimp pellets, and other commercial foods. The key is understanding the specific feeding habits of the type of shrimp you plan to cultivate.

Many freshwater shrimp popular in the aquarium hobby are scavengers. Neocaridina and Caridina shrimp, for example, feed by collecting food from surfaces in the tank. These shrimp will move around the tank to find food.

Some of the more challenging freshwater shrimp to keep are filter-feeding varieties like vampire shrimp and bamboo shrimp. These species collect microorganisms and small food particles from the water using specialized fan-like appendages they have in place of claws. Filter-feeding shrimp rely on the current to keep the water flowing and food sources moving.

Providing Natural Food Sources

Small as they are, freshwater shrimp don’t eat large quantities of food at once. They do, however, need to eat constantly. Freshwater shrimp continuously grow out of their exoskeletons, shedding them in a process called molting.

If the shrimp have inconsistent access to food or their diet lacks certain nutrients, they may have trouble regrowing their new shell after molting. On the other end of the spectrum, overfeeding—especially with high-protein foods—can cause shrimp to grow too quickly. This can lead to issues with molting.

To keep your shrimp healthy and thriving, it’s important to cultivate a tank environment that provides plenty of natural food sources. Planted tanks decorated with driftwood and rockwork are ideal. Your shrimp will feed on the algae and biofilm that grows on tank surfaces and feed on decaying plant matter.

The key is to match your tank size to the number of shrimp you’re keeping. A larger tank will provide more surface area on which natural food sources can grow, and it gives those food sources time to replenish as your shrimp move from one area of the tank to another. Most importantly, make sure your tank is fully cycled and has had time to establish some growth before you add your shrimp.

Supplemental Feeding

When it comes to offering supplemental food to freshwater shrimp, most tanks don’t require it every day. Depending on the size of your colony, you may only need to offer food two or three times a week. If you’re breeding freshwater shrimp, you may need to feed more frequently as your colony grows.

Here are some tips for choosing supplemental foods:

  • Look for products that are specifically formulated for shrimp. These foods typically have limited protein to prevent overgrowth with supplemental calcium to support shell growth.
  • Try offering supplemental foods in a dish to make it easy for your shrimp to find and simple to remove the leftovers. Uneaten food should be removed after two hours.
  • Include foods that help support the growth of biofilm in the tank. Snowflake Party, for example, is made from organic soybean hulls which provide the perfect growth media for Mycelia.
  • Choose a supplemental food appropriate to the feeding style of your shrimp. Scavengers will be able to find sinking foods easily enough, but filter feeders may need powdered food. When you offer powdered food, make sure to add it in part of the tank where the water flow will carry it to your shrimp for easy access.

You might also consider adding botanicals like dried lotus pods, cholla wood, and almond leaves to your shrimp tank. Not only do botanicals like these add to the natural aesthetic of your tank, but they also encourage biofilm growth to provide supplemental food for your shrimp.

Freshwater shrimp.

Tips for Feeding Freshwater Shrimp

Every shrimp tank is unique, so it may take some time and attention to find the right balance between natural food sources and supplemental feeding. If you do offer supplemental food, start slow—offer small amounts of food a few times a week. Monitor your shrimp’s growth and keep an eye on the parameters in the tank to be sure you’re not overfeeding.

Here are some general tips for feeding freshwater shrimp:

  • Offer much less food than you think is needed. Many shrimp foods are designed to sink and expand in water, so you may only need to offer a pellet or two at a time.
  • Blanched vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and zucchini make good shrimp foods. Just make sure they are organic and rinse them well before blanching them to soften them.
  • Give your shrimp a treat from time to time with shrimp lollies. These are sticks covered in algae and other powdered foods perfect for shrimp.
  • Be careful when feeding your shrimp commercial fish foods—they may not be formulated with the right combination of nutrients for shrimp and may break down more quickly, altering your water chemistry.
  • If you’re going to be out of town for a while, perform a water change before you leave then add snowflake food or botanicals—something to grow biofilm for your shrimp while you’re gone.

The secret to healthy and thriving freshwater shrimp is a high-quality diet. Check out the Shrimpy Business collection of premium shrimp foods and botanicals to find a product that works for your tank.

Contact us today to start your perfect freshwater aquarium.

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