Dwarf shrimp in aquariums have been rapidly increasing in popularity since the early 2000’s because of their beautiful colors, unique behaviors, and usefulness as cleanup crew. In a tank full of fish, adding a cool invertebrate with long antennae and multiple legs can bring a new and interesting facet to the hobby. Learn about five of the most common shrimp that you can find at your local fish store and see which one is right for you.
1. Ghost Shrimp
Many beginners get started with shrimp keeping by buying ghost shrimp because they are readily available in large pet store chains and are often sold cheaply as live feeders for predator fish. Many species of grass shrimp, whisker shrimp, long arm shrimp, and even prawns are all called “ghost shrimp” because of their clear-colored bodies, so it is hard to determine exact care requirements for them. Some ghost shrimp species live in freshwater, while others live in brackish water. Some stay 1.5 inches (4 cm) long, while others grow to 5 inches (13 cm) and may try to eat their tank mates.
Given the mixed bag of species you may get, there is no guarantee they will do well in your aquarium, but most of them can live in tropical temperatures from 70-80°F (21-27°C). They tend to prefer pH above 7.0 and higher GH (or water hardness) to help build strong exoskeletons. If you have soft water, provide extra minerals like Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium, and include calcium-rich foods in their diet. Many ghost shrimp are carnivorous and will eat any kind of fish food that gets dropped in the tank.
2. Neocaridina Shrimp
The next beginner shrimp that many people purchase is Neocaridina davidi, also known as the “cherry shrimp” because of its most popular color. This 1.5-inch (4 cm) shrimp comes in many hues besides red, such as yellow, orange, green jade, blue dream, and black rose. Not only are they beautiful to behold, but they also serve as great cleanup crew members that scavenge for crumbs and pick off soft algae. Feed them a varied diet of small, sinking fish foods, shrimp foods that contain calcium, and catappa leaves that grow biofilm for babies to graze on. Give them both clean water and nutritious foods, and they will readily produce tiny babies for you. For more info on how to keep and breed cherry shrimp, see our detailed breeding article.
3. Amano Shrimp
Caridina multidentata is another translucent shrimp on our list that grows up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and comes with a series of dots or dashes running down its side. Despite their ordinary appearance, they were made popular by Takashi Amano, the father of modern aquascaping, who frequently employed amano shrimp for their amazing algae-eating abilities. This species is known for consuming brown diatoms, hair algae, and even black beard algae if they are hungry enough. Compared to other shrimp, they are relatively hardy and do well in a wide range of temperatures from 65-80°F (18-27°C), pH of 6.5-8.0, and GH above 4° (70 ppm). Just keep a tight lid on the aquarium because they love to escape if given the chance. Amano shrimp have voracious appetites and will even steal food from bigger fish and cherry shrimp, so offer fish foods that are too big for them to carry away or are small enough to be scattered all over the tank.
4. Bamboo Shrimp
Looking for a peaceful, oddball invertebrate to spice up your aquarium? Atyopsis moluccensis (also known as the bamboo shrimp, wood shrimp, or Singapore flower shrimp) grows to 2-3.5 inches (5-9 cm) and has feathery fans on its front legs to catch and eat tiny particles floating the water. Because of the way they feed, use a gentle sponge filter (rather than a powerful hang-on-back or canister filter) that won’t polish all the little crumbs from the water. Then give them finely powdered foods like Hikari First Bites, Repashy gel food (in its raw powder form), baby brine shrimp, and specialty foods for filter-feeding shrimp. If your fan shrimp is foraging on the ground, it could be a sign that it is not getting enough nutrients, so consider increasing its daily portion size, target feeding with a pipette, and adding tall decorations for it to perch on while catching food. Like the amano shrimp, bamboo shrimp larvae require salt water to survive, so they will not reproduce in your aquarium.
5. Caridina Shrimp
Caridina shrimp are similar in size to Neocaridina shrimp, but they are usually more expensive and difficult to care for. If you are up for the challenge, there are countless varieties of Taiwan bee, tiger, pinto, and crystal shrimp to choose from. We strongly recommend that you set them up in a 10-gallon (or larger) aquarium that is very mature – meaning that the tank has been running for many months and has grown a healthy ecosystem of algae, biofilm, live plants, and microfauna. In general, they do best in cooler water between 68-75°F (20-27°C), pH below 7.0, low KH, and 4-7° (70-130 ppm) GH, but for maximum success, ask the seller what conditions the shrimp were kept in. To keep the water parameters stable, many hobbyists prefer using active buffering substrate to lower the pH, as well as RODI (reverse osmosis deionized) water with mineral additives specific to bee shrimp.
To delve deeper into the world of freshwater aquarium shrimp, read this comprehensive article by Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King). Also, don’t forget to check out our list of preferred vendors to browse their amazing selection of shrimp.