Small shrimp keeping guide for dwarf shrimps (FAQ)


This guide is for dwarf shrimps of Caridina or Neocaridina species, not for agressive species like bigger Macrobrachium. It´s just a short listing of important things to know for beginners of shrimp keeping. Please contact me for further informations or any suggestions.

Shrimps can be found all over the world. The available species in your local fish shop are often from Southeast Asia.

Most dwarf shrimps are between 2-5 cm or 0.8-2 inches long.

Caridina, Neocaridina and similar species are generally peaceful.

Dwarf shrimps are easy to keep. No special equipment is needed (make sure that shrimplets cannot be sucked in the filter).

Water Parameters:
Shrimps can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. Please check the requirements of the individual species!

Temperature 15 - 28 °C or 59 - 82 °F, optimum for most shrimps 23 °C or 73 °F
pH 6.5 - 7.8, most freshwater shrimps do well at a pH around 7
kH 1 – 15 degrees
gH 5 – 25 degrees
Ammonium (near) 0
Nitrite (near) 0
Nitrate as low as possible

Tank size:
At least 10 litres (2.5 gallons), better around 50 litres (13 gallons) because the water parameters are more stable in larger tanks.

Technical equipment:
Like normal fish tank too. Make sure that shrimps cannot be sucked in the filter or jump out the tank. You can use an air-operated interior filter with foam/sponge or use it to make the inflow of other filter types safe. CO2 can be added but is not necessary for keeping shrimps. When you use such systems keep an eye on stable pH value. DIY CO2 can cause problems with fluctuating values.

Tank arrangement:
Provide many hiding places. Breeding tanks should be heavily planted to provide plenty of spaces for shrimplets to hide from predators and grow. Mosses are best to hide and find food. Fast growing plants like Najas Grass and floating plants are also good choices. Wood can be used also as micro-algaes grow on wood and are a good source of food. You can use gravel or sand (1-2 mm at a minimum). Shrimp tend to show better colors against a dark ground, but is not a requirement and is dependent upon your tastes.

You can keep dwarf shrimps in a community tank with small non-aggressive fishes. For breeding they're better kept alone or with small fishes, like Otocinclus.

Shrimp should never be put into a non-cycled tank. Wait for 2 to 3 weeks until cycling is done. Especially with unknown water or much different water parameters you have to acclimate them very slowly. Drip method over some hours is the safest way.

They eat normal fish food like flakes or tablets which should contain vegetable diet. Some frozen food can be added. A good diet to aid the molting process is dry leaves from oak or almond trees, but not all leaves are suitable. Further they eat vegetables like peeled cucumber and zucchini.

Distinguishing the genders:
Young dwarf shrimps are difficult to distinguish. It's easier after they obtain the sexual maturity.
Females tend to be bigger and have a rounder belly. In some species, you may be able to see the unfertilized eggs in the neck (also called saddle) or in the “belly” region.
There can be some other remarks depending on the species like patterns or intensity of the colors for example.

Breeding form:
High order breeding form can reproduce in freshwater; the shrimplets are fully developed when they hatch and leave the mother. Eggs tend to be larger and are found in broods of 15-30.
Low order breeding form has a larval stage which requires brackish or saltwater. Reproduction in pure freshwater is impossible. Eggs tend to come in broods of at least 100.

Breeding (high order form):
Before releasing the shrimplets females have to carry the eggs for 3-4 weeks. Normally they are carrying new eggs after 3-6 weeks. Some species don't reproduce above 25 °C (77 °F).

Crossbreeding between some (not all) species is possible. Please be informed before you buy several species.

Molting usually occurs after water changes. An empty shell is not a dead shrimp, like beginners maybe think. You should visually see a break in the neck area of the empty shell. Molting is needed for growing and repairing damaged parts of the body. Young shrimps molt more often than adults, since they mature and grow in size. Adults do not grow much bigger once they are fully matured. The skin is mostly made of a substance called chitin, similar to cellulose found in plants.

Harmful substances:
Some heavy metals even in small doses can be deadly to shrimp, especially copper. Some medicinal products for fish containing copper! Stainless steel, on the other hand, is a harmless metal. Chemicals like plant protection products can be found in vegetables and aquatic plants. For that reason better you peel the vegetables and soak new plants for some weeks before using.

It's difficult to decide when there are too much shrimps in the tank. That depends much on feeding, filter and how well your tank runs at all. For sure it's a risk, just a small step over the limit and the shrimps will die. Larger tanks have more buffer, the processes are going slower than in small tanks. When the maximum quantity is reached the shrimps stop reproducing.

Water changes are as necessary as for fish tanks because they need a high water quality. For areas or cities that have highly processed tap water, it is necessary to use a de-chlor product that detoxifies chlorine and/or chloramines.



© 2005 Frank Kulich