If you are looking into starting a shrimp tank this article will help you figure out what you will need, and what will help your shrimp colony grow and thrive. There are 2 main genera of freshwater dwarf shrimp; Neocaridina and Caridina. Although similar in body shape and appearance the 2 species will not interbreed, and if the parameters are right you can keep one of each species in the same tank. Neocaridina includes Red Cherry shrimp the most widely kept shrimp, as well as other color variations like orange, yellow, blue and rili shrimp. Caridina are viewed as the shrimp for more advanced shrimp keepers, and include Crystal Red, Crystal Black and the various Tiger shrimps, but also include the Amano shrimp which is easy to keep, and does a great job of eating algae.
I will tell you how to go about setting up a beginner tank. The Crystals and other more expensive shrimp should only be attempted after you have been successful keeping Neocaridina shrimp. Caridina normally require acidic water, a substrate that keeps the water acidic, and more reliable testing equipment. Many people who start with higher end shrimp are unsuccessful and end up leaving the hobby. I want you to be enjoy the success of keeping, breeding and raising Dwarf shrimp. Id like you to be able to share the joys of this hobby with your family and fellow freshwater hobbyists.
Tank size is not really important, but for the sake of keeping the water parameters as constant as possible I recommend at least 10 gallons, and if possible a 20 gallon long tank. The larger the footprint the better. You will need to choose an inert substrate, something like pea gravel or play sand from a do it yourself store will be the cheapest. Most tap water in the USA will be good enough to use as long as you use a tap water conditioner before adding it into the tank. For a shrimp only tank there does not need to be tons of filtration, some of my most successful tanks use only a single oversized sponge filter connected to an air pump. There are 2 main kinds of sponges readily available in the USA, a dual sponge filter, or a single sponge. Both will work fine for your tank, you could even use one of each. A heater is also not necessary in a shrimp tank unless your house gets very cold in the winter. Neocaridina can easily survive in tanks in the low 60's up to high 70's. I recommend at least a one month cycle to allow bio film and microorganisms to build in your tank. To keep your shrimp active, visible, and stress free you should not add fish to your shrimp tank. Fish will harass and probably ultimately eat adults and will definitely eat newborns. Best case scenario the fish do not eat your shrimp because the shrimp hide in fear for their life all day. And what fun is a shrimp tank if you do not see the shrimp? The only 100% shrimp safe fish is the ottocinclus. I usually have 1-2 in all of my tanks to help eat the algae.
Your shrimp will need places to hide and graze for food in their tank. Newborn shrimp will moult almost daily, adults about once a month. They are very vulnerable for a few hours after moulting as their new shell forms. Shrimp are opportunistic scavengerers.
If they see a struggling shrimp they will attack and eat it. I would not use fake plants, or manufactured tank ornaments to achieve this. The best things to use are comparable to what they may have in their natural stream environment. Cholla wood, Malaysian driftwood, leaf litter like Cattapa, Guava, Oak ,Beech, Mulberry leaves are all great at mimicking their natural environment.
They condition the water as well as provide tannins and places for bio film and micro organisms to grow. Newborn to adult shrimp will spend most of their day picking at the woods and leaves searching for microorganisms and bio film to eat. Moss is also a great addition and can be tied to the wood with fishing line or thread. Moss will provide the shrimp with another place to search for food. The most common mosses to use are Java, Taiwan, Flame or Peacock moss.
`In most cases your local tap water will be good enough for Neocaridina shrimp, but due to variations from city to city and even house to house, its best to know whats in your water. You will want to make sure there is no copper in your water source. Copper in the water column will almost certainly kill your shrimp. Also if your tap water is treated with chloramine you need to be certain to use a conditioner that treats for chloramine. Neocaridina do the best at a PH between 7.0- 7.8. Some people are succesful keeping them in a lower ph around 6, but the general consensus among hobbyists is that baby survival rates drop as the ph gets lower than 7 for neocaridina. A Total Dissolved Solids of 150-300 ppm is your target but success can be had at higher tds levels General Hardness (GH) of 4-12, carbonate hardness (KH) is not very important in a Neocaridina tank but I would recommend a KH of at least 3-4 to minimize swings in PH.. You will want your ammonia and nitrite levels at 0, and nitrates lower than 20 ppm. If your nitrates run high you can add floaters like Amazon Frogbit, Duckweed, Water Lettuce, Riccia, or Salvinia. Even without a nitrate problem a few floating plants on the surface is good to have for the shrimp to eat off the root systems or as a precaution in case there is an ammonia or nitrate spike. There are freshwater testing kits that are available at most pet stores. I would recommend buying one that tests for PH, Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates. You should also purchase a test for GH/KH and a tds pen which can be purchased for about 10 dollars on-line.
Maintaining your shrimp tank is pretty easy and will not take up much of your time. The most important thing to do before starting any maintainance is to wash your hands. You should always wash your hands before placing them in or near your tank. Your hands can accumulate all kinds of nasty stuff that can quickly wipe your colony out . When I was first starting raising shrimp I pet a dog that had been treated with flea medicine on its neck. I forgot to wash my hands and I reached into my crystal red and black tank to move something around. I had a colony of about 50 shrimp at a cost of about 10$ each at the time. I was so excited, it was my second tank and they were doing great. Females were berried and baby shrimp were just days away from arriving in the tank. The flea medicine from my hands had the whole colony on their sides, twitching and dead within 24 hours. It was a very expensive lesson to learn, and I since try my best to not touch the tanks at all, even after washing my hands. But in doing maintainance you will have to touch objects in the tank,.
I recommend only a 15-25% water change once a month if the tank is established and lightly stocked. As your colony grows you may want to switch it to a 25% water change weekly or bi-weekly. It is best to try and keep the water parameters of the water you are adding to the tank as close to the water as you are removing. It will prevent temperature swings, or PH swings which can be detrimental to your blossoming shrimp colony. Cleaning the sponge filter should also be done during your monthly water change. I use a 5 gallon bucket to collect the water I am removing from the tank. I then remove the sponge/s and gently squeeze them out in the tank water. Some sponges may rip or tear if you squeeze them too hard. I squeeze and release, letting the sponge fill back up with water, then squeeze again. I do this about 20-30 times. You should notice the water becoming a stained brown with each squeeze from your sponges. The sponge will filter the water much more effectively when free of debris trapped in the foam. Using tank water instead of tap water will preserve the beneficial bacteria, which is the lifeblood of keeping your shrimp habitat healthy and thriving
Feeding your shrimp does not require expensive foods. If you provide them with leaves and wood and moss they will get most of their nutrition from the tank. Allowing bio film and algae to grow on the glass will also help them . You should clean only the front of your tanks, and allow the sides and back to get covered in algae. The number 1 reason for unsuccessful shrimp keeping is overfeeding. Overfeeding leads to poor water quality and a bloom in pests like Planaria. Keep in mind they are about an inch long and scavenge all day. A tank of 10 shrimp does not need a full algae wafer sized meal every day, not even a tank of 100 shrimp needs that much food. A common rule used is to only feed what will be eaten in 2-3 hours, and remove any excess after that time There are all kinds of shrimp specific foods on the market, as well as feeding them blanched veggies like baby spinach, green beans, carrots, pumpkin and squash. Some people choose to feed algae wafers and fish food. I think the best method of feeding is to feed once every 2 days, and to mix it up between fresh blanched veggies and a couple of the shrimp specific foods available. You can also mix in a feeding of frozen bloodworms once every few weeks, an animal protein is good for their diet. Just remember to not overfeed them as rotting uneaten bloodworms can foul your water very quickly
You should expect your shrimp colony to grow exponentially once breeding starts. You should only keep one color of shrimp in your tank. Mixing colors will most likely result in the offspring reverting back to their natural brownish unattractive color. These shrimp have been bred for many years to achieve the bright reds and oranges and yellows etc. Crossbreeding them will cancel that out. A typical adult female will produce about 20-30 baby shrimp per pregnancy. She will basically be perpetually pregnant once she reaches maturity. You will notice the females tend to have better color and rounded bellies than the males. You will also most likely be able to see her saddle as she reaches sexual maturity. The saddle is the area behind her neck where the eggs develop that resembles a horses saddle. She will molt once she is ready to carry the eggs and release a pheromone that will cause the males in the tank to shoot all over the tank trying to find her and impregnate her. After a male deposits his sperm she will transfer the eggs from her ovaries (saddle) to her pleopods ( the area underneath her belly and tail). You will notice her fanning the eggs a lot to keep oxygen rich water flowing on them. After about 25-30 days she will give birth. They are high order breeders so the babies will be miniature versions of the parents. They are not very mobile the first few days so it is important to have leaves moss etc for them to hang out on and eat. After a few weeks the babies will be more active and join in on feedings of prepared foods. After about 3-6 months they will reach maturity themselves.
The most important thing to remember is keep it simple. There is no need for fertilizers, or co2 or elaborate set ups of any kind to achieve a happy healthy shrimp tank. A little attention to maintaining stable water parameters and providing them with leaf litter and other food options will go a long way in you successfully growing your colony from 10 shrimp to 200 in a few months. Be prepared to get hooked on shrimp keeping and starting up more aquariums. Do not hesitate trying out some of the more advanced species that require a little more care and attention. Once you have raised Neocaridina shrimp the jump to most Caridina shrimp can be pretty easy and very rewarding.