Overview Of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimps – Care, Diet & More


Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Species and Tank Requirements, Feeding and More

Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King).

Aquaristics has seen a huge boom in the use of dwarf shrimps in recent years. In contrast to the 2 to 3 species that were available in the USA ornamental fish market 5-6 years ago, today there is a wide variety of species in the aquariums of importers, breeders and wholesalers. Vibrantly coloured bred forms in starkly contrasting colours from Europe and Asia as well as invariably new wild catches from all parts of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are reaching US aquarianists.

Today, shrimp is the most invertebrate in our aquariums. We have over 20 years of experience in shrimps. We want to help hobbyists as well as the trade avoid mistakes and enjoy the best hobby. Although the shrimp we have in our hobby are from different genera and families scientifically, what is common is that they spend most of their lives in fresh water, particularly as adults. Some species are dependent on the original habitat of their ancestors the sea. They need fresh water to reproduce. These species belong to the so-called primitive type and produce large numbers of very small eggs per batch. These eggs hatch into larvae that are released into open water. They form part of plankton and then go through many stages. After their time as larvae, they begin to live a benthic lifestyle on the ground. At this point, they return to pure water.

There are many habitats that shrimp can live in, which has created a wide range of species and stunning variations in their appearances. Their sometimes truly impressive colours and patterns are the result of their adaptation to the different living conditions in their habitats. Only three of the many species of shrimp are known to have made it into our aquariums: dwarf ornamental shrimps, fan shrimps, and long-arm shrimp. They differ in body size and form as well as in their habits. The requirements regarding their environment do not differ much between shrimp belonging to one of these groups. Practically every shrimp available in the trade belongs in one of the three groups, under systematical aspects. Dwarf shrimp are the most prominent and also the most popular among them. They are now common in aquariums and the hearts of keepers around the globe.

The genus Caridina shrimp is one of the largest families in the Atyidae family, with over 290 species. However, recent research has found that this genus is in urgent need of a scientific review and re-structuring as there are many discrepancies to be found. The genus Neocaridina has up until now been represented by 30 species and has also found wide distribution in the hobby.

Food for Shrimp and Other Invertebrates

The Omnivores

Omnivorous animals eat food of vegetable as well as of animal origin, sometimes in different proportions, sometimes in an absolutely balanced way. These are the majority of freshwater dwarf shrimp that we have in our hobby. They feed on both plants and (usually dead!) animals, but also on biofilms that are rich in protein. Growing juvenile shrimp and egg-bearing males eat more meat-based food, while adult males and women that are not berried eat more vegetable-based foods.

Shrimp King’s holistic food philosophy takes this into account. For the composition of all Shrimp King shrimp foods, the special feeding habits of shrimp have been taken into consideration, and these foodstuffs give shrimp of all ages all the nutrients and tissue-building blocks, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fibre they need for healthy growth. Every food stick comes with a variety of high-quality ingredients. Shrimp King foods are made only from food-grade, all-natural ingredients. We use a combination that is suitable for the nutritional physiology of the dwarf shrimp. Shrimp King foods do not contain artificial colors or additives. They do not contain antioxidants, preserving agents or attractants, no fishmeal, no fishery by-products or cheap by-products of vegetable origin. Each food variety’s protein content was carefully selected to avoid food-related molting issues.

The main feed Shrimp King Complete provides your shrimp with everything they need. If you have a large number of growing juvies and berried females in the tank, replacing two meals of Shrimp King Complete with Shrimp King Protein per week is a good idea – this will give them an additional portion of valuable, highly digestible protein. Yummy Gum, a food that is perfect for omnivores, can be used to create a grazing area for your shrimp.

We recommend that you supplement your water with Shrimp King Mineral two times a week if you have young children. The minerals in this food have a high bioavailability, and they are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

For enhancing the intensity and the brilliance of the colors in omnivorous shrimp we have developed the variety Shrimp King Color, with natural colorants (amongst others, from microalgae, crustaceans and corn). It has been enriched with the color boosters astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene, which provides especially the red, orange and yellow color variants of the genera Caridina and Neocaridina like for example Crystal Red, Red Fire, Sakura Red, Sakura Orange and Yellow Fire with a natural basis for a good color development. This food can also be used to boost the color of dark-colored shrimp, such as Blue Dream and Carbon Rili shrimps.

The freshwater snails we have in the aquarium hobby (with the exception of the Assassin snail) also belong to the group of omnivores; they are by no means vegetarians. This fact was taken into account when we created the Shrimp King Snail Stixx. These valuable plant products not only provide protein, but also important building blocks for the snail’s shell. We have taken the requirements of biofilm-eating snails into account and have chosen microorganisms as a source of protein in this food – just as our freshwater snails are accustomed to in nature. Yummy Gum, a food variety that can be easily applied to any surface, is ideal for omnivores. You can easily make a food film that biofilm eaters can eat.

Fan shrimp also belong to the omnivorous group of invertebrates. This food variety is very finely ground and can be easily caught by the highly-specialized shrimp. Shrimp King Atyopsis has been created keeping in mind the high energy requirements and special life strategies of fan-shrimp.

Another group of omnivores are dwarf crayfish. We took their special food requirements into consideration when we created Shrimp King Cambarellus; this food variety does not only contain insects and crustaceans but also valuable plant-based ingredients like stinging nettle, spinach and Spirulina algae. The consistency of these sticks is adapted to the feeding behavior of crayfish – as they are very messy eaters, we have made the sticks relatively hard so the crayfish lose less food when eating, which reduces water pollution.

The Carnivores

Carnivores eat foods rich in protein of animal origin. Invertebrates that are carnivorous include the Geosesarma small, colorful land crabs, and many other species.

Assassin snails can also be considered carnivores. They primarily eat snails, but will also eat other protein-rich foods if they don’t find any.

Long-arm shrimp, which are the largest members of the shrimp group, are mainly carnivores. They can eat fresh-dead, frozen, or freeze-dried food as well as food sticks high in protein. The Shrimp King Protein is a good choice for carnivorous insects. Its high protein content makes it easy to digest. The Artemia Pops are rich in protein as they contain brine shrimp and daphnia. They are particularly processed to allow them to be broken down in the aquarium to create a food rug on a slightly larger surface. This reduces feeding stress, even for those who are more picky.

The Herbivores

The 5 Leaf Mix variety consists of five carefully selected leaves: stinging nettle, birch, mulberry, walnut and peppermint from controlled cultivation. Shrimp, snails, dwarf crayfish and crayfish alike just love them.

Pops of vegetable origin are great as a supplement to main food. Snow Pops are made from pure soy brn and provide your inverts with vital fibre, vitamins, and other nutrients. Algae Pops contain Chlorella, Spirulina, and Moringa Pops have Moringa leaves, fennel, and soy bran.

Shrimp King Pops is a fantastic addition to the main meal and an excellent way to add variety to your diet. They enhance a balanced, healthy growth and a good reproduction rate.

Shrimp King Snow Pops are a very valuable snack, ideal not only for shrimp, but also for crayfish, omnivorous crabs and snails.

This is a unique trait of Crayfish. Whereas most adult crayfish, especially those of the genus Cherax, will mainly eat food of vegetable origin, growing juvenile crayfish need a large proportion of proteins in their food. If they do not get sufficient proteins in their daily food they will turn cannibalistic and start eating their conspecifics. Young crayfish from the genera Procambarus Cambarus, Cherax, and Cambarus need to eat more protein than adults.

Aquarium and Habitat

Diseases and Poisoning

Shrimp keepers shouldn’t have to worry about disease if they have the right conditions. Small, mechanical injuries to shrimp shells can lead to blackening around the affected area. Unless deeper tissues have been affected, such injuries should be cured by the time they next shed their skin.

If several shrimps die within a short time in an aquarium, this is generally due to poisoning. Particularly, shrimps are extremely sensitive to heavy metals like copper. This can happen from copper pipes in the aquarium or hot water boiler heating coils. Even tiny amounts of these metals can be lethal, especially in soft water. Water conditioners may be helpful, but you should not use copper-containing water in your shrimp tank.

Also, many medications for ornamental fish or algae conditioners contain copper as an active ingredient. Such agents should never be used in aquariums containing shrimps! Newly purchased aquatic plants from nurseries may also be harmful to shrimps. In particular, if these plants have been cultivated above water, they will have been treated with spraying agents to protect them from pests and fungal diseases. These substances can be extremely toxic to shrimps. For this reason, new plants should be watered for several weeks before being planted in a shrimp aquarium.

Tissue-cultured plants can be used immediately and are not affected by the disease.

Water Parameters

However, these inverts are a strong and enjoyable addition to an ornamental tank. They will grow well if they are kept in the right environment. Most species are quite tolerant with regard to the water parameters. Dwarf shrimps of the genus Caridina prefer a pH from 6.0 to 6.7 and sometimes also to 7.0 while shrimps from the genus Neocaridina can tolerate from 6.0 to 7.5 or 7.8.


The water’s oxygen content is vital for all dwarf shrimp species. Insufficient oxygen can cause disease or death in shrimp. A well-aerated and filtered tank is essential for a successful shrimp keeper. Moreover, these animals like low light and many hideaways where they can stay during the day.

Water Temperature

Dwarf shrimps typically come from areas with moderate to subtropical water temperatures, which are between 15-25°C. Sometimes when shipped some packages arrive with water temperatures less than 15degC and especially in autumn or winter when in some states the temperature drops to less than 12degC the shrimps can become very still or fall into a stiff state and when the water gets warmer they just continue to be active.

Tank setup

The shrimp offered in the trade today are rather variable in size. Dwarf shrimp with a total body length of around 15 mm to 40mm (0.5 to 1.5 inches) can be perfectly kept in aquariums from 10 litres (2.6 gallons) upwards. Sometimes, however, it is easier to maintain an aquarium with 50 to 70lb (13 to 18gallons), as this provides enough space for the shrimps to reproduce. When setting up an aquarium for dwarf shrimps, one or more roots, dry twigs or dry autumn foliage from beeches or oak trees can be recommended in addition to a layer of gravel as the substrate and several plants. Not only do these wooden items look very decorative, they also offer the shrimps several places to hide and retreat. And, more importantly, this material will soon be colonised by a multitude of micro-organisms such as paramecium and vorticella, microscopically small species of worm and slime mould. These micro-organisms provide dwarf shrimps with their natural food source. They can clean the surfaces with their bristles and also consume parts of slowly decaying wood – a healthy source for food for the shrimps that are rich in roughage.

Minerals and salt

The shrimp salts are a key invention in shrimp keeping. The salts have been especially developed to improve the growth of bacteria in the shrimp aquarium that in turn are getting eaten by shrimps.

Bee Salt + was designed to harden rainwater, osmosis, and purified waters. It is especially suited for keeping and breeding shrimps of soft-water biotopes like bee shrimps and bumblebee shrimps. It provides all the vitamins, trace elements, minerals and vitamins that shrimps need to grow vibrantly, reproduce abundantly, and have healthy growth.

Bee Salt can create water with an increase in total hardness but no carbonate hardness. This is similar to the way soft-water shrimps have grown to it in their natural habitats. It promotes the growth of plants and encourages the activity in filter bacteria. It is fast to dissolve and simple to use.

– Creates the ideal water values for the successful keeping and breeding of soft-water shrimps such as bee shrimps and bumble bee shrimps – Creates a slightly acidic pH of approx. pH 6.0-6.5 – Boosts growth and provides valuable supplementary nutrition, particularly for young shrimps.

The Species

Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”

Origins: Japan, Taiwan

It is the undisputed queen of all shrimp, and with its myriad of colour morphs and patterns it has become the most popular freshwater shrimp in the aquarium hobby ever. The red colour morph is said to have been discovered by a Japanese shrimp enthusiast, Hisayasu Suzuki, in one of his shrimp tanks in 1991. He was able to create a true-breeding variety through selective breeding and crossbreeding, which he used to help them win the war around the globe.

Bee Shrimp can be found in dense vegetation along the banks of creeks. The waters are cool and have a fast current. The creek bottom is composed of rock with dead leaves.

In March, during rainfall, we measured a water temperature of only 16.6degC (61.9degF). However, water temperatures can fluctuate greatly throughout the year. In the summer, water temperatures could reach 24°C (75°F).

In the aquarium, Bee Shrimp can be kept without a heater. If temperatures drop below 18degC (64.4degF), they will stop reproducing. The Bee Shrimp lives exclusively in fresh water, and the females produce only a few but rather large eggs.

Crystal red shrimp

Caridina mariae “Tiger”

Tiger Shrimp Origins: south China

Several different shrimp in the trade are called “Tiger Shrimp”. Recent research has described Tiger Shrimp as Caridina marae. Tiger and Bee Shrimp may interbreed, but they do not belong to one species. Both belong to the Caridina serrata species group. The Tiger Shrimp’s wild forms have distinctive vertical stripes on the abdomen and pleon, which reminds us of a tiger pattern.

Depending on the location where the animal was originally collected, these stripes may be thicker or thinner. You may notice a difference in the colour of the tail fan or the head carapace. In the aquarium hobby, though, several colour morphs have been established, among them the uniformly Black Tiger Shrimp, Blue and Red Tigers. All of the wild forms originate from southern China. These animals are often found in rivers and on flooded pastureland. If you mimic the natural temperature curve when keeping them in an aquarium, they can be highly productive and will have considerably more offspring than Bee Shrimp. The ideal temperature for Tiger Shrimp is room temperature, but they don’t like high temperatures in the summer.

Tiger shrimp

Shadow Shrimp and Taiwan Bee Shrimp

Hong Kong: A New Generation of Origins

In the last few years, new color morphs from Taiwan have created a lot of excitement on the shrimp market. At first, the breeders gave them creative names such as Panda Bee, King Kong and Blue Bolt. In Europe, they are called Taiwan Bee Shrimp. They are also known as Shadow Shrimp in Asia, Shadow Bee Shrimp and Shadow Bees.

Neocaridina davidi

Red Cherry Shrimp, Red Fire Shrimp Origins: Japan, Taiwan

Cherry or Red Cherry Shrimp, also known as Red Fire Shrimp, is the most common variety of shrimp. This highly variable species originates from Chinese and Taiwanese waters and meanwhile you can find it in more than 15 different color and pattern. Rili Shrimp is a type of shrimp with transparent parts. This species is easy to care for and recommended for beginners. The aquarium size should be chosen well; too small a tank is soon overcrowded, as Neocaridina davidi is a highly productive species. No heater is required, and the shrimp are not very demanding when it comes to water parameters.

Red cherry shrimp

Caridina multidentata

Amano Shrimp, Yamato Shrimp Origins: Japan, Taiwan

Its ability to rid an aquarium of unwanted algae makes these shrimp, together with nerite snails of the genus Vittina, an ideal first stock in a tank. They don’t have any particular requirements and can be found in all aquariums. Caridina Multidentata is found in the southern part of Central Japan. It also occurs in rivers in Taiwan that lead to the Pacific Ocean.

Males tend to grow larger than females. These shrimp are easy to seduce because they have a dotted pattern along their pleon. The female carries up to 2,000 eggs under its pleon. For larvae to thrive, they need to be exposed to brackish water and marine water. After a few days, they will die in fresh water. You will need to have separate tanks with a salt level of 25g per litre (6.6g per gallon) if you wish to raise the larvae. The larvae eat Liquizell or similar micro food.

These shrimp live to eight years and more, which is quite remarkable considering most dwarf shrimp species usually only live for two to three years. While Amano Shrimp is able to be housed with many other species of shrimp, it can also be dominant in feeding. Make sure the large, robust Amano shrimp do not leave the smaller shrimp without food.

Amano shrimp

Mixing Species

Please make sure you inform yourself carefully before you socialise shrimps with other inverts, fish or plants in order to avoid grave and possibly critical errors. Without an exact knowledge of their requirements you will not be able to assess what these animals really need. If you choose aquarium inhabitants just like you choose the colour of your substrate or your backdrop, i.e., solely for aesthetic reasons, you will most probably run into severe problems and face utter disappointment sooner or later. Even organisms that live together in nature may cause trouble in the confined space of an aquarium.

Dwarf Shrimp and Other Shrimp

It is also not recommendable to just socialise any shrimp species with another. For example, long-arm shrimp should not be kept with other shrimp. Dwarf shrimp is a welcomed addition to their daily meals.

Fan shrimp and dwarf shrimp can be socialized. However, the offspring of newly hatched dwarfs shrimp are potentially live food for them and their survival rates are susceptible to falling. If they are closely related, dwarf shrimp species can hybridize in one tank. This may produce a more or lesser attractive result. Even if shrimp species are not known to be able to hybridize, they will not fare well when kept together over the long-term. The dominant species will eventually take control and the rest will disappear.

Dwarf Shrimp with Crayfish

Keeping shrimp in the same tank as crayfish is possible, given that you choose compatible species. In many subtropic habitats, there are dense shrimp populations in the waters, and some of their members are eaten by the crayfish there. However, the shrimp compensate for this fact with a strong reproduction rate. Socialisation may even work with less productive shrimp in an aquarium if you make sure you never keep small crayfish species like those of the genus Cambarellus with dwarf shrimp, e.g., of the genus Caridina.

Socialising larger crayfish with small shrimp is much more favourable. The presence of shrimp in a crayfish tank may even have very positive effects on the tank biology as dwarf shrimp are great for cleaning up after the crayfish have eaten. Large fan shrimp (of the genera Atya and Atyopsis) are often hurt or even killed by crayfish, though, especially after moulting. Long-arm shrimp are hardly suitable for social tanks at all, and most representatives of this group pose a critical danger even for crayfish larger than themselves. After moulting the crayfish will be attacked and severely hurt or even killed, if not earlier.

Dwarf Shrimps with Crabs

It will be difficult to keep shrimps and crabs together. Even tiny crabs can cause severe irritation to shrimp, and the crabs will eventually kill them.

Dwarf Shrimp with Snails, Mussels and Snails

Mollusks (snails and mussels) and dwarf shrimp as well as fan shrimp can be kept together without any problems. Long-arm shrimp, in contrast, will regard snails as highly welcome snack, and only highly productive species will last for a longer time when socialized with them.

Dwarf Shrimp and Aquatic plants

Shrimp don’t cause any damage to healthy aquatic plants. Among the three groups, there are no species that are known to damage aquatic plants severely. The same applies to mussels, which may uproot a plant when digging into the ground but are otherwise completely harmless.

Shrimp do not eat aquatic plants. You can plant your tank however you like. Many shrimp are raised in water bodies that have low plant growth. However, they will not mind living in densely planted tanks. Fan shrimp should be allowed to roam freely in a tank that is not too crowded. They prefer to live in unplanted areas without rocks or stones.

Dwarf Shrimp and Lighting

In a shrimp tank, light does not only influence the behaviour of some shrimp species but also the formation of algae and microorganisms. These are vital parts of dwarf ornamental shrimp’s everyday diet. Therefore, your lighting system should be well-adapted for the species you wish to keep. If your shrimp are unhappy with the lighting in their tank, you can add floating plants to diffuse the light. Most of the shrimp keepers have just different kind of mosses in their tanks that don`t require a lot of light. Bright, intense light that simulates the sun can increase the colour density.