Dwarf freshwater shrimp, especially Neocaridina shrimp (Neocaridina davidi), or "Neo Shrimp" as they are most commonly referred to as, are becoming some of the most popularly kept species in the aquarium hobby. They are popular largely due to their general ease of care compared to other dwarf shrimp species, and are generally more tolerant to a wider range of water parameters unlike their close cousins, Caridina shrimp, which is why they are popular among many beginner aquarists. They have a relatively low bio-load compared to fish, making them a popular stocking choice for smaller "nano" sized aquariums. Wild-type Neocaridina shrimp are naturally transparent or greenish-brown in color. However, through generations of selective breeding by hobbyists, Neocaridina shrimp are now widely available in a variety of colors, such as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Brown, Black, and White, and a variety of patterns. They are also often assigned different grades, which can depend on their coloration and the rarity of their patterning.
Neocaridina shrimp originate mainly from Taiwan, where they live in lakes and ponds, which host a variety of live plants, wood and rocks. They can also be found in Southern China, and Vietnam.
They can grow to a maximum size of 2 inches in length, but generally only grow to around 1.5 inches in length for females, and 1.25 inches for males.
They generally live around 1-2 years on average if kept in optimal water conditions. Their lifespan can be affected by the temperature that you keep their water at, as colder temperatures will cause their metabolism to "slow down", and you may notice a decrease in their growth rate. At higher temperatures their metabolism may increase, shortening their lifespan. However at higher temperatures, they usually breed more quickly (since their lifespans are shortened), and will be more active compared to shrimp kept at cooler temperatures.
Differences Between Males And Females
Females are generally slightly larger and "rounder" in shape compared to their male counterparts, which appear more slender in shape. Females often are more opaque or solid in color, and are generally more vibrant in color. For example, male Red Cherry Shrimp are generally are more translucent and have less red coloration compared to female Red Cherry Shrimp.
Ideal Tank Size
As they generally have a low bioload, a good rule of thumb is 2-5 shrimp per gallon. They can technically be kept in anything as small as a gallon, however I would not recommend anything less than a 2 gallon as smaller tanks are much harder to keep cycled, and are more prone to fluctuations in water parameters, which shrimp can be sensitive to. Ideally, they should be kept in a tank that is at least 5 gallons. In a 5 gallon tank, I'd say you can comfortably fit 10-20 if it is a "shrimp-only" tank. Do keep in mind that they may start to breed if they're happy with their living conditions, so I would recommend starting off with a group of 10 if you're planning on keeping them in a 5 gallon tank. Ideally though, the bigger the tank the better. If you’re intending to start a colony, the most ideal tank size is a 10-20 gallon tank or larger. Personally, I prefer keeping my shrimp colonies in a 20 gallon tank or larger.
However, if you are planning on keeping them with other fish, you definitely would want to get a larger tank that will first accommodate the species of fish you are planning on keeping.
Shrimp Tank Setup Checklist
- 5 Gallon Tank or larger
- Sponge Filters
- Airline Tubing and an Airline Tubing Valve
- Air Pump
- Wood and other natural decorations
- Live Plants
- Water Conditioner/Dechlorinator
- API Freshwater Master Test Kit, API GH & KH Test Kit and a TDS Meter
- Shrimp Food (e.g. Shrimp King Complete, Hikari Shrimp Food, Algae Wafers, Hikari Crab Cuisine or GlasGarten Shrimp Fit)
- Shrimp Net
Like most other inverts, Neocaridina shrimp are very peaceful, and are often seen scavenging the bottom of the tank or on surfaces. Although they are peaceful, it is very important that you choose their tank mates carefully as they often are seen as potential "food" for many fish, especially larger fish. Keep in mind that fish will literally eat anything that will fit in their mouth, so this is we only recommend keeping them with smaller species of fish.
Some examples of compatible fish species include:
- Corydoras Catfish, or "Cories" (e.g. Pygmy Cories, Bronze Cories)
- Otocinclus Catfish
- Small Tetra (e.g. Neon Tetra, Ember Tetra)
- Small Rasboras (e.g. Dwarf Rasboras, Chili Rasboras)
- Small Plecos (e.g. Clown Plecos, Bristlenose Plecos)
- Endler's Livebearers and Guppies
- African Dwarf Frogs
While Neocaridina shrimp can also generally be kept with Bettas, it really depends on the temperament of your betta. One of our Bettas that we adopted is a little on the "lazier" side due to his old age and longer fins, so he generally leaves the shrimp in his tank (even the babies) alone. However, some Bettas might decide to go after the shrimp, especially the smaller baby shrimp. Overall, keeping dwarf shrimp with other fish, especially ones like Bettas, is generally always a gamble, so I don't recommend keeping more expensive "high grade" shrimp with them (as I'm sure you wouldn't want to risk them becoming an expensive snack), especially if you plan on starting a colony or want them to breed.
As most other invertebrate species tend to be peaceful as well, Neocaridina Shrimp can also be kept with other species of invertebrate such as:
- Other Dwarf Freshwater Shrimp (e.g. Ghost Shrimp, Amano Shrimp)
- Aquatic Snails (e.g. Mystery Snails, Nerite Snails, Ramshorn Snails)
Temperature And Parameters
68F to 80F
6.5 to 8.0
gH (General Hardness)
7 to 15
kH (Carbonate Hardness)
2 to 10
TDS (Total Dissolved Salts)
180 to 400
While Neocaridina shrimp can be kept in a generally wide range of parameters, it is important to ensure that your tank is at least fully cycled before adding them to your tank, and whatever your water's parameters are, that they are stable as Neocaridina shrimp can sometimes be sensitive to large fluctuations in water parameters. Neocaridina shrimp generally do better in harder water (>7.2 pH, > 7 gH, > 2 kH), as harder water tends to fluctuate less than softer water. While they can be kept in softer water, you may want to add extra calcium into your water by adding chunks of cuttlebone, crushed coral, crushed eggshells, calcium carbonate powder etc, as they need Calcium (which they obtain through their diet and the water) in order to molt and re-grow their exoskeletons.
If your water's parameters are on the extreme side, you can always consider using either distilled or reverse-osmosis water, and re-mineralizing it with a remineralizer such as SaltyShrimp GH/KH+ (the most popular re-mineralizing product used by shrimp-keepers) or Seachem Equilibrium (make sure you also add in something to raise the kH with this, as it increases the gH and not the kH). You can test your water's parameters to make sure they are suitable for Shrimp using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, API GH & KH Test Kit and a TDS Meter. Just remember though, stability is a lot more important to shrimp than having the "perfect" parameters. Most Neocaridina shrimp should be able to adapt to your local tap water with ease.
Due to their small size, I would generally recommend using sponge filters for filtration, as they create a large surface area for shrimp and shrimp babies to graze on, and prevent any possible shrimp babies that you may have from being sucked into the filter. If you plan on using a hang-on-the-back filter or canister filter, make sure that the intakes are covered with a pre-filter sponge.
It's always best to try to re-create their natural environment, and since Neocaridina shrimp come from lakes and ponds that have lots of aquatic plants, wood and rocks, they thrive in tanks with lots of live plants, rocks, natural wood, leaves and other natural botanicals. Indian Almond Leaves and Cholla Wood in particular are great for shrimp tanks as they break down slowly, releasing tannins, which are said to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, preventing bacteria and disease. They encourage beneficial bacteria and biofilm to grow on their surfaces, which are a great natural food source for shrimp and their offspring. It is also great for giving shrimp a place to find shelter in from potential predators, which is especially important right after a molt, which is when they are most vulnerable. Live aquarium plants such as moss, also help provide shelter for shrimp and provide more surface area for them to graze on.
Diet & Feeding
As mentioned previously, Neocaridina Shrimp are active omnivorous scavengers that will pretty much eat just about anything, including their own kind (if deceased)! They naturally eat algae and biofilm, which is one reason why they are very popular among fish-keepers. They aren't too fussy about their food, but it is always recommended that their main diet consist of high-quality shrimp or invertebrate specific pellets, such as Shrimp King Complete or Hikari Shrimp Food. Other alternatives are products like Algae Wafers, Hikari Crab Cuisine, GlasGarten's Bacter AE, or GlasGarten Shrimp Fit. It is important to vary their diet if you can, and they enjoy many frozen foods such as Frozen Bloodworms, and fresh blanched or boiled vegetables such as Carrots, Spinach, Cucumber, Zucchini, Peas, Broccoli, etc. You can even feed them Snello. Just keep in mind that they don't require lots of food, and like to slowly graze, so try to start slow with feeding them and to remove any uneaten food after about an hour or so to avoid polluting your tank.
Another great natural food source for them is algae, and if your tank is full of algae it'll be a shrimp buffet! You can also always do what I do, which is manually removing algae from other tanks (or grow algae purposely in a separate "algae farm tank"), and plopping it directly into their tank. If you have a large colony of shrimp, they may devour large amounts of algae pretty quickly, and personally I find it fascinating to see how quickly my colony of shrimp, especially my Red Cherry Shrimp colony, can devour any chunk of algae I throw into their tank.
In order to keep your water quality at an optimal level, water changes are a must with Shrimp, especially if you don't have live plants in your tank. Since Neocaridina Shrimp can be sensitive to large fluctuations, it's always better to do smaller, more frequent water changes compared to larger less frequent water changes. Water changes depend on the size of your tank and bioload, but generally you should be doing at least a 20% water change weekly, or 10% twice or thrice a week. Smaller tanks are less forgiving, so in a smaller tank you may want to do even more frequent water changes depending on the parameters. To figure out how frequently you should be doing water changes, I would suggest monitoring your nitrate levels (in an established tank) and doing a water change as soon as nitrate levels are above 20ppm. The more live plants you have in a tank, the less frequently you may need to change your water.
Acclimating Shrimp To Your Aquarium
Now that we have covered the ideal tank setup for Neocaridina shrimp, you're probably wondering what is the best way to acclimate them to your new setup after you have your new shrimp on hand. The method for acclimation depends on how different the parameters of the water the shrimp have been raised in are, and whether or not the shrimp are young shrimp or adult shrimp. If your parameters are very close to what they have been kept in, you only would need to acclimate them if the temperature in the bag is very different from the temperature in your tank. If the shrimp are delivered to you in a regular plastic bag then you can float in the water. However, if they are delivered to you in a breather bag you should NOT float the bag. Breather bags are designed to promote gas exchange, and floating them in water will prevent gas exchange which can suffocate your shrimp. Instead, I would recommend emptying the bag in a plastic container, adding a dose of an Ammonia detoxifier such as Seachem Prime, then float the container in the water.
This acclimation method is a must if your shrimp's original water parameters are not close to your own water's parameters. Once the temperature of the water in the bag (or container) is close to your tank's, you can proceed to acclimating the shrimp by drip acclimating them. Drip acclimating your shrimp is always recommended as it can help reduce the chance of death from stress or shock.
How To Drip Acclimate
- Slowly transfer the water and shrimp from the bag or container into a bucket.
- Connect the airline tubing valve to one end of the airline tubing and place the end with the valve (make sure the valve fully open) in your bucket and the other into your tank.
- Start a siphon by sucking on the end of the tubing with the valve and as soon as the airline tubing fills with water, use your finger to cap the end of the tubing and lower the tubing into your bucket and uncap it to let the water flow out. Adjust the valve to the desired flow, which is about 2-3 drops of water per second. If the different between the water parameters are very far off, you may want to decrease it to 1 drop per second and drip acclimate them for longer.
- If you can, turn off the tank lights or some of the lights in the room (this will help reduce stress) and wait till the water in the bucket has at least tripled or quadrupled in volume, which should take around 1-2 hours or more. If the difference in parameters are very different, you might want to drip acclimate the shrimp for around 2-4hours instead to give them a chance to slowly adjust to the new water parameters.
Breeding Neocaridina Shrimp
Neocaridina shrimp are some of the easiest shrimp to breed once they reach maturity (around 4-5 months old), and there isn't much you really need to do besides ensuring they are happy and feel safe, and have enough space and food to breed. Having a well planted tank is SUPER important in my opinion, as live plants provide them with a lot of cover and micro-food for them to graze on, which will help encourage them to breed. In my opinion ideal ratio of males to females is 1:2, but honestly, as long as you have a mix of both genders, you shouldn't have a problem having them breed.
When a female shrimp is mature and ready to breed, she will develop a "saddle", which looks like small dots right behind her head, and it looks ind of similar to a saddle on a horse. The "saddle" is a cluster of unfertilized eggs, which means she is mature enough to breed and will be ready to do so during her next molt.
Once she molts, she will hide and releases pheromones into the water that will help lead any male shrimp to her. When this happens the male shrimp in the tank will start swimming around frantically trying to search for her, and it looks as if they're having the zoomies! Once the a male shrimp finds her and they do the deed, the fertilized eggs will move from her "saddle" to her swimmerets beneath her tail and she will become "berried".
The eggs will stay there for around 30 days, and are constantly being fanned by the shrimp until they are ready to hatch. Fanning the eggs helps to provide them with oxygen, helps to keep them clean and helps ensure that fungus, mold and bacteria don’t grow on them.
Once the eggs are close to being ready to be release, you may notice the eggs becoming less opaque, and may see two little dots on each one of them, which are the little shrimplets' eyes! Baby shrimp are basically mini versions of the adult shrimp, and start roaming about the tank as soon as they hatch. Having Live Moss, Leaf Litter and wood such as Cholla Wood in your tank helps the baby shrimp hide and find food, and helps provide microfauna and biofilm for them to graze on as they grow. Some foods I personally recommend and use to help my shrimp babies grow are GlasGarten's Bacter AE, Shrimp Fit, Shrimp Baby Food, and Hikari First Bites.
Maintaining Color Quality
If you want to maintain the color quality of your shrimp, you'll likely have to cull your shrimp. Culling is basically the process of removing or separating shrimp from your main colony based on a specific trait you want to maintain to improve that desirable characteristic. In order to keep your line "pure" or to make sure your shrimp don't revert back to their wild form, which can range from clear to brown, you should keep shrimp of different colors separate, meaning if you have Red shrimp and Blue shrimp, keep each color in a separate tank and remove those that you deem to be of "lower quality". Through this you will likely be able to improve the coloration or patterning of your shrimp, which may improve their grade.
Tips For Breeding Your Shrimp
1. Keep Them In Species Only Tanks
This is probably my number 1 tip for successfully growing your shrimp colony. Even if your fish don't bother the adult shrimp, any baby shrimp will likely become dinner due to how small they are. Not only that, having fish around will likely add stress, and your shrimp may hide more as they may not feel safe with the fish around. So if you really want the best chance of success at growing your colony, you definitely want to keep the tank as a "shrimp only" tank, with the exception of other peaceful invertebrates such as snails.
2. Ensure They Get Enough Protein And Calcium In Their Diet
Shrimp need protein to make their eggs, so if you're not seeing many "saddled" and "berried" shrimp in your tank, you may want to increase the protein in their diet. Frozen Bloodworms and other Frozen Live Foods are a great source of protein. Calcium is important for molting as the shrimp need it to form their exoskeletons and the casing of their eggs. If you don't have hard water, you can add extra calcium into your water by adding chunks of cuttlebone, crushed coral, crushed eggshells, or calcium carbonate powder. Besides these two nutrients, making sure they have enough food is important as well as having extra food will encourage them to breed.
3. Leave Them Alone!
As I mentioned above, shrimp only breed when they feel safe and comfortable, you should try not to disturb them or move the decorations in their tank around too much. This is why I always emphasize on having a heavily planted tank. Having more plants, especially moss, will help give them lots of natural shelter, which is especially important if you have fish around. I know how excited you may be when you first get your new pet shrimp, but trust me, trying to watch them 24/7 to see if any of them have started to get "berried" won't make them breed any faster!
4. Purchase Your Shrimp From Local Breeders
Shrimp that are bred locally, or in similar water parameters to your own, are more likely to adapt to your tank. Shrimp that are imported from overseas are generally kept in water parameters that are very different to most of the water that we have here in the U.S. Not only that, shrimp that are shipped from overseas generally suffer more stress as they usually spend longer in transit being shipped from the shrimp farm, to the wholesaler, to the retailer, and then to you. Purchasing shrimp from local or domestic breeders generally reduces the amount of time they are in transit, or at least reduces the number of new tanks or water parameters they need to "adjust to". All the shrimp we have for sale here at Windy City Aquariums are home-bred and have been raised in our own tanks in just dechlorinated Chicago tap-water for multiple generations, so the shrimp we have are generally much hardier and healthier than the shrimp most retailers sell that come from overseas.
5. Purchase Younger Shrimp
This ties in to my previous point, as many shrimp that you get from big online retailers or pet stores are shipped as "adults". Although the shrimp will be mature enough to breed out of the bag, you may receive older shrimp that are cat the end of their optimal breeding age, and will generally not handle stress well or adapt to your water parameters as easily as younger shrimp would. It's better to have younger shrimp as they'll live longer and will have more time to breed. Another issue with imported shrimp is that you may get a lot more females (or only females) compared to males, as females generally have better coloration compared to their male counterparts, and having a low number of males may decrease the chance that the female's eggs will get fertilized, especially if the shrimp are in a large tank, as there is only a short amount of time after a female molts for the male shrimp to find the female to breed with her.
6. Increase The Temperature Of The Water
As mentioned earlier, increasing the temperature of the water will increase the shrimps' metabolisms, speeding up their lifecycle, which may make them breed quicker. I personally recommend keeping the water at around 76-78F as from my experience, that seems to be the sweet spot.
7. Slightly Cooler Water Changes
I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I've heard a lot of shrimp-keepers claim that doing slightly cooler water changes may simulate rain, which may help to encourage shrimp to molt, and since females have to molt before they are ready to be bred, this may help to quicken the breeding process. It is important to note that water changes that are too cold may shock your shrimp or cause shrimp that are still "berried" to molt and leave their eggs behind, so you should only add in water that only slightly colder than the water in your tank, and if you're going to be adding in cooler water, to do so slowly or by drip acclimating the water in.
I hope this guide has been useful and will encourage more people to try keeping dwarf shrimp species like Neocaridina shrimp. They're great algae-eaters and make a great little "cleanup" crew while also adding a pop of color in your tank with the diverse range of colors they come in. They're one of my favorite species to keep, and I'm sure they'll likely become one of yours too! If you're looking for Neocaridina shrimp, you can purchase them from us!
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