“So you want to raise Shrimp?”
by: Bill Southern (USA)
So you are new to freshwater Dwarf Shrimp? Well if you are reading this article it also means you are on the right track to getting started in this fascinating as well as addicting hobby. This article will be a very simple “How To” for folks and I will share some simple, but very important pointers offered up without the fine details that are already available here and elsewhere online with a click of your mouse. I guess you can look at it kind of like the quick setup card you get with new electronics these days.
There are just a few things you need to know BEFORE getting your shrimp.
It’s still less than a year ago I became interested in learning more about the Ghost Shrimp I had purchased at the local fish store for my family’s community tank. This quest for knowledge lead to the computer naturally and the magic of search engines. In a few short minutes I was totally absorbed in all the information as well as how many different species of shrimps other than my Ghosts were available in the hobby. How absolutely fascinating and amazing and colorful all these little shrimp were (sound familiar so far?) As with most hobbyists I was in a hurry and wanted some of these beautiful shrimp right away.
Without further ado or study I purchased some Red Cherry Shrimp to add to the community tank with my Ghost Shrimp and fish. They were really colorful and neat, but stayed hidden all the time.
Adding my Cherry Shrimp to a community tank was as I soon learned not a great idea from the start if one wants to have a successful shrimp colony. I had no real idea just how small baby shrimp were (2mm or less) and figured a heavily planted tank would offer plenty of cover. What I did not yet know, other than how small they were, was that they really don’t try to hide as much as you would think and were quickly eaten by the Guppies and Tetras in my 29 gallon heavily planted tank.
Now I am not saying you can not keep your Dwarf Shrimp in a community tank with fish at all. I am simply pointing out that the shrimp will not be as active or visible when housed with fish which are a natural predator. Also, survival rate of the young will be less as well due to being eaten if they don’t stay hidden. It is however doable and many folks go this route. Yes I still have shrimp in my community tank as well. Another point is that it is also best not to keep some types of shrimp together to avoid cross breeding.
As I read more and more online and began to learn the proper methods of raising and caring for Red Cherry Shrimp. I also began cycling a new tank to hopefully start a colony. As I studied I also learned the longer I could let a new shrimp tank mature the better chance I would have for success! I know it’s hard to set up a tank and then put nothing but a few snails in it, but please read on.
Where am I going with this? The most important thing I have learned so far in this hobby is PATIENCE! Especially when it comes to housing any species of Dwarf Shrimp! Proper identification of the species you plan to keep and its water parameter requirements is an absolute must. Getting in a hurry and adding your shrimp before a tank is fully cycled for instance can be a disaster capable of wiping out all your new shrimp in one fell swoop.
When setting up your shrimp tank these same water parameter requirements you learned your shrimp need should be on your mind when adding substrate, rocks, etc. Some shrimp like Crystal Red Shrimp or Tiger Shrimp like more acidic softer water and using a substrate such as ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia can help maintain your water. Other species of shrimp will like a harder more alkaline environment… You get the picture right? A little planning ahead in setup can really help your success rate in the long run. There are many folks out there that have been through this already and are willing to share their knowledge about both success and failure. So for your shrimps sake and your budget please study before you buy!
Again a reminder that I am not going into this in detail as this info is readily available at this site and others. The purpose of this article is to give anyone new to this hobby a set of “layman’s” term rules to follow to enjoy the success I have so far.
I know, with fish or a planted tank there are ways to “cheat” and cycle a tank in a few days or within a couple weeks so you can add your critters, but with shrimp this can be a real heart breaker when you lose them all to an ammonia spike or nitrites in the water. Even trace amounts of either can wipe out all of your shrimp very quickly. How to avoid this is to have a tank that is not just cycled, but matured meaning well over a month old and the more patient you can be the better (I know it’s hard) Do weekly water changes with water that has been treated to remove any chlorine or chloramines and keep an eye on things with regular testing.
You know when the stuff starts growing on the glass and there are all kinds of little critters buzzing around in there that you have never seen before? Well that is a maturing tank and all those little “bugs” are a sign of good water quality for shrimp believe it or not. Oh and that weird mix of film and green stuff growing on the glass? That is bio-film consisting of bacteria, micro organisms, and algae that are actually food for your shrimp. I only remove it from the front glass to leave more foraging areas for the shrimp. The baby shrimp especially seem to enjoy grazing on the goodies growing on the glass.
Maintaining that water quality is also important naturally and knowing what is in your tap water is super important so that you don’t poison your shrimp during water changes. Again this is a subject I will not go into in detail as there is info readily available on the forums and many websites to help with this subject. I use R/O water to avoid these problems as I am in Arizona and the water has copper, traces of arsenic, and other nasty stuff I don’t want in my tanks. Most tap water is fine once treated for chemicals and your shrimp will be fine in it. I do however use a mix in tanks that require a higher PH and harder water such as my Malaya Shrimp and Indian Zebra Shrimp.
The use of a filter in your tank is also a must and a air driven sponge filter or similar is best for breeding tanks, but a HOB (hang on back) or Canister Filter will work as well, but the use of a sponge pre-filter is a must to keep those tiny babies from getting sucked in through the intake. What you use is up to you, but keeping the babies out of the filter will be a priority with anything but the sponge filter. Somehow some seem to get in the filter anyway believe it or not so be careful when cleaning your filter as well.
Most of my tanks are very simple with Java Moss, driftwood, a few rocks, and some hardwood leaves that were soaked after fallen and brown. Why leaves? The leaves grow and support micro organisms that your shrimp will feed on young and adult. I even leave most of the algae and other bio-matter growing on all but the front glass for the same reason. Shrimp enjoy a large variety of different foods from algae to bloodworms or regular fish food, but how often and what you feed is very important. Yup you guessed it there is a wealth of knowledge online as well about feeding and what is best for your shrimp and this is another thing you should spend some time on.
With patience, study and following some simple guidelines anyone can raise as well as breed shrimp although some are definitely more of a challenge than others. I now have 7 tanks all doing well some with active breeding colonies, some that have shrimp that are maturing and just starting to breed. I owe this success to being PATIENT (yeah that word again) and learning about each type of shrimp before jumping to buy them.
If you have read as much as you can find and you are still not sure about something the online forums are one of the best places to get “hands on” info and advice! Some of these folks have been through the exact situation you are puzzled about and are more than willing to help.
So if you think you want to give Dwarf Shrimp a try please follow my advice and learn as much about the shrimps you want to raise as you can, set up their home, let your tank mature and remember PATIENCE before you buy will save you both money and your new shrimp. Hopefully this article has set you on a quest to learn as much as possible BEFORE you get your shrimp and you will enjoy better success for your efforts. Start with one of the less expensive easier species like the Red Cherry Shrimp and have fun, but be careful you may just flip over these little guys…