Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp: Care, Diet, and More

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

By Chris Lukhaup (The Shrimp King)

In recent years, aquaristics has experienced a boom in the number of dwarf shrimps. 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. With more than 20 years of experience in shrimps we would like to support the hobbyist and also the trade to avoid making mistakes and have fun with the best hobby of all. The shrimp common in our hobby belong to different genera and families, scientifically speaking, but what unites them is that they spend all of or at least the most part of their lives, especially as adults, in fresh water. 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. The larvae hatching from these eggs are released into the open water, where they form part of the plankton and go through many stages of development. They begin a benthic existence on the ground only after their time as larvae. Around this time, they also migrate back to pure fresh water.

The abundance of different habitats has resulted in a great variability in shrimp species and in stunning forms. 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 are different in terms of their body sizes and habits. They have the same requirements for their environment, but they are not very different between shrimp belonging to each of these groups. Most shrimp that are available for trade fall under one of these categories. Dwarf shrimp are among the most prominent and popular. 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. Neocaridina, which has 30 species, has also had a wide distribution in hobby.

Shrimp and other Invertebrates Food

The Omnivores

Omnivores eat both animal and vegetable food, sometimes in different amounts and sometimes in a balanced way. These are the majority of freshwater dwarf shrimp that we have in our hobby. They eat plants and (usually) dead animals in their natural habitats, as well as biofilms high in protein. Egg-bearing females and growing juvenile shrimp eat slightly more food of animal origin as they need more protein, whereas adult males and females that are not berried seem to focus more on a vegetable-based diet.

This fact is taken into consideration in Shrimp King’s holistic food concept. 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. All Shrimp King foods are free from artificial additives and artificial colorants. They do not contain antioxidants, preserving agents or attractants, no fishmeal, no fishery by-products or cheap by-products of vegetable origin. The protein content of each food variety was carefully chosen so food-related molting problems can be practically ruled out.

Shrimp King Complete is the main feed for your shrimp. You can replace two meals of Shrimp King complete per week with Shrimp King protein if you have many growing juvies or berried females. This will provide them with an extra portion of high-quality, digestible protein. Yummy Gum, a food that is perfect for omnivores, can be used to create a grazing area for your shrimp.

If you have very weak water or if your children are growing, we recommend two (2) targeted mineral supplements with Shrimp King Mineral every other week. The minerals in this food have a high bioavailability, and they are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

We have created Shrimp King Color to enhance the intensity and brilliance in the colors of omnivorous shrimp. It contains natural colorants, including microalgae and crustaceans. 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 color-boosting food is also good for dark-colored shrimp such as Blue Dream, Chocolate and Carbon Rili shrimps as well as Black Tiger shrimp.

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. They not only contain valuable plant materials but also protein, which snails require to build their shells. We took into consideration the needs of biofilm-eating snails and chose microorganisms to provide protein in this food, just like freshwater snails. Yummy Gum can also be used on any hard surface. You can easily make a food film that biofilm eaters can eat.

Fan shrimp are also part of the group of omnivorous invertebrates. We have created a special, very finely-ground food variety for them that floats in the water for a long time and that can thus easily be caught by these 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. Shrimp King Cambarellus was created with their food needs in mind. This food variety not only contains insects and crustaceans, but also valuable plant-based ingredients such as spinach, stingingnettle and Spirulina alga. 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. Amongst the carnivorous invertebrates, the colorful small land crabs of the genus Geosesarma are found, as well as many other crab species.

Assassin snails are carnivores as well. They prefer snails to their main food, but will eat any protein-rich food.

The long-arm shrimps, the larger members of the shrimp family, are mostly carnivores. They hunt and eat live food, but also accept fresh-dead, frozen or freeze-dried foods or food sticks with a high protein content. 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. You can choose between Snow Pops consisting of pure soy bran that hardly pollute the water and give your inverts crucial fibre and vital substances besides high-quality proteins of vegetable origin, or Algae Pops, which contain Chlorella and Spirulina algae besides the soy bran, or Moringa Pops, with Moringa leaves and fennel in addition to the soy bran.

Shrimp King Pops is a fantastic addition to the main meal and an excellent way to add variety to your diet. They encourage healthy growth and a high rate of reproduction.

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. While most adult crayfish, particularly those belonging to the Cherax genus, prefer food from vegetable origins, juvenile crayfish require a high level of protein 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 will rarely encounter diseased shrimp if they have the right living conditions. Small injuries to the shrimp’s skin can cause darkening of the affected areas. These injuries, unless they have affected deeper tissues, should be treated before the shrimp sheds 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 can prove fatal, especially when they are found in soft water. Water conditioners can reduce the danger to a certain extent, but it is recommended to only use water that is completely free of copper in a shrimp tank.

Copper is also an active ingredient in many medicines for ornamental fish and algae conditioners. Such agents should never be used in aquariums containing shrimps! Shrimps may also be affected by aquatic plants purchased from nurseries. 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 are not affected and could be used immediately.

Water Parameters

Anyway, these robust inverts are impressive and highly enjoyable companions for an ornamental tank and will develop greatly when kept in the right conditions. The water parameters are not an issue for most species. The pH preference of dwarf shrimps belonging to the genus Caridina ranges from 6.0-6.7, sometimes to 7.0. Shrimps of the Neocaridina genus are tolerant to pHs between 6.0 and 7.5.


The oxygen content in the water is crucial 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. They also enjoy low light and hideaways, which is why they are able to stay at night.

Water Temperature

Dwarf shrimps typically come from areas with moderate to subtropical water temperatures, which are between 15-25°C. Sometimes, packages are shipped with water temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius. In winter or autumn when some states have lower temperatures than 12 degrees C, the shrimps may become stiff or very still. As the water warms up, they will just keep active.

Tank Setup

There are many sizes of shrimp available in today’s trade. 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

One of the most important inventions when it comes to shrimp keeping is the shrimp salts. 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 GH+ is a targeted hardening agent for rainwater, osmosis and purified water. It was specifically designed for breeding and keeping shrimps from soft water biotopes like bee and bumblebee shrimps. It contains all the essential minerals, trace elements and vitamins shrimps need for healthy, balanced growth, vibrant colours and plentiful reproduction.

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 quick to dissolve and easy 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 as valuable supplementary nutrition, especially for young shrimps – Promotes balanced growth, health, vitality and high breeding success – Increases total hardness, does not increase carbonate hardness – Includes essential vitamin C and vitamin B complex – Designed with a biologically balanced calcium-magnesium ratio – Creates the perfect conditions for problem-free moulting – Provides the perfect conditions for successful breeding – Extends the useful life of the substrate, as it does not increase carbonate hardness – Dissolves quickly and is easy to use

The Species

Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”

Origins of Crystal Red Shrimp, Red Bee Shrimp: 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. Hisayasu Suzuki, a Japanese shrimp enthusiast discovered the red colour morph in his shrimp tank 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’s bottom is made up of rocks and dead leaves.

In March, during rainfall, we measured a water temperature of only 16.6degC (61.9degF). However, the water bodies are subject to considerable changes in temperature in the course of the year, and during the summer months the water may reach temperatures of up to 24degC (75degF).

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

There are many varieties of shrimp that can be traded and they are known as “Tiger Shrimp”. Recent research has described Tiger Shrimp as Caridina marae. Tiger and Bee Shrimp interbreed but do not belong to the same species. Both are part of the Caridina Serrata species group. The Tiger Shrimp wild form has vertical stripes along their abdomen or pleon that reminds one of a Tiger pattern.

These stripes can be thicker, or thinner depending on where the animal was collected. 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 wild forms are from southern China. They are found in streams and on flooded grassland. 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

Taiwan Bee Shrimp or Shadow Shrimp

Hong Kong: A New Generation of Origins

New colour morphs originating from Taiwan have caused a lot of excitement in the shrimp scene during the last years. They were given imaginative names by the breeders, such as Panda Bee and King Kong, Blue Bolt, Black Diamonds, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Black Diamond, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Black Diamond, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Black Diamond, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Black Diamond, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Black Diamond, Red Amber, Red Ruby, Red Ruby, Blue Bolt, Blue Bolt, All of these shrimp are known as Taiwan Bee Shrimp in Europe. These shrimp are known in Asia as Shadow Shrimp, Shadow Bee Shrimp, or Shadow Bees.

Neocaridina davidi

Red Cherry Shrimp, Red Fire Shrimp Origins Japan, Taiwan

Cherry or Red Cherry shrimp are the most popular in the hobby. Red Fire Shrimp is also known as Red Cherry 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 suitable for beginners as it does not require complicated requirements. The aquarium size should be chosen well; too small a tank is soon overcrowded, as Neocaridina davidi is a highly productive species. The shrimp do not require a heater and are very flexible with 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 is also found in rivers that run to the Pacific Ocean in Taiwan.

Females are larger than males. The latter have a dotted pattern on the sides of their pleon, which makes it quite easy to sex these shrimp. The female can hold up to 2000 eggs under its pleon. For larvae to thrive, they need to be exposed to brackish water and marine water. In fresh water they will die off after a few days. A separate tank is required to house the larvae. It should have a salinity level of 25 g/litre (6.6 g/gallon). The larvae consume Liquizell, or other similar micro-foods.

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. Although Amano Shrimp can live in co-houses with other shrimp species, they can still be quite dominant when it comes time to feeding. The larger, more powerful Amano shrimp should not be allowed to feed the smaller shrimp.

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. You will not be able assess their needs if you don’t have a good understanding of them. 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 Mixed with Other Shrimp

It is also not recommended to mix shrimp species. Long-arm shrimp should never be kept together with other shrimp, for example. Dwarf shrimp are a welcome addition to their daily diet.

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. Different dwarf shrimp species kept in one tank will hybridise if they are closely related, with a more or less attractive outcome. It is not a good idea to keep shrimp species together that aren’t known for hybridizing. They will end up thriving in a single tank and eventually one species will take over.

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. The strong reproduction rate of shrimp makes up for this. 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 and Crabs

Any attempt to keep shrimps together with crabs will most probably not be successful. Even small crabs can be a problem for shrimps, and crabs after the last moult will likely kill shrimp.

Dwarf Shrimps with Snails & Mussels

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 are not harmful to aquatic plants. There are none of the three species that have been shown to cause severe damage to aquatic plants. Mussels are the same, although they can cause damage to aquatic plants by digging into the ground.

Most shrimp do not eat aquatic plants; thus you can plant your tank just as you please. Even though many shrimp originate from water bodies with no higher plant growth, they do not mind living in a densely planted tank at all. 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

The light in a shrimp tank can not only affect the behaviour of certain species of shrimp but also causes the growth of algae and microorganisms. These are important parts of the everyday diet of most dwarf ornamental shrimp, and thus your lighting system ought to be well-adapted to the species you want to keep. If your shrimp have a tendency to be unhappy with their tank’s brightness, floating plants can help to dim the light. Shrimp keepers use a variety of mosses that do not require much light. Bright, intense light that simulates the sun can increase the colour density.