Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Types, Care, Diet & More


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

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. Aquarianists in the USA are now able to access vibrantly colored bred forms, in strikingly contrasting colors from Europe and Asia, as well as new wild catches from every part of China and Hong Kong.

Today, shrimp is the most invertebrate in our aquariums. We have more than 20 years experience with shrimps and would love to help the hobbyists and trades to avoid making mistakes. It is the best hobby! Scientifically speaking, the shrimp that we collect belong to various genera and families. However, one thing unites them all is that they spend their entire lives, or at least most of it, in freshwater, especially as adults. Some species cannot reproduce without the help of marine water, as they are not completely independent from the environment where their ancestors lived. These species belong to the so-called primitive type and produce large numbers of very small eggs per batch. The larvae born from these eggs hatch in open water. There, they become part of the plankton. 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.

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 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.

Shrimp of the genus Caridina, which includes over 290 species of shrimp, are one of most diverse families within the Atyidae. Recent research shows that there are many discrepancies within this genus. This genus needs to be restructured and scientifically reviewed. Neocaridina, which has 30 species, has also had a wide distribution in hobby.

Shrimp and other Invertebrates Food

The Omnivores

Omnivorous animals eat food of vegetable as well as of animal origin, sometimes in different proportions, sometimes in an absolutely balanced way. This group includes most freshwater dwarf shrimp found in the hobby. They eat plants and (usually) dead animals in their natural habitats, as well as biofilms high 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.

The holistic food concept of Shrimp King takes this fact 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. With the many high-quality ingredients used, every food stick is provided with a diverse diet. For the production of Shrimp King foods, we exclusively use food-grade all-natural ingredients in a composition that makes sense for the nutrition physiology of your 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. So food-related problems such as molting can practically be eliminated, the protein content of each food variety has been carefully chosen.

The main feed Shrimp King Complete provides your shrimp with everything they need. It is a good idea to replace Shrimp King Complete twice a week with Shrimp King Protein if there are many growing juvies and berried males. This will give your shrimp an extra dose of highly digestible, valuable 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.

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 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’ve taken into account the biofilm-eating requirements of snails and selected microorganisms for protein in our food. This is exactly what freshwater snails have become accustomed to in their natural environment. Yummy Gum, a food variety that can be easily applied to any surface, is ideal for omnivores. This food can be used to create a food film suitable for biofilm-eaters.

Fan shrimp is also included in the omnivorous invertebrates group. 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. When creating Shrimp King Atyopsis we have taken the elevated energy needs and the special life strategies of fan shrimp into account.

Another group of omnivores are dwarf crayfish. Shrimp King Cambarellus, which is a food variety that includes insects and crustaceans, was developed with them in mind. It also contains valuable plant-based components like spinach, stinging nettle and Spirulina. 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

Carnivorous animals consume food rich in animal proteins. The colorful small land crabs from the genus Geosesarma, along with many other species of crab, are some examples of carnivorous insects.

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

Long-arm shrimp, which are the largest members of the shrimp group, are mainly 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. A good food for carnivorous invertebrates is the Shrimp King Protein variety, as its protein content is elevated yet extremely digestible, as is the Shrimp King Artemia Pops food. Artemia Pops, which contain brine shrimps as well as daphnia, are rich in protein. 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 are a wonderful addition to the main food and add variety to the diet for invertebrates due to their large number of positive ingredients. They promote healthy, balanced growth and good reproduction rates.

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

Crayfish are somewhat special in this respect. 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. Insufficient protein intake can lead to them becoming cannibalistic, and they may begin eating their conspecifics. Especially young crayfish of the genera Procambarus, Cambarus and Cherax need an elevated protein level in their food, much more than adult crayfish.

Aquarium and Habitat

Poisoning and Diseases

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. If the injury is not to deeper tissues, it should be treated by the next time they 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 small amounts of these metals can cause death, especially 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.

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. If these plants were raised above water, they may have been treated with spraying chemicals to prevent pests or fungal diseases. Many of these substances, however, are highly poisonous to shrimps. For this reason, new plants should be watered for several weeks before being planted in a shrimp aquarium.

Tissue cultured plants will not be affected and can 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. 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 oxygen content in the water is crucial for all dwarf shrimp species. A low level of oxygen can lead to diseased shrimps, or even death. This is why a properly filtered or aerated tank is essential for any 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 packages may arrive in cold water, especially when they are being shipped.

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. This material will be colonized by many micro-organisms, including paramecium or vorticella. These micro-organisms are microscopically tiny species of worms and slime molds. These micro-organisms provide dwarf shrimps with their natural food source. By cleaning the surfaces with their bristles, parts of the slowly decaying wood are also consumed – a healthy source of food for the shrimps, 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+ was created for targeted hardening of osmosis water, rainwater and purified water and was developed especially for keeping and breeding shrimps from soft-water biotopes such as bee and bumble bee shrimps and their varieties. It has all the necessary minerals, trace elements, and vitamins that shrimps require for vibrant colours, healthy growth, and abundant reproduction.

Bee Salt allows water to be made with a higher total hardness and no carbonate hardness. This is the same as what soft-water shrimps are used to 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.

– Provides the perfect water value for breeding soft-water shrimps, such as bee shrimps or bumblebee shrimps. pH 6.0-6.5 – Boosts growth and provides valuable supplementary nutrition, particularly for young shrimps.

The Species

Caridina logemanni “Crystal Red”

Crystal Red Shrimp, Red Bee Shrimp 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 Shrimps are found in dense vegetation near the creek banks. The water is cool and has a strong current. The creek bottom consists of rock, with accumulations of dead leaves.

In March, the water temperature was only 16.6degC (61.9degF) during rainy weather. 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. They will cease reproducing if temperatures fall below 18°C (64.4°F). The Bee Shrimp only lives on fresh water. Females only produce a small number of eggs, which can be quite large.

Crystal red shrimp

Caridina mariae “Tiger”

Tiger Shrimp Origins in southern China

Many shrimp species are traded as “Tiger Shrimp”. Tiger Shrimp have recently been described as Caridina mariae. 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. There may be a variation in the colour of both the tail fan’s and head carapace. In the aquarium hobby, though, several colour morphs have been established, among them the uniformly Black Tiger Shrimp, Blue and Red Tigers. The wild forms all come from southern China, where they are collected in creeks 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

In the last few years, new color morphs from Taiwan have created a lot of excitement on the shrimp market. 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. 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 and 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 are transparent shrimp. 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. A heater is not required and shrimp don’t have a lot of preferences when it comes 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 a species that comes from the south of Central Japan. It can be found in rivers that lead to the Pacific Ocean. It can also be found in the rivers of Taiwan that lead to Pacific Ocean.

The females grow much larger than the males. These shrimp can be sexed easily because of the dotted pattern at their pleon. The female can carry up to 2,000 eggs under her 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. 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 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. While Amano Shrimp is able to be housed with many other species of shrimp, it can also be dominant in feeding. You must ensure that the larger, more robust Amano shrimp don’t eat 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 and Other Shrimp

It is also not recommended to mix shrimp species. For example, long-arm shrimp should not be kept with other shrimp. Dwarf shrimp is a welcomed addition to their daily meals.

Dwarf shrimp and fan shrimp can be socialized; however, freshly hatched dwarf shrimp offspring are potential live food for the latter, and survival rates are prone to decline. Different dwarf shrimp species kept in one tank will hybridise if they are closely related, with a more or less attractive outcome. Shrimp species that are known not to hybridise will still not do too well when kept together in the long run as sooner or later one species will dominate the other, and the suppressed species will slowly dwindle away and disappear entirely after some time.

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

It is unlikely that shrimps and crabs can be kept together. Even tiny crabs can cause severe irritation to shrimp, and the crabs will eventually kill them.

Dwarf Shrimps with Snails & Mussels

You can keep mollusks, including dwarf shrimp and mussels, together with fan shrimp and fan shrimp. Snails, on the other hand, are viewed as a welcome snack by long-arm shrimp. Only highly productive species can be kept together for longer periods of time.

Dwarf Shrimps and Aquatic Plants

Shrimp do not do any harm to healthy aquatic plants. Among the three groups, there are no species that are known to damage aquatic plants severely. 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. Although many shrimp come from waters with low plant growth, they don’t mind living in densely populated tanks. In a tank dedicated to fan shrimp please make sure these somewhat plumper shrimp still have room to move without hindrance, though. They are more comfortable in areas that don’t have 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. 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.