Overview of Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp – Popular Types, 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. While around 5 to 6 years ago only 2 to 3 species were on offer in the ornamental fish trade in the USA, the range of species in the tanks of breeders, importers and wholesalers has now become almost overwhelming. American aquarianists are getting vibrantly coloured bred fish forms in starkly different colours from Europe, Asia and invariably new wild catches.

Today, shrimp is the most commonly kept invert in 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. 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 have not become entirely independent of the original habitat of their ancestors, the sea, and they need brackish or marine water for reproduction. 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 migrate back to fresh water.

A variety of habitats has resulted is a large variation in shrimp species, and some stunning forms. They adapt to different habitats and can display amazing colours and patterns. 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 vary in size, form, and their habits. The requirements regarding their environment do not differ much between shrimp belonging to one of these groups. Under systematical aspects, almost every shrimp in the market is in one of these three groups. 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. 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 had a wide distribution in hobby.

Shrimp and Invertebrates – Food

The Omnivores

Omnivorous animals consume both food of vegetable and animal origin. Sometimes, they eat in very different amounts, but sometimes they eat in a perfectly balanced manner. This is the group that includes most hobby freshwater dwarf shrimp. They eat plants and (usually) dead animals in their natural habitats, as well as biofilms high in protein. The egg-bearing females, as well as the growing juvenile shrimp, consume slightly more food of animals because they require more protein. However, adult males or females that have not been berried seem more inclined to eat a vegetable-based diet.

Shrimp King’s holistic food philosophy takes this into account. The Shrimp King’s special eating habits were taken into account when creating Shrimp King’s shrimp food. This ensures that shrimp of all ages get all the nutrients, trace elements, vitamins and minerals they need for healthy growth. Each food stick includes a varied diet thanks to its high-quality components. Shrimp King foods use only food-grade all natural ingredients. Our products are designed to be healthy for your dwarf shrimp’s nutritional needs. 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 selected.

Shrimp King Complete is the main feed for your shrimp. Shrimp King Full is recommended for large tanks with many growing juvies, berried females, and other fish. It will provide the shrimp with a high amount of nutritious, easily digestible protein. Yummy Gum, a food that is perfect for omnivores, can be used to make 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. These minerals are readily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and have a high bioavailability.

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 enhanced by the color boosters astaxanthin/canthaxanthin as well as beta-carotene. These provide the yellow, red and orange color variants of Caridina/Neocaridina such as Crystal Red (Sakura Red), Sakura Orange, Sakura Orange, Yellow Fire and Sakura Orange. 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. When creating Shrimp King Snail Stixx, we took this fact into account. They do not only contain valuable plant products but also proteins, which the snails need as building-blocks for their shell. We’ve taken into consideration the biofilm-eating requirements of snails and selected microorganisms for protein. This is just like what freshwater snails are used to. Yummy Gum can also be used on any hard surface. It is very easy to make a food movie for biofilm eaters.

Fan shrimp also belong to the omnivorous group of 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 was created taking into consideration the unique life strategies and high energy requirements 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.


Carnivorous animals eat food that is rich in proteins of animal origin. The Geosesarma colorful small-sized land crabs are among the carnivorous vertebrates. There are also many other crab species.

Assassin snails are also carnivores – they mainly feed on snails but will also gladly eat other protein-rich food if they do not find any snails.

The larger representatives of the shrimp group, the long-arm shrimp, are also mostly carnivores. They can eat live food and also accept frozen, dried, or fresh-dead foods. 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 have brine shrimp and daphnia which make them rich in protein. These are specially processed to be broken down in the tank to make a food carpet with a larger surface. This helps to reduce stress for the most voracious eaters.

The Herbivores

The 5 Leaf Mix includes five carefully selected leaves. They are stingingnettle, birch (mulberry), walnut and peppermint. These plants were grown under controlled conditions. Shrimp, snails, dwarf crayfish and crayfish alike just love them.

There are various Pops of vegetable origin, which are a great supplement to the main food. Snow Pops made of pure soybran are a great option. They don’t pollute the water, give you inverts vital fibre and nutrients, as well as high-quality proteins from vegetable origin. Algae Pops also contain Chlorella or Spirulina algae, while Moringa Pops include Moringa leaves and Fennel.

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 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.

In this regard, Crayfish is a little different. Although most adult crayfish eat mostly vegetables, the growing juvenile crayfish needs a large amount of protein in their diet. If they do not get sufficient proteins in their daily food they will turn cannibalistic and start eating their conspecifics. Procambarus (and other genera of crayfish), need to have a higher level of protein in their diet than adult crayfish.

Aquarium and Habitat

Poisoning, Diseases and Poisoning

With the right living conditions, shrimp keepers should only rarely be confronted with diseased creatures. 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. For shrimps and other invertebrates, copper, as well as other heavy metals like copper, can cause poisoning. This can be caused by copper pipes in the aquarium or heating coils in hot-water boilers. 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.

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! Also, shrimps could be hurt by newly purchased aquatic plants. These plants may be especially harmful if they have been raised above water. 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. 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. Not enough oxygen can result in diseased or even dead shrimp, which makes a well-aerated or filtered tank a must for the successful shrimp keeper. Moreover, these animals like low light and many hideaways where they can stay during the day.

Water Temperature

The majority of dwarf shrimps are from subtropical climate zones with water temperatures between 15-25 degrees Celsius. Sometimes packages may arrive in cold water, especially when they are being shipped.

Tank Setup

Today’s shrimp are quite 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) which provides enough space for shrimp reproduction. 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. Paramecium, vorticella, and other micro-organisms will soon colonize this material. These microorganisms are dwarf shrimps’ 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

Shrimp salts are one of the most important innovations 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 GH+ is a targeted hardener of rainwater, osmosis and purified water. It was specifically designed for breeding and keeping shrimps from soft water biotopes like bee and bumblebee shrimps. It is rich in all the vital minerals, trace element and vitamins shrimps need to have vibrant colours, healthy growth and abundant reproduction.

Bee Salt is able to create water with an increased hardness but not carbonate hardness. This can be similar to what soft-water shrimps use in their natural habitats. It promotes plant growth and activity as well as the activation of filter bacteria. It is quick to dissolve and easy to use.

It creates ideal water conditions for successful breeding and keeping soft-water shrimps like bee shrimps and bumblebee shrimps. 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 from Japan, who was a shrimp enthusiast, discovered the red colour morph in one his shrimp tanks in 1991. Through selective breeding and backcrossing, he was able to obtain a true-breeding species and laid the foundation for their triumph march 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 is composed mainly of rock and has a lot of 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. They will cease reproducing if temperatures fall below 18°C (64.4°F). The Bee Shrimp is a solitary creature that lives in fresh water. Only a few, but very large eggs are produced by the females.

Crystal red shrimp

Caridina mariae “Tiger”

Tiger Shrimp Origins: southern China

There are many varieties of shrimp that can be traded and they are known as “Tiger Shrimp”. Tiger Shrimp are also known as Caridina Mariae. Although they are interbreeding, the species of Tiger and Bee Shrimp is not the same. Both belong to the species group around Caridina serrata. The wild forms of the Tiger Shrimp have characteristic vertical stripes on their pleon or abdomen, which remind of a tiger pattern.

These stripes may vary in thickness depending on the original location of the animal. 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. You can keep Tiger Shrimp at room temperature; however, it is important to remember that they do not like very high temperatures in the summer.

Tiger shrimp

Shadow Shrimp or Taiwan Bee Shrimp

Hong Kong: A New Generation of Origins

Recent developments in shrimp breeding have brought a lot excitement to the scene. The breeders at first gave them imaginative names like Panda Bee, King Kong, Blue Bolt, Black Diamond, Red Amber or Red Ruby. 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 are the most popular in the hobby. Red Fire Shrimp is also known as Red Cherry or Red Cherry shrimp. This highly diverse species comes from Taiwanese and Chinese waters. It can be found in more than 15 colors and different patterns. 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. 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 also occurs in rivers in Taiwan that lead to the Pacific Ocean.

The males grow more than the females. These shrimp can be sexed easily because of the dotted pattern at their pleon. The female can hold up to 2000 eggs under its pleon. To grow up, larvae require brackish or marine water. They will die within a few days in fresh water. If you want to raise the larvae you need a separate breeding tank with a salinity of 25 g per litre (6.6 g per gallon). The larvae will eat Liquizell and similar micro foods.

This is a remarkable feat considering that the shrimp can live up to eight 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. 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 Mixed with 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.

While dwarf shrimp and fan shrimp may be socialized, fresh-hatched dwarf shrimp offspring can be used as live food and survival rates for the former. Different dwarf shrimp species kept in one tank will hybridise if they are closely related, with a more or less attractive outcome. 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 & Crabs

You will not succeed if you try to keep shrimps with crabs. Even small crabs will bother shrimp severely, and after the next moult at the latest the crabs will kill the shrimp for sure.

Dwarf Shrimp with Snails and Mussels

It is possible to keep fan shrimp, dwarf shrimp, and mollusks together. The snails will be viewed by long-arm shrimp as a tasty snack. However, only the most productive species of snails will survive for longer times when they are socialized with them.

Dwarf Shrimps and Aquatic Plants

Shrimps are good for aquatic plants. Among the three groups, there are no species that are known to damage aquatic plants severely. This is also true for mussels. They can uproot plants when they dig into the ground, but otherwise are completely harmless.

The majority of shrimp don’t eat aquatic vegetation so you can plant it however you wish. 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 Shrimps and Lighting

The light in a shrimp tank can not only affect the behavior of some species of shrimp but also causes the growth of algae and microorganisms. These are vital parts of dwarf ornamental shrimp’s everyday diet. Therefore, your lighting system should be well-suited to the species you wish to keep. You can also use floating plants to dim the light in your tank if your shrimp have a problem with their tank’s brightness. The shrimp keepers tend to use a different type of moss in their tanks, which doesn’t need much light. A strong, bright light that imitates the sun on the other hand can improve the density of colours.