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Shrimp Tank Primer

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

There are as many ways to designing a decapod domicile as there are species of shrimp and with these simple steps you could create your very own whimsical world crawling with ten legged crustaceans.

Fluval Spec 16 gallon Shrimp Tank made by Captain Duckweed

Sometimes the ideal hardscape can jump out and slap you in the face with inspiration at the first sight of a stone in your local fish store, and sometimes finding those perfect pieces of wood and rock for your new shrimp masterpiece can take some exploration. Wherever or however you find your materials make sure the rocks you choose do not contain any heavy metals which can be fatal to invertebrates. Since shrimp absorb calcium from the water as they age and develop new shells, keeping the pH stabilized and buffered will be important to help your shrimp molt and grow happy and healthy. There are a lot of different types of beautiful stone that will not only look great in your tank, but also help buffer and maintain ideal water for the shrimp.

Aquascaping wood at Easy Aquariums

Placing wood in the tank tends lower pH which can cause complications in a shrimp tank that is not adequately buffered. This can lead to difficult molts, so it’s recommended that any branches and sticks that you place be used in conjunction with rocks or even shells to keep the calcium levels high.

Black neocaridina shrimp

After establishing the materials for hardscape in your tank, begin to place and arrange them to fit your desired style or theme. Remember to keep rock structures well stabilized so you don’t lose any decapods to a rolling stone, and keep wood and rock away from the glass for easy algae scraping down the road.

Pro Tip: When aquascaping I always start with the largest pieces first to see if/how/where it fits the best then I add the rest of the hardscape in decreasing size.

Once the hardscape is settled and the substrate is sloped just the way you like, the time for planting is upon you. I have found that if you start by placing plants in and among the hardscape, next to a stone or so close to the wood it’s seemingly growing out from beneath offers a natural look like what would be seen in slow moving streams and placid lakes. While there are many planting styles and options to choose from that utilize a wide variety of plant species, I am going to focus on a few low maintenance species that will offer protection and shelter for newly hatched shrimplets, to keep your shrimp colony population healthy and growing.

Aquatic mosses of all kinds make for a fantastic shrimp havens, providing both food and shelter. The scraggly network of fronds within these mosses form passageways through the vegetation keeping babies safe from predators and pesky filter intakes. Even different species of algae can create beautiful scapes for these tiny creatures to inhabit and some types of shrimp will even feast on it. Other plant species that make for great colony condos include any grass or reed-like carpet species, such as micro sword (Lilaeopsis mauritiana), hair-grasses (eleocharis sp.), and cryptocryne species just to name a few.

Blue Dream shrimp on leaf

For this tank I have chosen Cryptocryne spiralis to place in the back corner behind the wood and stone to add height to the scape and extend hiding spaces to the surface of the water. In the mid-ground, I chose a combination of Cryptocryne lutea and Cryptocryne wendtii for their bushy coverage which makes ideal places for shrimp to hideout. Helanthium tenellum is another great low maintenance grass-like plant that is slow to acclimate but once acclimated is quick to grow sending out runners and spreading nicely. This makes H. tenellum a wonderful carpeting plant that isn’t as demanding as other species (I’m looking at you Utricularia grammifolia).

Once the tank is done cycling and parameters are stable you can add the shrimp and other appropriate livestock. Ottocinclus catfish, or otto cats, make a great addition to any tank that doesn’t have large predators. These little schooling fish are a great algae-eater and unlike its distant relatives in the Plecostomus family, they do not produce nearly as much waste. In addition to being low waste with an appetite for algae, another fantastic quality of these unassuming little fish is that they are shrimp safe! So long as the shrimp are healthy, the otto cat will just swim on by to the nearest leaf, preferring instead to munch algae.

Some other examples of safe tank-mates for shrimps would be species of snails and fish with very small mouths. Danio tinwini is a flashy fish that stays small and can live with a shrimp colony. Commonly called the Gold Ring Danio, they tend to leave healthy adult shrimp alone but will occasionally snag juveniles when given the opportunity. Caution should be used when keeping shrimp with fish of any size as anything with a mouth CAN bite, so if looking to breed your shrimpy friends or grow your own colony, shrimp only tanks are the best way to achieve larger numbers of offspring.

Now that you have your own shrimp tank, kick back and enjoy, and if you play your cards right your colony will thrive and grow.

Pro Tip: Mixing different colors of Neocaridina davidi will result in cross breeding which will produce mixed color offspring that overtime will eventually revert back to their wild type genetics producing shrimp that are mostly clear or brown.

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