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


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

Chris Lukhaup, The Shrimp King

Dwarf shrimps have experienced a real boom in aquaristics in recent years. 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. Brightly coloured bred varieties in brightly contrasting colours from Europe or Asia, along with invariably new wild catch from all parts China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, are reaching American aquarianists.

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! 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 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. They produce small numbers of eggs each 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. At this point, they return to pure water.

The abundance of different habitats has resulted in a great variability in shrimp species and in 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 differ in body size and form as well as in their habits. They have the same requirements for their environment, but they are not very different between shrimp belonging to each of these groups. Under systematical aspects, almost every shrimp in the market is in one of these three groups. The most well-known and most loved shrimp is the dwarf shrimp. They are now common in aquariums and the hearts of keepers around the globe.

With over 290 species, shrimp of the genus Caridina are one of the most diverse groups within the Atyidae family. 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.

Food for Shrimp and Other Invertebrates

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. Most freshwater dwarf shrimp in the hobby belong to this group. In their natural habitats they feed on plants and (usually dead) animals as well as on biofilms rich 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.

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. Every food stick comes with a variety of high-quality ingredients. 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 contain no artificial colorants or additives. They do not contain antioxidants, preserving agents or attractants, no fishmeal, no fishery by-products or cheap by-products of vegetable origin. Each food variety’s protein content was carefully selected to avoid food-related molting issues.

Your shrimp will be provided with all the nutrition they need by Shrimp King Complete, their main feed. 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. 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 with color boosters astaxanthin (canthaxanthin) and beta-carotene. This provides the most vivid color variations of Caridina or Neocaridina genera such as Crystal Red, Sakura Red and Sakura Orange. 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 do not only contain valuable plant products but also proteins, which the snails need as building-blocks for their shell. 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 can also be used on any hard surface. This food can be used to create a food film suitable for biofilm-eaters.

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

Carnivorous animals eat food that is rich in proteins of animal origin. Invertebrates that are carnivorous include the Geosesarma small, colorful land crabs, and many other 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 eat fresh-dead or frozen food. 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 is a combination of five carefully selected leaves. It includes stinging nettle (birch), mulberry, walnut, peppermint, and mulberry. 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.

Crayfish are somewhat special in this respect. Crayfish are unique in this respect. While adult crayfish (especially those from the genus Cherax) will eat mainly vegetables, young crayfish must eat a lot of proteins. Insufficient protein intake can lead to them becoming cannibalistic, and they may begin eating their conspecifics. Procambarus, Cambarus, and Cherax are the most vulnerable crayfish species. They need more protein than adults.

Aquarium and Habitat

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. 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 of these metals can be lethal, 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. However, many of these substances are extremely poisonous for 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. 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. Insufficient oxygen can cause disease or death in shrimp. A well-aerated and filtered tank is essential for a successful shrimp keeper. These animals also like low light and hiding places where they can rest 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

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), 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. 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

The shrimp salts are a key invention 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+ 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 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. At the same time, it promotes the activity of filter bacteria and promotes plant growth. 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 to 6.5 – This product has a slightly acidic pH of approximately.

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. Hisayasu Suzuki, a Japanese shrimp enthusiast discovered the red colour morph in his shrimp tank 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 Shrimp can be found in dense vegetation along the banks of creeks. The waters are cool and have a fast current. The creek bottom consists of rock, with accumulations of dead leaves.

In March, during rainfall, we measured a water temperature of only 16.6degC (61.9degF). The water bodies can experience significant temperature fluctuations throughout the year. During the summer months, water temperatures may reach up to 24°C (75°F).

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 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

There are many varieties of shrimp that can be traded and they are known as “Tiger Shrimp”. Recently, Tiger Shrimp were described as Caridina mariae. Tiger and Bee Shrimp interbreed but do not belong to the same species. Both belong to the species group around Caridina serrata. The Tiger Shrimp wild form has vertical stripes along their abdomen or pleon that reminds one 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. All of the wild forms originate from southern China. These animals are often found in rivers and on flooded pastureland. 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. Room temperature is sufficient; however, keep in mind that Tiger Shrimp do not like too high temperatures during the summer months.

Tiger shrimp

Taiwan Bee Shrimp or Shadow Shrimp

Hong Kong is a New Generation 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, These shrimp are all known in Europe as Taiwan Bee Shrimp. In Asia and among breeders in all the world, they are called 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 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 easy to care for and recommended for beginners. The aquarium size should be chosen well; too small a tank is soon overcrowded, as Neocaridina davidi is a highly productive species. No heater is required, and the shrimp are not very demanding when it comes to 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 is also found in rivers that run to the Pacific Ocean in Taiwan.

Females are larger than males. These shrimp are easy to seduce because they have a dotted pattern along their pleon. The female carries up to 2,000 eggs under its pleon. The larvae need brackish to marine water in order to grow up successfully. 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 will eat Liquizell and 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. 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 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 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. If the dwarf shrimp species are closely related, they will likely hybridise in one tank. 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 with 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 Shrimp with Snails and 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 Shrimp and Aquatic plants

Shrimp don’t cause any damage to healthy aquatic plants. There aren’t any species among the three that can cause serious damage to aquatic plants. 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. In a tank dedicated to fan shrimp please make sure these somewhat plumper shrimp still have room to move without hindrance, though. 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 behaviour of certain species of shrimp but also causes the growth of algae and microorganisms. These parts are essential to dwarf ornamental shrimp’s daily diet. Your lighting system should be well-suited to your species. 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. A strong, bright light that imitates the sun on the other hand can improve the density of colours.