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Can an old dog learn shrimp tricks? A new shrimpkeeper's journal


Jawjagrrl
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Everyone has been there - get something new and you want to rush everything. I made a somewhat expensive mistake thinking my "peaceful" betta would tolerate a shrimp cleanup crew and added 10 "adults" I ordered online (nearest LFS is about 70 miles away). While he coexists happily with a group of chili rasboras, these set him into Terminator mode 😕 I was able to save half into what is now a shrimp-only nano tank. 

I had not tested water parameters in about a week as everything looked great- happy snails, happy plants, a bit of algae. When I started losing my rescues one by one, I did check... and found my ph was .8 higher than the other tank sitting 2 feet away. Only difference was 1/4 cup of crushed coral under the aqua soil. 

Despite all this, I have a single shrimp - the largest of the order, but still well under 1" - that is quite proud of his tank and his "pest" snail friends. A new order is about to arrive that has been raised in identical parameters to this tank - 7.6ph, 200gh, 80kh, 0ppm ammonia and nitrite, 30ish ppm nitrate. Temp 74 degrees. 

I've got my drip acclimation ready to roll, laser thermometer to check temps match. For the veterans out there, any other advice? Really want these guys to thrive!

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On 10/6/2021 at 9:24 AM, Jawjagrrl said:

. . . I've got my drop acclimation ready to roll, laser thermometer to check temps match. For the veterans out there, any other advice? Really want these guys to thrive!

Below is some basic advice I wrote up for beginning neocaridina shrimp keepers.  You might find it useful.

  • Neocaridina shrimp (Neocaridina davidi; red cherry shrimp and the other available colors) are one of the easiest ornamental shrimp to keep, with a wider range of suitable water parameters than caridinas. Their parameters do overlap, but it's a narrow range, and not something I'd recommend for inexperienced shrimp keepers. I don't have any experience with caridinas (at least not yet), so I won't address them here.
     
  • 6.8 to 8.0 pH is usually the recommended range for neos, with Gh from 6-12 and Kh at least 4. There are supplements you can add to the water to raise the hardness if yours is low. They will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but around 72° F is generally considered best. At higher temperatures they will grow faster and breed faster, but they will also not live as long. Basically, higher temperatures accelerate their lifespan. Shrimp are sensitive to copper in the water, though the small amounts in commercial fish and shrimp food won't hurt them.
     
  • If you’re curious about how many to start with, the answer is as many as you can afford, but if money is a factor (which it often is for most of us), you can get a nice colony going with 10 or so. Of course, it will take longer than if you start with 25, but you’ll still probably get to 100 sooner than you expect.
     
  • There are many color varieties, and they will readily breed with each other. The results will generally be brown or clear after a few generations. For this reason, if you want to maintain a specific color it's best not to mix them. Even if you do stick with a single color you'll need to remove undesirable colors occasionally. The amount of culling you'll need to do will likely vary depending on the purity of the shrimp you start with. From my personal experience my red shrimp need a fair bit of culling, while the blues ones need very little. Many people do keep and enjoy mixed colors, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. If you do cull, you can have a separate dedicated tank for them, or add them to tanks with fish. Even in tanks with dedicated shrimp hunters you'd be surprised how many will survive, especially given adequate hiding places. I occasionally see one in my 65 gallon tank, and my big angelfish just loves shrimp.
     
  • To get the most enjoyment from shrimp, keep them in shrimp only tanks, or just shrimp and snails. You don't have to worry about predation, and they'll also be more visible if there aren't predators in the tank with them, even if the predators are too small to be a threat to adult shrimp.
     
  • Even if they are the only things in the tank, they will feel more secure with hiding places, especially when molting or when a female is releasing babies. Dense plants are a good option. Java mossguppy grass, Süßwassertang, and pearl weed are some good choices. A pile of rocks, sized so that the shrimp can crawl inside, is also a good idea.
     
  • They are sensitive to changing water parameters, so most experienced shrimp keepers recommend limiting water changes to around 15%, and the new water should be close to the same temperature. If you do larger water changes, it’s even more important to temperature match the water.
     
  • Since they need biofilm to graze on, and are very intolerant of ammonia and nitrites, it's usually recommended to let a tank run for at least 3 months before adding shrimp, and 4 months is better. You might get by with adding them sooner by adding a sponge filter, plants, substrate, etc. from an established tank, but you still aren't likely to have as much success as you will if you're patient and let the tank "season" (I know this from first-hand experience).
     
  • In addition to the biofilm, they will also benefit from being fed. There are several commercial foods especially for shrimp, but I've also given mine several kinds of fish food, and they've eaten all of them. While there are mixed opinions about it, many people believe they also benefit from blanched vegetables once or twice a week. I've tried several things, and mine seem to prefer zucchini and spinach, followed by sweet peppers. I usually feed those late in the evening and remove any uneaten portion the next morning. By the way, shrimp just LOOOVE freshly crushed snails. Mine will swarm all over one.
     
  • If you use CO2 in shrimp tanks keep it around 10 – 15 ppm, and definitely below 20 ppm. They often can’t tolerate the pH swings and/or elevated CO2 levels at higher concentrations.
     
  • Of course, if you want to establish a colony you need males and females. Females are usually larger, and have better color, so when selecting them in a store you can get all females if you aren’t careful. It’s not difficult to tell them apart, even on shrimp that are the same size. The abdomen (the rear half) of females is larger than males, with the bottom line sagging down. Males’ abdomen is thinner, and it’s pretty much a straight taper from front to back.
     
  • As they reach maturity, females will develop a “saddle” on their back. This saddle (usually yellow) is the unfertilized eggs showing through their shell. They're ready to breed when they next molt, after which the fertilized eggs will move down below their abdomen where she will constantly “fan” them and juggle them around with their swimmerets to keep them aerated. Unlike some shrimp, neos don't have a larval stage, so they’ll hatch as fully developed, but very small, shrimp after about 4 weeks.
     
  • If you suddenly notice the shrimp swimming around the tank more than usual, it’s probably nothing to worry about. When a saddled female molts she releases pheromones signaling she’s ready to have her eggs fertilized, which gets the males swimming around trying to find her.
  • If you notice a shrimp with a lighter colored lateral line on top, that's called a "racing stripe", and is a harmless feature that's common with some color varieties. It will typically get wider, with the edges more ragged, as the shrimp gets older.
  • Don't worry about your tank becoming overstocked. They have a very small bioload, and a 10 gallon tank can hold hundreds of shrimp without becoming overcrowded.
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We tried several types of neocardina from our LFS and they all slowly died--yellow was hardier than the other colors for us.  We REALLY wanted blue, but struggled with those twice.  Then I found someone selling plants locally thru facebook, and he had blue velvet shrimp too.  Paid more than I wanted but less than the LFS and tried one more time.  From those 10 shrimp we started with, we now have about 100 living in two of our community tanks.  I don't know what the difference was other than these being local.  If these don't thrive, maybe see if you have any available through a club auction?

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On 10/6/2021 at 11:35 AM, JettsPapa said:

Below is some basic advice I wrote up for beginning neocaridina shrimp keepers.  You might find it useful.

Thank you for all the great information! What is your take on temperature sync for adding new shrimp to a tank? Some info I have read says this is the most critical aspect of parameters to match in order to avoid a premature/failed molt. 

I've been drip acclimating for about 2 1/2 hours and I'm at 71.3 for the new shrimp, tank is 74.3. I've only come up a little over 1 degree since unboxing them. 

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On 10/6/2021 at 12:32 PM, Jawjagrrl said:

Thank you for all the great information! What is your take on temperature sync for adding new shrimp to a tank? Some info I have read says this is the most critical aspect of parameters to match in order to avoid a premature/failed molt. 

I've been drip acclimating for about 2 1/2 hours and I'm at 71.3 for the new shrimp, tank is 74.3. I've only come up a little over 1 degree since unboxing them. 

Can you bump up the rate of the drip acclimating?  If not, I don't think 3° would make much difference.  I often move shrimp from one tank to the other at my house without worrying too much about temperature.  It's abrupt temperature (and other water parameters) changes they can't handle.

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On 10/6/2021 at 1:51 PM, JettsPapa said:

Can you bump up the rate of the drip acclimating?  If not, I don't think 3° would make much difference.  I often move shrimp from one tank to the other at my house without worrying too much about temperature.  It's abrupt temperature (and other water parameters) changes they can't handle.

I had gone from 1drip/sec to 2/sec, but it got slowed down while I was eating lunch because a tiny bladder snail got into the line 🙄 I've doubled the total water they have and they all seem really good. I threw in a little moss from my own tank and they are all about it! The seller was nice enough to include a bit of java fern with them as well. Was really nice to find a home breeder with nice stock - the colors are far better than the photos I saw. 

 

Thanks again - fingers crossed!

On 10/6/2021 at 12:50 PM, KaitieG said:

We tried several types of neocardina from our LFS and they all slowly died--yellow was hardier than the other colors for us.  We REALLY wanted blue, but struggled with those twice.  Then I found someone selling plants locally thru facebook, and he had blue velvet shrimp too.  Paid more than I wanted but less than the LFS and tried one more time.  From those 10 shrimp we started with, we now have about 100 living in two of our community tanks.  I don't know what the difference was other than these being local.  If these don't thrive, maybe see if you have any available through a club auction?

I wish I had a club the area, but where we live is a bit of a fish desert- it's all reptiles around here these days. But these guys are looking good so far in their acclimation container.

Funny that you had issues with the blue ones - I had read this elsewhere too. They are all neocardina, so not sure why some colors seem to thrive more than others. The blues in my first order died within a couple of hours. The yellow and white lasted the longest with the "snowball" being the sole survivor. We had dreams of blue shrimp with our red/white/blue betta and our chili rasboras, but life had other plans 🙃 my new order has red, orange, yellow blue and Jade with the blues being some of the most mature. Here's hoping they are good roomies with the OG shrimp!

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  • 3 weeks later...

UPDATE: Shrimp are doing fantastic, no casualties! Bought as juveniles and they did vary in size a bit. Already seeing saddles on 2-3 out of the 13 total in this tank! Need to read up on how long it might be before breeding can happen...

Interestingly, my blues are by far the most reclusive of the colors I have (red, white, orange, yellow, jade, blue dream). They stay in the back most of the time while I see the "warm" toned ones up front a lot - the yellow, orange and red hang out together. OG, the lone survivor of the first order is fun to watch as her saddle gets larger every day 🙂 thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement!

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Looks like dropped eggs. OG being reclusive this morning as well. I did a tiny water top up Saturday afternoon (maybe a cup in a 2.5gal). Water is:

0ppm ammonia, nitrites, >20 ppm nitrates, 180 GH, 80 KH, 7.6ph, water temps vary throughout the day 65-72f.

These guys were purchased as juveniles, so perhaps not ready? No viable males yet? 

Tank seems to be thriving otherwise, happy plants, moss, bladder snails and shrimp of varying sizes.

EDIT: Found the aspiring mama, who has definitely moved her eggs to her belly- guess as a new mom she dropped the pictured eggs in the process. Legs seem delicate like a recent molt has occurred as well. Now to see if any free swimming males appear!

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This morning I didn't see OG for awhile but when I did, the remaining eggs were gone but she was still fanning actively. She molted about an hour ago (12 hours after finding her without eggs). I thought she had died after an unsuccessful molt as she was on her back, but she has since moved a bit (on the shell in the photo, exoskeleton in foreground). Hopefully just exhausted from the process and losing her clutch and she will recover. Water parameters are consistent with what they have been since she was added.

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2 cherry red with saddles, 1 orange and one blue dream also possible. Did water checks.

20211027_125415.jpg.a0d2d80b14bb8569ef3be381bc8bd413.jpgWill likely remove some snails with blanched spinach trap. A couple posed for me and are seeming to find good things to eat besides my added foods, a good sign that the tank is starting to mature hopefully. Liking the British racing look of this jade shrimp with the gold back stripe.

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On 10/27/2021 at 1:04 PM, Griznatch said:

Shrimp are looking good!

@griznatch Thanks! I didn't expect them to be saddling so soon after setting them up, but I hope this means their environment is working well for them. Love your sig BTW. I had one tiny leaf of "something" come in with plants a couple of months ago, and now I have floaters in all three tanks. 😆

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yeah, the duckweed.. lol.

When the shrimp are happy you'll get babies. The real clue is when the males start zipping around the tank like crazy. That means one of the females has molted and is pumping out phermones.  If a male finds her, they'll mate and she will move the eggs to her tail. That's when you can start counting down to getting fry. Roughly 30 days...

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On 10/27/2021 at 1:19 PM, Griznatch said:

yeah, the duckweed.. lol.

When the shrimp are happy you'll get babies. The real clue is when the males start zipping around the tank like crazy. That means one of the females has molted and is pumping out phermones.  If a male finds her, they'll mate and she will move the eggs to her tail. That's when you can start counting down to getting fry. Roughly 30 days...

My snowball did that in reverse this week. Hoping it's just because she is a young adult and still figuring this all out. I am seeing some additional activity, but it's other females with saddles doing the most moving about. I have not see the shrimp that molted last night yet today, but she has a lot of hiding spots while her new shell hardens.

On 10/27/2021 at 1:21 PM, Hobbit said:

Wow! I have never seen shrimp eggs off of the mama’s tail. So interesting!

Really glad everything’s working well for you now. 😊

They didn't last long, glad I caught that moment. Ditto for her molt as there was no trace of it a couple hours later. 

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On 10/28/2021 at 12:03 PM, dmurray407 said:

Great information here!  I want to put some shrimp (red cherry) in my 60 gal aquarium and have a couple of questions. My water is super hard-with a pH of around 8. Can shrimp be happy in that? Another question-do I need to quarantine shrimp before putting them in my big tank?

 

Neocardina (cherry shrimp are neocaridina davidi) do better with higher ph (caradina need softer water) and a good gh/kh - they need it to maintain shell integrity. Mine are thriving at 7.6 and I'd suspect 8 is fine too. I was really careful to be sure my parameters were very close to the breeder I got mine from for best results. They do need some care also with water changes as they are more sensitive to large changes than most of your fish will be - I was concerned my last top up wasn't a close enough match temp-wise last weekend and that triggered my snowball to molt at the wrong time. 

As far as quarantine, it's always a good idea, but more advanced aquarists can perhaps speak to what, if any, diseases could be transferred from inverts to your existing tank residents.

This little tank is bringing us a considerable amount of enjoyment and I'd encourage any hobbyist to give them a try at some point. I have ordered a few male endlers to add to my setup to add some interest at middle/top water levels and to provide the shrimp with more mulm. My research indicates they are about as safe a tankmate as I can add for shrimplet "safety". 

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On 10/28/2021 at 11:03 AM, dmurray407 said:

I want to put some shrimp (red cherry) in my 60 gal aquarium and have a couple of questions. My water is super hard-with a pH of around 8. Can shrimp be happy in that?

They do fine for me in 8.2 pH water, that's also pretty hard.  Neocaridinas will be fine in that; caridinas not so much.

On 10/28/2021 at 11:03 AM, dmurray407 said:

Another question-do I need to quarantine shrimp before putting them in my big tank?

If this will be the first shrimp going into the tank, then as far as I know there's no need to quarantine.  Shrimp don't carry diseases or parasites that affect fish.

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