Cherry Shrimp: Complete Care Guide

Group of red cherry shrimps

Without knowing what these cute creatures look like, you can imagine they would be a deep shade of scarlet, similar to the fruit they were named after. The neocaridina davidi or Cherry Shrimp is a freshwater shrimp species native to Taiwan and are often kept in freshwater tanks. Cherry shrimp can actually come in a wide range of colors from brown to green, violet and even blue, but the red color is the most popular, hence the name.

However, you will mostly find the red cherry shrimp on sale at your local aquarium and this is due to selective breeding. Unfortunately, it’s all about the way they look because their color differentiation can also fetch the breeder different prices for these red crustaceans.

They are known as tank cleaner-uppers and are quite hardy. These peaceful freshwater shrimps are a wonderful, not to mention colorful addition to any tank.

Care Level

Red cherry shrimp (or ones of any color) are very easy to keep. They are actually known for their low maintenance requirement. Even a lack of food in the early stages of their development doesn’t seem to do too much damage to these beautiful red crustaceans.

You don’t need to follow too many guidelines when taking care of these little creatures. How do you take care of cherry shrimp? As long as they have freshwater, food, no predators in the tank, and a good environment, they will thrive. Since they are also known as algae eaters, having a planted tank with lots of spots for them to play hide and seek is ideal.

All in all, whether you are a beginner aquarist or an experienced one looking to add a pop of color to your tank, the red cherry shrimp will really liven and brighten up an aquarium.

One thing to be aware of is that although they are easy to care for, cherry shrimp have a sensitivity to copper and it could affect its growth. This means you need to regulate the water conditions to neutralize this mineral along with lead and other metals.

Temperament and Behavior

As said, this freshwater shrimp is quite even-tempered and not aggressive. They go about their day cleaning away the algae and biofilm, taking a walk along the substrate and generally keeping to themselves. Don’t fear when you see what was once a vivid red shrimp shriveled into the form of a ghostly and slightly translucent shell.

Cherry shrimp, much like their other shrimp cousins, shed their exoskeleton and it can be seen floating around the tank like a phantom shrimp. Don’t be too eager to clean it out because as uninviting as it sounds to us, the exoskeleton actually provides necessary minerals when ingested by the shrimp. As said, these are low maintenance invertebrates that can clean up after themselves.

These active shrimps keep themselves busy day or night, but a pregnant female should never feel threatened or she could abandon her eggs. So make sure she has plenty of spaces to hide.

Appearance

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) beautiful dwarf shrimp
Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) beautiful dwarf shrimp

Interestingly, the female neocaridina davidis are larger than the males. The females are generally about 1.5 inches long. Freshwater cherry shrimp are sought after due to the variety of color, most importantly being the red. The more red and bright the shrimp is, the more valuable and expensive. Just the red-hued shrimp alone can have varieties of deep red to just a few red spots on the exoskeleton.

Let’s take a look at a few differences between the red cherry shrimps alone.

  • The cherry shrimp, the subject of our discussion today, are considered less valuable because they are mostly clear coated with certain red patches.
  • The sakura cherry shrimp is a grade higher and have more red patches than the predecessor but still with mostly clear shades.
  • Fire red shrimp are all red
  • Painted fire red shrimp are the highest grade and most sought after. Other than their bright all-red bodies, the color can even reach their legs.

The neocaridina davidi come in many other colors due to selective breeding:

  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Violet
  • Black
  • White
  • Brown
  • Ghost – transparent

If you had a little bit of all the colors, you can create a little rainbow in your tank! Females are the ones that are brighter and more vivid in color and they form a little pouch on their stomach come breeding time whereas males do not.

Other than being smaller than the females, male cherry shrimp also possess a narrower tail as they do not need to carry the eggs.

Lifespan

How long do cherry shrimp live? Although these little creatures definitely do not cost an arm and a leg, you still want them to keep your tank bright and live a happy life for as long as possible. It’s all about the amount of care you give your arthropods.

In general, in good conditions, red cherry shrimp can live up to a year or little over 2 years. However, some cherry shrimp might not survive the transition from aquarium to aquarium simply due to the stress of it all. With careful transition, your red cherry shrimp should have no problem acclimating to their new environment.

Diet

Red cherry shrimp are scavengers in nature so in their natural environment, they take what they can get. The lucky cherry shrimp that do make it to your protective aquarium can be seen thriving on biofilm and algae. Since they are so easy to care for, they will eat any food intended for aquariums.

Owners with more time on their hands can even prepare an amalgam of human food that these little shrimps can enjoy. This includes soft boiled veggies such as cabbage and carrots but they shouldn’t be a substitute for a proper diet.

Looking for food at your local pet store made just for invertebrates such as pellet food should make up the bulk of their diet. If you do have other fish as their tank mates, your cherry shrimp won’t run out of food. They are the ultimate cleanup crew not only by cleaning up after themselves and other fish, but also making tank maintenance easy.

We do still suggest removing leftover pellets and other such food after two hours of being untouched. This will maintain the balance of your water chemistry and also keep the tank environment healthy.

Family

Cherry shrimp are indigenous to Taiwan and belong to the atyidae family.

Tank Conditions

A Cherry Shrimp surrounded by aquarium plants

As with most domesticated animals, cherry shrimp do well in an environment that mimics their natural one. This means they need plenty of plants placed densely along the substrate, giving them places to hide and burrow in. The plants offer hiding places but are also a source of food.

Adding sufficient moss will also create a soft bedding for your shrimp to hide in. You can tell how your shrimp are feeling by their coloration. Similar to a dog, their health condition shows through their coat. If your shrimp are feeling happy and safe, their coloration will be brighter. They tend to blend in with the substrate as well. If you place lighter colored plants and bedding in the tank, your shrimp will lack vividness. They will turn their pigments on full power when their surroundings consist of a darker colored substrate.

There isn’t a need for water heaters in the tank as long as the room is moderately comfortable. It’s not necessary to fear filters if the right kind is used. Sponge filters are less aggressive and won’t hurt your shrimp. Even though they act like tank filters themselves by cleaning up after themselves, it’s nice for your shrimp to have a little bit of help.

Cherry shrimp are freshwater shrimp, which means they need an aquarium with freshwater. If there are other fish in the tank, it’s alright if you cater to their preferred conditions first because the cherry shrimp can adapt to a wide range of environments. Not to discriminate here, but lower grade shrimp such as the red cherry and sakura shrimp have more tolerance for lower quality water conditions compared to the higher grade fire red shrimps.

Low to no nitrate with a neutral pH or one that leans slightly towards alkaline is ideal for the water conditions. As you can imagine, the tank size for these tiny invertebrates doesn’t need to be too big – we’re talking 5 gallons for just the cherry shrimp alone. Of course, the size of the tank will need to increase with more inhabitants and the number of shrimp you intend to keep. Opting for a tank that’s too big will always be better than settling for one that’s on the small end.

As for the water temperature, cherry shrimp are quite forgiving and have a large tolerance range. You can keep the water anywhere from 14-30 degrees Celsius or 57-86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cherry Shrimp Maintenance and Care

When you initially set up the tank, there are a few steps you need to take before introducing the inhabitants to their new home. It is generally a good idea to rinse the plant substrates and wash the gravel or pebble before placing it in the aquarium. The amount of water should be at least a foot deep for the shrimp and their tank mates to live comfortably.

While you are filling the tank with either a hose or a bucket, it is a good time to check the pH level. Buffers can be added to regulate the water and additions such as peat and driftwood can act as a softener. Cherry shrimp are sensitive to nitrates so it’s a good idea to look out for that as well.

After cycling the water and ensuring a safe space for your cherry shrimp, you can get ready to put them in! The tank water should be replaced and monitored on the regular just for any abnormalities. We’re looking at switching at least 25-30% of the tank water out weekly. Dechlorinate the water as your new cherry shrimp are sensitive to chlorine and metals as mentioned before. Placing the tank anywhere with moderate sunlight during the day and shade at night will do.

Suitable Cherry Shrimp Tank Mates

Let’s talk about roommates! Unfortunately, cherry shrimp or most shrimp for that matter, are at the bottom of the food chain. This means they are often preyed upon and need to be placed with fish that ignore or supplement their existence. You don’t want to wake up one day with your entire shrimp population devoured.

Whether or not the fish will leave your cherry shrimp alone has nothing to do with size. Even smaller fish have the potential of being bullies and harming the shrimp. Looking for unaggressive fish is your best bet. What fish can be kept with cherry shrimp? Species such as certain tetras and catfish, Dwarf Gouramis and sea snails among others are tank mates that can play nice with the cherry shrimp.

Even with these peaceful buddies, there is still a chance your red cherry shrimp will be mistaken for food. As they have no tools to defend themselves, their best bet is hiding among the plant substrates, so make sure you give them a fighting chance.

Cherry shrimp are a group species and don’t really do well on its own. It’s recommended that you keep at least 10 of them together at once and hopefully, they will breed a healthy colony. It’s easy to understand why a strong colony will give these little critters more confidence and chances of survival.

They are relatively easy to breed so there isn’t a golden ration in terms of males vs females. However, having more females is ideal.

Breeding

It is due to the reasons above that breeding is suggested to take place in isolation. Many experts also suggest building up a good number in your shrimp colony before adding other tank mates to give them a better chance at survival.

Breeders will tell you that cherry shrimp are among the easiest to breed species of arthropods. Even so, there are still preparatory steps you need to take to increase your chances. We keep emphasizing the importance of plants, and this isn’t just so they can hide from potential predators but it also gives them the privacy they require to breed.

Make sure the females are physiologically ready for the task by providing high-quality food with sufficient protein content. Cherry shrimp tend to breed during summer months, which would also make the water in which they reside warmer. To simulate this, you need to raise the temperature to about 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

Shrimps around 4-6 months old will hit sexual maturity and can start breeding. We would suggest letting them acclimate to the new tank environment first, which could take anywhere around 4 months’ time. You will know the breeding was successful if you soon see the females carrying eggs under her tail.

Once she lays them, you will also see fanning the eggs with her tail so they receive oxygen or scurrying her legs quickly for the same purpose. Don’t get too excited just yet because it will take about a month for you to see the baby cherry shrimp.

Once the baby cherry shrimp are welcomed into the world, you will see their resemble their parents quite a bit. There aren’t any growing pains and awkward phases for this species. Don’t remove them from this environment as they reply on a lot of the scraps floating around for food. Parent cherry shrimp teach independence very early on in their household and they mostly leave the baby shrimp to fend for themselves. We understand that a lot of people wonder if cherry shrimp eat their children, and the answer is no they do not, but they are pretty hands-off parents.

This is why you need to take extra care and make sure the babies are getting what they need. You can do so by adding more substrate, moss and driftwood to give them a little boost. It’s also increasingly important to monitor the other tank mates during this time because even the most non-aggressive and small-sized fish can accidentally consume the shrimp babies for an afternoon snack.

Conclusion

Cherry shrimp are a beautiful species of invertebrates that are sought-after around the world for their red hues. They are graded according to their pigments (unfortunately) and can vary in price as well. It’s worth it to note that the somewhat less desired cherry and sakura shrimp can actually adapt to water conditions and changes in the tank more easily than their higher-grade counterparts and are less demanding.

For beginners trying their hand at raising a shrimp colony, perhaps start with these ones. Make sure you keep the tank condition ideal and watch your aquarium really come to live with these colorful additions.

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