Cherry Shrimp Care 101: Breeding, Tank Setup, Tank Mates & More

Cherry shrimp are a common and highly recommended addition to freshwater aquariums all over.

They’re simple to care for, they get along well with their tank mates, and they’re a ton of fun to look at.

Also, they love to snack on algae in your tank which is a major benefit in itself.

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know to become an expert on Cherry shrimp. General info, care basics, ideal tank conditions, and more.

General species summary

Cherry shrimp also known as Red Cherry shrimp (neocaridina heteropoda is their scientific name), are an active group of freshwater invertebrates that are naturally found in the streams and ponds of Taiwan.

They are a small freshwater shrimp (or dwarf shrimp) of the family atyidae that is a popular species within the freshwater aquarium community. In an easily-managed and appropriate environment, these algae-eating little shrimp are resilient and valuable to their surrounding ecosystem.

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With the right care, Cherry shrimp will likely live somewhere in the range of one and two years, with high breeding potential and minimal upkeep.

Cherry shrimp are also “graded” into a color system among breeders and sellers, which will be discussed below.   

Appearance & size information

Cherry shrimp are varying shades of red and small, growing only up to one-and-a-half inches in length. The females tend to be larger and slightly more colorful than the males.

Regular cherry shrimp walking

If Cherry shrimp are experiencing stress from their environment, however, they will dull their coloration.

It is hard to differentiate between males and females until the shrimp are sexually mature. Once matured, the females can be picked out by the presence of an orange “saddle” area under their tail (used for holding eggs once bred).

Due to selective breeding, the red colors seen in captive Cherry shrimp are much more consistent in shade than of those in the wild, who have a wider range of colors.

Color grading

In an effort to gauge quality and worth in these shrimp, four color “grade” levels are used to classify each individual. They are as follows:

  • High Grade: Painted Fire Red Cherry Shrimp – The highest grade, also the priciest of the bunch. They are red all over their bodies, including their legs, which is exclusive to this grade of shrimp.
  • Medium-High Grade: Fire Red Cherry Shrimp – Only red on their bodies.
  • Medium Grade: Sakura Cherry Shrimp – Mainly red with scattered clear color spaces on their bodies.
  • Lowest Grade: Basic Cherry Shrimp – Lowest grade and least expensive. These are mostly clear and have a few areas of red on their bodies.

The price of these shrimp goes up with the grade, as well as the required water quality. Higher-grade Cherry shrimp need more stable/clean water conditions to thrive, while lower-grade shrimp can tolerate poorer water quality without becoming as stressed. 

Cherry shrimp care

Cherry shrimp care is simple and easy. These animals are very low maintenance and will thrive as long as you take care of their basics needs.

In this section, we’ll cover the essentials that you need to be aware of when it comes to caring for Cherry shrimp.

Base water parameters 

Cherry shrimp are flexible when living in tank conditions. Their main need is for the water levels to remain stable. Any fluctuation of the water quality can cause them stress that can shorten their lifespan. 

  • Water temperature – A heater is not necessarily needed for shrimp water. It simply needs to be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit – often room temperature. If the water is kept on the higher end of this range, it can accelerate reproduction and growth rates of the Cherry shrimp.
  • pH levels –  The pH in the tank should be between 6.5 to 8. Peat can be added to the water to naturally lower the pH level if needed.

Water cleanliness

As mentioned above, with higher-graded shrimp there should be higher water quality to accommodate them. Should the tank have lower-grade Cherry shrimp, this is not as much of a concern.

Another very important thing to remember is that Cherry shrimp are sensitive to chlorine, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels.

There should be zero nitrites in the water before the shrimp are placed in the tank. Nitrates should be less than 20 ppm (parts per million).

Adding a de-chlorinator to the tank water a few days prior to shrimp placement will ensure the level of chlorine is not too high. These levels tend to be easier to maintain in larger tanks with more water.

Bioload and filtration guidelines

One of the most interesting things about Cherry shrimp is that they have a low bioload, meaning they don’t produce much waste. This helps in keeping the water quality higher and making it easier for beginning tank owners to regulate conditions. Always be sure to cycle the tank before adding any animals as well.

When using filtration systems, precautions should be taken. Because Cherry shrimp are a dwarf species, they can easily be sucked into the filtration system if it is too powerful.

To prevent this, a sponge filter can be used instead. Blocking the filter inlets partly can reduce the flow and prevent this issue as well.

6 tips for introducing your shrimp to your tank

When placing Cherry shrimp into their new tank, it’s important to acclimate them to the new water gradually to reduce stress.

  1. Place your new shrimp in a container using the water that came in the bag.
  2. Attach a hose with a control nozzle.
  3. Syphon the water from your aquarium into the container.
  4. Ensure the flow rate is about 2-3 drops per second.
  5. Now the hard part, wait 3-4 hours.
  6. If everything looks good net your shrimp out to your tank.

Signs of water-related stress in the shrimp include:

  • Floating at the surface of the water
  • Little to no movement.

Be patient and do the procedure slowly. If you have several shrimp you can start testing it with just one and then the rest of the group.

Cherry shrimp tank setup, size and habitat suggestions

It’s a good idea to start a tank with at least ten Cherry shrimp, as they adjust better in larger groups. 

The amount of water in the tank should be no less than five gallons. With every three additional shrimp added, there should be another gallon of water.

Cherry shrimp produce small amounts of waste, which makes it hard to overload a tank. Whole colonies, however, should have at least a 20 gallons minimum tank size.

What to put in their tank

Cherry shrimp should have a generous amount of plants in their tank environment, and a moderate current.

Aquatic plants shed edible organic materials that can feed Cherry shrimp. The shrimp also like plenty of hiding places, which the plants can provide.

Driftwood can be added in, as the shrimp will eat any algae and moss off of it. Java Moss, as we discussed in a previous guide, is excellent for use in tanks with Cherry shrimp too. They use it for hiding and grooming, as well as feed.

The use of plants and moss in tanks can improve the water quality by filtering out toxins, keeping the water and shrimp healthier as well.

Pebbles are useful to create the rocky bottom Cherry shrimp are accustomed to in nature, as well as for collecting debris the shrimp may want to eat.

Specific lighting is not needed- standard aquarium lighting is beneficial for viewing purposes.

Food & diet

In nature, Cherry shrimp are omnivores. They can feed on plants and smaller organisms.

In a tank that has been cycled numerous times, these organisms can start to grow on the surfaces of the tank which provides a snack for the shrimp.

A high-quality pellet mix is recommended as a main source of food, as well as some vegetable bits (boiled and blanched first).

Veggies that can be used include:

  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots

When using a pellet formula, it’s recommended that you stay away from those with high levels of copper in them, as Cherry shrimp are sensitive to amounts of metals.

It is also important not to leave excess food in the tank after feedings. Overfeeding without removing extra food after about two hours can lead to poor water conditions. 

Behavior & temperament

Cherry shrimp are active, docile creatures. Because of this, it’s important to provide an environment with plenty of hiding spaces to make them feel secure and keep stress levels down.

Cherry shrimp on bottom of tank

These shrimp also feel safer together in larger groups (try to have at least ten shrimp) because having more individuals discourages competing for dominance.

When Cherry shrimp feel secure in their surroundings, they will display brighter colors, and be more enjoyable to view in an aquarium as well. They tend to move a lot, often grazing on surfaces in the tank.

The shedding process

One of the most interesting behaviors of Cherry shrimp is that they will periodically shed their exoskeleton.

It might be tempting to remove these shells in an effort to clean, but they should be left in the tank. The shrimp will ingest their old exoskeletons after they shed them to absorb the nutrients left inside.

Cherry shrimp tank mates

Cherry shrimp tend to get along well with other tank mates, but they can become an easy meal if targeted. They have little self-defense, making it crucial to put them in tanks with other aquarium shrimp of similar sizes.

They can get along with the following shrimp (and you won’t have to worry about cross-breeding concerns either):

Fish such as small tetras, pleco, and gouramis are a good choice as well. Grazing bottom-feeders such as catfish are a safe roommate.

The idea is to avoid any large or predatory fish that would be tempted to eat the Cherry shrimp.

The Cherry shrimp breeding process

Breeding Cherry shrimp requires a preparatory phase, should this process be desired. Comfort and security should be raised by adding even more plants, giving the shrimp places to hide as they begin to breed.

The temperature should be raised to around 83 degrees Fahrenheit, as this will mimic the summer breeding season of Cherry shrimp in the wild.

A high-protein food should be given frequently, especially if the shrimp are not sexually mature yet. The shrimp reach a mature age and are ready to breed at four to six months old.

Breeding may not happen immediately upon placement in the tank since the shrimp can take up to five months to settle into their surroundings. 

Breeding will have taken place once the females are “berried”, meaning that there is a visible group of eggs under the female’s tail. She will fan her tail a lot- this is a normal process in which she is trying to expose the eggs to enough oxygen as possible.

After 30 days, the baby shrimp will hatch and be on their own.

It is helpful to breed and hatch Cherry shrimp in a tank that has been cycled a few times. This will ensure the presence of small organisms that can be used as food for the newly-born shrimp.

Our conclusion

Cherry shrimp are a fantastic addition to any freshwater tank as long as you have a compatible set of tank mates. They’re fun to observe, beautiful in their appearance, and beneficial to your tank.

If you’re considering adding some, we highly recommend it. We’ve heard from so many aquarists over the years who love their Cherry shrimp, and we think you will too.

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