Stock your aquarium with something different

written by Callum Jenvey-Vallender


Ever thought about keeping something different from your aquarium fish but find it a little overwhelming? Don’t worry, this article is just for you. Our friend Callum has put together all the information you need to get the most out of your new shrimplets.

 As we dive deeper into the hobby our main goal is livestock and what are we going to be stocking our new nature aquarium with. 

Over the years, nano tanks have become very popular and what is perfect for a nano tank? you guessed it, the freshwater shrimp. With fewer fish suited for the nano aquariums, these tiny freshwater animals are incredibly popular in the hobby. 

An interesting shrimp, to begin with, would be the neocaridina species which has a range of wonderful colours and various patterns. I personally like the strain called ‘Rili’. These invertebrates are generally very easy to keep in most aquariums but essential to check your water temperature and other elements of your aquarium water to maintain a natural environment for everything to thrive.

Neocaridina golden back

Neocaridina fire red

However, this is not the only dwarf species available in the market. If you’ve gone to your local fish store recently and spotted some red and white banded shrimps, you’ve stumbled upon the Caridina freshwater shrimp species. These are generally a more advanced species due to their water requirements being a bit more strict. For this species, testing your GH and KH is highly recommended. Caridina shrimps are one of the best-looking shrimps in the hobby with a wider colour and pattern range. Don’t let their requirements put you off as these are also very rewarding to keep.

Caridina pure red line

Now let’s look into what is needed in the aquarium department. When keeping any dwarf shrimp species in your planted tank, it is very important to choose your hardscape (rock or stones)and substrate (soil, gravel or sand) very carefully. A lot of hardscape will alter your GH/KH so all those beautiful big statement rocks you’ve probably seen won’t be suitable for some species but a balance can be managed with more water changes. Alternatively,  you can always go for the safest option and look at inert rocks & stones. Shrimps also love wood. They will feed off the biofilm and graze on any algae on it which is a win in anyone’s books. 

When it comes to substrate a nutrient-rich soils are fantastic for aquatic plants, they will also buffer your water, keep your pH lower and reduce your KH value which is vital if you decide on keeping  caridina shrimps. You can also use these substrates with neocaridina , but, before introducing your new shrimps to the aquarium, it’s best to check all your water parameters are within the recommended range.

Prepare for baby shrimps – and lots of them! It’s a fact, they are going to breed sooner or later. The female will hold her clutch of eggs whilst fanning and cleaning them until releasing free-swimming baby shrimplets. They are practically invisible to see in the early stages of their lives, but, make sure you provide a source of food for them to survive. An example of food for tiny shrimps can be something simple such as naturally decaying leaf matter which is very close to what they would graze on in nature. Live plants have a biofilm that baby shrimps will consider food too.

Now one of my favourite subjects… Food! No, we aren’t going to try and eat our shrimps. But, we should try to offer them the best natural foods we can get. They may be known as a cleanup crew but don’t take that wording literally. Naturally, they will graze off algae and biofilm upon your aquascape, but it’s not enough for developing shrimps that need a high calcium diet in order for healthy moults to occur. They go mad for natural leaf litter, nettle leaf and various vegetables. A lot of breeders will have a wide variety of food to offer them. Good quality pellets that cover the basic nutrients that they may be missing, will all add to the health of your shrimp. But in all fairness, they aren’t really fussy about what food is being offered to them. 

Plants are really beneficial for shrimps. They provide shelter to hide away from predators but will help them feel more comfortable in their environment. Aquatic Plants are perfect for little shrimplets to hide and grow big enough to feel safe, especially in larger aquariums. The layout of your aquascape and your choice of plant species can contribute to the levels of baby shrimps that grow to full size. Most plant species will create enough hiding places for your shrimp but, If you decide to keep your shrimp with small fish, keeping those fish well fed will go a long way towards a healthy shrimp colony. 

Now that we are speaking about plants, we need to understand plant growth. It is important to know, some plants require a higher level of care involving co2  and fertilisers whereas the easier plants will just be fine with some nutrients being added to the water column. I’ve personally use CO2 injecting plus the addition of fertilizers to grow a wide variety of aquatic plants and creating a variety of aquascape layouts over my many years in the hobby. 

There is a lot of conflicting information in regards to Co2 injection and shrimps. Most aquarists that run Co2 will have drop checkers for monitoring the co2 levels within the aquarium and will regularly check their Co2 equipment, making sure it’s running as it should do. Personally, I run CO2 on all my shrimp tanks, but, as long as you maintain the correct pH level for the shrimp you keep while being mindful of the care requirements of the plant species you have growing in your nature aquarium, you can enjoy your aquarium for a long time. 

Most aquascapes will encounter unwanted pests at some point that somehow hitchhiked their way into your aquarium, usually among new plants from your local fish store. Some fish will take care of any intruders but shrimps are defenceless against pests like planaria or hydra. These hitchhikers should be treated immediately with a generic parasite treatment also known as dog wormer. 

When keeping shrimps we need to be careful of what we put in our aquarium. Some treatments we use for treating fish can be toxic to crustaceans. We must also be wary when adding new plants. Some retailers may have treated your new plants with copper-based treatments which do a great job of killing pest snails but will also wipe out a colony of shrimps fairly quickly. So, if you buy submersed plants, always rinse and dip them before adding them to your aquarium. Alternatively, you can use tissue culture plants that have been grown in a laboratory in a sterile environment free from pests, pesticides and algae. 

Caridina pure red line

So the key to keeping shrimps and planted tanks is all about achieving a balance between animals, plants and water chemistry.  All pretty easy and simple and not as hard as it looks or made out to be. I hope this article sheds a little light on the subject and has inspired you to give them a go. 

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