Freshwater shrimps 101: Info, species, care tips

Freshwater shrimp belong to the crustacean animal family, specifically to the Decapod (literally “ten-footed”) order of crustaceans. Decapods also include prawns, crayfish, crabs, and lobsters. Relatively absent in aquariums until recently, these small invertebrates are very lively and very resistant animals, they grow splendidly in captivity especially if in good maintenance conditions, they are excellent and ravenous algae-eaters who spend most of their time cleaning trunks, rocks, furnishings, plants; and precisely for this feature they are often used as a cleaning squad to free aquariums from unwanted greenery. 

Freshwater shrimp characteristics 

Most freshwater shrimp species have adults ranging approximately 2-3 inches in size, and come in all colours with the exception of purple. Many species are territorial and it is not advised to keep more than one in the same aquarium, although there are exceptions. The average lifespan of a freshwater shrimp is around 2-3 years, but under the right conditions they can even reach 7-8 years of life. Only a few families of freshwater shrimp are known, as a shrimp keeper it is important that you know what the water pH and temperature value requirements are according to your shrimp’s species and where they originate from. Shrimps are by nature predators so coexistence with other species or different types of fish in the aquarium can be difficult and there is a risk of them killing each other, especially if they have to compete for room and resources.

What are the different species of shrimp?

Chart illustrating shrimp species, genuses and families under the Decapoda animal order.
All shrimp belong to the Order of Decapoda, which comprises two families: Atyiade and Palaemoidae. Within the Atyiade family we have Caridina (e.g. Amano shrimp, Crystal shrimp), Neocaridina (e.g. Crystal shrimp, Pearl shrimp), and Atyopsis (e.g. Bamboo shrimp). Belonging to the Palaemoidae family we have the Palaemonetes genus, characteristic of the Ghost shrimp.

Freshwater shrimp diet

Most freshwater shrimp are omnivorous with vegetarian tendencies, they feed on algae, rotten leaves, dead plants, animal plankton and sediments, in short, everything they find in a state of decomposition but often they are not enough for this it is advisable to vary their diet by regularly adding frozen food such as fly larvae, earthworms and brine shrimp, dried seaweed or fresh vegetables such as spinach and zucchini, peeled peas, cabbage leaves, nettle or even shrimp food that is normally found on the market, even fish food could be fine as long as it arrives on the bottom a sufficient quantity, and you may even attempt to feed them cooked chicken (just take precautions not to contaminate the water). If you keep shrimp in the same tank as fish, pay special attention that the food reaches the bottom of the tank and the shrimp’s hiding places. They usually feed twice a day early in the morning and at dusk, normally the younger specimens feed during the day while the older ones do so in the evening.

Shrimp growth and moulting

If you spot your shrimp moulting, do not panic. Moulting is an inherent habit of crustaceans, that periodically get rid of their old exoskeleton which has become too tight and form a new one. This allows them to grow continuously. Initially during this process, their new soft and delicate shell will make them vulnerable to predators, which is why they tend to remain hidden in their caves, away from danger, seeking shelter from other specimens and fish. You should not remove their old shell since it will be eventually eaten by the shrimp and ensure enough energy, strength and vigor for the newly growing shell. At this stage the shrimp keeper role is to ensure that there are enough hiding spots in the aquarium for its guests to seek safety from other predators. Sudden changes in water parameters, lack of protein in the shrimp diet or insufficient mineral levels in the water can lead to potentially fatal molting issues such as the white ring of death.

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