What to feed freshwater shrimp in your aquarium

In nature, most shrimp are omnivorous – feeding on algae, zooplankton, and carcasses. The main source of nutrition for “domestic” freshwater shrimp comes from cleaning up your aquarium, munching on algae and other decaying plant matter that the shrimp can scrape away from rocks.

In tropical fish shops, you can buy both vegetable and animal protein-based feed for your shrimp. It is advisable to alternate the two types of food to provide adequate nutrition. That said, you can feed your pet shrimp virtually any vegetable kitchen scrap – cucumbers, lettuce leaves, frozen peas. You may even try and throw a chicken wing in your tank and see what happens – just make sure not to overfeed or pollute your water. Do not leave any food that is not eaten in the tank and keep an eye on your TDS levels to avoid any issues.

How to blanch vegetables for feeding shrimp?

While freshwater shrimp aren’t particularly picky about what they eat, it is crucial not to introduce any pathogens in your tank during feeding. Blanching, that is, briefly boiling the food and then chilling it in ice coldwater, is a necessary precaution before throwing anything new into your tank. Cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, carrots, beans and peas are example of foods you can safely feed to your pet. Here’s how to prepare your food for feeding, step by step:

  1. Prepare a bowl with very cold water (keep it in the freezer for a couple of hours) or fill it with ice.
  2. Cut / slice your food of choice. The size of your bite doesn’t matter too much. You do not need to peel the vegetables, as you will be killing any bacteria in the peel anyways – but if you are concerned about pesticides, feel free to peel away.
  3. Boil a small pot of water. Once the water is vigorously boiling, throw in your food pieces. Leave them boiling for a minute or so.
  4. If you are working with a small amount of food, just fish it out of the boiling water with a fork or a pair of chopsticks, give it a quick cold bath, and then you can throw it directly into your tank. If you have prepared a lot of food to save for later, you can instead place it in a ziplock bag, then place it in the freezer after chilling. You do not need to reheat it before feeding your shrimp.

What proteins can I feed to freshwater shrimp?

There are very limited opportunities for shrimp to “naturally” find protein-rich food in your aquarium. They will feed on carcasses of other shrimp and fish, as well as their own old exoskeleton after molting, but apart from that, their diet primarily relies on algae and vegetable matter. In order to provide for adequate nutrition, you should introduce protein rich specialty food from time to time. You can also introduce some live feed to your tank in the form of bloodworms.

Should you feed your shrimp commercial fish food or specialty shrimp feeds?

Some aquarists prefer to purchase specialty food for their freshwater shrimp. This foods often come in the form of pellets – they are very nutritious and can help you introduce a well-balanced diet and plenty of nutrients into your aquarium. It is fine, however, to feed your shrimp “real” food from your kitchen and only rely on shrimp feed from time to time in order to provide missing nutrients and protein. If you keep other fish in your tank, for instance a betta fish, keep in mind that any fish food leftover that reaches the bottom of the tank will also feed your shrimp.

That said, there are a few instances in which you should consider buying specialty food. For instance when you have baby shrimplets, whose mouths are too tiny to eat regular food, or when extra protein may be needed to facilitate molting.

What do baby shrimp eat?

Shrimp that have just hatched from their egg will initially rely on the energy reserves in the egg yolk itself. At this stage, the shrimp larvae (“nauplii“) are almost invisible to the naked eye.

Once they mature into their post-larvae (“zoeae“) stage, they can already start feeding on microscopic plant matter and biofilm floating in the water. As soon as they develop into shrimplets (or “myses“), they can gradually ingest larger pieces of food, e.g. algae and zooplankton.

Read more: Shrimplets Care 101

What is the best food for baby shrimplets?

Powdered fish food works best. You may powder regular fish food pellets yourself to make sure that they are small enough to fit your babies’s mouths, or instead purchase specialty shrimplet food like GlasGarten’s Shrimp Baby Food or the amazing Bacter AE, which promotes the development of biofilm in your tank (thus mimicking what your shrimp would naturally feed on in the ocean).

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