Your Guide to Cherry Shrimp and Their Care

cherry shrimp care

Cherry Shrimp are astoundingly popular in aquaria, but the novice often has many questions. If you’re looking to get them answered, you’re in the right place. I’m going to break down the care requirements of Neocardina davidi for you, and give you the information you need to create a thriving colony of these attractive invertebrates.

Cherry Shrimp Care Overview

Scientific Name Neocardina davidi
Size 1”
Colors Primarily Red
Care Level Beginner
pH 6.5-8.0
Temperature 74-82F
Diet Omnivorous Scavengers
Minimum Tank Size 2.5 Gallons
Compatibility Issues Easily eaten by larger fish
Special Requirements Freshwater plants

Cherry Shrimp are one of the best ways for new aquarists to get into the world of inverts. They breed readily, there are different morphs available, and they can be found in virtually every LFS.

Species Note: Neocardina davidi is a different species than Cardina cantonensis. The latter is commonly called the Bee Shrimp. One of the most popular variants is the Crystal Red Shrimp or CRS. If you’re on a message board and they use the acronym, they aren’t referring to this species. You’ll find this occasionally conflated on the web, but Bee Shrimp, in general, have different care requirements.

Learn more: Demystifying Freshwater Shrimp In the Home Aquarium

Coloration is common in these shrimp. You can even purchase “Skittles bags” on eBay, containing a random selection of colored Cherry Shrimp.

Their care requirements are simple:

  • Cycled Tank-Shrimp are rather sensitive to ammonia and nitrite. A cycled tank is required for long-term success with them.
  • Planted Aquaria-Cherry Shrimp should have plants, rocks, and/or driftwood. They need them to hide in and feel secure. They’re also the easiest way to keep predators off their back in the tank itself.

As long as those are in place, you’re in good hands. If you’re new to shrimp keeping, however, I recommend setting up your first tank with them from the ground up.

How to Care for Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp aren’t very complicated to keep, thankfully. They’re even suitable for people who’ve never had an aquarium before, as long as they do their due diligence in ensuring they know what they’re doing.

Follow along, and we’ll discuss the whole process.

1. Prepare Your Tank Properly for the Shrimp

Ideally, you already have a well-cycled tank. If not, then you’ll have a fixture which takes some time before you can settle shrimp in there.

My personal recommendation is no more than 4 shrimp per gallon of water in the tank to start with. In a shrimp-only tank. With other species involved, I usually top out at 2 shrimp per gallon, at least initially.

If you add too many in the beginning, the bioload may be too much. Once the tank has been settled for a few months, the shrimp will be breeding, and the tank will reach homeostasis. The amount of time depends on the plants, the input water, and the bacteria colonies in your tank.

Essentially, you’re building a planted aquarium from the ground up. You can keep Cherry Shrimp in a hardscape only tank, but I don’t recommend it.

If you don’t have a cycled tank, then you’ll need to cycle it. Most people prefer to use a fishless cycle, which takes a rather long time. Others will use “throwaway” fish; feeder minnows are common. They’ll usually survive the cycle if you do everything right.

My recommendation is to use something like Tetra Quick Start to get things moving. I’ve been able to get tanks fully cycled in roughly a week using starter bacteria colonies. During this period of time, you can add your plants, creating the aquascape before adding livestock.

Once your tank is cycled, you’re ready to go further.

In all cases, just use a test kit. It’s a much better idea than trying to estimate by time. Once ammonia and nitrite are 0ppm, and there’s a detectable level of nitrate, you’re good to go.

2. Choose Your Shrimp

If you have a good LFS, you’ll likely be able to pick the right shrimp from the get-go. Don’t get tricked into paying extra for “high grade” Cherry Shrimp or spectacular colors. Some of the new morphs may run up to 100% more than “standard” Cherry Shrimp.

All color morphs breed interchangeably. If you want only one color of Neocardina davidi, then you’ll have to purchase only those. On the other hand, placing more than one morph in a tank is increasingly common.

There are no “official” grades; the truth is that some shrimp have bolder colors and they might breed true. Linebreeding is a whole different subject, however.

Look for shrimp that are active and brightly colored if you buy them in person. Sluggish shrimp are on their way out. Don’t pay too much attention to color saturation, females are more opaque, and you want both sexes.

3. Add Your Shrimp to the Tank

I recommend adding no more than 1 per gallon at a time, especially in newly-cycled tanks. You can continue to add them over time until you reach the target. Shrimp have a low, but not zero, bioload.

Your shrimp should be properly acclimated before being added to the tank. That’s a fancy way of saying, “float the bag for fifteen minutes.” Shrimp are susceptible to thermal shock.

As usual, you also want to avoid introducing the store’s water to your tank. Even the best LFS occasionally has something nasty get through. You’re always playing with variables when you’re running a tank; there’s no need to add any new ones.

The best way to do it is simply to pour the bag or cup the shrimp came in through your net. Then put the net in the tank.

Shrimp have a tendency to stick to things, I’ve even found them stuck to the bottom of the glass cover on my aquaria. Dropping the net in lets them kick it into high gear and get into the tank without any extra fuss.

4. Feed Your Cherry Shrimp the Right Food

Cherry Shrimp will eat pretty much anything. I rarely directly feed them in a tank with other animals, but if they’re on their own, you’ll want to add some flake or algae pellets on occasion.

In my experience, they also love frozen bloodworms. It seems to brighten their colors, and they’ll actively seek them out once they’ve hit the water.

Honestly, any high-quality flake will do, but a varied diet is preferred.

They’re not hunters, so live food is out for the most part. Anything else works well, and some people even feed their shrimp blanched vegetables.

5. Perform Regular Maintenance

You’ll also need to take care of the tank. The following are all required for long term success:

  • Water Changes: Water changes should be performed weekly. If you’re experienced, then test for nitrates regularly and change the water if they’re >10ppm. 25% is usually fine, but some people will change up to 50% of the tank in one go.
  • Trim Plants: Keep your plants trimmed to where you want them. Most carpet plants will require a good deal of trimming, and stem plants also grow rapidly.
  • Vacuum the Gravel: Mulm, the build-up of algae and detritus, will build up in your tank over time. Don’t worry about it if your nitrates are in order, but if they do not, then get as much of it up as possible.
  • Check for Babies: After the first month or so, anyone interested in breeding their shrimp should begin looking for fry. They’re just tiny versions of the adults and will be hidden as much as possible

From there, you’re good to go!

Just try not to get addicted. More than one person has gone from a single 5 gallon garden to a wall of breeding tanks.

Cherry Shrimp FAQ

Does my tank need to be planted to keep Cherry Shrimp?

No, but your chances of success go way down. Cherry Shrimp are grazers, and a large portion of their diet consists of biofilm within the tank. That fuzzy stuff on new driftwood? Brown diatoms on your plants? The gross stuff back by the filter intake? That’s a large part of what they eat, and it grows best in planted tanks.

Can different color morphs interbreed? Should they?

The color morphs of Cherry Shrimp can all interbreed. Whether or not they’re all the same species is up in the air at times, but they will create fertile offspring. That said, many people advise against combining different colors of shrimp. It won’t result in a mix of colors… often it just results in a reversion to the grey/orange wild “type.”

Are Bee Shrimp and Cherry Shrimp compatible?

They can be kept in the same tank but won’t breed together. Make sure to optimize the water parameters for the Bee Shrimp, since they’re much less hardy than Cherries.

Related: 8 Great Tank Mates for Cherry Shrimp

What should I do if I’m hopeless with plants?

Java Moss. It grows so prolifically many experienced keepers, such as myself, are reluctant to put it in new tanks. Killing it is harder than keeping it alive.

How are Cherry Shrimp graded?

Very carefully. The truth is that there are no real “regulations” around grading Cherry Shrimp. The red morph is a little bit more defined but still sketchy. Males, for instance, are often translucent no matter what their base lineage is. Unless you’re getting into competitions, just find shrimp you like. Don’t worry about it unless you’re trying to found a line for commercial purposes.

How can I tell males and female Cherry Shrimp apart?

As a beginner, just buy 6+ shrimp to make sure you have what you need. Males are a little smaller and much more transparent than females with the same coloration. Once breeding is underway, females will carry eggs. They’re visible in all but the most opaque shrimp, they’ll be white or yellow “berries” contained in the body of the shrimp.

How many Cherry Shrimp can I keep in a tank?

Start with 3 per gallon, or 2 per gallon if you have fish in the same tank.

How long do Cherry Shrimp take to mature?

The shrimp need to be at least 3-4 months of age before they can begin mating. Once they’ve begun, the females carry the eggs for about 30 days before they hatch. The hatchlings are miniature shrimp, not the immobile larvae that characterize some species.

How long do Cherry Shrimp live?

Roughly 1-2 years, depending on their level of care. Warmer aquariums speed up the life cycle of most aquatic animals. Since they breed so prolifically, however, it’s unlikely you’ll need replacement shrimp unless you want a new color morph.

Can shrimp get sucked into the filter intake?

Absolutely. HOB filters will kill shrimp on occasion, particularly baby shrimp who get caught in the intake. When I had large, shrimp heavy tanks, it wasn’t unusual to find them in the canister filter. If you’re worried about it, then you should use a sponge filter instead. They’re not very common these days, but most LFS will have them. It’s easy to learn how to set them up as well.

Why am I finding white pieces of stuff on the bottom of my shrimp tank?

It’s most likely from molting shrimp. While some will eat the shredded shell, others lost it before that happens or just won’t. This can lead to bits on the bottom of the tank. A good molt may even end up confused for a dead shrimp. It’s nothing to worry about; it just means your inverts are growing!

Where can I buy Cherry Shrimp?

I haven’t walked into an LFS without at least the red variety in years. Even some big box stores have them, and it’s enough to get a breeding project going. For high-grade colors, you can go through private sellers online, or in your area, if you live in a large city. If all else fails, then check eBay!

A Cherry Good Time

The basics of Cherry Shrimp can be grasped by pretty much anyone. They’re a great option for aquarists of all levels. They’re useful in the tank, very hardy, and colorful. As a side bonus, they have diverse genetics related to their coloration as well. Are you ready to step into a whole new world of aquaria?

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