How to Care for Cherry Shrimp: A Complete Fact Sheet, Breeding, Behavior, and Care Guide

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Although smaller than most other aquatic pets, Cherry Shrimp more than make up for it with their bright colors and fascinating behaviors.

Even though most commonly available Cherry Shrimp are red, they come in several colors including red, yellow, green, blue, violet, white, black, and brown. 

Regardless of the shrimp’s shell color, females are usually larger and brighter. Males will grow to about 1” in size, while females may grow an additional ½” larger.

It is very hard to determine gender until females reach puberty. At that time, female Cherry Shrimp will get green coloring on their sides. 

cherry shrimp on a rock in aquarium

Quick Intro To Cherry Shrimp

FamilyAtyidae
Scientific NameNeocaridina davidi
Other NamesRed Cherry Shrimp, Sakura Shrimp, Fire Shrimp
Care LevelBeginner to Intermediate

Insofar as day to day care, Cherry Shrimp are very easy to care for. I rate them towards intermediate level because you will need to give them a timed salt bath if they get sick.

This is an easy skill to learn, but usually not required at the hobby level for tropical and cold water aquarium fish.

Depending on their interests, Cherry Shrimp can move fairly quickly around the aquarium by swimming or walking. They will stay mostly on the bottom, but still love to climb around and explore plants, rocks, and caves. 

Cherry Shrimp are useful algae eaters in tanks where others fish would not work. For example, if you have very fragile fish such as Neon Tetras, Cherry Shrimp will make a better tank mate for them than plecos.

You can also keep Cherry Shrimp in a setup by themselves. They are fascinating to watch and well suited to small tanks.

Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where To Buy

Cherry Shrimp come from freshwaters in Taiwan and China. They were originally a somewhat greenish color and translucent. Most wild Cherry Shrimp are found in slow moving waters that have plenty of rocks, algae, and driftwood.

lots of red cherry shrimp

Hobbyists quickly developed an interest in these tiny shrimp and began using selective breeding to bring out the bright red color and others we see today.

You will not find brightly colored Cherry Shrimp in natural settings unless they were put there by humans.

There are both freshwater and saltwater shrimp species. Regardless of water type, shrimp also come in many different sizes and colors. 

Cherry Shrimp are considered miniature freshwater shrimp. Commercially available species closest to them in size include Snowball, Bamboo, Bumblebee, Crystal, Ghost Shrimp, and Amano Shrimp.

Here are two of the best options for purchase on Amazon:

5 Bloody Mary Shrimp – See Today’s Price on Amazon

20 Painted Fire Red Cherry Shrimp – See Today’s Price on Amazon

From this point forward, this article is dedicated exclusively to Cherry Shrimp.

Optimal Water Conditions For Cherry Shrimp

Water Temperature75 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit
Water Flow RateSlow
pH6.5 to 8
HardnessSoft
Aquarium Salt RecommendationsReserve for use in medicinal baths if needed.
Tannin RecommendationsOk for shrimp tanks, but watch pH carefully as new tannin additions can cause rapid pH swings.
Other Water Chemistry NeedsUse a water conditioner that neutralizes heavy metals and copper. Never put anything, including antibiotics, in the tank that have copper in them. This metal is lethal to aquarium Shrimp. If you are going to use tap water, make sure you let it run at least 2 minutes to avoid using water that has been sitting in metal pipes.

Many people are surprised when they put Cherry Shrimp in their freshwater aquarium, and find them dead within a few hours.

While all aquatic creatures are sensitive to water chemistry changes, Cherry Shrimp will die from the changes even if the water parameters in the new tank are correct for them.

It is very important to acclimate Cherry Shrimp over the course of several hours to the water in their new home.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Always make sure the prospective Cherry Shrimp tank is free of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates before moving the shrimp in or trying to acclimate them to the water.
  2. I like to start off with a 2 ½ gallon fish bowl. Put the Cherry Shrimp in the bowl using the same water that you get them in. For this example, let’s say you get 1 quart of water with the shrimp.
  3. Remove 2 gallons plus 1 quart of water from the home tank and put it in a second bowl. Any glass or food safe bowl will do as long as it is clean.
  4. Take an airline tubing and create a siphon that will drip 1 drop of water per second into the fish bowl. You can use a valve or kink the tubing to adjust the rate.
  5. Add an airstone to the fish bowl, and set it to a gentle airflow.
  6. Test the water in the fish bowl. Depending on how long the shrimp have been in the bag, the water may have ammonia and nitrites in it. If you find this, put some zeolites in the bowl and a nitrite absorbing pad. The water circulation generated by the airstone will bring at least some of the water through the zeolites and filter media.
  7. Watch the shrimp carefully as the bowl fills up. If they show signs of distress, stop dripping water into the bowl and wait for them to recover.
  8. Once the bowl is full, check the pH and hardness levels in the home tank and the bowl. If the two water chemistries match, you can move the shrimp into their new home.

Some people recommend scooping the shrimp out and discarding the water, claiming that the water may have diseases in it from the origin tank.

I see no point to discarding the water for this reason because the shrimp are already coated in the water, and are likely to carry opportunistic infections.

Tank Setup

Minimum Tank Size5 Gallons
Optimal Tank Size10 Gallons
Optimal Tank ShapeLong and low
Recommended Filter TypeSponge filter
Extra Air Flow and and How to Provide ItUse several air stones near the bottom of the tank. Keep the flow from each stone at a gentle pace as opposed to a lot of air coming from one stone.

As with fish and other aquatic pets, a new tank for Cherry Shrimp should be cycled at least one month. They are very sensitive to pH changes, ammonia, and nitrites. 

Even though Cherry Shrimp do not produce much of a bioload, additives used to keep plants in good health can cause sudden pH swings.

Monitor pH daily for the first several months of operation. Check ammonia and nitrites every 3 -4 days. 

Once the tank is a year old, and the shrimp colony well established, you can cut water testing back to every 2 weeks.

I don’t recommend doing water changes because healthy adult Cherry Shrimp are almost always breeding. Use chemical means to control pH and other factors and live plants to reduce nitrates. 

Creating the Landscape

Unlike larger sized shrimp, Cherry Shrimp have no way to defend themselves from predators. As such, they prefer having plenty of hiding places. 

Best PlantsJava moss is ideal because baby shrimp can hide in it. Fast growing root feeder aquarium plants that shed a lot are useful because shrimp will eat the decaying leaves.
Best LightingShrimp do well in all light types.
Best Decorationsdark colored driftwood, rocks, caves, and gravel.
Decorations to AvoidAir powered moving toys. Cherry Shrimp are very fragile and can easily get caught and killed by these toys.

When placed in a light colored environment, Cherry Shrimp will become paler in coloration. Their colors will get more vibrant when there is a lot of black or dark colors in their environment.

Physiological Considerations

Maximum Size1-1.5 inches
Rate of GrowthCherry Shrimp are born fully developed. They will reach a size big enough to mate in about 2 ½ months.
Life Span1-2 years
TemperamentVery peaceful and shy. If they are the only species in the tank, they will be more playful and stay in the open more.
Preferred Tank RegionBottom
Scale ConsiderationsCherry Shrimp do not have scales. They have an exoskeleton that they must shed as they grow. There is no need to remove the exoskeleton from the tank because the shrimp will eat it.
Gill ConsiderationsCherry Shrimp originate in slow moving water that may have a good bit of plankton and algae in it. They still need clean water that will not irritate their gills.
Fin Shape ConsiderationsEven though shrimp swim quickly, they do not have true fins. Instead, they use their tail to propel them through the water.
cherry shrimp care guide

Society

Both male and female Cherry Shrimp are shy and will hide from other tank mates. If you put them in a tank with just their own kind, they will feel the most secure with 10 or more tank mates. 

When males feel safe, they will come out and explore during day hours. Females will also come out to play and forage when they are young or not carrying eggs. Once they have fertilized eggs, they will hide until the fry hatch.

Since males will mate with more than one female, it is best to keep at least 3 – 4 females for each male. Once the colony is established and reproducing, you will not be able to control this ratio.

If you notice the males are chasing each other, it may be necessary to put a divider in the tank so each male has his own colony.

Unlike larger shrimp, Cherrys don’t have a way to defend themselves from fish or other predator species. Even very fragile fish like glass tetras may nip at them from time to time and injure them.

Cherry Shrimp will not school with fish. Instead, they will be more inclined to hide whenever they see a fish is near them. They may interact a little bit with other species of miniature shrimp.

Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations

Cherry Shrimp are relatively short lived aquatic creatures. They are also very fragile and likely to die off before they reach their full life expectancy.

Because they do have a need to be in a larger colony, ensuring they can reproduce is crucial. 

Depending on how long you decide to keep your aquarium, you may have several generations of Cherry Shrimp. Unfortunately, each generation is likely to be less brightly colored. 

You will need to start off with the best quality Cherry Shrimp. Choose the darkest red, or most opaque colored shrimp you can find. 

Cherry Shrimp do not mate for life. To figure out when they are breeding, keep an eye on the females. If they start to hide and have eggs under their tails, then you know they are about to release the scent, or pheromones that attract male shrimp.

Usually females have 20 – 30 eggs per cycle. You can expect that many fry in the tank.

As soon as you see eggs, make sure that the filter inlet for the tank is covered with a nylon stocking or something else the fry cannot get sucked through.

Besides other fish in the tank, the biggest threat to Cherry Shrimp fry is the filter. 

The second biggest threat to Cherry Shrimp fry is sudden pH swings. When you see eggs, it is a good idea to check the pH twice a day and make sure that it remains as stable as possible.

Once male and female shrimps mate, the female will continue to carry the eggs around under her tail until they are ready to hatch. This will take 2 to 3 weeks. During that time, the eggs will become darker green.

As long as the shrimp are in a tank with no other species, there is no need to do anything extra to take care of the fry. They will be able to eat algae and anything else that the adults eat.

Even though you may not be able to see the fry easily, they are an exact miniature version of their parents. 

If you are successful in breeding Cherry Shrimp, you may have a large number of them in a very short period of time. After the eggs hatch, female shrimp will ovulate quickly and start the process all over again. 

Managing a growing Cherry Shrimp population can be difficult because there is no way to stop them from reproducing once they get started.

As with tropical fish, it is not legal to dump Cherry Shrimp into most freshwater ponds, rivers, and streams. 

Trying to put Cherry Shrimp in tanks separated by gender will be very difficult if not impossible. Instead, keep just one tank with your breeding shrimp. 

Put your extra Cherry Shrimp in tanks with peaceful fish such as neon tetras. The Cherry Shrimp will continue to reproduce, however the fish in the tank will eat most, if not all the fry before they reach a size where you can see them.

Nutritional Needs

In their wild habitat, Cherry Shimp eat biofilm, algae, and decaying plant material.

Keeping live plants in the tank and allowing algae and plankton to grow are the easiest ways to duplicate natural foods for Cherry Shrimp.

Best Sustenance Food TypeSinking pellets or algae wafers suitable for use as miniature shrimp food.
Additional Foods for Optimal HealthVegetable scraps from cucumbers, squash, spinach, and other greens.
Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and GrowthLive or freeze dried daphnia. Plankton is also useful.
When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life CycleRegardless of age, you should only feed Cherry Shrimp once a day. Try to add more vegetables and a wider variety of foods if you see females with eggs because they will need more nutrients.

If you add vegetables to the tank, be sure to remove any leftovers within 12 hours. This will reduce the risk of ammonia surges and water fouling.

Finnicky Eater Management: Cherry Shrimp usually have good appetites and will forage for algae all day long. If you notice they are not very active, start off by checking the water chemistry and adjust as needed.

Shrimp housed with other aquatic animals may feel hesitant to eat if they are afraid of being preyed on. Watch carefully to see if other animals in the tank are bothering them. Move Cherry Shrimp into their own tank or make a partition for them to resolve this.

Cherry Shrimp that are coming down with an infection may also lose their appetites. These creatures are notoriously hard to medicate. You can try giving them a salt water dip to see if it staves off an infection. Follow up by feeding them fresh food.

If you can’t figure out why the shrimp aren’t eating, change their staple food and see if that helps.

cherry shrimp guide

Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them

Cherry Shrimp have their own diseases that are different from ones that infect tropical and cold water fish. Here are the four main diseases that you might see in Cherry Shrimp:

External Bacterial Infections

In the early stages, you might notice brown or darkened pits in the shrimp’s shell. These may develop into ulcers and larger holes in the shell.

You can try using a salt water bath.

Keeping almond leaves in the tank may also keep bacteria levels down.

Internal Baterial Infections

These show up as pink coloring and inflammation of the internal organs. Other bacteria may cause the shrimp to turn pale.

Some bacteria may also cause the shrimp’s flesh to turn white and begin rotting.

There are no commercial remedies for these infections in miniature shrimp. You can try medicated fish food flakes for bacterial infections provided they are safe for invertebrates.

Fungal Infections

These infections produce white tufts that look like cotton. It the shrimp is within a day or two of molting, then this may resolve the infection. Otherwise you will need to use an anti-fungal that is safe for invertebrates.

Vorticella

This protozoan based infection usually becomes visible as a white crust around the Cherry Shrimp’s mouth. Eventually it will extend over the shrimp’s shell and cause death.

Use a salt water bath as described below.

Best AntibioticsSalt baths
Treatments to AvoidAny antibiotics that are not safe for invertebrates or have copper in them.
Food Recommendations When SickFresh vegetables and plankton
Hospital Tank or Isolation Within the Community Tank SpecificsSince there are very few antibiotics you can use safely, it is not always possible to simply treat the water and all the shrimp in the tank. Therefore, if a shrimp shows signs of illness, it is best to put it in a hospital tank.

Salt Bath

While the fish is in the hospital tank, you will more than likely need to give it a salt water bath.

This process is fairly simple:

  1. Start off by taking a cup of water from the community tank.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of aquarium safe salt to the cup.
  3. Let the salt dissolve.
  4. Next, put the shrimp in the salt water cup.
  5. Let it stay in the cup for 30 second to one minute.
  6. Scoop the shrimp out of the cup and return it to the hospital tank.
  7. If the infection is not cleared, you may need to repeat the process in a few hours.

4 Facts About Cherry Shrimp

  1. Shrimp swim backwards. When shrimp flex their tail to swim, it propels them backwards instead of forward. 
  2. Shrimp can move their eyestalks around to see in different directions simultaneously.
  3. pH swings are deadly to Cherry Shrimp. If you must make adjustments, do so very gradually.
  4. Cherry Shrimp are natural scavengers. If another aquatic animal dies in your tank, they may consume parts of it. Do not mistake this for the shrimp killing or harming the other animal.

Most people think of Cherry Shrimp as useful for keeping algae under control. As such, they are often added to tanks where they are preyed on and will not do very well.

Cherry Shrimp are fascinating creatures that will do very well in a tank of their own and make good pets in colony of 10 or more.

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