Cherry Shrimp Care Guide: Tank Setup, Grading, and Common Diseases

Cherry Shrimp are fiery in color and simple to care for, which makes them great for beginners and experts alike. 

Read along as I cover the ins-and-outs of Cherry Shrimp care!

All About Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp are dwarf shrimp that hail from ponds and lakes in Tawain, China, and Vietnam. These shrimp live roughly one to two years, which is a relatively short lifespan for an aquarium inhabitant. However, they make up for this by starting to reproduce at around 4-6 months of age. Therefore, you can create colonies that continuously replenish themselves. 

At maturity, Cherry Shrimp reach a length of 1.5 inches, with females being larger than their male counterparts. 

Behavior 

Cherry Shrimp are remarkably docile. They prefer to be kept in groups and can even be observed playing together from time to time. They spend almost every second of their day grazing, so they do best in heavily planted tanks. I own several Cherry Shrimp and regularly observe them grazing on plants, the glass, and the substrate. For this reason, they make an excellent clean-up crew and can really work wonders for tank cleanliness when kept in large groups. 

I suggest keeping more females than males if it all possible and leaving some room for future offspring. Cherry Shrimp have a tiny bioload, though, meaning they do not produce much waste. You can keep anywhere from 2-5 of them per gallon of water. Which is a good thing, because some colonies can become quite productive when it comes to reproducing.

Diet

Cherry Shrimp are not picky eaters and they can get most of their nutrition from grazing plants. However, they are omnivores and eat a wide variety of foods. 

Specialty pellets made for shrimp offer specially tailored nutrition. And as disturbing as it might sound, your shrimp will also eat pellets made out of shrimp. 

They’re scavengers in nature and will nibble on almost anything left in their tank. But you should be careful not to overfeed your shrimp tank. You can feed your shrimp as little as twice a week since they also eat algae and plant matter. 

If you would like to feed your shrimp vegetables, make sure you do not overfeed or leave uneaten food in your tank. 

Vegetables you can feed your Cherry Shrimp include:

  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber

All vegetables must be cleaned, peeled, and blanched before being served to your Shrimp. This helps to minimize the chances of introducing pesticides to your tank. Blanching allows your vegetables to retain their nutrients while making the vegetables soft for your shrimp. 

Cherry Shrimp Yellow

Breeding

Reproductive cycles for Cherry Shrimp will take place with or without the help of the aquarist. 

If you have different types of Neocardinias in your tank, you will likely get wild-type or brown baby shrimp. If your tank only houses red Cherry Shrimp, the offspring should look similar to their parents. 

Reproduction usually takes place 3-6 months after introducing the shrimp, although it can take place earlier. 

To speed up breeding, raise the temperature to at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic Summer temperatures. Make sure there is plenty of plants in the tank to help the shrimp feel comfortable. 

Female shrimp are larger with a bigger abdomen, while the males appear more streamlined. 

The female Cherry Shrimp will carry the eggs underneath her tail and oxygenate them by fanning them. Thirty days after the appearance of eggs, you should see tiny shrimp show up in your tank. 

The mother will, on average, have 20-30 baby shrimp at a time, keep in mind not all of these shrimp will survive. You should notice a drop in new shrimp after the tank becomes overcrowded. But you still may need a plan of action for when there are too many shrimp in your tank. 

Be careful with baby Cherry Shrimp. Newly hatched shrimp can quickly be sucked into filters or eaten by fish in the tank. Sponge filters are popular with shrimp keepers because they won’t suck up these babies.

The newly hatched shrimp will eat similarly to their parents. You should see them grazing frequently and introduce small amounts of micro wafers and shrimp food powder to your tank to supplement their diets. 

Special Care

Cherry shrimp are hardy but they do have some special needs. 

Shrimp grow by shedding their exoskeleton. Often the shrimp become still or lethargic when they are about to shed. When they’re ready, they’ll explode from their old shell with a couple of quick movements. Most times you won’t see it happen, you’ll just see the sheds in your tank. Leave these old exoskeletons in your tank. Shrimp often eat their exoskeleton for the nutritional value. 

One of the common causes of death with Cherry Shrimp is a failed molt. They can become trapped in their old shells if they don’t soften properly. This is generally caused by having inappropriate General Hardness (GH) or Carbonate Hardness (KH). So make sure your water parameters are within proper specs to avoid unnecessary deaths when your shrimp are molting.

A telltale sign of a failed molt is a white ring around the middle of your shrimp. Aptly named, the “white ring of death” occurs when the old exoskeleton bursts behind the neck during molting. This is generally a dead giveaway that something is wrong with your water parameters. 

Additionally, if you have fish tankmates that require a copper treatment, remove the fish before treating them. Shrimp will die when exposed to copper. As a rule of thumb, be careful when medicating a shrimp tank; always check to make sure the medication is safe for invertebrates.

Cherry Shrimp Grades

Cherry Shrimp Grades

Not all Cherry Shrimp are created equal. Often, Cherry Shrimp found in pet stores will not have a grade on their stock, but for advanced hobbyists or breeders, it may be important to know the grade of your Cherry Shrimp. 

The grade of your Cherry Shrimp is primarily dependent on the intensity of the red color and the shrimp’s opaqueness. 

The grades for shrimp from lowest to highest grade are as follows

  • Cherry Grade- Normally, Cherry Grade shrimp are a light shade of pink and have translucent parts of their body. Cherry grade shrimp are the cheapest Cherry Shrimp on the market. 
  • Sakura Grade- Sakura Grades are a darker red but still translucent in color. 
  • High Sakura Grade- High Sakura Grade shrimp is less translucent and has a darker color than Sakura Grade Shrimp. 
  • Fire Red Grade- Fire Red Grade is opaque with a deeper red, even on their legs. 
  • Painted Fire Red Grade- Painted Fire Red Grade shrimp contain no translucence and are a deep red. 
  • Bloody Mary Grade- Bloody Mary shrimp are considered the top grade of Cherry Shrimp. Bloody Mary shrimp are opaque with a very deep red, more similar to the color maroon. 

 

Setting up your Cherry Shrimp Tank 

Aquarium Size

The minimum aquarium size for a Cherry Shrimp tank is 5 gallons. Cherry Shrimp have a very small bioload; you can keep 2-5 Cherry Shrimp per gallon so that you can have a decent-sized colony in a reasonably small tank. 

Type of Substrate

I would highly recommend using a substrate for planted tanks. Without a heavily planted tank, your shrimp will not only be stressed but are less likely to live as long or be as active as you might prefer. 

Porous clay substrate works well for planted tanks and holds onto bacteria wonderfully. The best substrates will advertise the ability to lower pH, creating ideal conditions for your tank with little effort. 

Filtration

Low flow filters are ideal for a shrimp tank. The plants help oxygenate the water, and plant debris clogs the filtration. 

Special overhang filters can be purchased to prevent shrimp from getting sucked into the filter. However, be warned. Many of these specialized “shrimp-friendly filters” may still be able to suck up smaller shrimp.

Another option is to have a sponge filter hooked onto an air pump. I use a sponge filter in my shrimp tank and have personally had no issues. Consider the size of your sponge filter and air pump based on the size of your aquarium. 

Cherry Shrimp Tank Setup

Lighting

The key to lighting for a Cherry Shrimp tank is to balance the comfort of your shrimp and the lighting needs for your plants. 

Your plants will prefer extra light with a spectrum of colors. On the other hand, shrimp feel more comfortable when hiding and may become stressed with too much light. 

However, if you have plenty of hiding spots, your shrimp will be able to avoid the direct light in the tank. Lights should only be left on for eight hours a day. 

If you notice your shrimp hiding a lot or an excess amount of algae, consider lowering your light’s time or intensity. 

Plants and Decorations

Cherry Shrimp need heavily planted tanks to feel comfortable in their enclosures. They will graze on the plants and use them as part of their diet; not to worry, they will not destroy any of your plants. 

Driftwood, cholla wood, and Mopani wood are excellent additions to the tank. Rocks can help create dimension and contrast to the tank. Artificial decorations can be used in your aquarium, as long as they’re used in conjunction with a hefty amount of live plants. 

If you use driftwood, make sure to cure the driftwood before to prevent tannins. If not, the tannins will turn the water into a sweet tea brown color. If you don’t mind the look, the tannins will not harm the shrimp. 

Some live plants that work well in Cherry Shrimp are

  • Java Fern
  • Java Moss
  • Dwarf Hairgrass
  • Guppy Grass
  • Anubis
  • Water Wisteria
  • Dwarf Lilies
  • Water Lettuce
  • Pennywort
  • Hornwort
  • Duckweed
  • Christmas Moss

Many other species of plants are safe for your aquarium. Make sure to research ideal water conditions and any possible issues with your freshwater plant. 

When adding freshwater plants beware of pests, such as snails, being introduced to your tank. You can either quarantine your plants or look for plants that have already been quarantined or listed as pest-free. 

Cherry Shrimp Blue

Tankmates

Cherry Shrimp do best in a single-species tank. If you would like to add other species of dwarf shrimp, they will coexist peacefully, but their offspring will be a brown wild-type instead of a red Cherry Shrimp. 

Snails also make excellent additions to your tank if you need help with algae control. 

If you would like to add fish to your aquarium, these fish are appropriate choices. 

  • Cory Catfish (particularly Pygmy Corydoras)
  • Otocinclus
  • Plecos (smaller species)
  • Small nonaggressive tetras
  • Dwarf Gouramis

Other options might work for Cherry Shrimp, for example, guppies. Different combinations are very hit or miss depending on the shrimp’s size, the availability for hiding, and the fish’s temperament. Bettas SOMETIMES work. It all depends on the personality of the fish.

Shrimp Salt

Shrimp Salt is a product used to help maintain water quality, ideally for dwarf species of shrimp. The Shrimp Salt helps to maintain an alkaline or neutral pH. It also contains minerals and additional nutrition for the shrimp and helps create better carbonate and total hardness. 

Shrimp Salt helps to provide a better environment for your shrimp, which leads to more vibrant coloring and promotes reproduction. 

This salt works best with RO water. If you are using tap water with a water conditioner, you can still use the shrimp salt but be prepared to adjust the water hardness or pH. 

Tank Environment for Cherry Shrimp

Water Temperature

Cherry shrimp will tolerate a wide range of temperatures. Cherry shrimp will be okay in temperatures from 57-84 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, the best temperature for Cherry Shrimp is 77-81 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher temperatures also assist in breeding activity. 

Water Flow

Cherry Shrimp do not use much oxygen and do not require a heavy water flow. Consider keeping a low water flow to avoid debilitating your shrimp. 

pH, Acidity & Alkalinity Levels

The pH should be between 6.5-8.0. 

Tank Environment for Cherry Shrimp

Chlorine and Chloramines

Cherry Shrimp are sensitive to both Chlorine and Chloramines. Even trace amounts can be toxic to your Cherry Shrimp. If you are suspicious that you have either in your water supply, you can acquire testing kits to check for sure.

A water conditioner will remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water. 

Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate

Cherry Shrimp are highly sensitive to Ammonia and Nitrite. Nitrate levels should stay under 20ppm, which should not be difficult to do with a Cherry Shrimp aquarium. Nitrates do not build up quickly in a shrimp tank due to their low bioload and the number of plants present in the aquarium. 

If either nitrite or ammonia shows up in your tank, do a 25% water change and add a bacteria starter. 

Hardness

Total Hardness ranges should be between 6.0-8.0. 

Common Challenges with Cherry Shrimp Diseases and Treatments

Most diseases in Cherry Shrimp tanks are preventable. To create an ideal environment for your shrimp, pay close attention to your water quality parameters. Ammonia, Nitrite, Hardness, or improper pH can cause unnecessary stress on your shrimp and leave them vulnerable to disease. 

Make sure to perform regular water changes, and check your water quality often. Fix any issues immediately, and you’re less likely to run into these common diseases. 

Vorticella

Vorticella will appear as a puffy white fungus on the rostrum of your shrimp. This protozoan is hosted by driftwood, plants, other animals, etc. 

Saltwater baths can be useful in removing Vorticella. Mix one cup of RO water with one tablespoon of aquarium salt. Keep the shrimp in the mixture for approximately one minute. You can repeat the procedure, although I do not suggest repeating it the same day, due to the stress caused by salt baths. 

You can find parasitic treatments at your local pet store. When picking out a medicine, be careful to check that the medication is safe for both plants and invertebrates. Avoid any treatment with copper. 

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections are more apparent in lower grade or translucent shrimp. The inside organs will change colors, indicating a bacterial infection. The carapace or exterior color of the shrimp might also vary in color. 

Shrimp are notoriously tricky in treating bacterial infections. You can either do large water changes every other day or purchase a UV light to save the shrimp. 

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are not very common in shrimp tanks. If you notice large cotton looking attached to a body part of your shrimp that is not the rostrum, consider trying antifungals.

When getting an antifungal from the pet store, make sure it is safe for both invertebrates and plants. And once again, make sure to check that the medicine does not contain copper. 

Cherry Shrimp Infections and Challenges

Leeches

Leeches can be found around the head of your Cherry Shrimp. They are white and visible to the naked eye. 

An anti-parasite medication can help alleviate the leeches. When picking anti-parasite medicines, make sure it is safe for invertebrates and plants. 

Also, check to see that the treatment is free of copper. 

Saltwater baths can be useful as well. Mix one cup of RO water with one tablespoon of aquarium salt. Leave the shrimp in the bath for one minute. 

You can repeat the procedure, but space them out. Saltwater baths are stressful on the shrimp. 

Final Word

Cherry Shrimp make for excellent aquarium inhabitants. Their colors and behavior make them fascinating to watch for countless hours. 

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced aquarist, consider adding a few (or a few dozen) of these beauties to your collection

Thanks for reading and good luck with your shrimp-keeping endeavors!

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