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What do freshwater shrimp eat: Shrimps as pets care and tank set-up guide

What freshwater shrimps eat

What do freshwater shrimp eat will most adequately be answered with a good understanding of shrimps.

First, Caridea is shrimp’s scientific name. World over, they exist in almost every water environment, and in over 3000 species.  

Their adaptation is in a wide range of habitations; both in fresh and salt water conditions. Estimates have it that 25% of shrimps’ population is in freshwaters, with the rest in saltwater habitations; lakes, oceans and seas.

Now, two influences of freshwater shrimp food are habitation’s feed composition as well as the phase in their life’s growth (read more on this here-below). As a result, their diet varies; both for shrimps in aquariums and in the wild.

However, soft microbial biofilm is largely aquarium shrimp food. It’s basically, the microorganisms that grow/form on aqueous surfaces; in this case, your shrimps’ properly cycled, matured and healthy tank. Matured tanks are naturally great sources of food.

Infact, shrimps have strong bristle like features on their claws and mandibles. These are for scratching off Aufwuchs/overgrowths on surfaces, say rocks and substrate in the aquarium.

Well, algae form “staple” diet. It will however need supplementing with other foods as the shrimps stock increase in the aquarium. Further, the shrimp’s growth will subsequently increase their feeding intake. As a result, the biofilm won’t be enough, hence need for other foods. 

In short, freshwater shrimp food is basically a variety of algae, bacteria and plants.

What freshwater shrimp eat: Shrimps diet requirements;

Firstly, shrimps are omnivores.

Secondly, to answer to what do shrimps eat, it’s important to appreciate that habitation will influence the diet and availability; therefore, inform yourself on what do shrimp eat in a fish tank and what do freshwater shrimp eat in the wild.

Most importantly, what what shrimps eat in their natural habitation explicitly guide on what shrimps eat in the fish tank. As a result, work to recreate the wild habitation in your aquarium. 

That said however, food for shrimp is anything organic and that can fit in its mouths; carrion and fish poop included. This qualifies these critters as scavengers, scouring for microorganisms, decaying matter, algae and bacteria.

So how do you recreate the wild diet in the aquarium? Well, just have a plant based diet supplemented with animal protein. Commercially prepared foods are particularly rich in animal proteins which they need.

However though, the animal protein in there is more than is ideal for most shrimp species. Therefore, varying the diet ensures provision of a broad spectrum of requisite nutrients.

Freshwater aquarium shrimps: the common and easy to keep:

The most popular of the freshwater shrimps that thrive in aquarium settings are Red Cherry Shrimp, Brine shrimp as well as the ghost shrimps. There are however others that are also popular with aquaria hobbyists.

What do shrimps eat through their life cycle?

Firstly, shrimp lifespan is about 1 to 2 years, environment notwithstanding. They breed in about 3 – 5 months, with the female laying fertilized eggs.

The fertilized eggs are carried on its underbelly for 30 days. Meanwhile, it will be fanning and moving them around. This subsequently ensures that the eggs remain oxygenated and clean.

A single female shrimp can lay 100,000 – 1 million eggs.

Amazingly, that sperms from multiple males can be stored in one female at the same time.

What do shrimp eat at the larvae stage?

After about 14 – 21 days, the laid eggs hatch and you have baby shrimps, also known as “Nauplii”. Well, it’s a name for most crustaceans’ initial larval stage.

York reserves from the egg stage are nauplii’s primary source of nourishment.

Latter metamorphoses stages are “zoaea” and “myses” (2nd and 3rd stages respectively). In these 2 stages, they feed on algae and zooplankton.

What is baby shrimp food in the aquarium?

At the larval stage, algae are the main food and possibly tiny floating things on the water surface. Planktons are part of the food too; they are naturally readily available in wild habitation. It’s however not naturally the same in the aquarium.

The pet feed market is awash with commercially manufactured feeds for baby shrimps. These feeds are all encompassing nutritionally; contains natural vitamins, minerals, fatty acids like Omega 3 and zooplankton.

That said however, whatever is fed to baby shrimps must be well crushed. Why? They obviously can’t munch on big chunks of food.

What do freshwater aquarium shrimp eat? I deal feeds for mature shrimps

As stated earlier here, shrimps are omnivorous scavengers. To them, any small enough sized organic matter in the aquarium is good food. That is to say, excrement from your pet fish as well as the fishes’ uneaten foods is “shrimp food”.

A wide range of vegetables from your kitchen are food too. All you need to do is to finely slice prior to feeding them to your crustaceans.

Keeping your shrimps in a properly cycled and matured aquarium is very important. This is because the soft biofilm and algae therefrom largely forms the diet composition.

Most importantly to note though is, for optimal health, color and shrimps’ lifespan elongation; shrimps will still need their specialized food.

Your pet aquarium shrimp species need be considered in determining the correct specialized shrimp food. In short, what they eat to an extent define them.

They can be categorized as below;

Filter feeder shrimps:

Bamboo, Caribbean dwarf and the Vampire shrimps are examples of filter feeder shrimps.

Their feeding is basically dependent on that water current. They like to sit facing the water current so they can trap micro-organisms and fine food particles.  

Worth noting is that, this feeding requires water flow consistency. You could try an airhead for the consistency needed.

These filter feeder shrimps feed by straining suspended food particles and matter off water. The food composition includes but not limited to micro algae, excess feed remains, aquarium plants debris among other.

However, specialized commercial shrimp foods for these feeders like algae wafers are a great supplement.

Substrate scrapper shrimps:

The general shrimps’ market is dominated by substrate scrapper shrimps. Meanwhile, Red Cherry and Crystal Red shrimps lead in popularity among the common substrate scrappers.

Besides being the least “choosy”, they are also the liveliest in the tank harvesting algae and scavenging for food. That therefore and their ease to feed makes them more endearing to most aquarists.

Algae, biofilm, fish food remains and microorganisms present in the aquarium are their core food sources. Further, matter on either substrate and tank’s walls are grazed on with the cleaner shrimps’ craws.

Just like with filter feeder shrimps, substrate scrapper shrimps too will do with shrimp specific foods. This is in addition to the well prepared and easily edible vegetables from your kitchen. When the diet is wholesome, the glow in their color shows.

Meat eater shrimps:

Their claws elongation and larger bodies compared to other shrimps make them easily differentiated and recognizable. Their body structure is adapted for their “meaty” diet (feeding on bigger detritus matter). Infact, they can prey on your smaller pet fishes.

What they feed on subsequently gave them the name.

Further, besides feeding on larger pellets, flakes, vegetable chunks among others, they also comfortably feed on hair algae and string.

Red Claw Macro, Fuzzy Claw Macro and Pearl shrimps are some of the common meat eater shrimps.

Freshwater cleaner shrimp for fish:

Shrimps come in many specie varieties as earlier stated.  Pacific cleaner shrimp is one from the many species. It’s also a generally popular shrimp. Uniquely though, they eat off and clean off parasites sucking blood from fishes’ mouths.

How you ask? By raising and waving their antennae, they dance to entertain the fish. This attracts the fish which eventually open their mouths to “welcome” the cleaner shrimps.  And that’s how bloodsucking parasites make it to the list of what shrimps eat. Funny!!!

Freshwater aquarium shrimp care:

Most shrimp pets are not big bodied. Freshwater shrimp size may however be as big as 6-7cm when mature. They are thus ideal for nano shrimp 🦐 tanks.

Well, they are easy to care for; just observe the right water parameters for a healthy freshwater shrimp aquarium. Their high sensitivity to water quality and conditions changes may result to death of shrimps.

As a result, large shrimp tanks are highly recommended where water changes are not too sharp and drastic in a short time. Well, at the minimum, best shrimp tanks should at the minimum be 10 gallon. They are most ideal even for large sized shrimp species. 

Additionally, the aquarium water should be stable at about 22 °C – 26 °C for most shrimp breeds.

Also, the tank should not have too much lighting and if possible, shelters and hiding places should be in plenty.

Aquarium plants and driftwood are very good in providing those hiding places. The hiding for pleasure most undoubtedly boosts their confidence in a densely planted shrimp tank.

NOTE: Substrate should be specific for shrimps. Also, it should either be an aquatic plant medium or inert (pH neutral).

Most importantly, Ammonia and Nitrite levels in the tank must always be NIL. However, Nitrate level reading should also be as low as possible; say not more than 10ppm.

In addition, the very toxic copper and calcium should be nearly non-existent in the tank. Therefore substrates, rocks, aquarium plant fertilizers as well medications/treatments rich in calcium and copper respectively should be AVOIDED.

Further, good filtration is vital to maintaining water quality as well as a weekly 20%-25% water change.

Deionized should be used for the refill or use reverse osmosis.  However, if you use tap water, ensure to treat it with a water conditioner.

Filters are a great and must have tank component to ensure water quality besides the water changes. However, a safety pre-caution is that the filter intakes shouldn’t be too powerful lest they suck the shrimps in. 

These crustaceans are known scavengers. As a result, you’ll find them burrowing for food. Therefore, to make it easy for them, the substrate should be soft for ease of burrowing. That is particularly so in a community tank.

Shrimps breeding; does what freshwater shrimp eat affect breeding?

Firstly, shrimps will breed in fresh water aquariums comfortably. The freshwater shrimp food they feed on will obviously have an effect on their health, subsequently their growth and breeding ability.

A 10 – 20 specimen size would be a good start size for building your shrimp colony. While at it, ensure they have a sufficient biofilm to graze on.

Advisedly, males’ population should be a little higher than that of females. Why you ask? Well, it may be a challenge for females to find or be found by males when it’s to breed. This is a challenge also, in case the tank is again too big.

Beneath the female shrimp’s tail is where eggs are carried; in short, she’s berried.

There is the risk of baby shrimp in aquarium being sucked in to the filter. Therefore, to prevent that, before the eggs hatch, a fine sponge pre-filter is placed on power filter intakes.

Besides, sponge filter is also preferred for its trapping of tiny food particles.  As a result, it’s a good place for shrimps to spend time picking and nibbling on.

Additionally, you can ensure that the baby shrimps have places to hide. That you can do by having aquarium live plants with dense fine leaves. 

Further, to avoid predation of the offspring by other tank occupants, a berried shrimp may be kept in a separate tank.

FYI, females are more colorful than males. Therefore, for breeding, select the more colorful of the males.

Freshwater aquarium shrimp tankmates:

Big question first, what eats shrimp in freshwater? Well, naturally, shrimps are most fishes’ delicacy. It’s also no secret that most fish unfortunately aren’t many shrimp species friendly and compatible tankmates.

In addition, except for dwarf shrimp; the smallest freshwater shrimp, which is the liveliest, most others are not too active. This makes it even more susceptible to bullying by most fish.

However, there are a few fishes that can still peaceably live with shrimps.

This though doesn’t mean baby shrimps are safe in tanks even with friendly fish. Guppies, tetras, Otto cats and small plecos are good tank mates.

Guppies and tetras are however only hospitable to mature shrimps only.

How do you tell a fish can make a good tankmate?

Well, a non-aggressive fish with so small a mouth for mature shrimp most probably is. Some individual fishes may defy the norm though. As a result, just be on the lookout.

Other great tankmates are snails. They are not only at peace with both your mature and baby shrimps but are also very beneficial tank cleaning scavengers.

In addition, they help oxygenate the substrate by their burrowing. As a result, buildup of beneficial bacteria colonies (read about them here) improves the aquariums ecosystem. Besides they complement the shrimps in making the tank even more colorful. 

However, you may need to be careful to ensure large sized snails are tanked in equally larger tanks with sufficient food remains and algae. Else, there maybe preying on shrimps incase of insufficiency in feeds.


Shrimps, just like many other crustaceans can survive on practically any matter in a properly cycled and matured aquarium. As a result, what shrimps eat shouldn’t be too much of a worry.

That said however doesn’t mean that specialized shrimp foods should be wished away. If anything, they make your shrimps’ colors come to live as well as ensuring their optimal health status.

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