Let me start by going over the basic term of water chemistry and what they mean.
pH means Potential Hardness
This is a scale from 1-14 with 1 being the most acidic and soft and 14 being the most alkaline and hard, a neutral pH would be a pH of 7.
gH means General Hardness
This is a measurement of Calcium and Magnesium.
The more you have of these two the harder the water will be.
See below for a guideline.
General Hardness Chart
Degrees of Hardness (DH)
kH means Carbonate Hardness
This is a measurement of the buffering capacity of the water with an active substrate you don’t need to worry about kH but if you are on sand or gravel you should have some kH value as this will stop your talk from having pH swings which could kill your shrimp.
NH3 is Ammonia
Ammonia should always be zero
NO2 is Nitrite
Nitrite Should always be zero
NO3 is Nitrate
Nitrate should always be under 5ppm
A little Nitrate is desirable as its a good fertilizer for plants and it helps to promote biofilm.
Water preparation is probably the single most important thing you will need to learn to be successful at keeping shrimp, this is why this is the first thing on this list I want you to concentrate on this the most as this will make or break your success as a shrimp keeper.
Get this wrong and many shrimp will die because the water conditions change to much, I myself have lost a lot of shrimp before I got it right and the number one reason for shrimp deaths is people treat them like fish which they are not.
The first rule is to store and age your water in a container for at least 24hours this lets the water heat up to an ambient room temperature, if your room is below 20c for most of the time then it is a good idea for you to use a heater, just remember to check the heater every now and and then because they do break.
letting the water sit allows the waters pH to stabilize as water straight from the tap has a much higher ph than normal, this is caused by the pressure of mains water forcing
oxygen (O2)into its make up, letting it sit allows that oxygen to escape and the ph to return to its normal value.
As we touched on before you must allow the temperature of the water to equalize with the temperature of the room, which for us is anything between 20-25c which just happens to be the perfect temperature for shrimp.
You can, of course, keep shrimp above and below what I recommend but you will see drops in breeding ratios and deaths if the water gets to warm, water that is too warm has less oxygen in it.
Shrimp naturally come from temperate areas so its best to treat them as just tropical and no more, studies have show temperatures in streams where Caridina species are found range from 16c in the winter to 26c in the summer, so this part is simple if your water is cold add a heater if your water is warm add a cooler or even a simple fan near the tank will drop the temperature.
Seeing as you are just starting or here to learn more this would be a great time for you to consider buying a gh and kh test kit (If you have set up your tank with an active substrate then it is worth your while buying an ammonia test kit also because some of them have ammonia in them, ammonia is used in some substrates to kick start the cycling process.
As a rule I like to keep my GH in all my tanks between 6-8 and have a kh of around zero for bee shrimp species and a kh 2-6 is acceptable for Neocaridina species.For those with Reverse Osmosis units and TDS (Totally Dissolved Solids) pens add Salty Bee Shrimp Buffer GH+ or Salty Bee Shrimp GH/KH + to your water until you get a reading of 150ppm for bee shrimp and roughly 200ppm for Neocaridina.
My personal favorite substrate for Neocaridina and certain types of Tiger shrimp is plain old sand or gravel which the shrimp love to sift through and forage for food, I prefer river sand because of its nice balanced color which suits aquariums.
To wash it all you have to do is place it in a bucket of water and stir it up with your hand, repeat this process and empty out the dirty water.You can also use pre-washed gravels like pea gravel but don’t ever pre-wash an active substrate it is not required
For soft water species, I prefer to use an active substrate that lowers the ph down to around a 6. This is important with Caridina species of shrimp because the lower you keep the ph around the more breeding success you will have and you will also get a higher survival rate among your young shrimp.
The way an active substrate work is through cation exchange which is common in acidic compounds, the soil naturally has a negatively charged property which removes positively charged Ions from the water, for us this does a few things, first, it lowers ph secondly it purifies the water.
You should also use a minimal depth of 3cm in all of your shrimp tanks this is because different bacteria have different needs and some of them are light sensitive, take aerobic bacteria, for example, they require little to no water movement and some species require complete darkness.
The only downfall of an active substrate is the need to replace them when they become exhausted, You will know when this happens because your shrimp will stop breeding as your pH starts to climb.
I personally like Akadama which is a cheap rock hard bonsai soil meant for terrestrial plants. However because it is so hard it is suitable for aquarium use, it also gradually lowers the Ph down to roughly a pH of 5-5 to 6.5.
I have recorded this substrate lasting for 3 years and I do 25% water changes every week in my tanks, its only flaw is its color which can look orange at times. Substrate choice is of pure preference so do your research and ask questions in forums.
I am assuming that you will have bought a tank and have an interest in shrimp before buying my shrimp guide but if you have not we shall go over the basics of tank setup.
The first thing you should do is clean the tank to remove all oil and grease from the manufacturing process, you can use a small amount of dish detergent on a sponge to clean the tank and use lots of clean water to rinse and then let it dry.
Add the substrate of your choice and add your filter I recommend a small sponge filter with a small powerhead for small tanks but you can also use other filtration methods like hang on back filters and canister filters.
In an ideal world, I would use 2-3 canister filters in a chain with a double sponge filter on the intakes of all my tanks. When your tank is ready to start fill it with water and prepare it like I showed you in the first section of this guide.
Add a pinch of bacterial powder if you have it, I like to use Borneo wild enlive. Next, sit on your hand for a week and then do a 25% water change again remember to age that water. repeat these steps for two months. After 2 months your tank should be cycled.
Now is a good time for you to break out that ammonia test kit and see what you have, I personally don’t do this anymore because the tanks are always ready but it is good practice for you to see it for yourself.
Let me touch briefly on why the cycle process is important. A shrimp tank needs a stable nitrogen cycle to function properly and in the early stages it is anything but stable, bacterial colony’s will thrive and die of as they compete with each other for the resources your tanks hold.
This is why I recommend starting with a bacterial powder so that you choose the type of bacteria.Bacterial colonies can also take a little while to get going and some anaerobic bacteria can take a longer time than normal.
Water changes can be a complex issue because so many people have different opinions about it and also my advise will not always be the same to different people, normally this is done on an individual basis depending on what I think the individuals shrimp keeping ability is, smaller water changes are easier and less can go wrong.
I do 25% water changes once a week in all of my tanks, its also very important for you to use a dechlorinator such as Seachem Prime when the source of the water is from the tap, even when you know there is no chlorine in your tap water there is nothing to stop your water company flushing the pipes with any type of chemical, normally they do this when there is storm damage and pipes get broken.
In some of my tanks I change 50% of the water every week so what I need you to understand is water change size depend on your ability to measure your own waters makeup and keep it stable to what your shrimp are used to.
Let me give you an example
Water direct from the tap no prime used 5% water change done because a guy on YouTube said so.
RESULT molting issues from unknown water makeup, deaths from high fluctuating PH..Unknown chemicals introduced..
50 % water change done with aged reverse osmosis water to a TDS of 150ppm
Result lots of babies and breeding.
I hope you see the difference, learning to deal with water is the key to shrimp keeping.
Notes on reverse osmosis
Change your filters every 3-4 months the large membrane can last up to 3 years if you protect it properly. I like to double up on my carbon filter and switch one out every 3 months to be super safe, also write the date on your filters so you know when to change them.
Flow rate back into the tank is also water make up dependent, if you are not sure on what you are doing or use tap water then slower is better you want to drip your water back into the tank at a rate of around 2-3 drops per second.
The Reverse Osmosis I use I add back in at a rate of a few liters a minute. the reason for doing water changes is simple you need to chuck out waste and replace it with fresh water and minerals, these will help your plants bacteria and shrimp grow
The correct way to acclimate shrimp is via a method called siphon drip acclimation what you are basically doing is acclimating the shrimp slowly over time to its new environment, which in the long and short term means more shrimp surviving.
You do this by taking water out of the tank via a piece of silicone tubing 2-3 drips at a time and allow it to dilute with the water the shrimp are already in. The end of the
tubing that is in the tank must be higher than where the water exits or you won’t get the siphon effect
My favorite way is to double drip all of my shrimp for roughly two hours and I never lose any shrimp acclimating them this way, what you are doing is letting the container with the shrimp in it fill with water and then you are emptying the water out but not the shrimp and start again, once it is nearly full second time round the shrimp can go into the tank.
Another tip I can give you here is to use an air stone on the inside part of the airline as this will stop shrimp climbing into it , Doing it this way none of the original water from the person you got the shrimp from goes into your tanks this is very important in preventing disease and contamination.
This method can be hard to describe but I have plenty of videos on YouTube show you how to do this. Professional shrimp breeders also use this method of acclimation.
Just how much food you should feed your shrimp is up there in the top 3 of my most asked questions and the answer is as much to do with water conditions as it is to do with actually feeding the shrimp.
You obviously do not want to overfeed the shrimp because that causes waste which pollutes the tank which could kill your shrimp so you only want to feed them what they will eat in a certain time, as a rule I put food into the tank and remove it after 2 hours if its not all gone, your aim here is to leave no uneaten food in the tank.
Some foods that are soy based like snowflake food or dry leaf based foods can stay in the tank and be broken down by bacteria and fungus of which the shrimp will eat. The amount of food you feed is specific to the individual tank and shrimp numbers, some tanks I can feed every single day because they house hundreds of shrimp and other tanks I have only house a few shrimp so as you can see not all feeding the shrimp is the same.
I like to feed one day and then miss a day as I like to keep my shrimp hungry and I also like to see them rushing out for the food, if your shrimp do not do this then you are either overfeeding or your tank is polluted, signs of lethargic shrimp are not a good thing so feed less and doing a water change normally fixes the issue.
Feed your shrimp as much fresh green vegetable mater as possible, I recommend things like Spinach, Nettle, Kale. Peas etc. again as a guide a thumbnail piece of leave is enough for 20+ shrimp for a day, with green food specifically you must remove any leftovers because they can release nitrates into the water and foods such as Nettles are commonly used to make a Nettle tea fertilizer.
If you ever have to brew any green leaves as a shrimp food keep that water let it cool down and put it into a pot plant, they will love you for it. Once a week feed them a high protein food like bloodworm this will give your shrimp more protein and minerals which help with molting and breeding.
Shrimp also like a few leaves in the tank because they are detrivores which means they eat the things that grow on dead matter like fungus and bacteria this is why biofilm is so important in a shrimp tank because it is made up of the two interweaved into a matrix.
The most common leaves are the Indian almond leaves, they have been a firm favorite in the aquarium community for hundreds of years, this is because they produce tannin’s which are very beneficial to soft water shrimp and fish. They are also known for there antibacterial properties and again provide a place for your shrimp to graze on.
Other leaves I use are the common Oak and Alder tree species you can also use Apple tree leaves as well as things like the common Birch..whatever you do you must do research because only you are to blame if you add something to a tank without checking if it is safe first.
I also want to touch briefly on the plants I use in my shrimp tanks, I am a shrimp keeper first so I have to bear that in mind when I choose plants especially when you have an active substrate involved that cannot be disturbed too much.I also use low light plants that are easy to grow
5. Trident Fern
I dose very small amounts of CO2 and orchid fertilizers on occasion. I use cheap orchid fertilizers because it is pretty weak as orchid roots are sensitive to burning this makes it perfect for shrimp keeping. I also use vitro plants that are grown in a culture in a laboratory to avoid pest snails and other parasites.
Buying shrimp is a pretty simple exercise nowadays, the first thing I always do is check forums and Facebook groups and such and ask around, My own Facebook group called Aquarium Shrimp Keeper is awesome for this.
You will soon build up a picture of what is in your area and at what cost. Shrimp shipping is also much better than it used to be and you should have no problems ordering shrimp form another country, just watch out for time spent in customs and the temperature, over 10c is fine for shipping without heat pack as long as you double drip them like I showed you before.
If you have any questions please feel free to email me here at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and happy shrimp keeping
Marks Shrimp Tanks