Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons (19 Liters)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: PH 6.5-.7.0 Moderately Hard
Temperature: 60-80°F (16-27°C)
Maximum Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Red cherry shrimp (Neocaridina denticulate sinenis) are a peaceful and attractive freshwater shrimp, easily ranking among the most useful invertebrates you can add to an aquarium. The natural color for these shrimp is a greenish brown, but nearly all shrimp sold are the red color variant.
Red cherry shrimp are highly sought after for their brilliant color and their usefulness in consuming algae. Many aquarists use these shrimp as part of their ‘cleanup crew’, helping to keep the aquarium free of algae. It is widely believed that these shrimp eat more algae than Amano shrimp, but right now there is little to backup that claim.
The red color variant doesn’t exist in the wild, and these shrimp are descended from shrimp which are native to Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam. They are found in canals, ponds, streams, and there are reports they used to be widespread in rice paddies, before the introduction of pesticides.
These shrimp grow to a maximum size of 1.5 inches (4 cm) long, though many remain smaller. A well cared for red cherry shrimp should live between 1-2 years, though unless one shrimp is kept alone, it becomes virtually impossible to keep track of a single shrimp among the inevitable multitude of offspring. Because of that, it’s hard to know if there is much variation in the lifespan of shrimp among hobbyists.
Red cherry shrimp are very easy to care for in the home aquarium and will adapt to a wide range of water conditions. While these shrimp are one of the few species that will do well in a nano aquarium, it’s still recommended to keep them in at least a 5 gallon (19 litres) aquarium. Any tank containing these shrimp should be fully cycled, and if you want to learn more about aquarium cycling, you should read The Complete Guide to Cycling an Aquarium.
While these shrimp can survive in a community tank, for best results they should be kept in a shrimp-only tank. Even fish that are too small to eat a red cherry shrimp will still harass them, often injuring the shrimp in the process. Small, non-aggressive fish make the best tankmates, such as neon tetras, harlequin rasboras, bronze corydoras catfish, and guppies.
It’s very important to provide these shrimp with a planted aquarium, especially if they are kept in a community tank. Aquatic plants not only provide cover for hatchlings, but also for molting adults. And plants also make a comfortable perch for these shrimp as they graze on biofilm and algae. Some of the best plants to use in a red cherry shrimp tank are Java moss, cabomba, hornwort, and water sprite.
A dark substrate should always be used for red cherry shrimp, as shrimp that are kept in an aquarium with a light-colored substrate will often have a pale, washed out color. A dark substrate will bring out their natural red color, though good diet and water conditions will also help to obtain a full coloration.
Red cherry shrimp are omnivores and eat the algae and tiny organisms found in an aquarium. While they receive much of their diet from these naturally occurring food sources in fish tanks, their diet should be supplemented – especially in large numbers.
These shrimp can be fed any of the commercially available herbivore foods, and algae disks usually seem to work best. I personally recommend Hikari Tropical Algae Wafers, which are one of the best foods on the market.
They should also regularly be fed blanched vegetables, and some of their favorites are shelled peas, lettuce, zucchini and cucumber medallions. Due to their small size, they rarely consume much of the offered vegetables, and any uneaten vegetables should be removed after 24 hours to prevent them from fouling the water.
It’s usually relatively easy to sex these shrimp as the males are lighter in color with red striping; Also, the male’s tail is narrower than the females. Another way to distinguish the females from the males, is that the female’s ovaries can be seen in the ‘saddle’ which is draped across their upper shoulders.
The average red cherry shrimp will breed at around 5-6 months of age, and little is required to trigger breeding beyond regular feedings, good water conditions, and a male and female red cherry shrimp. But with that being said, it’s best to breed them in a specific breeding tank, as the young are heavily preyed upon by fish – even small, non-aggressive ones – that generally leave the adults alone.
To setup a breeding tank for red cherry shrimp, it should be at least 5 gallons (19 litres) and fully cycled. A sponge filter should be used to avoid sucking the hatchlings up to their death in a filter intake. Substrate in a breeding tank is unimportant, but the tank should be planted, so choose a substrate most appropriate for the plants.
The eggs can be see developing in the female’s ovaries and when she is ready to mate, she will release pheromones into the water. The male will search the aquarium frantically to find the female when this occurs.
Once the male finds the female, they will mate and the male will deposit sperm onto the female’s body. The female will then lay her eggs, attaching the eggs to her swimmerets. A female carrying eggs this way is often referred to as ‘berried’.
The female red cherry shrimp will be shy and reclusive when pregnant and they have been known to abandon eggs when stressed. It’s important to provide them with plenty of cover and hiding places if you want a female shrimp to reproduce. Plants, ornaments, and driftwood are all excellent hiding places for red cherry shrimp.
The average female lays between 10-30 eggs, which usually take around 30 days to hatch. The eggs on a pregnant red cherry shrimp are clearly visible, and often you will see the female using her swimmerets to circulate water over the eggs to keep them healthy. It’s possible to see the hatchlings develop in the eggs, and near the end of the gestation, their eyes become visible as tiny black dots.
One of the reasons that red cherry shrimp have a much higher survival rate than other shrimp in the home aquarium, is that they have no larval stage. They hatch fully formed and can feed on the same food as their parents. Because of this, they avoid the starvation that claims so many other shrimp larvae in aquariums.
These shrimp regularly shed their exoskeleton, so there’s no reason to be concerned if you see what appears to be a shrimp skeleton at the bottom of a fish tank. Make sure to leave the exoskeleton in the tank, as the shrimp will normally consume it for important minerals.