One of the more satisfying aspects of the aquarium hobby is breeding. Keeping aquatic animals can be enjoyable, but when you get to the point that you are able to see generations spawn from the handful that you bought from a tank at your local pet store, this can become quite gratifying. Various fish are known for their ease of breeding, while others are known for their difficulty. One that may surprise you is the Cherry Shrimp. Our article today will cover not only what you need to know to keep this pet alive, but will also help you to get them to breed like rabbits!
The cherry shrimp is a livebearer that first entered the hobby about 10 years ago. This little shrimp maxes out at about an inch and a half in length. Higher quality shrimp have a nice deep red color when they mature that will add a pleasant visual contrast to the many shades of green found in planted tanks. In fact, a planted tank is the best habitat for this shrimp as they prefer to forage through the plants; they will also scavenge leftover food and consume ifusoria which are microorganisms that exist in freshwater.
Cherry shrimp can exist in a wide range of parameters; they tend to thrive in a pH that ranges from 6.0-8.0 with water temperatures that can vary from 40-80 degrees F. Given the lenient boundaries required to keep this invertebrate, most people will find it easy to accommodate these shrimp.
Certain chemicals should be avoided. Ammonia can be devastating to all aquatic life, but cherry shrimp are particularly sensitive to ammonia spikes. A well-established tank with plants can offer an environment for these shrimp to thrive. Additionally, as with any invertebrate, you must avoid the use of copper in the tank. Copper can be found as an ingredient in many ich medications as well as certain foods that you may be feeding. When present, these products will list copper in their ingredients. All medications should be avoided, however the amount of copper found it most foods is a trace amount that it does not harm shrimp.
Unfortunately, not only do hobbyists love cherry shrimp, fish do too! A hungry fish will harass cherry shrimp causing stress that will limit both breeding and longevity. And any fish that can get their mouth open wide enough, will eat young cherry shrimp decreasing the likelihood of your successful shrimp colony. This is the biggest hurdle for most people to get over. You’re best starting off with a tank that only houses cherry shrimp and building to the point that your colony is sustainable.
There are few fish that are 100% shrimp friendly. However, some more common fish are the otocinclus and bristlenose plecostomus. Once you’ve achieved a perpetual colony that will breed like rabbits you can consider adding a nano-fish, such as tetras or rasboras, that have smaller mouths and are less likely to feast on the shrimplings. Additionally, providing enough cover for your colony to thrive will allow your population to continue to grow.
Fear the filter! Filter intakes are a natural enemy of many small aquarium dwellers and often claim the lives of the first shrimp colony someone obtains. It is highly recommended you put some kind of netting or a sponge over the intake to keep these little guys from getting sucked up. This will keep your adult shrimp and baby shrimp safe.
For long-term success and deeper coloration, consider supplementing calcium into the shrimp’s diet. Calcium will aid the shrimp in their molting process and can be added in two variations. The most common way is through feeding: many commercial foods available for shrimp provide an extra source of calcium. The second is a bit more obscure, but just as effective: adding a cuttlebone is a way that calcium can be supplemented into the water. Cuttlebone is traditionally given to birds or reptiles as a calcium supplement and in the same way can help your shrimp. The cuttlebone can be added to the water and will dissolve over time giving the shrimp the calcium they need. Calcium is especially important if you’re keeping them in more acidic water with a pH less than 7.0.
There is, of course, a difference between keeping something alive and having it thrive and multiply! We want our new friends to make many baby shrimplets. First, it is important to allow your shrimp plenty of cover. This is typically best accomplished in planted tank, but can also be done with rocks or plastic décor. Shrimp can only see about 4 inches in any direction so having a space of more than 4 in the tank with no hiding places will not encourage migration to other areas in the tank and can stifle breeding habits.
A simple setup for cherry shrimp is a standard 10 gallon tank. Equip it with a sponge filter and some fluorescent lighting. Add a healthy clump of java moss – this will provide a safe hovel for your shrimp as well as provide the benefit of having live plants. It is recommended that you seed the aquarium with mulm. Mulm is full of the microorganisms that shrimp love to forage on and will help the cycling process. Once your tank is cycled, add 6-12 cherry shrimp. Feed your shrimp 3 times a week what they can consume in about 2 hours. Some hobbyists have reported keeping more than 300 adult cherry shrimp in a single 10 gallon tank!
As with all aquatic animals (or any animal for that matter), stress is a killer. Cherry shrimp are no exception to this. Not enough cover, harassment from tank-mates, and even rapid temperature or chemical swings all can wreak havoc on your shrimp colony. It is best to do smaller, more frequent water changes that will not change their environment as much.
Soon you will have a group that is happy enough to procreate; you will notice is the bright yellow eggs that populate under the female’s abdomen. These will take about 3-4 weeks to hatch and you’ll see tiny shrimplets roving all over your tank. There are typically 20-30 shrimp in a clutch and a healthy colony will have several mothers holding eggs at any given moment. Of course, there are natural constraints that will limit the exponential growth that you would otherwise experience in this population. Therefore, keeping a healthy environment with plenty to eat will allow for maximum growth and limited stagnation.
Setting up a tank for cherry shrimp is an easy task and can provide tranquility even in a simple desktop tank. Breeding these guys is surprisingly easy and if you keep them happy, you’ll soon be supplying everyone you know with their own cherry shrimp!
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