Cherry Shrimp – A Comprehensive Care And Anatomy Guide (Updated 2021)

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From afar, these beautiful creatures look like the typical shades of scarlet.

Neocaridina davidi, also called Cherry Shrimp is an ornamental shrimp that originated from Taiwan and lives in a freshwater tank. Cherry shrimps are a fascinating invert species living in their fantasy. They are gentle and always engrossed in their small, beautiful world.

These flashy red invertebrates feast on algae, leftover foods, and can even enjoy a fresh fish poop as a meal. Their gentle, reserved nature is one of the few reasons new hobbyists and professional aquarists alike love to have them in their aquarium.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you should know about Cherry shrimps care, from their behavior, appearance, habitat, feeding, breeding and more. But, first, let’s dive into a brief overview of this wonderful shrimp.

A Brief Overview Of The Cherry Shrimps

Scientific NameNeocaridina davidi
Common Name (Species)Cherry Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp
FamilyAtyidae
OriginTaiwan
DietOmnivore
Care LevelEasy
ActivityActive, social
LifespanUp to 2 years
TempermentPeaceful
Tank LevelAll Areas
Minimum Tank Size5 Gallons
Temperature Range65 – 73 Degrees F
KH1 – 4
pH Range6.5 – 7.5
Filtration/Flow RateGentle
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg-layers, Easy to breed
CompatibilityPeace commuity species
Ok, For Planted Tanks?Yes

Botanically called Neocaridina heteropoda, this dwarf freshwater shrimp is one of the 20 families of the shrimp species. They are adored for their peaceful nature and ease of care. When introduced into the tank, Cherry shrimps add beautiful coloration to their aquarium world. They are incredibly peaceful and undemanding with little upkeep demand.

They are available in reds; but with different shades of reds, some are deep red, bright red, depending on the grading level. These calm-minded creatures are resilient and can survive in most freshwater aquarium environments. However, they thrive more in aquariums with heavy plants and shelters for hideouts.

Origins and Habitat

Neocaridina in the wild were a brick red muddy color (See Brown WT and Red WT in the imagine below – Source). In the 90s, hobbyists started to keep them in aquariums as cleaners. The most common was the Amano Shrimp. By the late 90s, new imports came to the market from Taiwan. Around the early 2000s, the US first got a hold of the first Neocardina shrimp that were a clear with a few red strips.

Neocaridina Davidi Family Tree History

The Cherry shrimps you see today in the aquarium trade are actually a recent development done by selective breeding over the years. By 2003, the chain pet stores began selling these dwarf shrimp in stores. As breeders worked together, the Red Cherry Shrimp was born, and new variants came alone with the Sakura Red and the various grades. Over time, other color morphs were developed including, yellows, orange, greens, blues, white, and black!

You are getting into freshwater shrimp tanks during a very exciting time when there are many color morphs developed and mature now!

Appearance (What Do Cherry Shrimp Look Like?)

The red color of these beautiful creatures add colorful shades of beauty to the aquarium. Female Shrimp are typically longer (about 1.5 inches) than male Shrimp. The Shrimp’s color is the most noticeable feature of their existence which is why they are graded. The brighter the red, the higher the value and price. Cherry shrimps are the lowest grade of the species. Here are different types of red cherry shrimps:

  • Red Cherry shrimp – (Grade A) have the least value because of their minimal red color and red patches coating.
  • Sakura Red Cherry shrimp – (Grade A) More valuable because of their clear shades and flashier reds. Fire red shrimps contain full red colors.
  • Fire Red Cherry shrimp – (Grade S) are the second most valuable grade of cherry shrimp. This is the grade most serious shrimp keepers start with.
  • Painted fire red shrimp – (Grade S S) are the most popular and the most sought after of them all. They are deeply reddish and brighter.

However, irrespective of the grading level, female shrimps tend to be lighter and more colorful than their male counterparts.

Differentiating the male Shrimp from the female Shrimp can be difficult at birth, especially at the early stage. However, the female tends to develop an orange-colored saddle on the stomach as they mature. The saddle houses the female egg until fertilization (more on that as we go)

How Long Can Shrimp Grow?

The biggest cherry shrimps are around 1.5 inches (about 3.8cm). Females are more structurally built than males that only have a 0.8-1 inches maximum body structure.

Lifespan (How Long Do Cherry Shrimp Live?

What’s the average lifespan of Cherry shrimps? While these arthropods require less stress and finance to deal with, you still want your tank kept bright and colorful – at the end of the day, it all comes down to the level of care given to them.

Cherry shrimps that are properly taken care of can live up to 2 years. Besides, transferring your shrimps from one aquarium to another can shorten their lifespan. You can only avoid this by carefully going through the transitioning process.

Temperament And Activity Level

As mentioned earlier, Cherry shrimps are nonaggressive, always grazing on moss, plants, and algae in the aquarium. These are noticeably one of the busiest creatures in the aquarium – always up and doing. They are not afraid of a human hand happily jumping on it and picking whatever skin and hairs we have to see what food they can forage.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Cherry Shrimp?

When it comes to the aquarium’s ecosystem, Cherry shrimps are at the survival chain’s bottom position. They are usually trampled on and fed on. Therefore, you should choose your tank mate carefully. The ideal tank mates are fishes that care less about their existence.

If not, you might wake up only to see your shrimp population disappear into the mouth of a more dominant roommate. When choosing the rightful tank mate for your tiny shrimp, size isn’t the only factor to consider.

Good Tank Mates

Neon tetra

Even other small, tiny species can pose a threat to your shrimp. Here’s the thing; try to focus your search on unaggressive species. These would be the following:

  • Snails
  • Small catfish like Corys
  • Minnows
  • Tetras

These are a few of the fish suitable for a space in an aquarium filled with cherry shrimps. However, the sad truth is that sometimes your red shrimps might be mistaken for a meal. That’s because these helpless shrimps have no defensive feature; they tend to hide in the plant substrate, so try to keep them protected.

Fish Species To Avoid

Outside of the small fish like cory’s and tetra, most other fish species will be an unsuitable tank mate for a cherry shrimp. Obvious examples to avoid would be predatory fish like Redtail Sharks, Arowanas and certain types of Cichlids.

The Best Tank Mate – Other Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimps thrive actively in groups, not a loner species. Hence, keep at least 10 of them in the tank for a healthy ecosystem (This isn’t difficult to understand why). It’s better to have more female Shrimps than males, as they are more valuable. They will also do well with Amano Shrimp and will not cross breed with them.

What Do Cherry Shrimp Eat?

Cherry shrimps are scavengers by nature. They eat what’s available. The luckiest ones thrive on algae and biofilm. Because of their undemanding nature, these shrimps happily eat whatever fish food is given to them. Keeping nutrition in mind, you can prepare boiled veggies like carrots and cabbage. Nevertheless, foods like pellets made for invertebrates should top their diet lists.

If your Shrimp lives with roommates that you also feed, they won’t run out of food. Shrimp conveniently consume “leftovers,” making clean-ups and maintenance absolutely easier. However, make sure you regularly remove the pellet residues to keep your aquarium balanced and healthier.

What to feed them

Cherry shrimps are best classified under the omnivore’s group species, which means they enjoy the best of both plant and animal food sources. However, keep in mind that biofilm and algae form most of their food. So the typical “high protein diet” is inapplicable to the cherry shrimp diet.

A common hack with cherry shrimp feeding is prioritizing not over feeding them over how well they are fed. These shrimps spend most of their lives grazing on surfaces. So prepare lots of surface area for the beautiful creature to graze. Prioritize the things that can produce biofilms like driftwood, plants, and almond leaves.

As aforementioned, Cherry shrimps are not picky when it comes to food. They’re comfortable eating just about anything. However, if you are looking for dedicated food for Cherry Shrimp, I highly recommend Dennerle’s Shrimp King Food. These shrimp pellets are the perfect size for your little guys.

My Pick
Dennerle Shrimp King Food

Great For Freshwater Shrimp!

A color enhancing food for shrimp that will help intensify yellows, oranges, and most importantly red!

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If you want to go the natural food route. Here’s a list of what you can offer them:

  • Algae
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini

Quick hint

Cherry shrimps display certain signs when they are hungry. A shrimp grazing peacefully over the tank surface isn’t hungry. However, the one zooming around unsettled probably needs to be fed. Get them some food.

How To Set Up A Suitable Cherry Shrimp Tank (Tank Requirements)

This section discusses the step-by-step process of setting up a freshwater aquarium for your cherry shrimp. Want further details? Check out my Freshwater Shrimp Tank guide.

What Is A Proper Cherry Shrimp Tank Size?

Cherry shrimps are small and occupy tiny spaces. While a 5-gallon tank sounds moderately fine to accommodate a cherry shrimp, I’ll suggest going for something larger. Controlling parameters is easier on large volume tanks.

Tank Setup

In the wild, Cherry shrimps live in ponds and streams with plants and rocky substrate. Try to mimic this natural habitat in your aquarium. They thrive more in areas with densely packed plants, Moses, and crevices. Add some driftwood to the tank for your shrimp to suck up some algae from it.

Decor

When it comes keeping cherry shrimp and their Decor, lean towards natural items like driftwood and plant. Cherry Shrimp will adapt to just about anything, however, they look really good in a natural setting as their colors stand out.

Driftwood

Aquarium driftwood is a great choice for Cherry Shrimp. If you are looking for a wood that is dedicated to Cherry Shrimp, you can’t go wrong with Cholla wood. This wood is great for building up biofilm as a food source and decays naturally for your shrimp to eat. The holes also provide hideouts for them.

Great For Shrimp Tanks!
Cholla Wood

Cholla is best known for being an excellent wood for pet shrimp

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Mosses

Mosses are also crucial in the tank as they tend to serve as hideouts for shrimps. This hideout securely keeps them calm and safe. And, surprisingly, shrimps tend to appear outstandingly brighter when they feel safe. The best moss I’ve found for Cherry Shrimp would be Christmas Moss. Christmas Moss is easy to care for and Cherry Shrimp love them!

Once you’ve had your tank property set up, certain maintenance procedures must be kept in place before these shrimps can be introduced into the tank.

Christmas Moss

A easy to care ground cover plant that is an excellent choice for shrimp tanks

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Live Aquarium Plants

Shrimps thrive in planted tanks. Their reds are also the perfect color among green plants. Red cherry shrimps are undemanding when it comes to decoration. They have no soft spot for caves or the likes.

However, keep in mind that your cherry shrimps are happier in habitats with live plants because they serve as protection for them. Also, shrimps love to graze on biofilm, which can grow on plants. So basically, plants are reliable for protection and as a food source for shrimps.

Plants also absorb excess nitrates in the water to maintain a cleaner and healthier water condition. For Cherry Shrimp, low light aquarium plants are the best plants to buy to make your setup easy to care for!

Substrates

When it comes to adding substrates to the tank, small pebbles can be a perfect replacement for the natural rocky substrates in the wild. If you have other inhabitants in the aquarium, cater to their needs first because cherry shrimps are less demanding to manage. They area quick to adapt to change regardless of how harsh it can be.

Firstly, pre-rinse the substrate and wash the pebble/gravel before placing them on an aquarium. There are substrates like Fluval Stratum that are designed for Shrimp tanks and work well for planted tanks. Definitely look into it you are looking to start up.

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Fluval Stratum

Best Value

A cheaper and beginner friendly alternative to ADA Soil. Also great for shrimp tanks!

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Water Quality and Tank Conditions For Cherry Shrimp

Not trying to discriminate, however, lower grade shrimp like the sakura shrimp tend to adapt more to intolerable water conditions than their higher-grade counterparts like the fire fed shrimp.

Low nitrate (or no nitrate at all) with neutral or near alkaline PH is the ideal water condition for cherry shrimp survival. Keep in mind – thank tank water should be regularly monitored and replaced should any irregularly show up (always test your water with proper aquarium test kits). Consider changing 25-30% of your water every other week.

As expected, these tiny invertebrates don’t need the big tank size for shelter. Ideally, a 5-gallon tank is fine.

On the flip side, if you’re going to pair them with other inhabitants, you can opt for the bigger tank size. Overall, the golden rule of thumb is to go for bigger tanks than settle for the smaller sizes.

Which Filters are Most Suitable For Cherry Shrimp?

Filters remain one of the most controversial aspects of the Shrimp tank equipment. Some filters exert strong filtering power that might suck up the shrimps. Choose your filter carefully. A Sponge Filter remains the best option for Cherry shrimps.

Editor's Choice
Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter

The Best Sponge Filter

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Cherry Shrimp Tank Filtration Process

Always thrive on creating a decently perfect water condition for these beautiful reds. As aforementioned, shrimps have a high susceptibility to nitrates and Ammonias. Filters with huge bio-media capacities are the real deal. However, their price can be a little hard on the pocket – and their flow rates can be harsh on Cherry Shrimp.

So expert recommendation is to go for a cheaper yet effective option, which a sponge filter happens to be one. Sponge filters perform biological and mechanical filtration. This filter type keeps your cherry shrimp safer as it’s designed to not suck them up. Also, shrimps feed on the extra food left on the sponge filter exterior.

On the other hand, if you own a power filter or canister filter, you will want to place a sponge on the intake to use as a pre-filter to prevent Cherry Shrimp from being sucked up. An internal aquarium filter is also an option.

Cherry Shrimp Water Parameters

Shrimp Tank With White Cloud Minnows

Although cherry shrimps are hardy and tolerable to non-deal conditions. The following parameters can be used to plan healthy living:

Water Temperature

Cherry Shrimp can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures, ranging from 65°F – 75°F

Water Hardness and pH Range

The pH should be between 6.2 to 8.0. Water hardness can range from 3 – 15 DKH

Cherry Shrimp Lighting

Cherry shrimp have no lighting requirement, however if you keep freshwater plants or what to bring out your shrimp’s colors more, you may want to consider a planted tank led system

Ammonia, Nitries, and Nitrates

Ammonia and Nitrite should be 0 at all times. Anything over 20 will cause problems for your Cherry shrimp.

Temperature (Are Water Heaters Necessary?)

The Neo Cardinia shrimp is tolerate to a range of water temperatures, while Cardinia shrimp thrives in tropical water. I would still recommend, an aquarium heater especially if you live in an area with colder winters.

Copper – The Silent Killer

Cherry shrimps are extremely prone to copper as they found them toxic. Avoid treating your aquarium with a copper-based solution. Common fish medications like seacham cupramine or marvel copper safe can kill your shrimp. There are also aquarium plant fertilizers that might contain copper!

Always check the guaranteed analysis information on both fertilizers and food. However, don’t fret when you see copper listed among ingredients in your shrimp food. They typically aren’t at high enough levels to hurt your shrimp. It’s fertilizers that may have toxic levels though!

How To Breed Cherry Shrimp

Prepping for Cherry shrimp’s breeding and sexing does not require too much effort. The first and golden rule of breeding cherry shrimp is to build up many of these arthropods before adding new mates.

Just ensure they are kept under the right condition. These guys are pretty easy to breed. Just make sure all parameters favor their living condition. As long as you keep them happy and satisfied, they’ll continue to produce more babies. Keep in mind that you can accommodate the adult shrimp along with a peaceful fish.

So keep them along with their species in the same tank. On the other hand, you can hide the shrimplet under plant cover until they grow bigger for the fish to eat.

Sexing Cherry Shrimp

Sexing between shrimps is not a big deal, as long as they’re both adults. Female shrimps are structurally bigger and more colorful than male shrimps.

The male has a slimmer body and slender abdomen than the females. But the female abdomen crosses towards the substrate. This is where the eggs will be stored after fertilization.

Mature Females shrimps ready for breeding will begin to develop saddles. Saddles are functionally synonymous with the female ovary, where eggs are kept for fertilization. The saddle looks like the typical horse saddle.

Breeding process

While the cherry shrimp breeding process is easy, certain precautions should be taken.

Firstly, make sure your tank has a good number of plants. While these plants serve as a perfect hideout, they could also provide the ideal privacy for breeding. Your female shrimps should be stably mature for this process (ensure they are properly fed, especially with protein-rich diets.

Summer months make up the Cherry shrimp’s breeding period, and also the period water becomes warmer. So, stimulate the water by raising the temperature to 82 degrees Fahrenheir. Cherry shrimps take up to 6 months to fully mature for breeding, and they need to adapt to the aquarium condition for 4 months of breeding.

A successful breeding process is noticeable when the female shrimps carry eggs under their tail. An example photo of shrimp eggs is shown below from Lyle J. Buss at the University of Florida

Shrimp Breeding

Once she lays the egg, she begins to fan it with her tail to transfer oxygen. However, you won’t see the baby shrimps until it is up to a month. Parent shrimps usually teach independence from the early stage as baby shrimps are left to fend for themselves. Do parent shrimps eat their newborn? No, they don’t!

However, they can be mistakenly preyed on by even the most aggressive fish. So, you need to have your baby shrimps protected from predators. Female shrimps keep their eggs in the saddles, but the egg won’t fertilize until her next molt (we’ll delve more into molting later)

When the female shrimp molts, her body produces the pheromones which attract the male shrimps in the tank. Funny enough, shrimps mating takes only seconds (or even less than a second?). He lands on her back and fertilizes her egg instantly. After fertilization, the egg leaves the ovary and goes straight into the side of the abdomen. These eggs are usually bright yellow.

Hatching process

The female then moves to the fanning process where she fans the egg until it hatches. The process takes up to 3 weeks. The hatched egg might come out as a higher-end shrimp – the Neocaridinia which are the shrimplets.

How to Raise Shrimplets (Baby and Young Shrimp)

The process of Raising shrimplets is similar to raising adult shrimp. They feast on the same food and survive under similar parameters. The difference is the little extra protection needed on the shrimplets. Cover them with a sponge pre-filter and provide lots of plants for them to hide in.

Molting in Cherry Shrimps

The role of molting in the growth and overall health of the cherry shrimps can never be underestimated.

These arthropods have an exoskeleton growing at their body exterior.  These exoskeleton shells functions in two primary ways:

  • Just like the human skeleton, the shrimp shells support stamina
  • The wheel protects the shrimp’s body. While the shell is not as tough, crabs shell, but pretty tough enough to prevent an unnecessary attack from other fish or tank surfaces.

So what is molting?

Cherry shrimps grow day by day, but the shell doesn’t. It takes a few weeks before the shell falls off and is replaced by the ingrowth shell.

What’s involved in the molting process?

The new shells grow slowly under the old one, but it’s soft. The old shell is split at the top of the meeting point between the carapace and abdomen. The shrimp then girls firmly to any of the tank surfaces like the substrate, plant, or anything that can be gripped on. The shrimp grips furiously to pull against the half portion of the shell before it pula slowly away from the shell.

Once done, the shrimp removes the other half of the shell by curling its tail quickly. You can see a quick video of the process from Marks Shrimp Tanks YouTube Channel below:

Once the molting is completed

The new shells are usually soft for the first few days of bolting before it finally hardens. These shrimps are usually susceptible to attack during this period, so they hide in plants under the shell firms.

Molting related problems

Yes. There are molting-related problems. Shrimps that fail to molt die. Or, the shrimp might only crack off the first part of the shell and struggle with cracking the other half, only to get stressed to death. Or the wheel might not break completely, resulting in stress and death.

Causes of molting problems

There is a lot of ongoing research about the actual cause of molting issues. Many think its water parameter related, while others believe its diet and changing waters excessively can result in molting problems.

Shrimps generally need to maintain some calcium level in the water, which is an important GH (general hardness) component. This calcium helps in shell development. And if the GH is low, the shell becomes soft and won’t split but bend. Try testing your water GH using test kits.

Summary

Cherry shrimps are calm, beautiful, and colorful creatures loved by professional and amateur hobbyists alike. These arthropods are graded according to their individual shaded red, and the price varies with the red hues.

When introduced into the tank, Cherry shrimps add beautiful coloration to a freshwater aquarium. They are peaceful, undemanding creatures and require little upkeep demand.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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