Cherry shrimp make excellent pets and are much easier to care for than people realize.
In fact, in a planted tank setup, cherry shrimp require similar care and maintenance as a betta fish.
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Red Cherry Shrimp Tank Size
For aquarium fish, tanks under 3 gallons are risky because fish produce large amounts of ammonia, which pollutes the water.
But cherry shrimp can easily be kept in tanks under 3 gallons because the bioload of cherry shrimp is extremely low.
Bioload typically refers to how much life can be sustained in an aquatic environment.
If the bioload is high, it means that fish and other aquatic creatures are producing too much waste for that particular tank or system.
As the waste builds up, bacteria break it into substances like ammonia.
And ammonia is toxic to fish and shrimp.
So, if waste builds up quickly, which it definitely does in a small tank like a 1-2 gallon, then the ammonia in the tank may suddenly spike and kill your fish or shrimp.
But, because cherry shrimp only produce minimal waste as compared to a fish, cherry shrimp are easier to keep in smaller tanks and can thrive in theses tanks if given the proper conditions.
Keep in mind that cherry shrimp require a heater, so keeping them in something smaller than 1 gallon is tricky because most heaters don’t fit that size of tank.
Cherry Shrimp Temperature
Cherry shrimp can tolerate a relatively wide range of temperatures, with optimal temperatures being 72-80 Fahrenheit (22-27 Celsius).
Like many tropical fish, cherry shrimp thrive at a constant 78 degrees Fahrenheit and will breed and live their shrimpy lives without complaint.
But, if temperatures rise above 82 degrees Fahrenheit, shrimp may become stressed, zooming around the tank and spending time at the surface of the tank.
A basic fish tank heater is more than sufficient for a cherry shrimp tank, just remember that cheap heaters tend to break or malfunction.
Red Cherry Shrimp Tank Mates
Many aquarists choose to keep a “cherry shrimp only” aquarium.
And these shrimp only setups work great, especially if you want your cherry shrimp to breed, because aquarium fish tend to eat baby shrimp.
But, if you love the idea of having cherry shrimp and aquarium fish together, then be extra careful about which tropical fish you choose to keep with your shrimp.
Here are my thoughts on red cherry shrimp tank mates that tend to work:
1) Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras
Generally, neon tetras and cardinal tetras will avoid interacting with cherry shrimp.
These tetras may try to make a snack of the tiniest of baby cherry shrimp but shrimp are very quick and will mostly avoid being eaten if given some plant cover.
Note: when housing cherry shrimp with neons or cardinal tetras keep in mind that these fish prefer softer, acidic water (pH 6-6.5) and low water hardness (5-10 dGH).
In fact, neon and cardinal tetras are somewhat fragile and aquarists report significant casualties when they are kept hard water (sorry California aquarists, I feel your pain).
Cherry shrimp appear to tolerate harder water much better than neons and cardinals (in my experience) and tolerate a pH range of 6.5-8.
If your water is too hard, your shrimp will have trouble molting and may even die as a result.
But that’s only if your water is ridiculously full of minerals.
2) Betta Fish
Betta fish may seem like an unlikely tank mate for cherry shrimp because bettas have relatively large mouths and are very curious.
But, some betta fish are easy-going or simply slow swimmers that can’t catch cherry shrimp.
With betta fish, tt’s a personality thing.
Some bettas just look at the shrimp and others try to murder them.
If you have a decent sized tank, 5-10 gallons, a betta fish can make an excellent fish to keep with cherry shrimp.
But, you may want to let your betta interact with some ghost shrimp before adding your premium cherry shrimp into the tank (sorry ghost shrimp).
Snails are an underrated tank mate for cherry shrimp.
Snails have no interest in cherry shrimp and will also help your shrimp clean up the algae in your tank.
Also, watching a cherry shrimp ride a snail while eating algae off its shell if a good time.
Consider snails like ramshorns and mystery snails.
4) Hatchet Fish
Hatchet fish will spend almost their entire lives just below the water’s surface.
They make great cherry shrimp tank mates because they stay at the top of the water column and almost never go looking for food near the bottom of the tank.
The tricky aspects of keeping hatchet fish are 1) they jump and 2) they need soft, acidic water.
Like neons and cardinal tetras, hatchet fish will die relatively quickly if kept in hard water and at a pH above 7.5.
So, if you have hard water, consider a different tank mate for your cherry shrimp.
5) Endler’s Livebearers
These fish are like mini guppies.
They are extremely colorful, with almost a neon glow, and the males will dance around the females showing off their brightly colored fins.
If you don’t want a tank full of these fish, consider keeping a small group of male Endler’s with your cherry shrimp.
Again, these fish tend to leave cherry shrimp alone but are always individual exceptions depending on personality.
Plants for a Cherry Shrimp Tank
Planted tanks and red cherry shrimp go together like peanut butter and jelly (or like shrimp and grits…?).
Cherry shrimp love climbing over plants and hanging upside down from the roots of floating plants.
Unlike snails, cherry shrimp do not eat live plants.
And, cherry shrimp love eating algae.
It’s hard to overemphasize how great cherry shrimp are (but I’m trying).
The best aquarium plants for cherry shrimp are, in my experience, fall into two categories:
1) aquarium plants with broad leaves; and
2) aquatic mosses
Broad-leafed plants, like Anubias and Amazon sword plants, provide a place for algae to grow.
You may not even be able to tell algae is growing on your aquarium plants, but your cherry shrimp will find the algae and gobble it up using their tiny pincers.
Red Cherry Shrimp Grades
1) Painted Fire Red (Highest grade)
Painted fire red shrimp are a deep, pure red, with no translucent or white coloring visible.
These cherry shrimp are about as red as you can get and sell for significantly more than other grades.
2) Fire Red (High Grade)
Fire red shrimp also have a completely red body, including their legs, but may be a lighter shade of red compared to painted fired shrimp.
Fire red shrimp also tend to be pricey but a colony of these shrimp look spectacular in a planted tank.
3) Sakura (Middle Grade)
Sakura shrimp typically have red bodies with light or transparent coloring on their lower carapace and legs.
Sakura shrimp are often divided into low grade Sakura and high grade Sakura, with high grade Sakura having only minimal transparent/light coloring on the legs.
4) Cherry (Lowest grade)
Cherry shrimp are actually the lowest color grade, and are therefore less expensive and more readily available.
But, that does not mean these shrimp are dull or muddy red.
Regular grade cherry shrimp are actually quite bright, especially if you are buying your from a reputable breeder.
And, starting at the “cherry” grade is actually fun because they are relatively inexpensice (often $1-$2 each) and can be bred into higher grades.
Cherry Shrimp Colors
Besides “quality grades” cherry shrimp are also available in multiple colors.
The most common color is red, which ranges from a bright red to burgundy.
But, cherry shrimp also come in blue, yellow, orange, and green.
As mentioned, red cherry shrimp are typically the easiest to find and the least expensive.
Blue cherry shrimp are harder to find and significantly more expensive.
Yellow, orange, and green cherry shrimp are relatively rare (at least for now) and quite expensive.
Best Aquarium Shrimp Food
One of the great aspects of shrimp keeping is watching them eat.
Aquarium shrimp, like red cherry shrimp, are constantly picking through gravel and cleaning algae off leaves and the sides of your tank.
A small colony of red cherry shrimp can actually live exclusively off scavenged algae growing in your aquarium.
But, if you want to encourage your shrimp colony to breed and grow they should be fed a commercial shrimp food, which contains minerals and micronutrients that promote shrimp health.
My top picks for best cherry shrimp food are:
1) Fluval Shrimp Granules (these tend to float but will eventually sink).
2) Aquatic Arts Sinking Pellets (great little pellets that make my shrimp go crazy).
3) Fluval Bug Bites Granules for Tropical Fish (not strictly shrimp food, but the bug bites are fast sinking and shrimp love them).
Feeding Aquarium Shrimp Vegetables
Cherry shrimp also enjoy eating vegetables.
Always provide vegetables free from pesticides (so preferably organic).
Some of my favorite veggies to feed my shrimp are:
1. Collard greens
2. Bok choy
Before adding any vegetables to your shrimp tank, bring a pot/sauce pan of water to a boil.
Throw the vegetable in for a couple minutes (this is not an exact science).
Remove the vegetable from the boiling water and let it cool on a paper towel.
Drop the veggie into your tank and watch the feeding frenzy.
Cherry Shrimp Equipment
The equipment needed to setup a cherry shrimp tank is relatively simple.
You could actually setup a successful cherry shrimp colony in almost any type of container as long as you can maintain water quality and the right temperature.
If you want to create a planted cherry shrimp tank, I recommend the following:
1. Best Shrimp Tank
Pick a tank that you will enjoy looking at.
Cherry shrimp are relatively small compared to most aquarium fish so your options for a tank are actually very broad.
Setting up a 1 gallon shrimp tank is very possible but an aquarium between 5 gallons and 10 gallons is my preferred size for a shrimp tank.
I am not thrilled about the aquarium choices on Amazon right now so I am not going to recommend a specific tank, but I will suggest that you search online for a rimless 5 gallon cube tank.
These make ideal shrimp tanks, especially when heavily planted.
For those looking to setup a DIY shrimp bowl or jar, look for a 2.5 gallon Anchor Hocking jar.
2. Heaters for Shrimp Tanks
The same heaters used for aquarium fish are also used for shrimp tanks.
Sadly, aquarium heaters tend to be expensive and fragile.
So the goal for a shrimp keeper, like a fish keeper, is to find a reliable and tough heater.
These are the aquarium heaters that have worked well for me so far:
Expensive option: Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater
Affordable option: Aqueon Adjustable Heater
3. Filters for Shrimp Tank
Cherry shrimp are small and not particularly strong swimmers.
So, a filter that produces minimal water flow and doesn’t suck your baby shrimp in is ideal.
And the filter that works best (in my experience) is a sponge filter.
By connecting your sponge filter to an aquarium air pump, you create a low flow filtration in your tank and a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize.
So, for a shrimp tank, get:
4. Shrimp Tank Lights
Selecting the right light for your shrimp tank is more for you and your aquarium plants than for the shrimp.
If you plan on having a planted shrimp tank then selecting a light that provides enough light for aquarium plants will save you the frustration of seeing your plants slowly die and melt away.
Two lights that help plants thrive in my shrimp tanks are:
Both these lights are excellent at growing low light plants like Anubias and Java Fern.
The Finnex Clip Light is smaller and works well on nano tanks while the Woterzi Clip-on Light is ideal for 10 gallon tanks.
Check out my article on the best aquarium lights that grow plants for an in-depth review.
Cherry shrimp are wildly underrated pets.
They are colorful, easily kept in large groups, and they eat algae!
What’s not to like?
Also, cherry shrimp are just the gateway to the broader shrimp tank hobby; there are actually many types of aquarium shrimp, like crystal red shrimp and amano shrimp, that provide new challenges for the pioneering keeper.
So, get yourself some cherry shrimp and dive deeper into this amazing hobby.
As always, stay zen aquarists.