Nano Shrimp Tank Aquascape in a Jar (No Filter, No CO2)

by Kevin

Planted Nano Shrimp Tank
Cherry shrimp in a nano tank.

What is a nano shrimp tank?

In the freshwater aquarium hobby, a nano tank typically refers to a jar, bowl, or rectangular aquarium ranging in size from 2 gallons to 10 gallons.

But, the term “nano tank” is not a scientific term and has no official definition.

For me, a shrimp nano tank refers to a tank that is smaller than a fish nano tank.

Tanks of 3 gallons or less are not ideal for fish because fish produce significant amount of ammonia through respiration and digestion, which quickly pollutes a small tank.

In contrast, freshwater shrimp produce only tiny amounts of waste, and can be kept in containers and tanks that hold less than 1 gallon of water.

If you want to create your own shrimp nano tank, I would look for a 2-3 gallon jar or aquarium, as that leaves some space for aquascaping.

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How to Setup a Nano Shrimp Tank

This nano tank aquascape tutorial covers 10 steps:

1) Place Nano Jar on a Flat Sturdy Surface

2) Fill Mesh Filter Bag with Substrate or Gravel

3) Cover Mesh Bag with Light-colored Substrate

4) Select a Stone with Vertical Height

5) Position Stone On Top of Buried Mesh Bag

6) Add Aquarium Safe Wood

7) Add Low Light Aquatic Plants

8) Add Small Aquarium Heater

9) Place a Plastic Bag Over the Aquascape

10) Add Water

My process for adding shrimp to this nano jar is also covered.

For those who enjoy watching a tutorial, here’s my video on setting up nano shrimp tank in a jar:

And, for those who enjoy a written explanation, I’ve included a detailed breakdown of each step below.

Step 1: Place Nano Jar on a Flat Sturdy Surface

Anchor jar used as aquarium.

For larger tanks, this step is especially important because placing a heavy aquarium on an uneven or unstable surface may lead to leaks in the tank or the collapse of the table or stand holding the tank.

For a small shrimp jar aquarium, weight is far less of a concern, and a sturdy side table or a TV stand should easily support its weight.

The specific jar used in this setup was a 2.5 gallon Anchor Hocking food storage container.

One factor to consider with jar aquariums is height.

Placing a jar aquarium at eye level is appealing because you can quickly see how your plants and shrimp are doing.

But, jar aquariums are also much easier to knock over than a rectangular tank (like a 10 gallon), especially if the surface is uneven.

Bumping the tank while cleaning, or having your cat push it off a shelf, are real risks with a small vertical jar tank.

Another consideration is water damage.

As careful as we try to be while cleaning our tanks, the inevitable splash of water always lands on the floor during a water change.

If you have carpets or water sensitive floors, consider putting a plastic mat under your tank or keeping your jar aquarium in a water safe area.

Step 2: Fill Mesh Filter Bag with Substrate or Gravel

Mesh filter bag filled with gravel for aquascaping.

Mesh filter bags (typically used inside aquarium filters to hold media) are excellent for creating hills or inclines in aquascapes.

In this 2.5 gallon shrimp tank setup, one medium sized filter bag is more than adequate for creating an incline.

The reason that inclines matter in aquascaping is the sense of depth and visual appeal they create.

When presented with both horizontal and vertical planes, the human eye instantly finds the subject matter more interesting and detailed.

The depth of this particular nano tank is severely limited, but by adding a mesh filter bag filled with substrate or gravel, we can take greater advantage of the vertical space in the jar.

Step 3: Cover Mesh Bag with Light-Colored Substrate

Adding gravel to nano shrimp tank.

For this shrimp tank, I decided to use a light-colored substrate to achieve the look of a sandy river bottom, with tree roots reaching down into the water.

A light substrate also complements the lighter brown colors of the wood used in this aquascape.

The disadvantage of a light substrate is that shrimp tend to look less colorful on light substrate as compared to dark substrate.

Good looking light-colored substrate is typically harder to find than dark-colored substrate, like Eco Complete.

In fact, the cichlid sand used in this build is no longer available, but I found a similar product with a similar grain size (it might even be the same substrate repackaged/rebranded):

Step 4: Select a Stone with Vertical Height

Seiryu stone for planted shrimp tank.

In a vertically oriented jar, like this 2.5 gallon jar, a tall stone serves as a dramatic centerpiece.

This particular stone is a Seiryu stone, a wildly popular rock used in aquascaping.

Placing your centerpiece stone toward the back of the jar, but with open substrate on all sides, allows your jar aquarium aquascape to be viewed from all angles, and makes siphoning the gravel a little easier during a water change.

A tall stone is also ideal for hiding equipment like a small heater.

Step 5: Position Stone On Top of Buried Mesh Bag

Positioning stone in shrimp aquascape.

Positioning your stone securely on top of the buried mesh bag can be tricky if your stone is an awkward shape.

If your stone refuses to stand up on its own, try gluing smaller pieces of rock to the bottom of your main stone to stabilize it.

An excellent glue for aquascaping projects, including gluing plants to driftwood and rocks, is a gel type super-glue.

Remember to avoid placing your stone directly in the center of the jar, as that detracts from the visual appeal of the aquascape.

Step 6: Add Aquarium Safe Wood

Spider wood and Manzanita wood for nano shrimp tank.

Some popular aquarium safe woods are Manzanita wood, Spider wood, Malaysian driftwood, and Mopani wood.

In this aquascape, I used one branch of Manzanita wood and a few pieces of Spider wood to create a natural looking scene reminiscent of tree roots.

Keep in mind that both woods release tannins into the water, which will turn your water a yellowish brown color.

These tannins are perfectly safe for fish and shrimp, and are preferred by soft water fish like neon tetras.

Both woods often grow a white, slimy looking mold after sitting in the tank for a couple of weeks.

This mold is not dangerous and should disappear after your tank cycles, but sometimes a stubborn patch of mold may remain for months.

Boiling your wood before adding it to your tank, or at least soaking it, is also important as both Manzanita wood and Spider wood tend to float when first added to water.

Step 7: Add Low Light Aquatic Plants

Aquarium plants for shrimp tank.

My goal for this nano shrimp jar was to create a low maintenance, desktop aquarium that doesn’t require any fancy equipment. 

So, selecting low light and easy to grow aquarium plants was key for this build.

The plants used in this shrimp tank are:

1) Anubias barteri var. nana

2) Anubias barteri (regular)

3) Java fern windelov

4) Cryptocoryne wendtii brown

5) Banana Plants (Nymphoides aquatica)

6) Marimo Moss balls (Aegagropila linnaei; a type of algae)

All the plants mentioned above are hardy and grow well under budget friendly LED lights.

The specific light used for this setup was actually a Torchstar desk lamp with daylight bulbs.

No fertilizer is required, these plants will derive their nutrients from the naturals minerals in the water and from the substrate.

In fact, adding fertilizer is likely to trigger a major algae bloom in such a small tank.

Anubias barteri var. nana, also known as Anubias nana petite or just Anubias nana, is a miniature variety of Anubias, making it ideal for a small shrimp tank aquascape.

Anubias plants are also slow growing, meaning you will rarely need to trim them back, which is great for a small desktop display tank.

If you want to learn about other plants used in aquascaping, check out my article on 9 plants that will make you a better aquascaper.

Step 8: Add Small Aquarium Heater

Aquarium heater for nano shrimp tank.

This nano shrimp tank does not require a filter, and can be easily maintained by performing 30% water changes about once a week.

However, I do suggest providing your shrimp with a heater, as this will keep them active and breeding.

While most heaters are too large for a 2.5 gallon jar, this particular heater has worked well for me so far:

Step 9: Place a Plastic Bag Over the Aquascape

Covering aquascape with a plastic bag.

After carefully arranging your stones and wood, having a stream of water dislodge all your hard work would be devastating.

So, place a plastic bag, or even a piece of bubble wrap, over the completed aquascape before adding water.

Step 10: Add Water

Adding water to shrimp tank.

Pour the water in slowly.

Cloudy water is normal, especially if your grave or substrate was not pre-rinsed.

The water should clear up within a day or so, and additional water changes may help remove any cloudiness that remains after 24 hours.


Many aquarists do not realize that freshwater shrimp, like Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi), require nearly the same conditions as tropical community fish.

And, shrimp are much easier to keep in a nano tank than any aquarium fish due to the minuscule amount of waste they produce.

I hope you found some inspiration for creating your next shrimp tank aquascape.

And if you haven’t kept cherry shrimp and you love fish keeping, get yourself a 2.5 gallon jar and start aquascaping.

To learn more about freshwater shrimp, check out my guide on the best beginner aquarium shrimp.

If you are interested in creating a slightly larger aquascape, like a 5 gallon, check out my article on creating a cave aquascape for blue cherry shrimp.

Or, if you love learning about tiny aquatic creatures, check out my article on setting up your own Ecosphere (closed jar ecosystem).

Finally, if you are new to planted aquariums, check out my guide on planted tanks.

As always, stay zen.