Red Cherry Shrimp Care Guide & Tank Set Up for Beginners

Cute and so interesting to watch. Red cherry shrimp have their own little world going on in the tank.

You can keep them in a community tank of small fish or even as the star of their own species only tank. They’re a great addition to your tank cleanup crew. They’ll eat algae, uneaten food, even fish poop!

I’ve been keeping these shrimp for years now, with great success, and have a lot of insight into this awesome species.

In this guide, I’ve walk you how to set up a cherry shrimp tank and provide the right environment for them to thrive.

Quick Care Stats

  • Care Level: easy
  • Min. Tank Size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
  • pH: 7.0-8.2
  • Temperature: 68°-80°F (20°-27°C)
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Temperament: peaceful
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Size: 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)
  • Family: Atyidae
  • How many can be kept together: as many as you’d like
  • Scientific Name: Neocaridina davidiiCommon Name: Cherry shrimp

Red Cherry Shrimp Overview

Red cherry shrimp on aquarium plant

Cherry shrimp are small, ornamental freshwater shrimp. They have been selectively bred from wild Neocaridina davidi, which are native to the waterways of Taiwan.

These adorable shrimp were first introduced into the freshwater aquarium trade in their native Asia, starting in the 1990s. They became wildly popular since they eat algae and are truly adorable.

In 2003, cherry shrimp began to be imported to the US and their popularity grew even more because people loved their coloration.

Neocaridina davidi is the current scientific name for this species. However, they were originally listed as either Neocaridina heteropoda or Neocaridina denticulata sinensis (var. red).

There are several different color morphs of Neocaridina davidi available in the pet trade -like pumpkin, blue dream, jade green, yellow sakura- but they’re all the same species. 

In the Wild

Neocaridina davidi shrimp are native to the freshwater streams of Taiwan.

But they’re not red in the wild. The bright red shrimp you see in the pet store are the result of many, many generations of selective breeding.

In their natural form, they are mostly transparent with tiny dots and stripes that range from greenish brown to brick red. These shrimp are omnivorous scavengers that will eat pretty much anything that doesn’t eat them first. They graze on algae, fish poop, leaf litter, biofilm and any dead fish or invertebrates they’re able to find.

Red Cherry Shrimp Care & Tank Requirements

In this part of the guide, I’ll walk you through what you need to set up a freshwater aquarium for red cherry shrimp.

What Tank Size for Cherry Shrimp?

You can easily keep a breeding colony of cherry shrimp in a 5 gallon (19 liter). 

I currently have them in a 5 gallon and four different 40 gallons.

The colony of shrimp generally grows to the size of the food supply available.

Filtration for Cherry Shrimp

It’s very important to provide stable water conditions for your red cherry shrimp. They are very sensitive to ammonia and nitrite spikes.

Filters that have a large capacity for biomedia to help process waste are essential. But, you don’t have to break the bank. 

All you need is a simple sponge filter. Even my large shrimp tanks are running on just sponge filters.

Sponge filters provide great mechanical and biological filtration, and they help keep shrimp and shrimplets safe because there is no intake to suck them in. 

Also, shrimp love to graze on the outside of the sponge filter to get little bits of food and detritus stuck there.

For more information  about sponge filters, see our comparison article, here.

If you’re using a canister or hang-on-the-back filter, you can put a sponge pre-filter over the intake. This will add even more biomedia to your filtration, and it keeps shrimp from getting sucked into the filter.

Lighting Requirements

Cherry shrimp don’t really have lighting requirements. They don’t particularly care if the light is bright or dim.

But, since cherry shrimp mostly live off of algae growing in the tank, brighter light provides more food for them.

Plants and Decorations

Cherry shrimps in aquarium plants

I would highly recommend keeping these shrimp in a planted tank

Plants are essential for cherry shrimp; they increase the surface area in the tank, giving the shrimp lots of area to perch on. 

Shrimp use algae that grows on plant leaves as a food source.

As old plant growth dies off, shrimp will eat the old leaves. 

And plants provide hiding places for tiny shrimplets and newly molted shrimp.

Here are some great plants for a low tech shrimp tank:

As far as hardscape goes, cherry shrimp don’t have any specific needs. You can use rocks, driftwood, resin decor, whatever floats your boat.

Related: Best Plants For Shrimp Tank

Water Parameters

Cherry shrimp are very hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters.

  • Temperature: 65°-75°F (18.3°-23.8°C)
  • Chlorine/chloramines: 0 ppm (very toxic for shrimp)
  • Ammonia/Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm
  • pH: 6.2-8.0
  • GH: 4-8 dGH (66.7-133.4 ppm)
  • KH: 3-15 dKH (53.6-268.3 ppm).

If your tap water is very hard, you won’t really need to do anything to your water. There will be enough calcium in the water already. 

If your tap water is very soft, you can add things like Weco Wonder Shells to your water to add a bit more mineral content.  

(6 Pack) Weco Wonder Shell Natural Minerals, Large, for a Total of 6 Large Shells
(6 Pack) Weco Wonder Shell Natural Minerals, Large, for a Total of 6 Large Shells

Last update on 2024-04-11 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re using RO/DI water, you’ll need to add some powdered minerals to your water. 

I’ve had great success with SaltyShrimp Shrimp Minerals GH/KH. 

SaltyShrimp Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+ 100g
SaltyShrimp Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+ 100g

    Last update on 2024-04-11 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    Do not use tap water that’s been run through a water softening system.. Water softeners make water completely devoid of GH/KH. You cannot remineralize softened water. It is in a chemical state that won’t allow it to reabsorb minerals. Bypass your softener for aquarium replacement water.

    Avoid Copper

    You absolutely cannot treat your shrimp aquarium with a copper-based medication. High doses of copper are very toxic to shrimp.

    Many medications that treat fish for parasites, like Mardel CopperSafe or Seachem Cupramine, would be deadly for shrimp.

    But, don’t stress if you see copper listed as an ingredient in some liquid fertilizers and even some foods.

    Trace amounts of copper are needed as a nutrient by animals and plants.These products have only tiny, tiny amounts of copper that are not enough to harm shrimp when used as directed.

    Double Check All Tank Treatments

    If you need to medicate the fish in your tank, make absolutely sure that the medication is safe to use with invertebrates.

    Most companies are really good about putting a warning on the label, but it’s not always prominent. Make sure to read all the fine print before adding any kind of treatment to your tank.

    Diet & Feeding

    Cherry shrimp are omnivores, meaning that in the wild they would eat a mix of animal and plant sources of food.

    But, it’s important to remember, the majority of their diet would come from biofilm and algae. So you don’t need to load them up with a high protein diet.

    The secret to feeding cherry shrimp isn’t really how much to feed them. It’s much more about not feeding them too much.

    Most of the day (and night) cherry shrimp will graze along the surfaces of the tank: plants, substrate, rocks, decor, even the glass. Make sure that they have a lot of surface area to graze, especially things that will produce a lot of biofilm, like plants, driftwood or Indian almond leaves.

    As long as there is a good amount of algae growing in the tank, you only need to feed your shrimp two or three times a week.

    What Can I feed Cherry Shrimp?

    Cherry shrimp are not picky eaters. They really will eat just about anything.

    It’s good to offer them a variety of foods:

    Commercially prepared foods:

    • Shrimp pellets
    • Algae wafers
    • Gel foods

    Blanched veggies:

    • Kale
    • Cucumber
    • Zucchini
    • Collard greens
    • Broccoli

    I’ve had tremendous luck feeding my cherry shrimp with Dennerle Shrimp King products. The Shrimp King Complete food sticks have dramatically improved the color of my shrimp. 

    I will admit, I was skeptical at first, but after a few weeks, the difference was so noticeable that I became a firm believer in this food!

    Dennerle Shrimp King Complete Sticks Food 45 Gram
    Dennerle Shrimp King Complete Sticks Food 45 Gram

      Last update on 2024-04-11 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      And the Shrimp King Baby food has also been amazing. 

      Pellets are great for adult shrimp, but it can be difficult for baby shrimp to compete for any of it. The adults are so much bigger and stronger that they just sort of shove the babies out of their way.

      The powder settles all over the tank, so the babies aren’t clashing with adults in one small area for food. Instead, the food is everywhere. 

      It can really increase a babies’ survival and growth rates.

      Dennerle Shrimp King Baby Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp Food 35g, Brown (6089)
      Dennerle Shrimp King Baby Freshwater Dwarf Shrimp Food 35g, Brown (6089)

      Last update on 2024-04-11 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Cherry Shrimp Tank Mates

      There are a lot of species you can mix with cherry shrimp. 

      Some good choices are:

      This is by no means a complete list, but this should give you a pretty good place to start. You can easily mix cherry shrimp with fish whose mouths are too small to gulp down adult shrimp.

      But, be warned, keeping cherry shrimp with fish will cut down on the survival rate of your shrimplets. Even peaceful fish will find tiny shrimplets too tempting to pass up.

      To counteract this somewhat, add plants that will give dense protective cover, like Java moss, flame moss, Christmas moss, pearl weed, etc.

      Tank Mates to Avoid

      • Medium to Large Fish – Any fish big enough to fit an adult shrimp in its mouth, avoid fish over 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) long.   
      • Aggressive Fish – Fish listed as semi-aggressive or aggressive. Meaner fish will hunt down shrimp relentlessly. 
      • Bettas – Bettas are hit or miss. Some completely ignore shrimp and others try to murder them with extreme prejudice. You never know how it’s going to go.
      • Assassin snails – These are not a good idea. If they start to feel overly hungry, they can and will kill and eat shrimp.

      Breeding Cherry Shrimp

      Many red cherry shrimp in freshwater aquarium

      These little guys are so easy to breed it’s insane. 

      As long as you’re giving them the conditions they need to thrive, they’ll be more than happy to give you lots and lots of babies.

      One thing to remember, keeping adult cherry shrimp with smaller, peaceful community fish usually works out just fine. 

      But, even small fish, like guppies or tetras, will eat tiny shrimplets if they get the chance. 

      To maximize shrimp breeding, keep them in a species only tank.

      Or give them dense plant cover to hide in so that some shrimplets can grow large enough that fish can’t eat them.

      Preparing for Breeding and Sexing Cherry Shrimp

      Cherry shrimp really don’t need any special prep to get them ready for breeding. As long as they’re given the conditions they need to thrive, they’re good to go.

      Some people state that you have to heat the tank to particular temperatures to get your shrimp to breed. I have not found this to be the case.

      I’ve got breeding populations in tanks that are around 68°F (20°C) and I’ve got breeding populations in tanks that sit at 78°F (26°C).

      Shrimp will breed more quickly at higher temps, but the increased temperature is in no way required. 

      Sexing is usually pretty easy, as long as the shrimp are adults. 

      Juveniles can look very similar, but the sexes become much more distinct, once shrimp mature. 

      Adult female shrimp are significantly bigger than male shrimp of the same age. And, male shrimp are usually less colorful than females.

      Males have a slimmer body style and their abdomen is much more slender. To  me, it looks like the male’s abdomen curves away from the substrate, but the underside of a female’s abdomen curves toward the substrate. 

      The female will carry her eggs underneath this curve of her abdomen after they’ve been fertilized.

      Females that are preparing to breed will develop what’s called a “saddle.” It’s a yellow patch on their back near where the cephalothorax meets the abdomen, shaped just like the saddle on a horse’s back.

      This yellow patch is actually a cluster of unfertilized eggs in the female shrimp’s ovaries.

      The Breeding Process

      Females start to carry eggs in the saddle, but she won’t be ready for them to be fertilized until after her next molt. 

      Once she molts, her body will start to put off pheromones that will attract all of the males in the tank.

      The actual mating process takes less than a second. Males will repeatedly dash up to the female and land on her back for just an instant to fertilize her eggs.

      Once fertilized, the female will pass the eggs from her ovaries to the underside of her abdomen. 

      The developing eggs are bright yellow. They look like a tiny bunch of grapes and females carrying eggs are said to be “berried.”

      The female carries the eggs with some of her pleopods, the legs that shrimp use to swim. 

      Hatching

      The female will hold onto the eggs and fan them with her swimming legs for 2-3 weeks, until they hatch.

      At that point, the female is done raising her young and the babies are on their own.

      Neocaridina are considered higher order shrimp. This means that their young hatch out of the eggs as shrimplets, perfect miniature versions of adults, instead of larvae that have to go through several life stages before they resemble their adult form. 

      These tiny little guys are roughly the size of the head of a pin.

      They can immediately swim, walk and feed, just like their parents. 

      Raising Shrimplets

      Raising shrimplets is just like raising adults. They eat the same foods and need the same parameters.

      The only thing different is that they need a little extra protection. Make sure that your filter intakes are covered with something like a sponge pre-filter and that there are plenty of densely planted areas for them to hide in.

      The plants also provide food. The baby shrimp will graze on biofilm on plant leaves.

      FAQ: How Big Do Cherry Shrimp Grow?

      Cherry shrimp are usually no bigger than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). Definitely not big bruisers.

      Males are smaller than females. They usually only reach about 0.8-1 inch (2-2.5 cm) in length.

      FAQ: How Long Do Cherry Shrimp Live?

      Cherry shrimp live between 1-2 years. So, maybe don’t get too attached.

      But, they breed so easily in a freshwater aquarium, you can have a steady stream of replacements.

      Are Cherry Shrimp Right for You?

      I have a lot of positive things to say about cherry shrimp. They really are cute and so interesting to watch. It seems like they have their own little world going on in the tank.

      They’re a great addition to a community tank filled with small fish or even as the star of their own species tank.

      They’re a great clean up crew. They’ll eat algae, uneaten food, even fish poop!

      You don’t have to cash in all your savings to buy a cherry shrimp setup. A simple 5 gallon with a sponge filter and some plants is more than sufficient.

      Breeding cherry shrimp is easy and rewarding, just remember that tiny shrimplets need even more protection than adults.

      All in all, cherries are a great beginner shrimp for any level of aquarist, I highly recommend them.

      I hope you find this article helpful.

      I wish you and your fish the very best!

      Katherine Morgan
      Katherine Morgan

      Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.

      5 Comments

      1. Thank you for an informative piece about shrimp. I am a beginner in pondcare and I love the simplistic way you explained the extensive information about this species and the care they need.

        Keith

      2. this article was super informative compared to youtube videos or other articles i was reading. really told me everything i could possibly need to know about owning cherry shrimp all in one place. amazingly written as well. thank you!!!

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