Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi) Care Guide For Beginners

Cherry shrimp are absolutely awesome little creatures. 

If you’ve only ever kept fish, it might seem intimidating to jump into keeping shrimp. Luckily, cherry shrimp are super simple to raise.

I’m glad to give you some insight into taking care of these amazing little invertebrates.

So, here’s a basic guide to taking care of cherry shrimp, from someone who’s kept them for years and raised hundreds of them.

Quick Care Stats

  • Care Level: easy
  • Min. Tank Size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
  • pH: 7.0-8.2
  • Temperature: 65°-78°F (18°-26°C)
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Temperament: ultra peaceful
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years depending largely on the temperature of the tank
  • Size: 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)
  • Family: Atyidae
  • How many can be kept together: the more, the better
  • Scientific Name: Neocaridina davidi
  • Common 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).

The term “cherry shrimp” is used mostly to refer to red Neocaridina davidi shrimp specifically. But, all of the things I’m about to go over in this article are the same for ALL of the various colors of the Neocaridina davidi shrimp that are available in the aquarium hobby. 

Anything that I go over in this article for cherry shrimp is the same for these same color variations, since they’re all the same species:

Red

  • Cherry
  • Sakura red
  • Fire red
  • Painted fire red
  • Bloody Mary
  • Red rili 

Yellow

  • Yellow neon
  • Yellow sakura
  • Golden back

Orange 

  • Orange neon
  • Sunkist orange
  • Orange rili 

Green 

  • Green jade

Blue 

  • Blue diamond
  • Blue dream
  • Blue velvet
  • Blue carbon

Black

  • Black rose

In the Wild

In their natural habitat, Neocaridina davidi shrimp shrimp don’t have all the fancy colors that you see in pet store tanks. In the wild, they’re little drab, brown speckled shrimp, still really cute, but not nearly as beautiful and vibrant as the selectively bred ones.

This species is native to the rivers and streams of China and Taiwan. These shrimp shoal together along the substrate and among plants in irregular groups. They’re a detritivore, so they feed on algae, dead fish, decaying plant matter and biofilm.

How to Set Up a Cherry Shrimp Tank

You do not need a big fancy setup to keep these shrimp. They are the perfect thing to keep in a small desktop aquarium, if you don’t have a lot of room.

Tank Size

These shrimp don’t need a lot of room. You can easily keep a small colony of cherry shrimp in something like a 5 gallon (19 liter) tank.

My favorite shrimp tank of mine is a heavily planted 40 gallon (151 liter) bowfront tank that’s filled with plants and has loads of shrimp grazing along all the leaves.

Filtration

Hands down, the best kind of filter to use with cherry shrimp, in my opinion, are sponge filters

Sponge filter benefits:

  • Excellent biological and mechanical filtration
  • Cheap
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to maintain
  • Shrimp will graze on them
  • Safe for tiny shrimplets
  • Doesn’t create too much flow

If you want to use a different kind of filtration, like a hang-on-the-back or canister filter, I highly recommend putting a sponge pre-filter over your intake so shrimp don’t end up inside the body of the filter itself.

Water Parameters

  • Temperature: 65°-78°F (18°-26°C)
  • Ammonia/Nitrite: 0
  • Nitrate: 20-30 ppm
  • pH: 7.0-8.2
  • GH: 4-8 dGH (66.7-133.4 ppm)
  • KH: 3-15 dKH (53.6-268.3 ppm) 

As I’ve said, cherry shrimp can adapt to a wide variety of water parameters, but for them to truly thrive and breed prolifically, giving them their ideal conditions is so helpful.

Shrimp do need some minerals in the water, especially calcium, for the development of their exoskeletons.

Don’t try to chase around a “perfect pH.” What’s much more important is to provide some general hardness (calcium and magnesium) and carbonate hardness (carbonate and bicarbonate). Just adding a mineral supplement to the water column will be fine. Don’t use pH up or down products. They’re completely unnecessary and do much more harm than good. 

If you have hard water, you don’t really need to alter your water at all, other than dechlorinating it.

If you have soft water, like me, I recommend adding a mineral supplement to your replacement water when you do water changes. I’ve had the best luck with SaltyShrimp Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+. 

SaltyShrimp - Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+ 200G
SaltyShrimp - Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+ 200G

Last update on 2024-07-17 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I usually add 1/16th of a teaspoon per gallon, but you might need to play around with how much you add per gallon, depending on the hardness of your tap water.

I add the powdered minerals to the bucket of dechlorinated replacement water and stir it around to get it to dissolve. It’s really simple.

Heater

As long as your room temperatures don’t fall below 65°F (18°C), you don’t need to add a heater to your cherry shrimp tank. 

However, I will say, that although cherry shrimp don’t require a heater, they will breed much faster in a tank that stays around 75°F (24°C) all the time.

That temperature makes the shrimp grow more quickly, therefore, they get to breeding age more quickly, then their babies grow faster and have young of their own sooner, and so on.

A heater is not required, but it will speed up how quickly you’ll be able to establish a breeding colony.

Substrate

Cherry shrimp don’t have any specific substrate needs, they can even be kept in a bare bottom tank, if needed.

I’ve kept cherry shrimp on gravel, sand, baked clay substrates and aqua soils. They’re not picky. 

Cherry shrimp do not require a substrate that reduces the pH and KH of the water. Substrates that reduce pH/KH are useful for Caridina shrimp, like Taiwan bee shrimp, but aren’t needed for Neocaridina shrimp like cherries.

Lighting

Shrimp don’t have any specific lighting requirements per se, but they do benefit from algae growth in the tank.

You don’t have to do this, but all my shrimp tanks have plant lights. I grow lots of live plants for them to climb around on and they munch on algae throughout the tank as their primary food source.

Plants and Decorations

Cherry shrimps in aquarium plants

Cherry shrimp benefit from having live plants in the tank. The plants’ leaves and stems provide surface area that they can graze on. 

They’ll also eat dead and dying plant material, helping to keep dead growth trimmed back.

It’s also good to provide them with some hardscape, like rocks, driftwood or resin decor, because they will need some hiding places for after they molt and feel vulnerable.

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

Related: Best Plants For Shrimp Tank

Water Changes

If you only have shrimp in your tank, you don’t need to do water changes as often as you do with fish, which is pretty cool. 

Shrimp put off very little waste, and don’t need as many water changes. 

In fact, swapping out water too often can cause shrimp to have molting issues.

For fish tanks, I usually recommend doing 50% water changes at least every 1-2 weeks.

But for shrimp, depending on the size of your tank, I’d recommend only doing 25% water changes every 2-3 weeks.

Another issue, it’s really easy to accidentally suck up shrimp with a gravel vacuum while you’re cleaning the substrate. Here are some tips to keep this from happening:

  • Place food in one corner of the tank and wait for the shrimp to migrate to the food. Then vacuum the substrate in the rest of the tank while the shrimp are mostly gathered over in one corner.
  • If you’re draining just water from your tank, put a mesh bag over the gravel vacuum lift tube, so water can pass through, but shrimp can’t.
  • Drain your water into white buckets, so it’s easier to see any shrimp that you’ve inadvertently sucked up.

Diet & Feeding

These little guys are true omnivores. They’ll eat just about any kind of food you put in the tank.

I find it’s easiest to give them sinking foods, especially high quality algae wafers.

I have a few favorites: 

  • Dennerle Shrimp King Complete – this is the best food for color enhancing red, yellow and orange shrimp.
  • Northfin Fish Food Kelp Wafers – this food has great protein and plant based ingredients. It’s fine to feed to red shrimp, but the spirulina and kelp are also color enhancers for blue and green shrimp.
  • New Life Spectrum AlgaeMax Mini-Wafers – these wafers have great plant-based ingredients and quality proteins. Sometimes the waters don’t sink at first though, which can be a little bit of pain.
  • Omega One Veggie Rounds – this is a good all around food but doesn’t have much in the way of color enhancing ingredients.

To add some calcium to your shrimp’s diet, give them a flavored Tums tablet once a month. The tablets are pure calcium carbonate with just a little added flavoring. Your shrimp will eat them up, getting an extra boost of minerals that will help their shell growth.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Algae?

Yes, yes, yes double, triple yes!!

They will gladly devour most kinds of common, soft algae species. Cherries do an excellent job keeping these at bay.

But, they cannot eat super tough kinds of algae, like black beard.

If you see tough species start to sprout up, add a few Amano shrimp. They can live in the exact same conditions as the cherries, I’ve had the two species together for several years now.

Amanos aren’t nearly as fun to look at, but since they’re larger shrimp, they can eat up really tough algae species, including the dreaded black beard algae.

Avoid Overfeeding

Cherry shrimp often do not need to be fed every single day!

If they’re in an established tank, most of their food should come from algae growth. Giving them too much food can result in uneaten food rotting in the substrate and fouling the water.

Even my biggest colonies, that have over 100 shrimp at any point in time, only get fed about three times a week.

Here is the biggest rule that should be the cornerstone of your feeding strategy: if you add food, and shrimp don’t start to swarm it after 15 minutes, they’re not hungry and you should remove the food. 

I can’t stress enough how important this is. You’ll have healthier shrimp, with less maintenance, if you follow this guideline.

Trust me, your shrimp will do just fine only being fed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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.

Cherry Shrimp Breeding

Many red cherry shrimp in freshwater aquarium

The first step is breeding is learning how to sex shrimp.

Male and female cherry shrimp look similar as juveniles, but once they’re adults, it’s easy to pick out the males versus the females:

Female

Cherry shrimp
  • Much larger than males – females are 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long and males only about ¾ (2 centimeters) of an inch long.
  • Brighter color – females are more vibrant and their shells are less transparent than males’.
  • Body shape – females’ abdomens are much thicker than males’. Their backs are straighter and their bellies curve down towards the substrate.

Male

  • Smaller – males are noticeably smaller and have a thinner build.
  • More translucent – male cherry shrimp are often quite translucent, and their color is often speckled instead of solid, like females tend to be.
  • Body shape – the top of male cherry shrimp’s back curves upward, as does their belly. Their abdomens are much skinnier than those of female cherry shrimp.

In general, cherry shrimp are so easy to breed. 

Seriously, give them halfway decent water conditions, don’t overfeed them, and you will get hundreds of babies from just ten shrimp.

The huge breeder colony I have came from just 15 cherry shrimp I added to the tank years ago.

Here are some best practices for breeding that have worked for me over the years:

  • No fish in the tank – even small fish, like guppies, can still eat up tiny shrimplets that have just hatched. With enough cover, you can have a small breeder colony with a few nano fish, but if you really want to get serious about breeding cherry shrimp, get the fish out of there.
  • Turn up the lights – lots of algae means lots of food for your shrimp and their babies. 
  • Add a few Amanos – a few Amano shrimp will keep tough algaes that your cherries can’t eat from taking over the tank. Amanos can live in the exact same conditions as cherries and they eat up algae that cherries can’t tackle.

Culling Shrimp

If you want to get serious about breeding your cherry shrimp, you’re going to need to cull shrimp with poor color.

Shrimp with bad color will breed more shrimp with bad color.

You only want your best shrimp breeding, not the ones that don’t look so great.

I cull by putting food in an open area of the tank, waiting about 15 minutes for shrimp to show up, and then I nab out any shrimp that I see that have poor color with a shrimp net. 

What you do with the shrimp you cull is up to you. Some people maintain cull tanks where they let all the not so great looking shrimp live out their lives.

Other people give them away locally to friends or at an aquarium club. And some folks just throw them into other tanks for large fish to eat.

Are Cherry Shrimp Right for You?

If you’re wanting to get started keeping freshwater ornamental shrimp, my number one recommendation would be to get cherry shrimp. 

Neocaridina davidi is so easy to keep, they’re cute and colorful and they eat algae like a boss!

For me, the only reason not to get these shrimp is if you keep tank mates that will murder them.

I love cherry shrimp, in all their forms and colors. Keeping them doesn’t have to be complicated, if you just keep to a few basic principles, you’ll be able to breed loads of these guys and have a thriving, shrimpy community to enjoy.

I hope you find this article helpful.

I wish you, and your shrimp, 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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