Setting up a Shrimp Tank


Retired Staff
Apr 8, 2009
Setting up a new Shrimp Tank
Article 1 Written by Wood

Original article here: Setting up a Shrimp Tank
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Posted on Plecoplanet with permission

Setting up a new shrimp tank can be very easy as long as you do it properly the first time. You don’t want to rush into things! Haste makes waste when it comes to mimicking nature, so please don’t attempt rush nature.

A very important rule is that you do not keep your shrimp in a tank with fish that will eat them. If a fish can fit it in its mouth, it will most likely eat it, or stress the shrimp out so much that it will go into hiding and you will never see them. When it comes to breeding, the baby shrimp are so small that they will undoubtedly get eaten by fish. You have to remember that shrimp are a natural food source for most fish in the wild. Most of the shrimp that hobbyists keep are genetic breeds which bring specific color strains. Wild varieties are more of a camouflaged coloration in order to hide. Having a colorful shrimp removes the shrimps natural camouflage defense and makes it easy for fish to find and eat it. In other words, if you want a successful shrimp tank, make it a shrimp-only tank, just a suggestion.

First thing you need to decide of course is what size tank you are going to get. Shrimp tanks are typically small, 10 gallon being very common. The reason for such a small tank is so you can manage them better, meaning you can easily remove them if need be and you can count them easily as well as well as many other reasons. This does not mean that having a large tank for shrimp is a bad thing, especially if you plan on having a massive colony. Keeping more than 100 shrimp in a 10 gallon tank is not recommended so keep that in mind. If you want to have a large colony, start with a larger tank.

OK, so you have decided on the size tank you want, now it is time to get to the equipment. Sponge Filters are highly recommended for many reasons: baby shrimp won’t get sucked up into the intakes, great bio-load with the sponges, and they are inexpensive. You do not need to go out and purchase an expensive canister filter for a small shrimp tank. Sponge filters are best for smaller tanks. You can always use a canister/HOB filter for a larger tank and slip a sponge over the intake to prevent the shrimps from getting sucked into the filter. Most have reported though that after switching to a sponge filter they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of baby shrimp, suggesting that other filter types are killing them via the intake. I cannot confirm this because I use a sponge slip over the intake of my HOB AquaClear-50 filter on my 10 gallon tank. The Red Cherry Shrimp still breed like crazy but I would have to install a sponge filter to test this hypothesis and see if even more shrimp appear. Also, sponge filters are also best for bare tanks. If you have a lot of plants you will need good circulation, which a sponge filter may not provide enough of. You make the decision, either way you will still be able to breed shrimp, just cover the intake to protect the shrimp.

Now you need to get substrate for your new tank. This can be a tricky choice and many people prefer different types. I pick the type of substrate based on the water parameter requirements of the shrimp I wish to keep. Remember that some shrimp need hard water, and some need soft water. Some shrimps need high-ph, and others low-ph. ADA Aquasoil is a substrate chosen by many hobbyists who wish to have soft, acidic water. Aquasoil also helps buffer the low ph. This substrate is best suited for shrimp that fit the soft, acidic requirements. If you notice, most Crystal Red Shrimp (CRS) breeders keep their CRS in tanks with Aquasoil substrate. You can also use an inert substrate along with peat to lower ph and hardness, although buffering the ph is more difficult this way and I don’t recommend it.
For a hard-water, high-ph tank, you can use an inert substrate instead of Aquasoil. Use a smaller amount of peat as well in a tank with inert substrate to keep the ph from becoming too alkaline, but not enough to drop the hardness of the water. This all depends on your tap water of course. If your tap is coming out at the ph and hardness you want when using an inert substrate then it is best not to touch a thing. My ph comes out at over 8.0, so I need to use peat in my hard water tank just to bring the ph down a bit and soften the water as well. It may sound difficult to get the ph and hardness you want, but trust me it really isn’t as long as you have the right setup.

Next on the list is vegetation in your shrimp tank. It is HIGHLY recommended that you have some form of vegetation in your tank. Whether it is moss, stem plants, rhizome plants, etc., as vegetation provides cover, removes ammonia and nitrates from the water, and provide a good food surface for the shrimp, especially the baby shrimp. Moss is commonly used because it acts as a fine comb and holds a lot of microorganisms which the baby shrimp eat. You can use stem plants, which are also a good choice because they grow fast, remove harmful nutrients in the water faster, provide cover, and are also good food surfaces. Remember though that you may need to have CO2 in your tank in order to grow most stem plants, so use moss/anubias/ferns if you do not plan to inject CO2.
Fertilizers can be tricky when used in a shrimp tank. I have a heavily planted 10 gallon tank with plenty of high maintenance stem plants, moss, and anubias. The tank is injected with CO2 (DIY) and I dose plenty of fertilizers. I DO NOT dose nitrate however, I only dose Kent Pro-Plant, Seachem Iron, and K2PO4 (phosphate). I also do not dose anything with copper (Seachem Flourish, etc.). Excessive copper is sure to kill your shrimp as you may have read elsewhere. I have been dosing a lot of the abovementioned fertilizers for a long time and have not had problems with my Red Cherry Shrimp at all. They still breed like crazy. However, unless you are experienced with high maintenance planted tank and using fertilizers, I don’t recommend attempting to grow shrimp in a similar tank. You can very easily kill your shrimp because fertilizers and plant uptakes are not easy chemistry.

Lighting and heating are pretty self-explanatory. Use a heater to keep your tank at the recommended temperature, and only use a small amount of light for the mosses/ferns/anubias.

Article 2 written by Kenshin

If you are just setting up a brand new tank (new substrate, new filter, and etc.), than just plant only fast growing stem plants in the beginning. These plants will take in the extra ammonia in your water from the tank. You can also put in some rooted/stem plants (but I still do not recommend Anubias or Crypt.) such as chain swords, Ludwigia sp., Rotala sp., Vallisneria sp., and etc. Depending on the substrate you are using, you will need to change your tank's water accordingly. You can add a couple of guppies or cheap/small goldfish from your LFS in the beginning to speed up the cycling process. At the same time you can dose your tank with fertilizer for the first couple of weeks as well to make sure your plants develop their roots and adjust to your water parameters. This will probably take a couple of weeks. During this couple of weeks, please be sure to carry out water changes once or twice a week (again depending on the substrate you are using). Then at the end of the time period, change around 80% of your water, and remove all of the fishes. Test your ammonia and nitrate level after a day changing the water. If the readings are safe, then you can add in your shrimps.
If you are planning on using a bare bottom tank for shrimps, you can still follow the directions listed above. However, you will need to use some plant weights to tie down the plants so they will sink to the bottom instead of just letting them float on the water. This will lead to uniform growth of your plants (instead of just growing curves because of the light source), and will lead to faster growth which means less time to cycle your tank.
If you are not planning on a lot of plants in your shrimp tank, moss species is always the best way to go. In that case, you can just use plain play sand and barely cover the bottom of your aquarium. If you are planning on heavily planted tank, then I would recommend Seachem Flourite, Red Sea Florabase, or ADA soil. Just plan on taking a longer time to cycle the tank if these kinds of substrate are used.
Using a sponge filter is also another way to speed up the cycling process. Just from my experiences and from what I have learned in my past “disaster†experiences, never rinse your sponge filter in tap water for you will kill and eliminate most of the good bacteria of your aquarium. These “good†bacteria will help to keep your tank’s ammonia level to a minimum and if you rinse out your sponge filter really well, then you will see sudden elevated levels of ammonia and this can result in sudden “mass†deaths in your shrimp population. If you are using a power filter, please make sure to cover the intake of the filter with a sponge or a nylon/silk stocking so the shrimps will not be sucked into your filter.
Happy shrimp keeping!