Shrimp in the Aquarium
I would like to keep shrimp, what to do?
First of all, you will have to decide if you would like to be an advanced shrimp keeper and breeder or you want to decorate your Nature Aquarium with beautiful shrimp. Both ways are similar in most aspects but there are some important differences that you have to pay attention to. Green Aqua shrimp.The true shrimp-aquarium
Let's deal first with the case in which you would like to admire the beauty of shrimp, and the visual importance of the appeal of their habitat is secondary. In this case it is more important for them to feel the best. This would require a relatively small aquarium, they will thrive and breed in nano tanks of 20-30 liters.
It is important to consider what kind of shrimp species you would like to keep, their requirements will differ slightly. This article will address the caridina and neocaridina species, because they are the most popular. They prefer softer water, lower pH and lower temperature, with tolerance to deviations from ideal conditions that will differ according to the actual species. The most important for all of them is stability of environment. Shrimp will not tolerate changes in water parameters - temperature, pH or softness. Neocaridina are more hardy species, they are often called "tap-water shrimp" for this reason. This means that they will thrive and even breed in wider range of water parameters.
Being more simple to keep does not mean they are less beautiful. There are many colors that have been available in the past years. It is advisable though that you introduce only one shade in one aquarium, because breeding of different colored shrimp will result in successors that resemble the wide species - they will be brown or just have pale colors.
Let's see what can we do about providing these water parameters to our shrimp. It is obvious that needs of neocaridina species will be met by most average aquariums. The pH will be in the given range without further influence, temperature will only have to be taken care of during the extremely hot summer days. TDS value of most tap waters will not exceed 400 ppm. OK, so what is TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)? Basically it is the Calcium and Magnesium (and other) salt contents of the water. This is a simplified answer to address water treatment. TDS – that is measured in ppm (mg/l) – is in close relationship with the conductivity of the water, that is measured in μS. It also correlates with the total hardness (GH) of the water. We are using the TDS mostly, because it can be measured with the proper digital device in seconds, and you will not have to make longer measurements with liquid tests. Tap water in Hungary is around 200-400 ppm. This is moderate to very hard water. To produce soft water, you will have to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) filters, devices that will produce water with 5-10 ppm TDS value.
As the optimal water values for neocaridina shrimp will be provided with your tap water you will only have to make sure that these values will not fluctuate and stay stabile in the long run. Active clay-based substrates are made exactly for that. There are clay-based products developed specially for shrimp. The biggest difference between "normal" and "shrimp" substrates is that special shrimp substrates will have no plant nutrients in them so algae will not appear in the aquarium as most of these tanks will not have any plants to absorb the nutrients emitted by the substrate. Both types will provide for water stability though. They will buffer the pH and hardness, making sure they will stay nice and stabile. Another important advantage of these substrates is that they will provide great surface for the bacterial colony helping with decomposition of organic materials (debris) in the aquarium.
Filtration is also extremely important for shrimp. Their environment might seem neglected and we might see some algae but their water is crystal-clear. As with planted tanks we recommend the use of more efficient external filters. Most smaller filters are fine for Nano tanks. There are some internal filters that will also provide safe environment, the Dennerle Nano aquariums for example will suffice, if you do not use lighting that is stronger than the original lights that come with the aquarium, and you will pay attention to regular cleaning and water changes.
Besides efficient filtration, clarity of water will also be achieved by regular water changes. The tried system of weekly 30-50% water changes in Nature Aquariums will do well in our case too. For smaller tanks it would be ideal to do smaller, 30% water changes, but twice-a-week. This would help with keeping water parameters stabile.
If we are successful with keeping Neocaridina species and would like to move to more advanced levels we can start keeping Caridina shrimp. These are more challenging shrimp, but also more beautiful. Besides the fact that breeding Neocaridina species will result in less-and-less vivid colors as generations pass and we might end up with completely pale-colored shrimp, the Caridina species have stronger colors. In their case, we might also see some less-colorful shrimp after breeding, but they will never completely loose their colors. These shrimp are more sensitive and less productive as Neocaridina.
The most important step in starting to keep Caridina shrimp is soft water. As mentioned previously, you will use RO filters to produce soft water. We also learned that these devices will make water with a TDS value of 5-10 ppm, so how can we achieve the ideal 100 ppm water? You will need to remineralize the water, to compensate for the materials that have been removed along chlorine and heavy metals. Minerals are important to shrimp - they will use them during molting and growth. The GH booster products are made exactly for that. They will provide for all the salts and minerals that are needed for shrimp. Different aquaria will require different amount of minerals, so it is important to measure the TDS value when we supply them to our tanks.
Soft water and proper clay-based substrate will also ensure the lower pH values. If something will still raise the pH in your aquarium (for example certain hardscape, water additives, etc.) there is another help at hand to keep the pH at the ideal 6,0 value. ADA Bio Rio is just perfect for that, it has a strong pH-lowering effect. If in turn the pH of your water is low enough, you should consider using other filter media that will not affect it. Seachem Matrix the best for that.
After we made sure we have the best water parameters, we might still struggle with temperature during hot summer days. Fortunately, keeping the temperature nice and low is easier with small tanks. You can simply use aquarium fans to help with evaporation and that will lower the temperature. This can decrease an impressive 4-5 degrees in water temperature - provided you use bigger and more powerful products.
Obviously you can also introduce some plants in your shrimp tanks, and your small creatures will just love them. Most of the times we introduce mosses in shrimp tanks to keep our pets busy and provide shelter for small shrimp in the first weeks of their lives. Plant fertilizers should only be used in minimal amounts, the mosses, Anubias or Cryptocoryne plants will not need much to live. Dennerle Carbo Elixier Bio is also an excellent choice, this product is made 100% of natural components and will provide for some CO2 for your plants without harming your shrimp. There is no other product that is suitable for CO2 supplement at this point for shrimp tanks.
If keeping shrimp is not enough for you and you would like to see them in a beautiful planted tank environment, you should consider setting up a bigger aquarium, because it is really beautiful to see these small creatures running around in a 240 liter fishtank that is for example fully covered with a carpet of Monte Carlo plants.
The biggest difference is the plant nutrition. We have previously recommended special shrimp soils for shrimp-only tanks. With planted tanks it is inevitable to have a good clay-based, nutrient-rich substrate to provide for continuous plant nutrition. As in all planted tanks we will use base-layer fertilizing substrate at the bottom of the aquarium and that will be covered with the active clay-based general substrate. To make sure we have good conditions for our shrimp in a shorter time, we will need to make frequent water changes after setup. Daily water changes for one week, every second day for the second week and 50% water change for two times for the third week. The regular 30-50% weekly water change regime can start only after this period.
The other important factor is the CO2-injection that is present in most planted tanks. You have to make sure that CO2 will not fluctuate the pH too much. Active soil will help you with that too. Keeping the CO2 on for the night also helps maintain the stabile pH. If you decide to do this, you should also make sure you have enough oxigene in the tank for the night! ATwinstar or an Oxydator is the best solution for that. Classical aeration will not be a solution in our case, as these big air-bubbles will draw the CO2 out of the water and you will loose the pH lowering effect of CO2.
Where there is CO2, plant nutrion should also be present. Proper fertilizing of plants will be ensured by the use of macro and micro elements. It is important to make sure there is no excess of any of these elements in the water, because they can be toxic in bigger quantities for shrimp. These small creatures are especially sensitive to higher nitrates, phosphates or even iron, but controlled quantities in a planted tank will not reach toxic levels.
For both planted tanks or purely shrimp tanks it is important for you to be patient. You will need to wait at least a month after aquarium setup before you introduce your first shrimp. Put only a 2-3 shrimp in the water and observe their behaviour first. If they behave normally, a larger group can follow after another week. If you want them to be seen and be active you will need a group of at least 10 shrimp for smaller tanks. For bigger aquariums, you will need a lot more, as these species are hiding all the time, and you will never see all of them at once.
If you have your preferred species and preferred colors you can provide for all types with special meals, help their molting and breeding with shrimp-food supplements. The nutrition of shrimp will be explained in the second part of this article - coming soon.
Tamás Danyikó / Green Aqua