Top 10 Shrimp Species For Freshwater Tanks
Welcome to our Aquarium Shrimp guide! Whether you’re looking for a new tank inhabitant for your community aquarium or you’re wanting to get into Shrimp Breeding, this guide should help you decide which shrimp to go with! Freshwater shrimp are some of the most eye catching creatures you can put in a tank, and they’re incredibly interesting too! Certain types of shrimp have a different skill set and benefits to other shrimp though. So when putting together this list of the Top 10 Best Aquarium Shrimp, we’ve weighed up different criteria so that no matter what you’re looking for, we should be able to answer that here.
We’ve weighed up appearance and visual variations, the ease of care, the ability to join communities and their usefulness towards the tanks performance to judge which Shrimp get on the list. We’ve put them in no particular order because it depends on what you personally want from a shrimp, but here are the best of the bunch!
Coming in at number 1, it’s the Red Cherry Shrimp
They’re one of the most popular species because of their vivid colouration and their beginner friendliness. They’re very easy to care for if you’re a beginner and they also work well in a community tank, unless there are some aggressive fish in there too. They’re pretty low maintenance and they can take care of themselves to a certain degree.
They’re quite hardy and can survive in a range of tank conditions. That said, to get some numbers in here, they prefer a water temperature between 72 and 78 Degrees Fahrenheit and an aquarium pH of between 7 and 8. They live for around a year, slightly more if the water conditions are excellent but they are known to die quickly if they’re added to a tank with different water conditions too quickly. Make sure you acclimatise them properly and slowly!
Make sure your ammonia levels are low, as well as both nitrite and nitrate levels. If your tank is properly cycled then this should be fine, just perform regular water changes to remove the nitrates. You can feed these guys shrimp pellets, fish pellets, fish flakes and algae wafers.
They’re excellent scavengers and will hunt leftover food from the tank, but what’s even better is they’ll also chew down on algae too - helping to keep your tank clean the same way an Amano Shrimp or a Nerite snail will. They only grow to about 4cm at full size though, so their small size means they won’t be able to consume as much algae as some larger members of the Clean up Crew. If you’re stocking these Red Cherry Shrimp make sure you go for a sponge filter - larger mechanical filters can/will cause some damage or even death to these little guys.
Live plants are a great choice for Red Cherry Shrimp as it gives them somewhere to hide and explore - which they love to do. Red Cherry Shrimp will reproduce in tanks, so to ensure the success of the baby shrimp upbringing, when you find a female with eggs under her, place a sponge over your filter intake if you’re not already using a sponge filter, and provide some plants that can give the little guys somewhere to hide, such as water Sprite. In plants you’re aiming for something with thin but dense leaves.
They’re quite friendly shrimp, and do well in groups. They don’t have any way to defend themselves so setting them up with an angry fish is a sure way to get them killed. Ideal tank mates include other shrimp, snails and both the Cory Catfish and the Otocinclus catfish.
2. Ghost Shrimp
Ghost shrimp are also known as glass shrimp because of their transparent appearance. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to care for, this is your guy! They’re excellent for first time owners and are great scavengers, so if you’re used to feeding your fish a little more than they can nibble then a couple of ghost shrimp can fix some water quality issues you might be building up, and you won’t even have to go out of your way for them!
Most local pet stores will stock ghost shrimp and they're usually in a tank with their own kind as they’re really friendly and easy going - much like the red cherry shrimp, they don't really have a way to defend themselves and will just spend their lives happily picking up bits that other fish have left behind, as well as nibbling on algae from time to time. Because of this you’ll want to keep them with equally easy going fish with cool temperaments. Sponge filters again are another essential choice here as they are on the small side, however it’s quite challenging to breed ghost shrimp even if you intend to, therefore it’s unlikely you’ll be suddenly finding babies one morning.
If you've got black gravel in your aquarium this can really make the ghost shrimp stand out, and watching them for a while will show you that they’re quite interesting to look at and have their own personalities. As we’ve said they’re quite small, so they won’t be on par with something like a nerite snail in terms of cleaning, however they’re very active and always searching through substrates for leftover food! Because they’re so small and they do well in groups of their own, you might want to consider buying 4 to 6 of them. This will keep them happy whilst also putting a dent in that algae build up.
Make sure you’ve got a lot of surfaces for them to scavenge from, this includes plants and decorations as they also love to have hiding spots and places to adventure through! They’re excellent swimmers and like to have a bit of a current in the tank. In fact, if you can set up an air pump with a fine air stone, you can watch them inspect the tiny bubbles, be drawn into the bubbles then kick their tiny back legs to move away from the current.
Standard aquarium lighting is fine for these little guys, and like Red Cherry Shrimp, they prefer water parameters of around 7 to 8 on the pH scale, and temperatures of between 72 and 82 degrees fahrenheit. Its a good idea to supplement these guys with calcium, either from a cuttlefish bone that they can chew on (only cut off about an inch at a time) or you can crush egg shells for them. Other than that, they pretty much eat anything! Fish flakes, fish pellets, shrimp pellets - these are all excellent, but they’ll also eat any algae they find, leftover fish food, decaying plant matter, even fish waste!
They’ll grow to be about an inch long, occasionally longer and a fun thing about this shrimp, especially for children is that although you can almost see right through them, you can definitely see their insides! This is always fun to see for children, who can understand the inner workings of this tiny animal.
3. Snowball Shrimp
Another variety that’s really easy to care for and maintain, the snowball shrimp also makes an excellent choice for beginners. They’re mainly white but also slightly transparent, making them cool to look at as you can see their insides at work while they’re swimming around and scavenging food from the surfaces in your tank. They do like to search as well as hide, so we recommend you also have live plants in your tank if you want to house this shrimp species too. As well as plants, something like a rocky hideout might provide them with some fun disappearing into their little caves.
They can tolerate fluctuations in water balances and they’ll eat just about anything! They’re pretty hardy little invertebrates and are easily identified by their white shells. They only grow to about 2 and a half centimeters, so won’t take up a huge deal of space, however they’re very easy to breed, so 2 shrimp can quickly become a bunch of shrimp!
They too prefer water between 72 and 82 degrees, with a pH between 7 and 8. They’ll live up to two years which is plenty of time to dig in to some of that algae that’s plaguing your tank. It’s recommended you keep at least 10 of these little guys as they’re a really social species, and more shrimp power means less algae threats!
They’re not picky eaters and will munch on pretty much anything you’d find in a fish tank, be it fish poop, excess food, algae or plant debris. Having more surface area through having various plants, rocks or decorations means there’s a bigger space for algae to grow on, meaning a consistent food supply for your shrimp. If you don’t have a whole lot of aesthetics going on in your tank it’s also fine to feed them supplement foods too such as algae wafers and shrimp pellets.
Snowball shrimp also have the… potential benefit of being able to breed like rabbits. The golden ratio to keep shrimp multiplying is 3 females per male. You can tell them apart because the females will be larger than the males and also have a larger tummy. It’s not unusual for each female in this instance to release 25 to 50 baby shrimp every 5 to 6 weeks.
Ideal tank mates will share the passive personality traits of the snowball shrimp. Most snails are perfect companions, as are most other shrimp! Unfortunately there aren’t many fish that are happy to share a tank with generations of snowball shrimp without incident. The Cory Catfish is probably your best bet for a fishy friend.
4. Blue Tiger Shrimp
The blue tiger shrimp gets its name from the black tiger-like stripes that adorn its shell. These little guys are still incredibly popular in the fishkeeping world because they’re both beautiful and easy to care for. They don't take a great deal of effort to care for and will get by on their own pretty well. They’re quite active swimmers though so they need the space to be able to dart around. They prefer darker light conditions, so you don’t need a light that’s too intense, and by providing plants and hollow decorations they can swim inside, you’ll keep them happy, hidden and in the shade.
For water conditions, the pH of your tiger shrimp tank should be between 6.5 and 7.5. The acceptable temperature range is smaller on this species - preferably between 76 and 78 degrees fahrenheit with soft water. Water quality needs to be maintained to a higher degree, with things such as ammonia and nitrates quickly killing off the shrimp. You can combat this with regular water testing from a reputable aquarium test kit, such as API’s 5 in 1 test strips or their Master Test Kit. If the nitrate levels get too high then perform a 10% water change.
Feeding them is easy on the side of options, as with our previous examples, they’ll eat fish waste, excess fish food, fish pellets and shrimp pellets, as well as scavenging for algae around the tank. Occasionally their shyness can lead to not eating if they have any tank mates that are likely to bully them, or if they don’t have enough places to hide.
You can pick out males and females because the males will be slightly smaller and the females have more rounded tummies. When reproducing, the females will lay up to 25 eggs at once. Breeding isn’t complicated, just keep to the 3:1 ratio and ensure your water is high quality. Before you know it you’ll have a little farm on the go! Feed the babies smaller quantities of food more often so as not to overfeed or create too much waste, leading to nitrite spikes.
When you see the panda shrimp you’ll think their name is obvious, it comes from the bold black and white patterns you see. This species of shrimp is both eye-catching and a little less common in pet stores a lot of the other shrimp we’ve listed here. This is a great species if you aren’t looking for breeding as they’ll breed quite slowly. They are however, sensitive to water changes and a little less hardy than our previous examples.
With these stricter care guidelines it makes the panda shrimp more difficult to maintain than other examples here, so if you’re new to shrimp keeping then this species might not be for you. It’s best to introduce these guys to a larger tank that MUST be completely cycled first. The benefit of the bigger tank is that water parameters will be slower to change or spike, so you have a little more wiggle room. Test your water regularly with a reliable testing kit, we recommend either API’s 5 in 1 test strips, or their Master Test Kit for this. They prefer a pH of 6 to 7.5 and a temperature of 62-76 degrees fahrenheit.
They need plenty of hiding spaces to feel as though they’re safe, much like other shrimp. For this we again recommend plenty of live plants as well as decorations featuring nooks and crannies for them to take cover in. For tank mates there’s strictly no fish allowed here - panda shrimp are too delicate for this and because they breed slowly, generations can be wiped out very quickly. They breed slowly because the female carries less eggs and they reproduce less often. Also the baby shrimp, because the adults are so delicate, are even more prone to perishing while they’re young. Excellent water quality is the best way to care for the small shrimp. They don’t need any extra care other than that.
These shrimp will also feed on biofilm that’s generated over surfaces in the water, as well as shrimp food. These shrimp are a little more picky for eating than other shrimp species.
6. The Babaulti Shrimp
Okay this one’s an interesting little curveball for the list. The Babaulti shrimp is fairly new to the game which makes it quite rare and difficult to find in pet stores. They’re so new in fact that they haven’t even been formally identified scientifically yet which makes information on them also quite rare. However, it’s known that these strange little creatures are hardy in nature and easy to care for once they’re settled in, but what’s cool about them is their neat little party trick.
They’re often referred to as Chameleon Shrimp. Any idea why? Yep - they have a little feature called “Chromatic Adaptation”. This is a sort of super hero power type name that means “They change colour”. They come in reds, greens, yellows and browns and they also have spots and/or stripes, but they’re known to switch out colours to match their surroundings as well, so it's not very uncommon to find a blue looking babaulti shrimp too, and they can change colour quickly if startled or agitated.
They’re a sort of easy to mid range in difficulty for both keeping and breeding and can grow to between 2 to 4 centimeters at full size. They prefer temperatures of between 75 and 82 degrees fahrenheit, and pH levels of between 6.5 and 7.5.
They do breed fairly easily as long as you’re following the 3:1 ratio, and what’s also fun about them breeding is that they change colour while breeding. It’s thought that this is a mating statement showing something similar to “look how strong and healthy I am”, as it takes a lot of metabolic energy for them to change colour. Like the rest of the shrimp on this list they love to eat the biofilm that forms around live plants and decorations, but they’ll also eat leftover food as well as fish and shrimp pellets. They’re quite shy so keep them in groups of 8 or more (6 females, 2 males by following the ratio).
7. The Blue Bolt Shrimp
This species is one of the more rare species but is sought after for their looks. They’re a mix of bright blue and white and are really effective as part of a clean up crew. They’re more susceptible to bad tank conditions such as the water parameters which makes this species a little less hardy than others, so if you’re wanting some of these bright little guys you may want to opt for a tank with a larger capacity, around 40L if you’re only wanting to house shrimp, you should be able to house a large family of them in a tank this size.
You might get away with an unfiltered tank if it’s heavily planted, but we don’t recommend this. Use a suitable filter such as something like a sponge filter to keep your shrimp safe from damage. You’ll also want to keep on top of water testing using something like API’s 5 in 1 test strips or their Master Test Kit. Like all shrimp they need plenty of hiding spaces within their decorations, so hollow rocks are a good choice for this. They also need plenty of live plants for both hiding and eating biofilm off of. Java Moss is actually a really good option for this shrimp as they can just sift through it slurping on the biofilm.
Your tank should be fully cycled and able to keep on top of its ammonia and nitrite levels, but once nitrate levels start rising, do a 10% water change. They prefer a pH of 6.2 to 7.8 and a temperature between 65 and 85 degrees fahrenheit.
For tank mates you’ll want to stay careful, other shrimp and snails are perfect for your blue bolt shrimp. Keep any species of fish in the tank to a minimum. They may not eat the fully grown blue bolts but are likely to feast on the babies. They’ll eat pretty much the same as any other shrimp but you should offer them extra feedings once per day of a small amount of shrimp flakes.
8. Crystal Red Shrimp
These gorgeous shrimp have grown very popular and experts have begun breeding them to achieve elaborate and unique patterns, which leaves these shrimp can be a little expensive. They’re similar to Cherry Shrimp but they’re more difficult to maintain and care for so shouldn’t be taken on by new shrimp breeders/keepers. The care needs for Crystal Red Shrimp is also the same for Crystal Black Shrimp, as they’re identical in everything except colour.
We’d put both keeping and breeding these guys at a strong medium in difficulty, so if you’re after something easier then just opt for the Cherry shrimp species instead. They grow to around 3cm at full size and thrive in water parameters around the high 6 in pH (6.6-6.9pH) and a temperature of 70-74 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s interesting about these guys is that they don’t occur in the wild - they’re manmade in a sense the same way dogs are, by breeding. It’s said that this whole species was created from breeding an original 3 shrimp, which is what has led these guys to be so sensitive to water conditions and parameters.
Water lettuce and mosses are great live plants to have in a shrimp tank with these guys as CO2 needs to be kept low in the tank. Any plants are fine, but these two are some of the best options out there. Duckweed also tends to be a great choice, but this grows pretty quickly so be prepared for that.
As they prefer cooler temperatures, it takes slightly longer for crystal red shrimp to reach full sexual maturity, typically around 4 months. Until then it can be hard to distinguish males and females from each other - the colouration also doesn’t help when trying to find a curved belly to identify a female. The females can carry their young to full term, so they’ll birth live babies instead of laying eggs and can create 30 new shrimp in one go, every 5 to 6 weeks.
9. Bumblebee Shrimp
Bumblebee Shrimp are named so for their black and white, sometimes gold striped patterns. These shrimp are really sensitive to water conditions and aren’t a good choice for beginner keepers. They’re best kept in smaller groups and around very calm tank mates - any boisterous fish will stress and potentially kill these shrimp. They should be fed either brine shrimp or small bits of fish daily and they’ll require hollow rocks to hide under if they ever feel threatened.
These shrimp look very appealing for their aesthetics but they’re quite hard to maintain and breed compared to our other selections, so definitely aren’t for beginners!
10. Amano Shrimp
The amano Shrimp is one of the most kept, and best known shrimp in the aquarium world and it’s easy to see why. They’re easy to care for, and absolutely love eating algae. In fact, they’re on two of our lists for top algae eaters! They grow to up to 3 inches which is ideal for fish community friends as this makes them too large to eat, though their little babies are still at risk when you eventually get them to breed (that’s right, they’re a little harder to breed than others on this list). They also live a little longer, up to 3 years instead of 1-2.
They prefer having lots of places to hide as well as heavily planted tanks as this offers them somewhere to sneak off to, something to eat biofilm and algae off, and also improves the water quality. They’re very hard to breed together so we don’t recommend getting this species if you’re wanting to reproduce them - most amano shrimp sold are actually wild ones. They’re typically very peaceful creatures until it’s feeding time, then they’ll frantically chase down and eat whatever they can get to!
You can keep 1 shrimp for every 2 gallons space in your tank, which should be fully cycled and filled with water that has a pH in the range of between 6pH and 7pH at a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. If you want to get into Amano breeding then you’ll need time, patience and brackish water.
Neon Tetras, Guppies, Cory Catfish and Bristlenose Plecos are all okay tank mates, as well as most other shrimp as well as many snails, so if you’ve got a big tank of community fish that you want to add amano shrimp too, that’s fine providing they have plants and somewhere to hide! Java moss is a great option for amano shrimp so they can sift through the moss and slurp up as much algae as they can.
As you can see, there are a lot of wonderful options available when it comes to freshwater shrimp. Before deciding on which one is right for your aquarium, there are a few things to consider.
Remember, not all shrimp do well in a community tank, especially if there are aggressive fish in the mix because they’ll more than likely get eaten. Choose a type of shrimp that will work with what you already have.
Also, if you were thinking about breeding shrimp, make sure you get a type that does so easily and quickly. Some shrimp are difficult breeders and might give you a difficult time, especially if you’re a first-time shrimp owner. Shrimp are an interesting and often beautiful addition to a tank environment. Plus, most species eat algae, detritus, and dead plant material and will actually help keep the tank healthy so that everything living in it can thrive.
If you’re looking for more algae eaters for your aquarium you can check those out here: The Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Aquariums.
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