Shrimp As Pets, Really?

A red cherry shrimp scuttles along a rock and towards some java moss

Looking for something different to tropical fish? Why not keep cherry shrimp instead?

Good evening Twistlies,

Quite recently, I talked about my love for shrimp as pets. Perhaps you feel like I did about the whole idea: you can’t pet them, you can’t hold them, why even have them? Well, to that, my question is simple: You can’t hold and pet fish, so why do people keep them? Simple! Because they’re so fascinating to watch!

I Mean.. Really?!

Yes, really.

When I set up my aquarium, I was aware that my set-up was going to be small. I’d love a larger tank, but we just don’t have the room. Instead, we have two 54-litre (approx 12 gallon) nano tanks in the lounge and bedroom. When we started out though, we only had a small 7 litre tank, which I admit, is tiny.

“You could probably have a few shrimp in there”, I turned my nose up at the idea. Shrimp?! I didn’t want shrimp; I wanted fish!

Larger tank purchased and half a dozen <Endlers Livebearers introduced, I was aware of leftover food waste building up on the bottom. I asked the wonderful people over on the FIshlore forum for their advice, and once again, many people recommended shrimp. Shrimp. 

I was not sold.

Reluctant but stuck for other ideas, I ordered ten Blue Cherry Shrimp. I was told that a dozen would be ideal, but ten was all I could get. There are many colours to choose from, but given the calming nature of our lounge, I decided that the “Blue Diamond” variety was best. I felt anxious about the idea, but all I could do now was sit back and wait.

When they arrived, the shrimp were holding onto a piece of netting, secured inside a bag of aquarium water and safely nestled inside a padded polystyrene box. I quarantined them in the empty 7-litre tank for two weeks and then moved them over. At the same time, that was also when these little guys started really revealing their behaviour.

When I introduced the shrimp to the quarantine aquarium, they swam out of the container, sunk to the bottom, and then got straight to work cleaning. They swim out not unlike tiny aquatic paratroopers and get to business straight away. Just occasionally, they also like to dart up and scuttle along the glass. Very quickly, I fell in love.

Many aquarists call shrimp the “clean up crew”, and it’s not hard to see why. What the fish don’t eat, the shrimp will. I lost two shrimp by overfeeding my Endlers. Not because my fish ate themselves to death and thus poisoned the water, but my shrimp couldn’t handle so much food. No matter how much my Endlers beg for more food now, they get a tiny bit of food, once a day, maximum. My poor cherry shrimp can’t handle what gets left!

The Advantages Of Shrimp In Your Aquarium

By now, I’ve discussed perhaps two of the most significant benefits of keeping shrimp, but there are more. Not only are these guys great for cleaning up leftover food, but they’re also great algae eaters. They’ll eat almost anything, the true Friar Tucks of the fishkeeping world! They’re affordable, easy to maintain and easy to breed, too. Like my Endlers, hard water at 22 degrees Celcius seems perfectly fine!

The Disadvantages Of Shrimp In Your Aquarium

The biggest disadvantage that I have found is that, if there really is too much food, shrimp can and will go belly up unexpectedly. These little creatures are great cleaners, so it can be saddening to wake up and find one on the bottom of the tank with its little legs in the air. Not only, but as scavenger eaters, shrimp will eat dead fish or even other dead shrimp. I was recently put off of my tea and a slice of cake when I looked up to see one of my shrimp happily chewing a leg off of his deceased brother or sister…

The other thing to be aware of (which nobody had mentioned to me until I researched “see-through” shrimp) is that shrimp moult, a process of removing the old shell that they have now grown out of. If you’re aware of it, then the transparent shrimp-shaped shell in your aquarium won’t startle you. In my case, though, it came as quite a surprise! If you find a shrimp moult, don’t panic. They will normally eat them over a few days, or the shell will break down and provide valuable nutrients into the water – or at least, so I have now been told!

A Head’s Up On Shrimp Tankmates

Oh bless my father-in-law. He tries so hard, but just occasionally, things go that little bit not quite right for him, as was the case with his new aquarium. Having set up his new tank, he introduced four guppies and a shrimp and, within days, he told me, his guppy had eaten his shrimp. Quite contrarily, my Endlers and shrimp hang out in peace and share small patches of algae just fine. Like all other peaceful fish and invertebrates, shrimp need peaceful tank mates to help them avoid being eaten. If you’re going to get them, make sure you research suitable tankmates first!

Alright Twisties, I think that’s me on these beautiful and fascinating creatures. If you’re thinking about setting up a small aquarium, please do consider shrimp. Don’t hesitate like I did and consider shrimp as boring creatures – they will be sure not to disappoint you with their antics!

Until next time.

Stay safe & have fun.

Helen xx

Shrimp Updates April 2022

Since writing this post, I’ve now moved to keeping red cherry shrimp – instead of “blue diamonds” – which I believe are much hardier. I haven’t seen any shrimplets yet, but I keep my eyes peeled for tiny red critters on the glass!

Did you know that shrimp “fight”? Neither did I until I saw the boxing over an algae wafer last week! Nobody came to any harm, so don’t worry, but it’s certainly funny to watch!

19 thoughts on “Shrimp As Pets, Really?

    1. Thankyou! I’ve got 3 tanks now, my 54L community tank with blue diamond shrimp, endlers livebearers, panda corydora and harlequin rasboras. My 29L fry tank is for endler fry, but has a few shrimp just to help tidy up, and I have a 7L on my night stand with 4 shrimp who just enjoy swimming about and doing shrimp things. They’re fascinating to watch!

      1. I set up my channel on Friday but haven’t got any content up yet. I only got the 54L set up on Thursday so it’s been a busy few days! My channel is TinglyFish Productions (I haven’t even mentioned it on the blog yet!). I will be sure to check your channel out and subscribe too 🙂

    1. Thankyou for the link, I’m so glad I could convey the love for these wonderful creatures for you. Since my post, I kind of kicked out a storage unit to make way for a 54 litre tank, my 29 litre is now my fry tank and we now have shrimp in the bedroom. I’ve also got another five shrimp on their way to me next week so that the three in the bedroom will have a few more friends. Well and truly converted 😉

    1. Oh my goodness, the love is real! I won’t eat prawns anymore. I get a guilt complex I used to have a nano tank with six blue velvets on my desk and I’d be mesmerised by them. I talk to them too (my “shrimpies”) and I’m probably a lot older than your son! They’re amazing creatures and I don’t regret having them at all 😊

      1. I have chickens, by the way, just six of them. But I have been known to spend long periods of time just watching them. They are also really fascinating and pretty cute too.

      2. That’s the joke where I work! Only, they say the farm. I currently have a button quail, two cats, three dogs and the chickens, and some fish.

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