Red cherry shrimp or Neocaridina heteropoda is a freshwater shrimp which is native to Taiwan, however it is extensively available in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. It is a popular choice for aquariums because it is easy to maintain and looks good because of its bright red color. A mature red cherry shrimp is about 4 cm long, and male and female shrimp can be differentiated on the basis of color and size. Females are larger and darker in color as compared to their male counterparts. They also have a yellow or white "saddle" marking on their back because of the presence of developing eggs in them. Males have a thinner tail because they do not carry eggs. Knowing this differentiation is extremely important if one wishes to breed them in an aquarium.
Steps to Breed Red Cherry Shrimp
- Red cherry shrimp are easily available at any local pet store. Try to buy 5-10 shrimp with equal number of males and females by looking at their color and size. If differentiation seems difficult, buy around ten of them, as the chances of getting both males and females becomes pretty high.
- Purchase shrimp which have stayed in the pet store tank for at least 4 days because any shrimp deaths due to shipment-related stress occur within 3-4 days after they are transferred to the pet store tank.
Setting up the Tank
- A tank of 10 gallons is usually sufficient to accommodate baby shrimp after birth. But if it does not suffice after baby shrimp grow, transfer them to a larger tank of about 20 gallons.
- Spread gravel in the tank to cover the base completely.
- Fill the tank with water and arrange a heater to maintain optimum temperature for the shrimp.
- A bubble filter is essential to filter out the impurities from tank water. Before placing a new bubble filter in the tank, use it in an old tank for about 4 weeks. This must be done because red cherry shrimp do not survive the cycling process due to high concentration of nitrites or ammonia present in the water.
Tank Water Requirements
- Test the tank water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates by using a test kit which has drop tests to identify these chemicals in water. Avoid using test strips because they are expensive as compared to drop tests, and expire after six months of opening the kit.
- Add dechlorinator in tank water to neutralize chlorine and chloramines present in it. Maintain the pH of tank water in the range of 6.5 to 8.0
Acclimatizing Red Cherry Shrimp
- To acclimatize shrimp in tank water, place the bag containing shrimp in the tank and clip it to one side using a binder clip. After every 15 minutes, add a quarter cup of tank water in the bag. Repeat this three times. Another method of acclimatizing is to check the temperature and water parameters of tank water and bag water. If they match, you can simply pour out the shrimp into the tank.
- Once shrimp are in the tank, maintain tank water temperature at around 80 ºF or 27 ºC. Check the heating capacity of the heater using a thermometer to ascertain proper working of the heater. Make it a habit to check tank water temperature when you feed the shrimp. By doing so, you will not miss out on any variations or fluctuations in temperature.
- Food is a very important criteria for shrimp to breed. Therefore, adequate supply of food must always be provided in the tank. They can be fed with regular fish food and zucchini. Feed very small quantities of food to shrimp. If there are 10 of them in the tank, a fingernail-sized flake can suffice for 2-3 days. If the tank already contains leftover food, do not add a fresh supply to the tank.
- Shrimp also love to eat zucchini. Blanch one slice for one minute in a microwave and after it cools down drop it in the tank. If the slice floats, use a weight, like stone or gravel, to sink it to the base of the tank.
- When the temperature of water is optimum and sufficient food is available, shrimp will breed. You can expect female shrimp to develop yellowish eggs under their tail within a month of being placed in the tank. Breeding occurs after the female shrimp molts i.e. sheds its exoskeleton.
- Shrimp eggs hatch in 3-4 weeks. The hatching process is enhanced if the tank water is warm. Tiny, clear baby shrimp can be seen moving at the bottom of the tank or on plant leaves after the eggs hatch. They are about 2 mm in size and resemble adult shrimp in body structure.
Tank Maintenance After Breeding
- Maintain food supply in the tank after baby shrimp are born because if there is no food, adults may eat their babies due to starvation.
- Replace one-fourth of tank water with fresh water every week, to restrict the increasing concentration of nitrates which is harmful for baby shrimp as well as adults. Do not vacuum the base of the tank as baby shrimp find their food out of the 'waste' collected at the base.
- As time passes, baby shrimp will turn into adults and the entire tank which contained around 10 of them at the beginning will be filled entirely.
Points to Remember
- Red cherry shrimp consume their exoskeleton which they shed during molting. So, do not remove it from the tank, as it is a rich source of essential minerals for the shrimp.
- There is no need to provide iodine supplement to these shrimp because freshwater crustaceans obtain iodine from their food.
- Do not expose tank water to metals like zinc, lead, and elemental copper. These metals are toxic for shrimp and will kill them.
- Many fish feed on shrimp. Therefore, it is better to avoid keeping fish in the same tank that is used for shrimp.
- Red cherry shrimp love to hide, specially during and after molting. Special shelters can either be bought from pet stores or small terracotta pots can be placed in the tank to provide shrimp their private space.
- Cold temperatures, around 60 ºF, can be handled by these shrimp, but if you want them to breed, you need to provide warm temperature conditions, around 80 ºF.
- When replacing tank water periodically, make sure its temperature is about the same as that of tank water.
- If available tap water has high concentration of chemicals, use water treated by reverse osmosis for the tank.
- Do not use too many chemicals. They will unnecessarily create chemical imbalance in water. The only chemical you need to use is dechlorinator and nothing else.
Breeding process of red cherry shrimp is quite interesting. It starts with shedding of exoskeleton by the female shrimp. When this happens, the female becomes vulnerable and finds a place to hide, in order to protect itself in such a state. She now releases sexual hormones known as pheromones to indicate that she is ready to breed. The male is triggered due to pheromones and can be seen looking for the female all over the tank. When he finds the female, they breed. Eggs pass through the sperms that are deposited in the female by the male shrimp and get fertilized. Fertilized eggs hatch in about three to four weeks leaving tiny, clear baby shrimp in the tank.