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Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp | Home Fish Aquarium Guide

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Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp

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Red Cherry Shrimp (neocaridina heteropoda) are wildly popular shrimp for the home freshwater aquarium, many people expect to soon be breeding red cherry shrimp.  You may know that I’ve written about them some here already and have plans to sell them via my freshwater shrimp site.  I had thought for about 5 months that I would soon have enough shrimp to feel comfortable selling some, but I haven’t seen the population grow quite as exponentially as I expected.  So, I’ve been reading about red cherry shrimp breeding and wanted to put together a post with quite a few details.

Red Cherry Shrimp

Red Cherry Shrimp Image via Wikipedia

First, it seems so simple.  Add water, food and shrimp and then you’re just covered up with them.  They have broods of around 20-30 every month or two and before long a starter colony of 50 should be several thousand or more.  In fact, I’ve done some math with conservative and optimistic estimations.  But in most cases, reality was different.  I haven’t lost shrimp at any major rate, there have been no major collapses in the population.  They simply haven’t grown as quickly as they could.  Why?

The answer is probably in a few variables.


 Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp


So what does it take to breed red cherry shrimp?
First you do need a freshwater aquarium with a heater.  The ideal temperature is going to be between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.  They will survive much cooler temperatures but will not breed much below 70 degrees.  I had an experiment going with an outdoor container early in the summer and they did quite well, even out surviving fish when we had several cool days with lows down into the upper 30s.  They are hardy shrimp.  However, my outdoor experiment failed when we added mosquito dunks.  I did not discover until afterwards that those dunks are also poisonous to the shrimp.  That was a very disappointing discovery.  Also it should be noted that metals are not a good substance to get along with freshwater shrimp.  Copper especially is a no-no and I highly recommend kordon rid-metals if you have copper pipes.

In many ways it is as easy as just adding water, shrimp and step back.  However for them to breed prolifically there are a few other things that need to be kept in mind.  The temperature mentioned above is the first item.  Next on the list is if there are other fish in the same tank with your dwarf shrimp.  Now, we have platies and they are not big enough to threaten the cherry shrimp.  However, when the new baby shrimp are born after successfully breeding red cherry shrimp the platies can make a tasty snack out of them.  So what are your choices?  Either a separate tank or LOTS of cover.  With lots of plant cover you will have more baby shrimp survive, but not like you would if they were separated from other fish.

In our situation the shrimp specific tank has done much better with a maximum of 70-80 shrimp in it visible at any one time after starting with around 17.  There is another thing to consider though and that is food.

Best feeding practices for breeding Red Cherry Shrimp

Now, for a long time I have neglected my shrimp tanks.  They’re planted and the fish and shrimp in one and shrimp only in the other tank browse quite well for algae and who knows what else.  They do a great job eating all the time.  It seems a bit silly to feed them when you can never tell that they’re hungry.  However, they benefit greatly from being fed regularly.  Let’s face it, would you be as likely to have kids if you didn’t know how certain the next meal was?  You’re more than likely to find that if the food is regular and predictable (and plentiful) you will see more shrimp.
My experience has been that as I’ve been more consistent in feedings we’ve seen more berried females ready to hatch out eggs of baby red cherry shrimp.  The last few weeks I’ve gotten into more of a routine where every other day I feed the tanks.  I’ve been very careful to avoid overfeeding.  We’ve all read the warnings about that, but in the process I’m afraid I’ve gone too far to the other extreme and been underfeeding.  Once every week or two was all I did (in some cases less frequently) for a population of 50-70 shrimp in one tank and anywhere from 1-5 fish and 30-50 shrimp in the other tank.

One algae wafer (or half an algae wafer) every other day should be enough for a good handful (10) of shrimp.  Shrimp aren’t as quick at finishing things off as the fish are.  The 5 minute rule really doesn’t apply.  I like to feed late in the day and then the shrimp can feed into the night after lights out.  They seem more comfortable that way.  If there is food left the next day then I think that perhaps I gave too much or had fed them too frequently after the last feeding.  I am beginning to think that this is the key to explosive population growth of dwarf freshwater shrimp.  If all other factors seem good (temperature, species only tank, good plant cover), then consider your feeding schedule and adjust it then sit back and watch the numbers grow.

Good Plants for Breeding Red Cherry shrimp

Plant cover.  For breeding red cherry shrimp or just making them feel at home real plants seem to be essential.  But plants are hard!  No… really they’re not.  Initially I thought they were, but after I discovered that the copper in our pipes was killing them and started using kordon rid-metals…. plants are now EASY.  Of course, I’m glad I discovered that before moving into shrimp because then I would have thought just keeping the shrimp alive would have been hard too.

What plants are best.  Java moss is the poster child plant to have with your red cherry shrimp.  I can’t picture a more perfect plant.  They hide under it, the crawl all over it.  The baby shrimp love hiding in and darting around it.  Many times my java moss would start looking kind of mucky with all sorts of things growing on it, but now the shrimp groom it so nicely that it’s always picture perfect.  Seriously go order some java moss right now and then come back here.  Other plants are good too.  Duckweed seems particularly fun.  When it’s very dense and there is a mat of roots hanging down from the surface I’ll find many red cherrys upside down browsing algae from the roots.  They also seem to eat the roots of the duckweed a bit.

Another good plant for breeding red cherry shrimp is najas grass.  It’s a floating plant and I’ve noticed in my shrimp and fish tank I see numerous shrimp lost in the masses of this plant.  It makes for nice fry or baby shrimp cover as well and grows quickly.  The other plus about floating plants (or other plants) is that they extract nitrates from the water and help to clean the water of your aquarium.

Other points to consider in breeding red cherry shrimp

There are other things that you may want to consider in breeding red cherry shrimp.  Regarding the temperature: care must be taken that you don’t exceed 80 degrees by too  much.  These shrimp will not appreciate temperatures up into the 90s or higher.  In fact, that has cost us a few shrimp over the last year.  I believe that high temperatures in direct sun caused the demise of some of our shrimp in the mason jar experiments.

Substrate:  A dark substrate does wonders to bring out the color of the red cherry shrimp.  I’m not going to say that this is necessary.  They will certainly breed without a dark substrate, but if you want to do some select breeding and breed only those that are more colorful this is going to be high on your list.

Gene pool:  Let’s face it if you start with 10 shrimp in a container and in 5 generations (about a year) you still have the same gene pool, I would suspect that’s less than ideal.  Two or three years of inbreeding and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them go back to their natural colorations.  You may also see other genetic issues.  Ideally you are going to want to refresh the gene pool from other sources.  I have two tanks set up, each were fed from two sources and at some point I will cross the two in addition to adding more from outside.

Another point to consider is that the first batch of eggs a female shrimp has will possibly be lost.  It’s just the way it is, so from birth to live shrimplets you might expect 3 or 4 months to keep your estimates a little more realistic.  In any case I hope this guide has helped you in breeding red cherry shrimp!

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November 27, 2011 - 10:27 PM
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