Neocaridina Shrimp

(Unedited version)
Originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of
Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine


Neocaridina are small freshwater shrimp, also called dwarf shrimp. 2 species Neocaridina have been bred in several colors and are very popular for the planted aquarium. Neocaridina are from the family Atyidae and the subfamily Atyniae, which also include shrimps from the genus Atya, Atyopsis, and Caridina. Shrimp from all 4 genus are represented in the aquarium trade. The Neocaridina are very similar to some shrimp from the genus Caridina, which include the Amano shrimp among others, and were once considered part of that genus.

Shrimp in general can be more difficult to keep then fish, because they are more sensitive to chemicals and changes in the condition of their water. Fortunately Neocaridina are very easy to keep among the shrimp. They will survive in a wide range of temperatures. In the aquarium Neocaridina have lived at temperatures from the 50's to the 80's but are more comfortable and more likely to breed, in the middle of that range. They can also be kept in fair range of pH and hardness though softer more acidic water can start to be a problem for them, and may affect their ability to breed.

Dwarf shrimp can be kept in small fish tanks and Neocaridina are popular for the micro and mini tanks. Remember though, that these small aquariums are hard to keep stable and shrimp will do better in larger tanks. 10 gallon and larger are more appropriate for long term care and breeding. Filters should be sponge filters or small box filters. Filters that suck the water through like over the back types, will suck young shrimp through and could kill them.

Shrimp can be kept in aquariums with some very small fish or those with mouths made for specialized feeding that would not be able to eat the shrimp. Most fish will think your shrimp look tasty and baby shrimp even more so.

Be sure to use all the same precautions you would with your fish. Don't change too much of the water at one time, instead do regular smaller changes. Once a every two weeks, or weekly is even better. Make sure that your new water temperature, pH, and hardness are close to the same as the water that was in the aquarium. Be sure to acclimate any major changes slowly. Shrimp are sensitive to ammonia spikes and chemicals like cooper. A heavily fertilized high tech tank may not be right for keeping or breeding your shrimp depending on the conditions of the water and amount and type of fertilizers you're using. Neocaridina are very good shrimp for lower tech, or natural aquariums.

When purchasing your shrimp there are several things to consider. First remember that these shrimp rarely live more than 1 or 2 years, so getting younger shrimp will mean they will be with you longer. Younger shrimp are also easier to acclimate to new conditions and less likely to die in the stress of moving. Most Neocaridina you see in your local stores will have been shipped from commercial farms. Shipping from farm to store and then going to your home can be particularly hard on shrimp. It might be better to either arrange with your local store to pick up the shrimp on shipping day or, if possible, it may be better to wait a few weeks to see how they fair in the dealers tanks before you take them home to yours. When you buy these shrimp you can't know how old they are so you will want to breed them as soon as possible to unsure that you'll have some for awhile. You can often find young shrimp for sale if you have a strong local aquarium club. There are also many reputable mail order breeders and on line sellers that only sell young shrimp.

Once in your aquarium and settled in your shrimp will spend most of their day picking through the gravel and over the plants and decorations in the tank, looking for food. Feeding your shrimp is also very easy. Naturally they pick over the algae and other organisms that form and live on the slimy surface you feel on most things that have been in the water for any length of time. They're omnivorous and will also eat pretty much anything else they can if they come across it, including dead things like fish, plants and invertebrates. They can also catch some live foods like mosquito larva. In your aquarium these scavenging skills will come in handy and your shrimp will happily eat some types of algae, fish food, algae wafers or blanched vegetables like spinach or zucchini. Be careful not to overfeed your shrimp. They are much more likely to suffer from the pollution of over feeding than from not finding enough food to live comfortably in an established aquarium.

Breeding your Neocaridina is incredibly easy. Put healthy shrimp of both sexes in a suitable aquarium and they will reproduce. If you have fish in the tank you'll probably have a lot of young shrimp eaten. For better breeding results shrimp are best without fish. Neocaridina's young are cared for and carried by the mother until they are small imitations of their parents, able to care for themselves. The female shrimp are larger and more colorful than the males and the males have smaller thinner tails. Female shrimp also often show saddles, where her developing eggs and larva are visible beneath the exoskeleton on her back.

When breeding, male shrimp deposit sperm that's held by the female until she's ready to fertilize her eggs. This takes lace as the eggs pass to the area underneath her tail. The eggs are held there by her small legs, called pleopods, or swimmerets. The eggs are usually clearly visible in the shrimp, and are often referred to as berries at this point in development.

The female shrimp keeps uses her swimmerets to keep the developing young clean and aerorated. After about 2 to 3 weeks the fully formed young shrimp are released. They are incredibly tiny but grow quite rapidly eating the same foods as their parents. They are not reported to be cannibalized by their parents, and I've never noticed any problems with my shrimp. The young and adults can be safely housed together. Young shrimp reach sexual maturity in 6 to 8 weeks.

The Neocaridina can cross with each other and should only be kept one species and/or color to a tank. They can be kept with other dwarf shrimp such as the Caridina that have larval young. Because of their close relation, and since there is still some debate as to which shrimp belong in which genus or if they are all belong in one, I would not feel comfortable keeping the Neocaridina with Caridina that have the same method of larval development.

Shrimp can get diseases and ailments. Because of the infancy of the hobby not a great deal is known about the diseases that attack our shrimp, but they do have some recognizable symptoms. Some shrimp have been reported to get white spots, similar to ich on fish. Shrimp can also get fungus. They can also loose their opacity. If your shrimp starts to become solid in color, similar to cooked shrimp, it will probably die. I've never had one that did this survive. These diseases usually occur in shrimp that are stressed because of shipping or poor living environments. Keep your tanks clean and be sure to quarantine all animals including your shrimp. Once they are ill it can be too late and medications are just as likely to kill your shrimp as the disease.

There are two genus and several colors of Neocaridina regularly available in the United States right now, but it's likely more will become available in the future.

Red Cherry Shrimp Neocaridina heteropoda var. red

Red Cherry Shrimp were the first to become widely available in the US, and the first of the Neocaridina I acquired. This is not a naturally occurring color and was developed in Taiwan. The young shrimp are rather plan but mature females can be very brilliant red depending on the conditions of the shrimp, their age, diet, and parentage. The background color of the tank may also contribute to the color of the shrimp. The males are smaller and less colorful. The females develop yellow saddles and berries.

Yellow Shrimp Neocaridina heteropoda var. yellow

Yellow shrimp are another color developed from the Neocaridina heteropoda. This color was bred in Germany. Since they are from the same species the care for yellow shrimp and red cherry shrimp is basically the same and they could very easily interbreed. Female yellow shrimp can be a very bright sunshine yellow color. The saddle and eggs are also yellow, females. The males as usual, are much more plain with just a hint of yellow.

Neocaridina heteropoda

The wild form of these shrimp has now started to become available sometimes. This shrimp was formerly identified as N. denticulata sinensis. The wild N. heteropoda are found in China, Taiwan, and Northern Vietnam. The females can color from brownish to an almost blue color, with brown saddles and berries, while the males are mostly clear.

Snowball Shrimp Neocaridina cf. Zhangjiajiensis var. white

These are another color of shrimp that was bred from the wild form in Germany. These are impressive looking shrimp that show up well against a dark substrate and plants. The females have white saddles and clearly visible berries giving these shrimp their snowball name. Personally I've found these shrimp to be even easier to breed than the prolific Cherry Red Shrimp.

Blue Pearl Shrimp Neocaridina cf. Zhangjiajiensis var. Blue

These were also selectively bred in Germany, for their color and are slowly becoming available here in the US. Blue Pearls can be variable with more blue in some individuals than others. Some also show brown to red markings. As usual in Neocaridina the females are larger and show more color. The females have a brown saddle and berries.

What does cf. mean in a scientific name?

When you see the abbreviation cf. in a scientific name it means that the species is similar to the species but not confirmed as the species.

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