The first (successful) try at raising shrimp of a fish-only hobbyist
By Don Kinyon
First off, let me say that the miniature shrimp coming into the aquarium hobby are very cool. They’re interesting, colorful, fun to watch, easy to keep once you figure out how, and always easy to sell, trade or give away. I’ve seldom tried to raise invertebrates and have never before had any success with them.
At an auction a few months ago put on by a neighboring aquarium society, there were a few bags of “Blue Dream” shrimp that I’d looked at and decided against, remembering my lack of success with their kind in the past. When one of the bags came up for sale, I happened to be talking with a lady that is known to most folks in the hobby for her great talent in aquascaping; creating works of art from sticks, stones, plants and sand. When I told her that I’d buy the shrimp but would probably kill them off, she said (I’m paraphrasing) “They’re just cherry shrimp. Buy them, take them home and put them in water with some moss, give them some flake food once in a while and leave them the heck alone.” And that’s what I did.
Dream blue velvet shrimp are indeed a variant of the popular and more common cherry shrimp, Neocaridina Davidi. They’re a small species that will reach around three-quarters of an inch long and are not dangerous to even the smallest of fish from what I’ve observed. The blue coloration is absolutely brilliant in some individuals, but more subdued in others and almost nonexistent in a few.
This was an unplanned purchase, so some fish had to be moved around when I got home. The best home I could come up with was a small unheated tank on a top shelf, giving it naturally a little more warmth than aquaria on lower shelves. It was home-made tank about six gallons in volume, filled with water straight from the tap (pH 7.2 and 140ppm TDS) with a temperature that varied from 70°F to 76°F. The bottom was covered with a thin layer of river sand and filtration was provided by a small sponge filter. There was a large clump of java moss and few oak leaves for cover and food for the shrimp. They didn’t seem to be stressed out at all and started looking for food almost immediately when I emptied the bag into their new home. Satisfied that I’d followed instructions so far, I gave them a little flake food and left them alone.
These shellfish are very entertaining to watch as they glean what food they can find, sometimes swimming mid-water and sometime walking on the sand or in the plants. When they’re startled, they can quickly swim backwards using their tails for propulsion.
Feeding was easy; I could get used to this. A pinch of flake food a couple times a day and you’re done. Really! No live food, no chopping, no straining, no digging in the back yard or ticking your neighbors off with daphnia (mosquito) ponds. I noticed the oak leaves would disappear far more quickly in the shrimp tank than in any of the tanks holding fish, so I’m assuming the shrimp consumed the leaves along with their other foods.
Water changes were a little difficult for me to get used to, as there would always be a good number of shrimp in the drain bucket when the draining was done, but that was cured by using a dipping cup to remove water from the top, without the shrimp tagging along for the ride. Water changes were once a week at a rate of 30 to 40 percent and that seemed to be plenty to keep things healthy.
There were around twenty shrimp when they started out in their new home, but it was hard to keep count with all the cover and never clear if the population was rising or declining. Then one night after the lights were out for an hour, I was “flashlighting” the room to check on fish and chanced to look into the shrimp tank. There, right front and center, was one of the largest of the group with an obvious bunch of eggs under her tail. Surprised and pleased, I got the light away from her and left her alone.
Every day I’d check the tank and on the third day after spotting the heavy female, there were some very small baby shrimp swimming haphazardly around the tank. They don’t seem to have a lot of directional control when that young, but they keep going all the same. It sort of reminded me of my kids when they were younger. It was hard to say how many, but I’d estimate around 20; maybe 25 youngsters (shrimp- not my kids). The young were only around 1/16” long and pale blue in color.
The young could be seen on the sand, on the leaves, and in the moss evidently feeding most of the time. At night, there were always more to be seen until they realized the light was on them and they scattered.
It was only a few days later when I noticed another female with eggs, and a few days after that there were more young shrimp, joining the first group. It seemed that the small tank may be on the verge of overcrowding, so at the next aquarium society meeting I auctioned off a bunch, then a friend asked for some, so another group left, then a neighboring club held their auction and another bag left. After all this, I thought there may be too few shrimps to keep the breeding program going full speed, but another “flashlighting” proved that even though many shrimp had left the group, it was not noticeable: there were still plenty of adults, young adults, and youngsters to keep the group thriving.
I’m told by hobbyists much more experienced in shellfish than myself that these shrimps were selectively bred from the cherry shrimp, and in order to keep the deep blue colors the oddly colored individuals need to be removed from the breeding program. There aren’t very many of the odd specimens, but occasionally, you’ll find a light green or a reddish shrimp in the bunch, and I’ve even found some that were blue in parts of their bodies and almost clear in the rest.
At this writing, the tank is still going strong. Every few weeks, there are new young shrimp seen careening around the tank. This aquarium has become one of my favorites in the fish room and I find myself watching the shrimp’s behavior as much as I do my favorite fish. On a side note; two weeks ago, I changed the tank over to a matten style filtration system and now that it’s established the shrimp are drawn to its surface. I’m assuming that the surface is loaded with micro foods that they’re feasting upon.