Breeding Dwarf Shrimp

When keeping Dwarf Shrimp in the home aquarium one of the most exciting aspects is their ability to multiply rapidly. Most Dwarf Shrimp can double their population in three to six months, and this trait is making them more and more popular in that home aquarium trade.

For the purposes of this article Dwarf Shrimp will be defined as any freshwater species of shrimp found in the Caridina and Neocaridina genera. These genera include the extremely popular Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda), the highly refined Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis), and one of the first shrimp in the hobby, the Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata).

For Dwarf Shrimp to breed there are 3 conditions that must be met. There must be a sexed pair of shrimp in the aquarium, all water parameters must be stable and there has to be a stable source of food. Each individual species of Dwarf Shrimp will have their own individual water parameter requirements and different ways of sexing the shrimp.

Sexing Dwarf Shrimp varies from species to species, but there are a few constants among most Dwarf Shrimp. In general the female will be larger and often more colorful. The female will also have a larger, broader tail section. In shrimp species that have a clear to semi-clear exoskeleton a saddle can be seen on mature females. This saddle is the eggs developing in the female’s ovaries. Most male Dwarf Shrimp are smaller in size, often less colorful and have a thinner tail section.

Although the water requirements vary from species of Dwarf Shrimp to species it is most important that all parameters be stable. Dwarf Shrimp should only be kept in a fully cycled and well-established aquarium. Ammonia and Nitrites are very toxic to Dwarf Shrimp and should always be kept at 0 PPM (parts per million). Nitrate can be toxic as well and should be kept bellow 20 PPM, with less than 10 PPM being ideal.

Many of the Caridina species require soft, slightly acidic (pH 6.0 – 6.8) water that is slightly cooler than tropical (65°-72° F). Most Neocaridina species are a little less demanding. They often require a neutral pH (6.8-7.5) and are undemanding when it comes to water hardness. Neocaridina species prefer more tropical water temperatures (72°-80° F). Again, stability is the most important factor.

A healthy Dwarf Shrimp will breed more readily and more prolifically and food is an import factor in Dwarf Shrimp health. To ensure optimal breeding conditions for Dwarf Shrimp a constant food source must be provided. Weather it be an aquarium with a large amount of naturally occurring algae, or foods specifically intended for Dwarf Shrimp, as long as there is a stable source of food, Dwarf Shrimp will reproduce quickly.

Once the three conditions have been met, and the sexed pair of shrimp are mature the breeding process will begin. First a female will find a comfortable hiding spot in the aquarium. Once she has become comfortable she will molt (molting is the shedding of the exoskeleton to enable growth of invertebrates). After molting the female will release a pheromone into the water indicating to the male shrimp her readiness to breed.

The pheromone in the water will sometimes cause the male shrimp to swim erratically in search of the female. Once the male finds the female he will mate with her. They will mate belly-to-belly, and the male will deposit sperm. This process does not last very long, and because the female is hiding most times it is rarely observed.

After the mating process has occurred the female will pass her eggs threw the sperm and deposit them in her pleopods (swimming legs) under her tail. The female shrimp will carry the eggs until they hatch, normally in 20-40 days. The female will often be observed fanning and cleaning the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, there is no longer any parental care of the young shrimp.

There are two types of Dwarf Shrimp, high order and low order. Low order shrimp hatch as larva and often times require saltwater or brackish water to mature into small shrimp. High order shrimp hatch as miniature versions of the adult shrimp and require no special care.

Raising low order shrimp can be quite challenging. Upon hatching the larva need to be transferred to saltwater. These larvae are very small and require food that they can fit into their mouths. Many of the larvae require single cell algae as a first food and graduate to larger foods as they grow. Once the larvae metamorphosis into miniature versions of the adult shrimp they need to be transferred back into freshwater and cared for the same way an adult shrimp would be.

Raising young high order Dwarf Shrimp (or post metamorphosis low order) is fairly easy. They have the same care requirements as the adult shrimp and require no special attention. To increase growth rate smaller high protein foods are recommended (decapsulated brine shrimp eggs are great). And when performing water changes (recommended 15% twice weekly) it is important to make sure not to suck up the young shrimp. Placing a piece of new panty house over the intake of the siphon tube will prevent small shrimp from being sucked up!

If you are interested in breeding Dwarf Shrimp make sure you have a sexed pair of shrimp, place them in a cycled and well-established aquarium, and feed them well. Nature will take its course and soon you will be caring for young shrimp. Dwarf Shrimp will breed faster and the young will survive at a much higher rate if the aquarium is a species-specific aquarium. So keep these things in mind and beware of the addictive nature of caring for Dwarf Shrimp