If you’re looking for an active and attractive addition to your aquarium that makes for an excellent clean up crew, look no further than the Red Cherry Shrimp. These firelike dwarf shrimp are extremely popular in the fishkeeping hobby with both experts and beginners alike. While they are relatively easy to care for, they should be given everything they need to achieve their brightest coloring and active energy level.
Introduction to the Red Cherry Shrimp
Red Cherry Shrimp, or Neocaridina davidi, are crustaceans from the Atyidae family. You can find Neocaridina davidi in several colors, such as orange, black, green, blue, and yellow. There is substantial variation within the Red Cherry Shrimp. Their color saturation comes in what is referred to as ‘grades.’ We’ll go into specific grades in detail later, but for the time being, lower grades have less red, while higher grades have more. They are native to the streams and ponds of Taiwan, which have thick plant cover and rocky bottoms.
These ruby beauties can be found in many pet stores, but it may be easier to buy them online. Because of the difference in grade, it is usually easier to simply buy your desired color density than to pick through the variations traditionally kept in the same tank in stores. Due to most online retailer’s shipping costs, this route might be a little more expensive, but it will save you a trip to the store and time for selection.
Either way, Red Cherry Shrimp are relatively inexpensive. The lower grades usually run around $1-$2 per shrimp, with the highest grades costing approximately $8-$10. While the top grades are more aesthetically pleasing, they are happiest in groups of ten or more, so plan your budget accordingly. If you want to keep costs low, check out how to set up a Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium for $50.
Red Cherry Shrimp only live about a year or two, but they will quickly breed and repopulate if certain tank conditions are met. They’re reasonably hardy but are sensitive to copper and fluctuations in water parameters. It is also not uncommon for an occasional shrimp to pass away after being introduced to a new tank due to transport stress or differences in water conditions.
As stated above, Red Cherry Shrimp come in a range of red colorations called grades. The lowest grades have the least red, where the highest have the most red. The most common grades are as follows:
Cherry Shrimp or Regular Cherry Shrimp: These are the lowest grade available. Their bodies are mostly clear or pale red with darker red splotches.
Sakura Cherry Shrimp: This variety still has a fair amount of clear or pale red, but with a greater distribution of darker red patches.
Fire Red Shrimp: These shrimp is entirely red, but it’s a lighter shade of red and may vary in hue, with lighter and darker gradients. Their legs may be transparent or a variety of reddish colors.
Painted Fire Red Shrimp: This version is a solid, dark red. They also have red legs. The only thing that keeps this variety from claiming the top spot is that the males are less colorful than the females. Males range in grade from Sakura to Painted Fire. Their name comes from the matte-like finish of their exoskeletons, appearing to be painted on.
Bloody Mary Shrimp: This is the most expensive grade. They are a deep, blood-red with little to no differentiation between males and females. Whereas the Painted Fire has a matte-like finish, Bloody Marys look like they have been finished with a clear coat, making them shine like the darkest rubies.
No matter which grade you choose, they all reach about 1½ inches in length. Males are typically smaller and less colorful than females, and females develop a saddle-like extension under their abdomen when they mature. The saddle is sometimes lighter in color and is used to develop their eggs.
Behavior and Temperament
When Red Cherry Shrimp are healthy and find their surroundings comfortable, they are lively and full of activity. They are nearly always foraging for food, skittering around the bottom of the tank, and up into plant cover. Sometimes they even swim into the middle and upper water levels.
While some of the most peaceful aquarium inhabitants you can find, the males may get territorial with each other. Keeping them in a mixed group of males and females of at least 10 will help prevent any single shrimp from becoming a target. Red Cherrys are also happiest in large groups, which will enable them to show off their best coloring and activity level. We recommend keeping between 2 and 5 shrimp per gallon. While it is difficult to overstock on Red Cherry Shrimp due to their very low bioload, they will be happiest if they have a decent amount of space.
The best tankmates for Red Cherry Shrimp are, well, other Red Cherry Shrimp! While you can certainly keep them with other varieties of shrimp, they will interbreed if they are other color versions of Neocaridina davidi. Interbreeding different colors is not detrimental to the offspring, but they will be dull colored. You might thing breeding Red Cherrys with Blue Velvet shrimp will result in a purple variety, but that is not the case. Any interbreeding will likely result in either a clear color or a more inferior grade of one of the two parent colors. However, they will not interbreed with other shrimp species, such as Amano Shrimp, Bee Shrimp, and Bamboo (aka Wood) Shrimp.
Other excellent tankmates for Red Cherry Shrimp are snails. Snails come in a massive variety of sizes and colors, so there is sure to be something that will look amazing with your Cherrys. Nerite Snails make good companions, and their shells come in an array of patterns to add interest to your aquarium’s look. I personally love mystery snails because they are so active at all water levels. They are entertaining to watch, as they are relatively fast (as far as snails go), and sometimes drop off the glass at the top of the tank to float down to the bottom. They also come in a ton of colors. You can pick several different colors or stick with just one that complements the Red Cherry Shrimp.
Many fish see shrimp of any kind as food, especially shrimp fry. Therefore, when it comes to fish tankmates, small and peaceful is key. Small Tetras, like Neons or Embers, make great coinhabitants with Red Cherrys. Small Catfish, such as Corys and Otos, will get along great too. I’ve successfully kept Danios and Dwarf Gouramis with Red Cherry Shrimp, but they aren’t great tankmates if you’re looking to repopulate shrimp through breeding, as the fry quickly get eaten. Bristlenose Plecos also make great tankmates.
Any fish that is a carnivore or very large do NOT make good tankmates. With these fish, if it will fit in its mouth, it will generally eat it. Therefore, fish such as Oscars, Cichlids, and Discus, while fine with some other tankmates, should be avoided if you’re keeping shrimp.
No matter what kind of tankmates you add, be sure to have ample hiding places. Heavy plant cover, rock formations, and driftwood for your Cherrys is a great idea. Not only do these provide sources of food, but they also give them places to hide. Having lots of hiding places make Red Cherry Shrimp feel safe, even if you keep a species only tank.
Cherries are known to breed very easily. Even without the following preparation measures, you may have more shrimp than you expected. It’s good to keep this in mind if you don’t plan on breeding, to decide what to do with the fry in case you end up with more shrimp than you care to keep.
Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp is fairly straightforward. They will readily breed when they sexually mature and become comfortable in their home. Sexual maturity is reached around 5 months after hatching. It depends on how well cycled your tank is for your shrimp to become comfortable, but this will usually happen in less than 5 months. It’s vital that your tank is very well cycled by the time you plan to breed your shrimp. Once they hatch, the fry need the micronutrients provided from a well-cycled tank to eat. If you’re not sure how to cycle a tank, check out our handy guide here! Since the time it takes for them to become mature and comfortable takes about the same amount of time, it’s best to buy your shrimp young to have plenty of time to procreate.
To prepare your shrimp for optimal breeding conditions, start feeding them a diet high in protein. This can easily (and cheaply) be done by adding freeze-dried bloodworms to their meals. Next, increase the temperature of the water by adding a heater (if you don’t already have one). Make sure the temperature stays around 82°F. This will make the shrimp think that Summer is starting, and Summer is when they breed.
It will be easy to tell if breeding has successfully occurred. The eggs will be visible in the saddle on the undercarriage of the females. She will also constantly fan her tail to oxygenate them. Once they hatch, in about 1 month, the parents take no further part in their lives. They have to fend for themselves. In this stage, make sure to use a sponge filter. The fry is so tiny they can easily be sucked into the filter.
Red Cherry Shrimp Care
Tank: You can keep a small colony of Red Cherry Shrimp in as few as 3 gallons, but as with most aquarium inhabitants, bigger is better. Of course, the size of the tank will depend on how large a colony you want. Since these little shrimp are prolific parents, it’s better to get a little larger tank to accommodate the almost inevitable increase in population. A 20-gallon tank is perfect for a large colony.
Filter: Red Cherry Shrimp prefer a moderate water flow, so most low-cost filters will do. Just remember that they are tiny, and their fry even smaller, so make sure they aren’t able to be sucked up into the filter.
Habitat: Cherries prefer a well-planted tank with plenty of hiding spots. This mimics their natural environment and helps them to feel safe. They like substrates that are easy to graze through, such as sand, small-grained gravel, or small pebbles. Since they like planted tanks, make sure to choose a suitable light for the plants you intend to keep. While a heater is not needed, they are recommended as they help to reduce temperature fluctuations. Moss and driftwood are also good ideas as they give shrimp more locations for grazing.
Diet: In the wild, Cherry Shrimp are omnivorous scavengers, so they will consume just about anything they find. In the aquarium, the same is true. They will readily eat leftover flakes and pellets that sink to the bottom of the tank. They will also eat algae, but because they are so small, proper tank maintenance is still a must. The majority of their diet should come from high-quality shrimp pellets. This will ensure optimal health and coloration. You can also supplement their diet with vegetables like spinach, cucumber, and lettuce. Just make sure to blanch the veggies first and remove the leftovers.
Water parameters: Red Cherry Shrimp tolerate a wide range of water conditions. They do well in sub-tropical to tropical tank setups. Temperatures should range from 65 – 85°F, and pH levels can be anywhere between 6.5 and 8.0. In both cases, a middle range is best. Although they can tolerate a wide range of parameters, it is imperative that water conditions remain stable. Red Cherries don’t handle wild swings in water conditions well. Check your water regularly for high levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, as these can be fatal. As with all invertebrates, copper is highly toxic to them. Be careful to read the ingredients of any medication introduced to the tank to ensure no copper is present.
Is the Red Cherry Shrimp Right for You?
The Red Cherry Shrimp is a bright and active addition to the home aquarium. Their beautiful red coloring is pleasing to the eye. They are very easy to care for and breed, making them a fantastic animal for both beginner and experienced aquarists. Care should be taken when selecting tankmates as they are very small and have little defense against large and aggressive fish that would consider them a tasty snack. Have you decided against the Red Cherry Shrimp? Check out our 15 Best Shrimp For A Freshwater Aquarium for more ideas!