Cycling a Tank

If you have never heard of cycling before, we strongly recommend reading this article to prevent needless animal deaths and money wasted.

Cycling is the single most important knowledge needed to keep fish and other aquatic animals. A brand new tank with fresh clean water may seem ideal, but it houses none of the microbes necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Just as there are beneficial bacteria in your stomach that aids in digestion, there are beneficial bacteria in an established tank that converts toxic waste products to less lethal byproducts. Without them, the tank will quickly become toxic from the waste products produced from decaying matter (excess food, feces, etc), which your critters will be breathing.

This is why many beginner hobbyists that purchase a brand new tank with fish on the same day often experience severe losses over the next few weeks and observe their fish gasping for "breath", as they're constantly breathing in lethal poison. Unfortunately this knowledge is rarely provided to new hobbyists by the local fish stores, resulting in a frustrating and costly experience that leads to quitting the hobby altogether.

At its simplest, cycling is the process of building up the tank's ecosystem to handle the biowaste of the animals you put in it. Without this done properly, you will lose some if not all of your aquatic animals. Even if they survive, their quality of life is permanently reduced.

There are 3 main chemicals associated with cycling: Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. With the decay of waste, Ammonia is produced. Given sufficient time, there will be a growing population of beneficial bacteria that eats Ammonia and converts it to Nitrite. Now with the presence of Nitrite in the tank, there will be an eventual growth of Nitrite eating bacteria that will produce Nitrate as the final byproduct of our cycling system. Ammonia and Nitrite are toxic and should not be present in an established tank. Nitrate is harmful, but shrimp and fish can thrive with proper management of it. Once your tank reaches the balance where it houses enough of the beneficial bacteria to convert waste products immediately into Nitrate and there are no detectable traces of Ammonia and Nitrite, your tank is considered to be cycled.

Along with your brand new tank, you should purchase an API Master Test Kit and water conditioner (See Aquarium Shrimp Essentials Article). The test kit allows you to track your water parameters (pH/Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate). The water conditioner/dechlorinator is essential to remove some toxins and chlorine from your water source before water changes.

Cycling Methods: There are a few ways to cycle your tank, and on average it may take about 1-2 months before your tank is fully cycled and ready for inhabitants.

  1. You can purchase a few cheap "throwaway" fish that will produce the necessary ammonia in your tank. You don't want to buy so many that the ammonia build up will kill them, but enough that there is a clear presence of ammonia. At the cost of the inhabitants dying or reduced quality of life, this is one way to kick start the process until cycling has been achieved. This method is least recommended by hobbyists due to the unnecessary loss and suffering of life.

  2. You can simply add ammonia/fish food/etc into the tank to initialize the cycling. Note that this requires some precision, as too little or too much waste produced can result in a failed cycle. There are many resources online that will detail how to cycle this way properly.


  • A common mistake among new hobbyists is that during water changes, they will rinse out their tank, decor, filters, and/or add fresh water that was not treated with a conditioner/dechlorinator. As chlorine kills bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria responsible for your cycle, doing this resets your tank cycling. Thus, when doing water changes, you should rinse filter media, decor using the old tank water (no chemical cleaners like soap), and add only conditioned water back into the tank.
  • Remember that a fully cycled tank is balanced to the current bio waste load of your tank. Thus, note that as you add more inhabitants, the bacteria colonies need to catch up to the additional bioload, so you should be incremental with new fish and shrimp. You may experience mini-cycles or in the worst case scenario, ruin your tank cycle altogether if you vastly overpopulate your tank too quickly.
  • You will be regularly utilizing the test kit over the first few months to monitor your tank's cycling process. Be patient, you won't need to test multiple times within the day as it will take weeks to months to see the gradual change. Once your tank with waste products present is consistently showing 0 presence of ammonia and nitrite, but some nitrates, you are ready for shrimp.
  • Nitrates can be removed through regular water changes, regulating excessive feeding, and plants that absorb them as nutrients.
  • Keep in mind that while some fish may survive the cycling process at the cost of reduced health, shrimp will not survive and thus should not be purchased in an uncycled tank. The presence of crustaceans are indicators of a clean water source in the wild as they are the first to go if the water is polluted.
  • There are many products available that promise to accelerate your cycling process, but the majority of them are a waste of money. A more reliable jumpstart is called seeding, where you obtain plants/filter media/substrate from established tanks as they already contain some of the bacteria you need. We recommend having some experience with cycling and the hobby before taking this shortcut. Note that you risk pests from other tanks with this method.

Disclaimer: We wrote these articles with the pure intentions to educate all new hobbyists to ensure a successful and rewarding relationship with this hobby and community. We however do not permit any plagiarism and use of our materials and photographs for any monetizing and marketing use unrelated to First Aquatics. We will continuously update our materials to best reflect the interests of the hobby and community, so please reach out to us if you note any typos or have any suggestions.

Aquarium Shrimp Essentials

This guide is meant to provide a convenient checklist of items for new shrimp hobbyists to know what they may need to factor into their budget for a healthy and successful tank.

Minimum Necessities: Below are the bare minimum items required for shrimp keeping.

  1. Fish Tank or non-leaking container
  • Most people keep them in 10+ gallon tanks
  1. Safe Water Source
  • Understanding your water source is the most important aspect of shrimp keeping.
  1. Filter
  • Sponge filter preferred, or power filters with a sponge over intake so that the shrimp don't get sucked in
  1. Water Test Kit for pH/Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate
  • A necessity for all starting tanks to ensure your tank's cycling process is complete and ready for inhabitants
  1. Water Conditioner/Dechlorinator
  • Absolutely required to remove some toxic chemicals and chlorine from your water source before water changes into your established cycled tank.
  • Check the Cycling Your Tank Article for more information.
  1. TDS Meter or equivalent test kit
  • This is invaluable to gauge your water source quality.
  • Tells you a numerical value (Total Dissolved Solids) that gauges the presence of inorganic/organic substances in your water.
  • There may be various contaminants in your water source that are not suitable for shrimp habitation.
  1. Water Test Kit for gH/kH
  • Shrimp requires adequate amounts of calcium in the water to molt and grow, you will need this to measure and ensure the tank has sufficient calcium.
  1. Food
  • Naturally you'll need to invest in a well balanced food source to ensure a thriving colony.
  1. Shrimp of your choice
  • Remember that different species have different water requirements and that you research/match according to their needs.

  • Review the Starting with Shrimp Guide to ensure success for your first shrimp purchase. Note: The total cost of all the items above for a starting colony would be around $150-200. We understand that this may be above budget for some, but we are confident that we tailored this list to the minimum items required for a successful shrimp tank. We ourselves and many veteran hobbyists have started the hobby trying to save costs, cut corners and hope for the best but resulted in costly mistakes with many burning out and quitting the hobby altogether.

Circumstantials: May fall under the “Minimum Necessities” category depending on the test results of your water source.

  1. RO Unit
  • If you have too many contaminants in your water source, your only choice to keep shrimp may be to remove them with an RO (Reverse Osmosis) unit and remineralize (mentioned below) accordingly.
  • Alternatives to this would be purchasing distilled water, but we do not find this sustainable long term.
  1. gH and/or kH Remineralizer
  • As shrimp require adequate amounts of Calcium to grow and molt, this is absolutely required if your water doesn't have sufficient amounts of it.

Highly Recommended:

  1. Substrate
  • Increases tank resiliency due to increased surface area for cycling bacteria to live in.
  • Sand recommended as gravel can trap a lot of waste over time, but not required.
  1. Plants / Mosses
  • Shrimp graze on biofilm within the tank, so more surface area is great to have, and plants/mosses help improve water quality.
  1. Lights
  • Other than being able to properly enjoy viewing your tank, it's necessary to help grow the plants/moss/good algae for the shrimp.
  • Note that too bright lights often leads to stress and heavy algae.
  1. Natural / Artificial Decor that allows for dimension and hiding
  • Some common recommendations include Cholla wood pieces, Indian Almond Leaves, shrimp caves, etc.
  1. Shrimplet Powder Food
  • Baby shrimp have a harder time accessing food as they spend their early days hiding, powder food will ensure even distribution across the tank.
  1. Planaria / Hydra Killer
  • Beginning shrimp only tanks will often contain various critters that come from seemingly nowhere as there are no fish present to eat them. Planaria and Hydra are shrimp killing pests commonly seen in new shrimp tanks that can only be killed with certain products.
  1. Shrimp Specific Foods
  • As shrimps are scavengers, they can do well with any foods, but there are many shrimp specific food products that cater to their needs best.

Not Recommended:

  1. Heater
  • Shrimp only tanks do not require heaters as they survive even in 40s-50s F, unless your house room temperature gets very low and you'd like to keep them breeding.
  • Heaters eventually break and sometimes cook the tank. Neocaridina/Caridina shrimp do not handle high 80s-90s+ temperatures, so they are more likely to get accidentally killed off by heat than cold.
  1. Power Filters
  • Hang on Back or Canister Filters that are too strong for your tank may stress, suck up and/or kill your shrimp. While we use Hang on Back Filters for our shrimp tanks ourselves, we use a sponge intake with flow reducers and suggest you do the same if you wish to use these filters.


  • You may be very lucky and have a clean water source that is perfect for shrimp and thus don't need to purchase a TDS meter, gh/kh test kit, RO unit and remineralizer, but you won't know without testing the water using the equipment specified above.

  • It's understandable you may wish to save money by not purchasing the items mentioned above, but it's unlikely your tap water source is the "Goldilocks" of water for shrimp. Killing and repurchasing shrimp several times to then purchase the necessary products to test and ensure quality water source (an extremely common occurrence in the hobby) is always a more costly, time consuming and unnecessary loss of life expense than if you were to follow through with our guide.

Disclaimer: We wrote these articles with the pure intentions to educate all new hobbyists to ensure a successful and rewarding relationship with this hobby and community. We however do not permit any plagiarism and use of our materials and photographs for any monetizing and marketing use unrelated to First Aquatics. We will continuously update our materials to best reflect the interests of the hobby and community, so please reach out to us if you note any typos or have any suggestions.

Starting with Shrimp Guide

We provide this guide with the hopes that you have a thriving and successful colony without expensive mistakes. Note that this guide refers to Neocaridina/Caridinas and not other species of shrimp.

Research, Planning and Purchasing:

Step 1: You should first decide on a realistic budget by reviewing the Aquarium Shrimp Essentials Article to obtain the necessary products for a successful tank. Assuming you are starting from scratch and require all essentials, you should probably expect to spend at least $150 minimum. We understand this may be above the budget you intended, but say with certainty that being frugal in the beginning will lead to more expensive mistakes later for any animal keeping hobby. Step 2: Review Cycling a Tank Article and ensure your tank is ready for inhabitants. Do not proceed with purchasing shrimp without a cycled tank. Step 3: There are many varieties of freshwater shrimps available in the market. Some examples include Neocaridinas, Caridinas, Sulewasi, Amano, and Ghost shrimp. It should be noted that even if they are all freshwater shrimp, they can vary widely in their temperament, requirements and care. For instance, Neocaridinas prefer neutral to alkaline and harder water, whereas Caridinas generally prefer more acidic and softer water. Sulewasi requires warmer temperatures year round, successful Amano breeding requires saltwater during the larval stage, and ghost shrimp can be aggressive and eat smaller prey. Thus, we strongly recommend that you research in advance to ensure your tank conditions are suitable for the shrimp you are looking to purchase. Step 4: Based on the shrimp of interest, your tank may be unsuitable for other inhabitants. Keep in mind that the vast majority of fish will eat Neocaridina/Caridina shrimp and are thus NOT recommended tankmates. Generally, if the shrimp can fit in the fish's mouth, it will be eaten as shrimp are at the bottom of the food chain. If you still want a community tank, smaller "nano" fish are recommended, but they may still eat baby and juvenile shrimp. Sufficient decoration and plants should be enough for some babies to hide and survive until adulthood to sustain the colony. Commonly seen tank mates with your shrimp include snails, Otocinclus catfish, Dwarf corydoras, Plecos, Celestial pearl danios, Endlers, and smaller tetras. Step 5: Once you've finalized a decision on which shrimp you're looking to get, you should start researching where to purchase them from. You can find sources of shrimp ranging from local fish stores, online aquatic/shrimp stores, amazon, ebay, reddit, craigslist, facebook groups, local aquatics clubs in your area, etc. We will outline some suggestions below.

Purchasing Tips:

  1. We generally do not recommend purchasing imported Neocaridina shrimp. Shrimp seen in local fish stores, Amazon and Ebay are typically imports. The few pros are that they are more affordable, and they look/are high quality in coloration. However, the bright colors are misleading, as they sell older females only (older females are at the peak of coloration compared to males or younger females), and color does not equate healthiness. Furthermore, there are several shrimp diseases that are far more common in imported shrimp. Some of these diseases are incredibly frustrating to deal with. Lastly, unlike imported fish, shrimp are far more fragile to changes and poor water quality during long transits. You should be prepared to lose a large portion of your purchase within the first few weeks, and they may never breed in worst case scenario. There are some shrimp exclusive e-commerce sites that has stricter importing process that are more reliable.

  2. Thus, we highly recommend finding reputable USA breeders with high quality shrimp. The upfront cost of homebred shrimp with minimal hassle often outweighs the multiple purchases of imports due to recurring deaths, quality and breeding issues, medication costs, time spent, etc. If you still choose to purchase imports, please ensure it is from a reputable importer with a strict quarantine process.

  3. Please note that there is a very large discrepancy between low and high quality shrimp even if they appear to be the same color or breed. Neocaridina and Caridinas have many selectively bred traits, and thus have grading to gauge their quality. Be aware of the grading scale (if any) of your chosen shrimp and their respective price differences.

  4. There are many factors that go into observing shrimp quality. Imports vs homebred, water quality, how they were fed, taken care of, culled, age, color between males vs females, picture/camera quality of the shrimps, stress of being in a new tank, etc. Thus, there may be some discrepancy between the expected quality of shrimp you thought you purchased, to what you ended up with. If you feel somewhat disappointed with the coloration of your newly arrived shrimp, note that they temporarily lose color due to stress from shipping. The shrimp should color back up within a week assuming a healthy established tank. Shrimp also reach the peak of their color as adults, but note that many breeders will ship juveniles as they can handle shipping stress and new tank transition better. Thus, you should account for these factors before voicing a complaint with your seller.

  5. Some shrimp may appear the same or have the same color, but they may not come from the same lineage. Bloody Mary shrimp and Cherries are not the same, and neither are Blue Dreams and Blue Diamonds, etc. Thus, if you are looking to replenish your colony or are adding from multiple sources, try to purchase from the original source or a reputable breeder that sells the same lineage. The offspring will often lose the selectively bred traits as a result.

  6. Some people like the idea of having multiple different colored shrimp in their tank. While this is up to your personal preference, you should be advised that mixing multiple Neocaridinas of different colors, or different Caridinas will result in loss of the selectively bred traits or colors within their offspring. Thus, over several generations, you'll have wild type shrimp that are mostly brown/clear in color.

  7. Due to the high variability in quality shrimp, the best way to protect your purchase is to have a conversation with the provider on their shrimp, and request for recent full colony pictures of the shrimp. You should also find out about their DOA (Dead On Arrival) and refund policy. Also be sure to send payment through authenticated means such as Paypal with Buyer's Protection unless you trust the seller.

  8. Assuming you've purchased the shrimp online, you should keep track of the arrival date with the tracking number provided and prep your tank to match their original water parameters as best as possible for ease of transition. Make sure somebody is present to receive the shrimp asap, as shrimp do not handle extreme hot or cold weather temperatures if left outside. DOA policies typically do not cover buyer's negligence in this case. Shrimp can handle a lower temperature range than tropical fish and can be shipped as low as 40+ degree weather.

  9. In the rare instance of a shipping delay or issues, it is usually your responsibility to get in contact with the shipping company to inquire about your package. Good breeders will put great care into their packaging. With proper insulation, bagging, etc and shrimp have been known to survive even up to 2 weeks in extreme shipping delays!

  10. Now that you've received your shrimp, carefully pull them out of the package in dimmer light to reduce stress and observe them before opening the bag. If you see any dead or issues, then respond accordingly to your provider's DOA policy immediately. Remember that their coloration will have temporarily faded due to shipping/moving stress. Otherwise, quarantine accordingly or allow them to adjust and acclimate to your tank's conditions.

  11. Be observant in the first few weeks of your shrimp for potential diseases, pests, and good water quality. Otherwise, enjoy!

Disclaimer: We wrote these articles with the pure intentions to educate all new hobbyists to ensure a successful and rewarding relationship with this hobby and community. We however do not permit any plagiarism and use of our materials and photographs for any monetizing and marketing use unrelated to First Aquatics. We will continuously update our materials to best reflect the interests of the hobby and community, so please reach out to us if you note any typos or have any suggestions.

Shrimp Care Guide

The single greatest mantra we recommend for shrimp keeping is "Less is More". This does not mean that one should forgo quality products and best practices, but that getting over-involved with maintaining your tank leads to more opportunities to make mistakes. Consistency is very important, shrimp can actually be quite hardy but do not handle sudden changes well. Once this is properly understood, you'll find that shrimp are actually easier to maintain and breed than many fish. We will note 4 key areas to maintaining your shrimp tank.

Water Maintenance:

As stated previously, good water quality and the water parameters is the single most determining factor of successful shrimp keeping. A fully established tank with no ammonia or nitrites is required, not recommended. Some nitrates in Neocaridina tanks are acceptable.

Neocaridinas - Recommended parameters are 7.0+ pH, low 70s F, 7+ gH, 150+ TDS. Note that these shrimp can handle a wider range of parameters mentioned as long as it stays consistent. Caridinas - Recommended parameters are under 6.5 pH, low 70s F, 3+ gH, 70+ TDS. Consistency is exceptionally important with Caridinas.

Water changes should be consistent and match your tank's current and ideal parameters as closely as possible. Typical water change frequency among hobbyists ranges from once a week to once a month.

Tank Conditions:

Tank Logistics - Most hobbyists typically prefer to house shrimp in standard 10 gallon tanks to 20 gallon longs. Smaller tanks are quicker to water fluctuations and require more maintenance. As shrimp do not regularly swim, it is preferred to have more surface area with longer and wider tanks over taller tanks.

Equipment - Heaters are not required but proper filtration is highly emphasized due to their sensitivity with water quality. Sponge filters are preferred for the increased foraging surface area and low maintenance. If you choose HoB (power) filters, a nonporous sponge intake is needed to prevent shrimps and especially babies from getting sucked in.

Lights - Very bright lights will lead to shrimp stress. Additionally, tank lights that are too bright and on for too long will often lead to various algae related issues, which can be a pain to maintain.

Substrate - Caridina tanks require pH lowering soil as most water sources aren't acidic enough for them. Neos are more flexible and will be fine in any non toxic substrates.

Decor - Anything is fine as long as they do not leak chemicals into the water. Note that natural decor such as driftwood, cholla wood, indian almond leaves, etc will leak tannins, which will slightly lower pH but otherwise are considered healthy additions to fish and shrimp tanks.

Plants/Mosses - Shrimp forage for biofilm and microbes, so anything that increases surface area from decor to plants and mosses are highly recommended. Plants and mosses also absorb nitrates and provide hiding places, so we prefer these to artificial plants and decor. On the flip side, make sure to research and be attentive to your aquatic plant requirements as dying plants can pollute your water.


Food Sources - Shrimp feeding is very manageable as they are the scavenger feeders and eat anything from leftover fish food, biofilm, dead fish, decaying leaves, etc. However, it is recommended that the majority of their food source is vegetable over protein. There are many great shrimp specific food brands, but can even be fed organic blanched spinach, zucchini, mulberry leaves, etc. We also suggest obtaining shrimp specific powder foods for baby shrimp. The powder will disperse over the tank in their hiding areas where they still gain access to the food.

Dosing - There is no one formula that will give you a shortcut answer to proper feeding doses for your shrimp. Due to the variability between tanks such as surface area from decor, substrate used, shrimp population size, etc. you should be attentive to your tank's individual feeding needs. Note that shrimp will eat microbes and biofilm that develops in the tank, and leftover fish food in community tanks, so they may not need additional feeding depending on population size. On the other hand, shrimp-only tanks that have hundreds or even thousands of shrimps likely depleted all available biofilm sources and will require daily feedings. "Less is more" as you are trying to figure out the proper balance, overfeeding is far more likely to result in shrimp deaths than underfeeding. One of your best indicators of continuous overfeeding is if you see a population boom of detritus worms and other critters in the tank.


Assuming you have an established tank with ideal water parameters, shrimp will breed very easily. Neocaridina/Caridina shrimp typically grow up to 1-1.5 inches. Adult males are typically smaller and less colorful than adult females. One of the key ways to determine sex between your shrimp are the difference between straight and thin body to tails in males, and a curved wider body to tail in females. Ready to breed females also have a "saddle" behind their heads with a dark patch, which are the unfertilized eggs. Once your shrimp have mated, the eggs are held in the curved belly region and should be visible. If you see the males swimming about in a drunken-like fashion, a female has recently molted and released pheromones indicating she is ready for breeding.

As shrimps will often molt after a water change, you can somewhat induce more breeding with more frequent water changes. Keep in mind that they are somewhat seasonal breeders, some hobbyists report year round breeding whereas others will experience little to no breeding during winter even if housing temperatures were kept stable. In either case, it's generally agreed that peak breeding season is during summer time.

Egg Gestation - Neocaridina eggs will typically hatch within the month, whereas Caridinas may take up to 2 months. The female will continuously fan her eggs during this process and often hide during this time.

Note that first time "berried" females or females under stress may drop their eggs. In the event this occurs or if a berried female has died and you'd like to save the eggs, you can do so with a standard egg tumbler meant for nano fish.

Common Shrimp Mistakes and Accidents:

If you are experiencing issues with your shrimp tank, you can refer below as a checklist to help narrow down possible scenarios.

  1. Cycling was not properly established.
  2. Use of unknown water source with potential toxins.
  3. Too low or high amounts of necessary minerals for growth and molting.
  4. Large and fast temperature/water chemistry fluctuations during water changes.
  5. pH swing from substrate, CO2 injectors, etc.
  6. High 80s and above temperature in the tank.
  7. Overfeeding that leads to poor water quality.
  8. Tank exposed to toxic chemicals such as exposed hands with chemicals inside tank during water change, pesticide sprayed nearby getting into tank or aquarium decor that slowly leaks chemicals.
  9. Purchasing imported/diseased/weak shrimp.
  10. Fish and other aquatic pets that eat the entire shrimp colony.
  11. Not equipped to handle Hydra / Planaria / Parasite / Bacterial / Disease treatment.
  12. Tank heater (not recommended) breaks and cooks tank to above 80s.
  13. Use of a Hang on Back (Power) filter or other equipment that sucks up and kills shrimp.

As you can see, the majority of common accidents are related to your water parameters whether it be pH, temperature, ammonia/nitrite/nitrate, gh/kh, presence of either natural and chemical toxins, etc. Thus, you should first test and rule out water related issues before considering other factors when experiencing shrimp problems.

Disclaimer: We wrote these articles with the pure intentions to educate all new hobbyists to ensure a successful and rewarding relationship with this hobby and community. We however do not permit any plagiarism and use of our materials and photographs for any monetizing and marketing use unrelated to First Aquatics. We will continuously update our materials to best reflect the interests of the hobby and community, so please reach out to us if you note any typos or have any suggestions.