Feeding shrimp properlyFeeding dwarf shrimp is not difficult if you pay attention to a few things when choosing shrimp food.
Shrimp are an indispensable part of aquaristics and plant aquaristics. These little colorful crawlers are not just beautiful to look at and bring variety and small spots of contrast into the aquarium with their intense colors, they also delight their owners with their usefulness: by taking care of sunken food left over by the fish, these little scavengers provide better water quality and less organic pollution. Furthermore, be it in an aquarium or biotope, the little scallywags munch on dead plant parts, sludge, freshly dead aquarium inhabitants, but also carrion and even fish excrement. Fish aren’t known to be world’s best nutrient recyclers, and therefore, there are still lots of nutrients to be found in their excrements which would otherwise be a feast for (unwanted) snails and algae.
A biotope where dwarf shrimp (Caridina cantonensis) live, with brown foliage at the bottom. - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
Even algae coverings and microbial biofilms are often grazed by the shrimp for hours. If you take a closer look at their eating tools and especially their tiny scissors, you soon realize that they are covered with strong bristles, which are ideal for scratching the growth off stones.
The claws of a Tiger Shrimp (Caridina mariae) - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
A small group of 10-20 shrimp in a well-stocked community aquarium, where regular and high-quality food is fed, needs virtually no supplementary feed. They can eat well from the leftovers that those little, finned loafers drop for them. If you want to make sure that the small crustaceans are supplied with everything they need, you can simply give them brown autumn leaves from a deciduous tree native to Europe into the aquarium. Tried-and-tested classics are for example beech, oak, hornbeam and similar. The foliage should be very brown and above all dried up completely. Although yellow, red and even green leaves look more ornamental, they still contain traces of sugars that the tree has produced during photosynthesis, and are therefore not suitable for a permanent stay in the aquarium. Dwarf shrimp also find foliage in their biotopes in free nature.
You can very well add one or two crispy dry brown autumn leaves for every ten liters of water. If you want to place them pointedly, or generally want them to sink immediately, just blanche them with boiling water. If thrown into the aquarium as they are, the leaves will drift for hours to days on the surface until they are eventually soaked and sink. Other than that, not blanching them first has no disadvantages.
A mustang shrimp (Caridina meridionalis) sitting on foilage - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup.
If you want to ather your own leaves and make sure there’s nothing on them not belonging into an aquarium (e.g. animal excrements), you just bring along a cloth bag to your next hike in the woods and collect the leaves fresh off the tree.
If there’s more shrimp in your tank, they’ll need additional feeding. Best way to go here, is to have a look at what they usually eat in nature. This includes the already mentioned foilage, which can be found out in the wild in larger quantities in rivers, but also greens such as spinach, nettles and vegetables such as hokkaido or zucchini are suitable for additional feeding. Next to vegetable food, shrimp also need a certain amount of protein to keep them from assaulting younger or weaker conspecifics. Suitable protein suppliers are, for example, brine shrimp (Artemia) or mosquito larvae, given as frozen or freeze-dried food.
There’s quite a lot of ready-to-use food available. A suitable staple food can be recognized by including not just vegetable ingredients but also an amount of protein. You should always take care, that the protein comes from sources that would normally be available to the shrimp out in the wild. Cows do not tend to fall into rivers to be devoured by ornamental shrimp...but larvae, insects that have fallen into the water, sometimes a dead conspecific or two and dead fish are rather common and get utilized. The bioflms getting grazed off by the shrimp are rich in protein due to a high amount of bacteria living in it.
Bee Shrimp (Caridina logemanni) with food pad - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup.
Two to three times a week, Caridina shrimp such as Bee Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp and Amano Shrimp should be given an additional high-protein supplement next to their regular main food. Powdered shrimp baby food spreads well in the aquarium, so all tiny baby shrimp get their share. Mineral food supplies the animals with important nutrients and obviously minerals they need to build their shell. This, too, is given once to twice a week.
To prevent too much food from ending up in the substrate, many aquarists feed their shrimp using glass dishes. You can look up in our wiki how to do it.