Shrimp in a planted tankInvertebrates and aquascaping
The beautiful colorful dwarf shrimp are still enjoying increasing popularity. Especially in plant aquariums and aquascapes, the small algivores are welcome guests, because they take care of all sorts of biofilms, including nascent algae coverings. Fundamentals concerning shrimp keeping in an aquarium can be looked up in this article. Not necessarily every species of shrimp is suitable for a planted aquarium.
Dwarf shrimp in a planted tank?
Dwarf shrimp are a relatively heterogenous group. Among them are specimen that are not suitable for a plant aquarium at all: shrimp from the Old Lakes in Sulawesi, for example, are colorfully attractive, but they require very special water values, very clean water with as little nitrate (NO3) and phosphate (PO4) as possible, but most of all temperatures perfectly indigestible for most aquatic plants. Sulawesi shrimp such as the Cardinal Shrimp (Caridina dennerli), the Harlequin Shrimp (Caridina woltereckae) and the Blue Leg Poso Shrimp (Caridina caerulea) all the more have no place in an aquascape, since you’d be way too restricted in fertilizing and with required temperatures of roughly 30°C also in your choice in plants.
Caridina dennerli - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
Breeds such as Pinto Shrimp and Boa Shrimp look spectacular, but they are not necessarily suitable for classic planted aquariums and aquascapes, on the one hand, because the strains still need to be heavily selected until the marking is established (which, for practical reasons, is an almost impossible task in a well planted tank), on the other hand, these shrimp already react with failed molting to nitrate values in the 5-10 mg/l range.
Blue Boa, a Caridina hybrid breed - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
Nitrate massively inhibits the uptake of iodine in these high-bred shrimp. Since iodine is absolutely crucial for the formation of the molting hormone ecdysone, nitrate in an aquarium with high-bred shrimp has a particularly harmful effect. However, many more challenging aquatic plants need a slightly higher nitrate level, so their claims do not really match those of high-bred Bee Shrimp.
The black-translucent, black-blue or red-translucent striped Tiger Shrimp (Caridina mariae) and the red-white and black-white patterned standard Bee Shrimp (Caridina logemanni), also called Red Bee or Black Bee, are not quite as sensitive and can stomach nitrate values between 10 and 25 mg/l. These beautiful shrimp fit very well in green plant aquariums. They are originally from habitats with rather soft to very soft water, and they like their water with a low carbonate hardness, which also accommodates many aquarium plants.
Red and black Bee Shrimp of the genus Caridina logemanni - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
Next to Bee Shrimp and Tiger Shrimp you’ll find the pretty robust colour variations of the genus Neocaridina. In the hobby, the genera Neocaridina davidi and Neocaridina palmata are firmliy established. In contrast to Bee Shrimp and Tiger Shrimp, those Neocaridina aren’t exclusively originated from clear, clean streams, but also from standing waters like bogs and lakes. They can therefore deal with significantly higher nitrate values (up to 40 mg/l) and are also not very sensitive in terms of water hardness, anything is possible from soft to hard.
Neocaridina are available in all possible colourations, from red and orange, green to black, chocolate brown, blue and yellow - you can find them all. Many females have a lighter back stroke, and there is also a Rili variant of almost all colours available. These animals are characterized by transparent areas in the middle of the body at otherwise opaque color. Please keep in mind, that when cross-breeding different Neocaridina colours, the offspring may be wild coloured, meaning mostly transparent and dark patterned. If you want to keep the colours clean, you shouldn’t go for the candystore approach when inserting shrimp even though it looks really good at first.
Colourful mix of Neocaridina davidi - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
In aquascapes and planted tanks, soils such as ADA Aquasoil Amazonia are used, because they soften the water and make it more suitable for plants thanks to their ability to exchange ions. Fundamentally this procedure is a great idea for planted tanks with shrimp as well. But if you perform your weekly water change with regular tap water, as you would with a shrimpless tank, you cause quite severe fluctuations in the water values. Where aquatic plants don’t give a hoot about this, shrimp resent this very much and may react with molting issues. It is therefore advisable to work with adapted water right from the beginning to avoid fluctuations. If the tap water’s values are too different from the aquarium, you should resort to osmosis- or demineralized water and push it to the corresponding values, using a Bee Shrimp-friendly hardener salt. These harderner salts should of course always selected according to the specific shrimp. They are exceptionally user-friendly and are just mixed into the changing water outside the aquarium.
Soils designed specifically for shrimp such as the Borneo Wild Shrimp Soil are not pre-fertilized and can be planted faster. They have the same function in the aquarium as the often used ADA Aquasoil Amazonia. The so-called plantsoils often emit a lot of ammonium (NH4), and shrimp should only be introduced into the tank when the ammonium values is back to normal at 0,25 mg/l.
The Amano Shrimp, Caridina multidentata - Copyright by Chris Lukhaup
Apart from the colourful dwarf shrimp, there’s the all-purpose weapon against algae: the Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata), previously known as Yamato Shrimp. It was made popular by Takashi Amano, and is even named after him by now. It is not colourful but definitely unique in its own way. Amano very much liked to use this relatively large and insensitive shrimp which lives wild in Japan in his nature aquariums, because they are excellent algivores. In contrast to the smaller types of dwarf shrimp they don’t just eat blossoming-up algae coatings but up to and including fully-grown filamentous green algae. But since Caridina multidentata get pretty large with up to 3,5 cm and loves to swim around, it is not suitable for nano aquariums and small cubes. The Amano Shrimp at least needs a tank with an edge length of 60cm or more. If those little clowns have enough space, they more than make up for the lack of color through their extremely interesting behavior.