There is one thing that beginner aquarists asked the most. Can shrimp go with this or that fish? Are there any safe fish for the shrimp? What chances do the shrimp have in a community tank?
The reality is that the vast majority of fish are opportunistic. If they can eat the shrimp they certainly will. Even some of the obligate grazers will opportunistically mouth shrimp, which can be fatal. Particularly, with newly hatched shrimp, which are extremely small. This means that basically, any fish can eat them. So what you are going to find is that in most cases it depends on the individual temperament of the fish.
Unfortunately, there is no universal compatibility table for shrimp and fish. It simply does not exist. The results are very contradictory. There are some aquarists who managed to combine the incompatible. That is why you can hear different stories how some people could keep shrimp with, for example, Oscar or Goldfish. If it works for them it does not mean that it will work for you. This is the sad truth that we have to accept.
Nonetheless, if you are willing to take your chances, there are ways to increase the survival rate of the shrimp.
1. Hiding Places
This is the absolute number one matter. Shrimp are inoffensive and cannot protect themselves from the fish. They occupy the bottom of the food chain and they know it. If you provide areas of dense planting, (shrimp just love java moss) and adequate hiding spaces (caves, tubes, driftwood, decorations etc.) you will give your shrimp more chances to survive. They need to have places to get away from unwanted attention.
Note: Have you ever thought why in nature shrimp do not have bright and beautiful colors? The answer is obvious, actually. It helps them to camouflage from predators by imitating the surroundings. Shrimp breeders took away this defense mechanism and without hiding places, shrimp shines like a beacon for the fish.
2. Introduction Shrimp to the Aquarium
The next thing is how you introduce the shrimp to the tank. Ideally, you need to place shrimp first. Let them establish themselves before adding any other fish. Once the colony is breeding and growing, then you can think about adding some smaller fish. It is really hard to explain why but for some reason shrimp do better in this case. Maybe that is because the new fish is scared in the new environment. Thus, they do not see the shrimp as food.
Another point is that ideally fish should be introduced as juveniles. In this case, your fish will get used to the shrimp from the beginning. Of course, it cannot guarantee 100% safety but the practice shows that it works and makes a difference.
OK, but what should we do when we already have the fish tank? How can we add shrimp? Well, at least just do not do that in day time! This is a common mistake. People start adding shrimp and immediately watch the massacre. Why? Because your fish took them for food. Thus, to avoid it, turn off the lights completely for a couple of hours or put the shrimp in the night time when the fish tend to settle down.
3. Aquarium Size
Well, it is obvious that the larger the size of the aquarium, the more comfortable will be the coexistence of shrimp and fish. In a small aquarium, even the friendliest fish can harm shrimp or even another fish. Aquarium fishes are more aggressive in reduced environments. On the contrary, an increase in the tank size and complexity can reduce harmful aggressive behaviors of the fish. Do not overpopulate your aquarium.
4. Feeding the Fish
This is also a very important question. If you are used to feeding your fish once a day with a pinch of dry, cheap food, then be prepared for the fact that even the friendliest fish will definitely taste the shrimp at some point. I suppose anything if it is hungry enough is going to try, and eat anything else. As a rule, having tried once, they will try it in the future. However, if you keep everybody well fed, hopefully, they will not start looking at each other as if they are a tasty snack.
Of course, that brings up its own problems. Obviously, the more you are feeding the more you need to look after your tank.
5. Fish Breeding and Shrimp Coexistence
If you are planning a successful breeding fish in a shrimp tank, then remember that shrimp can damage fish eggs. Also, do not forget that some fish guard their nests, and they are very aggressive during the spawning period. This is not good for the shrimp, who swarm in all corners of the aquarium.
Therefore, these are the ways to improve the survival rate of your shrimp population in the community aquarium. It is better to learn from the mistakes of others than from your own.
Now let’s look at the compatibility of red cherry shrimp based on the experience of aquarists. Actually, you can use it with other types of shrimp as well (bees, green, yellow, blue, snowball shrimp, Indian, cardinal shrimp, tiger, glass). The lists are not in order of priority.
It is hands down the best neighbor for the shrimp. This is a very peaceful fish. They will never bother adult shrimp and they are like 99% safe for the shrimplets. If “something” happens it is a pure accident. People have seen them suck up baby shrimp only to spit them out. Also with this fish, you will not have an algae problem in your tank anymore.
Average adult size: 1.5 – 2 inches (3.8 – 5 cm)
None of them will usually pick on the adult shrimp intentionally. They are the best neighbors for any species of shrimp, as a rule, they completely ignore the shrimp. Remember even though a fish may be a non-aggressive plant eater it does not mean they will not snack on the occasional free protein source like baby shrimp.
1. Pygmy Cory Catfish (Corydoras Pygmaeus) and Panda Cory Cat
There are lots and lots of examples of peaceful coexistence this fish with shrimp. I have seen Pygmy Cory next to baby cherry shrimp and it did not show any interest.
Average adult size: 1.4 inches (3.5 cm)
2. Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)
Generally peaceful and active fish. It is compatible with other peaceful fish and invertebrates. Nonetheless, you need to be very cautious and be prepared to relocate them once they grow a bit larger than the size of the shrimp. As they are omnivores and can start preying on smaller animals when they grow up.
Average adult size: 2.8 – 3.5 inches (7 – 9 cm)
3. Albino Bristlenose Pleco
A generally peaceful and hardy species, the Albino Bristlenose Pleco is an excellent, undemanding candidate to be a shrimp neighbor. They will usually ignore everybody in the aquarium. Although it is possible that small shrimp fry might fall prey to the Albino Bristlenose Pleco. However, some large-scale shrimp suppliers breed Bristlenose Plecos in the same pools they use for shrimp breeding.
Average adult size: 3 – 5 inches (7 – 12 cm)
4. Chinese Hillstream Butterfly Loach
Due to its relatively small size, it is possible to keep this fish with cherry shrimp. Although it might eat a few of their shrimplets. Shrimp are particularly good tankmates in larger aquariums where they can find areas of lower water flow.
Average Adult Size: 2.5 – 3 inches (6.5 – 7.5 cm)
5. Royal Farlowella
Despite its size, Royal Farlowella will get along with all our small fish and shrimps in your aquarium. It is possible that larger specimens will eat very small shrimp. However, many aquarists keep the Royal Farlowella with their shrimp colonies with no problems.
Average adult size: 8 inches (20.3 cm)
6. Borneo Sucker (Gastromyzon)
This fascinating, peaceful fish is algae and biofilm grazer. Due to its small size and diet, they will not bother shrimp at all. Although it might eat a few of their shrimps by mistake. Shrimp are particularly good tankmates in larger aquariums.
Average Adult Size: 1.4 – 1.6 inches (3.5 – 4 cm)
7. L260 Queen Arabesque Pleco (Hypancistrus sp.)
All other fish tankmates will be generally ignored, although it is likely that juvenile and subadult dwarf shrimp will fall prey to the Queen Arabesque Pleco. However, ornamental snails (Nerite snails, Malaysian Trumpet Snail, Assassin snail etc.) will not be bothered and large Amano, Green Lace, Flower, and Vampire Shrimp are generally unthreatened by the Queen Arabesque Pleco.
Average adult size: 3.1 – 3.5 inches (8 – 9 cm)
8. Barboides gracilis
This peaceful fish will be a good choice for the community tank. Although, in nature, they feed on small shrimp larva, worms, insect, and other zooplankton.
Average adult size: 0.6 – 0.75 inches (1.6 – 1.8cm)
9. Forktail Rainbowfish (Iriatherinawerneri)
These fish inhabit the middle and upper areas of the aquarium. Fully-grown Rainbowfish are usually safe to keep with adult shrimp.
Average adult size: 1.2 – 1.6 inches (3 – 4 cm)
10. The Youkihi Medaka Ricefish
This is a rare and brilliant orange color morph of the Japanese Ricefish, which is one of the hardiest and most adaptable fish in the world! The Youkihi Medaka Ricefish typically occupies the middle and top level of the water column. Excellent compatibility with adult cherry shrimp. However, it can start hunting down baby shrimps. So if you planning to keep the Youkihi Medaka Ricefish with shrimp, plenty of plants and cover are recommended.
Average Adult Size: 1.6 inches (4 cm)
11. The Clown Killifish (Epiplatys annulatus)
This is a tiny, cute and peaceful fish. The Clown Killifish occupies the top level of the water column almost exclusively. The clown killifish is possibly compatible with invertebrate species that thrive in low water flow. Nonetheless, there are complains that they can also become very aggressive and eat shrimplets up to 1cm long.
Average Adult Size: 1.2-1.4 inches (3-3.5 cm)
Conditionally Peaceful Neighbors
They will eat small shrimps for a snack but will not touch an adult shrimp in most cases. You need to give your shrimp a lot of places to hide.
Frankly saying, I would especially focus on live-bearers. If they are able to eat their fry, then what can we say about shrimps and or baby shrimps? Let me remind you once again, that they will be peaceful only if you properly follow the factors described above.
1. Ruby tetra
Some people list the Ruby tetra as one of the best fish to be in with shrimp even with baby shrimp. They say that have never witnessed them hunting down shrimp or pestering shrimp in any way. Nonetheless, I would not recommend keeping them with shrimp. They prefer small live foods so baby shrimp would become an easy target.
Average Adult Size: 0.6 – 0.8 inches (1.5-2 cm)
2. Ghost Glass Catfish
The Ghost Glass Catfish, like most catfish, is a predator, but it has a relatively small mouth. It is not compatible with small shrimp and very small fish. It will eat any animals that will fit in its mouth.
Average adult size: 4.7 – 5.9 inches (12 – 15 cm) at most
3. Small Guppy
Guppies can be a problem for small shrimp. Their small size makes them safe with all fish and even small shrimp that most fish will eat. Nonetheless, breeding shrimp in the same tank with guppies is almost impossible. After all, they eat their own fry. The guppies are just too inquisitive, and small enough to get into most crevices.
Average adult size: 2.5 inches (6.3 cm)
Endlers typically occupy the top level of the water column, although they can often be seen swimming and feeding in the middle and bottom levels as well. Adult cherry shrimp are generally safe. However, like guppy, despite providing lots of moss, the endler’s will dig into the protective moss, scaring the small fry out and then they feed on the fry. It can be very difficult to breed shrimp with Endlers.
Average Adult Size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
5. The Dwarf Chain Loach (Botia sidthimunki)
There are some reports that the Dwarf Chain Loach may occasionally eat soft leaf plants. The Dwarf Chain Loach, like most typical loaches, often preys on tiny shrimp and snails. I would not recommend keeping this fish with cherry shrimp. In addition, I would recommend caution in keeping it with adult shrimp in a smaller tank.
Average adult size: 2 – 2.4 inches (5 – 6 cm)
6. Neon tetra
Neons occupy the top level of the water column almost exclusively. However, I would not recommend keeping this fish with shrimp colonies due to the likeliness of the neon tetra eating baby shrimp and potentially picking at juvenile shrimp.
Average adult size: 1.6 inches (4 cm)
There is always a chance that your platies will harass the shrimp to death, even if they cannot eat the adults directly. It is very likely that you will not see shrimplets in your aquarium anymore.
Average adult size: 1.5-2.5 inches (4 – 6 cm).
8. Harlequin Rasboras (Rasbora heteromorpha)
Rasboras are voracious little critters. Luckily, they usually stay to the top of the tank. Harlequins will not touch shrimp as long as they are a big enough for their mouth. Note that they do like to eat live food, as well as flakes, and so if you are trying to breed shrimp then keeping them together is not such a good idea when the babies start popping out.
Average adult size: 1.4 – 1.8 inches (3.5 – 4.5 cm)
9. Danio rerio (The zebrafish)
Zebrafish are omnivorous, primarily eating zooplankton, phytoplankton, insects and small shrimp. In nature, adult zebrafish are often fed with brine shrimp (at a maximum length of just over 1 cm (0.4 inches). That should give you an idea about this fish.
Average adult size: 1.5-2.5 inches (4 – 6 cm).
10. Swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii)
It is an omnivore, so it will potentially prey on smaller shrimp and their babies, but it is otherwise safe to keep with peaceful invertebrates as well. Nonetheless, some people say that they killed all shrimp in the tank even adults. Once they decide to hunt the shrimp down, plants will not safe shrimp. Personally, I would never risk putting swordfish in a shrimp tank.
Average adult size: 2 – 2.8 inches (5 – 7.1 cm).
11. Rummy nose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)
Adult shrimp are generally safe as well, but adult Rummy Nose Tetras may easily eat small baby shrimp.
Average adult size: 1 – 1.5 inches (2.5 – 3.8 cm)
They will eat any shrimp regardless of its size in most cases. The shelter is good but it will not be enough if fish decide to hunt the shrimp down and practice shows that they will do it in most cases. Frankly saying, it is not a good idea to try shrimp with these fish. Especially, if you do not have a huge aquarium in which a colony of shrimps can find a secluded spot.
Goldfish are incompatible with nearly all plants and animals. They can become too aggressive.
Average adult size: 7 inches (17.8 cm) or larger
They are bigger and much more aggressive than tetras, guppies, and gouramis. This species is laterally a shrimp hunter. In field observations, the numbers of hunts were recorded for each of 44 individuals. “Behavioural laterality in the shrimp-eating cichlid fish Neolamprologus fasciatus in Lake Tanganyika”. Animal Behaviour. Volume 75, Issue 4, April 2008, Pages 1359-1366.
Average adult size: 3-8 inches (7.5 – 20 cm).
If you add shrimp to your Discus tank, they will be the most expensive fish food you have ever purchased. Of course, there is a chance that Discus can leave shrimp alone for some time… in order to eat it later.
Average adult size: 5-7 inches (12-15 cm).
4. Gourami (even dwarfs)
While it is possible to keep this fish with cherry shrimp, it is also possible that it will go after them. Therefore, vigilance and caution are necessary. Even if the gourami cannot eat adult shrimp in one bite, they can pick at the shrimp until they die and eat the dead shrimp.
Average adult size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
Bettas are hunters and always looking and inspecting everything possibly edible. There have been success stories of Bettas living with shrimp, but it is definitely not a guarantee and I cannot recommend keeping them together.
Average adult size: 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7.6 cm)
Cherry shrimp and other small, delicate invertebrates should not be kept with the Angelfish, even in a large enough aquarium.
Average adult size: 6 inches (15 cm) long, 8 inches (20 cm) tall
You should not consider the above lists as an axiom. There are always exceptions and there will always be those who say that they did not have any problems with “bad” neighbors or that their shrimp were completely destroyed by “peaceful” fish. Just like people, you can have a crazy fish that will attack everything.
The main problem with shrimp and fish is that for many of them, shrimp are the natural food. They see shrimp as delicious snacks or even a part of their staple diet. In addition, they also do not need to fit in their mouths to be killed or eaten. Most shrimp are very delicate and fish can dismantle shrimp like a piece of cake.
That is why any fish larger than the shrimp will usually make the shrimp lead a more secretive lifestyle. Even without any signs of aggression, your shrimp will always sense the danger. As a result, in the aquarium with fish shrimp will often hide and switch mainly to a nightlife.
Anyway, I would like to repeat once again, that there are always exceptions. I think it really depends on the personality of the fish, aquarium size and providing enough plants and moss for the shrimp to hide in for most of their baby life.
All of these designations are relative to the respective sizes of the individual fish and shrimp. For example, large Amano Shrimp would be fine to keep with small Glass Catfish, but small Amano shrimp would not be safe with full-grown 4-6” glass catfish.