Crystal red shrimp - Caridina

Crystal Red Shrimp – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding

by Michael

Today I would like to talk about one of the most beautiful shrimp – Crystal red shrimp, which are also known as Caridina cf. cantonensis. These absolutely gorgeous and beautiful shrimp are sure to attract attention in any planted aquarium.

Crystal red shrimp (and Crystal black shrimp) are usually the second type of shrimp that people get when they have a little bit more experience in keeping shrimp. They are more difficult to keep compared to normal Cherry shrimp and should not be attempted by novice shrimp breeders.

The first thing I should mention is that everything that is described here about Crystal Red Shrimp (CRS) is applied to Crystal Black Shrimp (CBS) as well. They are absolutely the same in requirements and there is no need to create a separate guide about Crystal black shrimp. Anyway, let’s get to the business. 

History of Crystal Red Shrimp

In 1993, Mr. Hisayasu Suzuki accidentally got an unusual red shrimp in a batch of about a thousand black shrimp and was fascinated by it. After a while, he got some more red shrimp. It gave him an idea to fix the red gene, so he decided to select and crossbreed shrimp with red stripes. After many cycles of selective breeding, he finally arrived to a “true red shrimp”.

In 1996 he named it a Crystal red shrimp and has been awarded a patent for this recessive reputation of the normal Bee shrimp.

By that time, Mr. Hisayasu Suzuki had several thousand shrimp with red and white stripes, which became super popular amongst shrimp breeders almost immediately.

Since then Crystal red shrimp has been further refined by the founder and other breeders to produce specimens with larger white patches and intensified red coloration.

As soon as Crystal shrimp became available in the United States in the early 2000s, they also became like ragingly popular because of this beautiful and striking pattern.

Quick Notes about Crystal Red Shrimp

Name Crystal red shrimp
Scientific Name Caridina cf. cantonensis
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Medium
Breeding Medium (a high order shrimp).
Size 2.5 – 3 cm (~1 – 1,25 inches)
Optimal Temperature 21 – 23°C  (~70°F – 74°F)
Optimal PH 6.6 – 6.9 (6.2 – 7.2)
Optimal GH 4 – 6 (3 – 7)   
Optimal KH 0 – 1 (0 – 4)
Optimal TDS 140-160 (100-250)
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Algae eater/omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span 1-2 years
Color Form White, Red

It is a well-known fact that Caridina cf. cantonensis is quite demanding to water parameters, in contrast to its relatives of the genus Neocaridina. It is said that the Crystal red shrimp strain was created from only 3 shrimp, making it extremely inbred and sensitive. This explains why they are much more sensitive and not as forgiving as Cherry shrimp.

Therefore, when it comes to breeding such delicate shrimp I prefer to rely on the experience of the professional shrimp breeders, which have huge success with Crystal red and black shrimp. We do not need to reinvent the wheel – “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you will achieve the same results”.

I believe that I need to thank Flip Aquatics, Soo Shrimp Breeders and Marks Shrimp Tanks because this article is written mostly on their experience. I have gathered up the most important information, advice and tips about this species here.

Crystal Red shrimp front

Description and Appearance of Crystal red shrimp

Crystal Red shrimp are fairly small shrimp, growing to a max size about two and a half to three centimeters.

Obviously, they do not occur in the wild. In Crystal red shrimp, a mutation comes into play. It is a cultivar of the bee shrimp, more specifically actually a further development of Japanese shrimp breeding experts from the Bee shrimp.

While normal bee shrimps have orange, white and black stripes on body parts, the Crystal red shrimp have developed the base color that gave them their name. Red color together with white stripes created a unique appearance that fascinates many aquarists.

It should be noted in advance that the different color forms have made an enormous contribution to the popularity of the Crystal red shrimp. All color forms are visually appealing, but in the sum also ensure that the breeding and keeping of Crystal red shrimp is never boring.

The average lifespan is about one and a half to two years. 

You can read more about “Crystal Red Shrimp Grading (with pictures)” right here.

You can read more about “How to Enhance Shrimp Color?” right here.

The Behavior of Crystal Red Shrimp

The species is very peaceful, other aquarium inhabitants have nothing to fear from them. You can easily keep them together with fish that do not predate on shrimp. 

The Diet of Crystal Red Shrimp

Crystal red shrimps, like most freshwater shrimp, are an omnivore and will eat just about any food they can find in the tank. Remember that shrimps are scavengers in the wild, they will eat whatever they find and is not used to a constant food source. Therefore, you can feed them with a lot of things. They are not picky, in this sense.

However, it is better to give them the amount of food that the shrimp can finish within a two to three hour. Ideally, it is not good to feed an excess of food as sitting food can pollute the water.

In addition, do not worry at all about not feeding for one or two days. This is absolutely fine and it will not harm your shrimp. Even more, in some situation, it is better not to feed for a couple of days to let them clean their systems and keep your water conditions at best.

Examples of Some Popular Food Choices

  • Hard pellets and Snowflake Food

One of the great things about Snowflake food is that it does not get into the substrate (just vacuum it from time to time) and cause the secondary effect like planaria or hydra. Another obvious benefit is that it will take time for the shrimp to eat it. You can leave it in there until gone. It does not change water quality.

To prevent any potential mess you can also use feeding dishes. They will greatly reduce the amount of food debris in the tank.

Unfortunately, as far as the pellets go, the little babies will not get access to them. That is why you need to have something for them as well.

This is the best powder food on the market right now. A lot of shrimp breeders use it. It is just too good not to use it, especially as food for baby shrimp. It is like basically biofilm ground down into a fine white powder.

Sprinkled it on the top of the tank and it will float all around the tank. At first, Bacter AE will turn your water cloudy but do not worry. It will go away.

The great thing about it is that it spreads through all nooks and crannies over every surface in the tank. As a result, it will increase the baby survival rate because every baby shrimp have full access to the food.

This is another great natural food source that shrimp breeders usually give. Indian almond leaves colonized by microorganisms will provide your shrimp with biofilm. Note: As I have already mentioned, there is nobody in nature that feeds shrimp and the majority of the food is biofilm.

Of course, after some time these leaves will break down too and the shrimp will start to eat them for about a week. Thus, the leaves are a huge part of keeping a shrimp tank fed.

Another great bonus is that Almond leaves help to lower the PH in the tank. 

Crystal Red Shrimp Tank Requirements

There is no need to keep Crystal red shrimp in big tanks. However, it is very important to keep crystal shrimp in specific conditions. Keep in mind that this species is quite sensitive and do not react well to bad water values. It means that a 10-gallon tank (40 liters) is an optimal choice especially if you are new to this hobby. The bigger tank you have, the easier it is to keep it stable compared to smaller setups.

If you cannot meet those criteria exactly, at least be consistent in your water quality. Obviously, the aquarium should be fully cycled and established before any Crystal shrimp are introduced.  It cannot be stressed enough how delicate the shrimp can be. That is why extreme water parameters should be avoided.

In addition, a lot of shrimp breeders noticed that as soon as you approach high grades of the species water parameters become even more important. The reason for that is because obtaining high grades means that breeders will usually produce offspring from the same genetic strain. Therefore, due to over breeding the crystal shrimp can be more delicate and susceptible to diseases as well as slight changes in water conditions as mentioned previously.

So, you need to keep your water parameters at certain levels and it is strongly advised that you keep them on a buffering substrate.

Substrate for Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

You need to have a buffered substrate. Fortunately, there is plenty of buffered substrates on the market. Get the best one that you can afford at that time. These are some of the popular choices for crystal shrimp:

A quick explanation of what a buffering substrate is. The buffering substrate keeps the pH at a steady level. Meaning that if your water is at a higher pH the buffering substrate will reduce it. Also, shrimp breeders utilize substrates in order to leach out the hardness in the tanks because the source water can be a bit harder than needed.

Note #1: It is important that if you use the substrate (like ADA Amazonia) that you let it age really well first. Generally, it takes about a month for it to stop leaching ammonia. It is also important that if you are using this substrate (to maintain your hardness) that you do small frequent water changes rather than larger volume in order to provide stability in the tank. In addition, ADA Amazonia usually keeps the pH at about 6.2 – 6.6. Nonetheless, it also works great for Mark from Marks Shrimp Tanks and Nathan from Soo Shrimp Breeders.

Note #2: Rob from Flip Aquatics highly recommends Fluval and Brightwell substrates. The reason is that they do not buffer the substrate as much as other substrates do. They usually buffer right around 6.8 – 6.7 sometimes closer to 7 pH.  That is a pH that Crystal Red shrimp and Crystal Black shrimp thrive in his tanks.

Water Parameters in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

As any shrimp, crystals like consistency, not changes. Keeping the pH low for these shrimp is pretty important otherwise you might not get ideal breeding if you get above seven. Crystal red shrimp or Crystal black shrimp do not like that super buffered water.

They do not like 6 pH unless they are used to it for some time. In any case, it is not advisable. They prefer 6.6 pH at the lowest and a 7 pH at the highest. We need to get right in that range, which is pretty easy to maintain, actually. The way that it is easy to maintain is by adding remineralizers like Salty shrimp or Shrimp king.

As far as TDS goes 140 – 160 is good enough.

Note: some shrimp breeders manage to have a healthy colony thriving in lower or higher parameters. Nonetheless, it takes some time to acclimatize the shrimp to those parameters. But why should we choose a hard way? We do not have to create obstacles to ourselves, in order to bravely overcome them. Besides, they are professional or advanced shrimp breeders and know what they are doing.

Correlation between the buffered substrate and kH

A high kH means a high amount of bicarbonate/carbonate in the water. That in and of itself is a buffering system.  The soil has an acidic property, which will lower the pH and keep it around, let’s say 6.7 pH. As a result, as the soil leaches its acidity, the buffering capacity of the water (measured by kH) will neutralize all of the hydrogen ions. And at some point, as the soil uses up its entire hydrogen ion source, it will no longer lower the pH.

The soil is acidic and the buffering capacity of the water neutralizes this acidity. And if there is too much of a buffering system in the water, it will use up all of the acidity in the substrate. In the end, pH is not going to be lowered for a long time.

For example, let’s say if I have a 0 kH in your tank, the substrate would probably last two years. If you have a 4 kH, the substrate may only last a year or a year and a half (the numbers are random, just to show you the principle). Because the substrate only has a certain amount of buffering capacity. So when you are adding kH it is really going to eat through your substrate a lot quicker as far as the buffering capacity goes. Then your pH will quickly rise to its normal (without buffering, inert) parameter.

If you need something else, that will help to bring down the pH of the water, you can simply add driftwood or Almond leaves. Tannins that are released by the driftwood are actually tannic acid, a weak acid that will lower pH as well.

RO water in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

If you are using RO water with the supplement most of the times, your pH is going to hover around 7 pH even without buffering capacity. That means that Crystal shrimp are going to continue to thrive even after the substrate is used up.

Therefore, it is definitely and highly recommended to use RO water or purified water just for the fact that you do not want to go above 7 pH. Make sure you are controlling the water all the time.

The Temperature in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

Actually, it completely depends on the temperature in your room. The ideal temperature for Crystal shrimp is 21 – 23°C (~70°F – 74°F). In most cases this is the constant room temperature, that is why a heater is not needed.

They thrive in that temperature so you definitely do not have to heat the tank. You can let them get down to 68 and they are going to be also fine. Thus, this is a great basement shrimp.

However, if you cannot keep that temperature or have significant fluctuations, a thermostat heater can prevent any sudden fluctuations in temperature and help keep things as stable as possible.

pH and Temperature vs Nitrifying Bacteria

You can wonder why I bring up it here. The point is that, as I have mentioned earlier, the crystal tank should be cycled and well-established tank. Once established, the population of these bacteria in an aquarium will be in direct proportion to the amount of ammonia or nitrite respectively.

As we already know, Crystal shrimp prefer relatively low pH and temperature. Here comes the interesting part.

The pH has a direct effect on nitrifying bacteria. For example, in order to reach 100% efficiency, you need to have a pH of 8.3. If you have pH 7.0 the efficiency is only 50%, and at 6.5 pH only 30%, and at 6.0 only 10%. Below 6.0 the bacteria enter a state of dormancy and cease functioning*.

Fortunately, in acidic water (pH below 7.0) ammonia automatically ionizes into ammonium which is basically harmless. And since nitrite will not be produced when the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are in “hibernation,” this decrease in their effectiveness poses no immediate danger to the shrimp and other life forms.
Temperature also affects the rate of growth of nitrifying bacteria. It will be optimal at a temperature between 25 and 30C/77 and 86F. At a temperature of 18C/64F, it will be 50%. At both 0C/32F (freezing) and 100C/212F (boiling) the bacteria die*. (*Kmuda, “Aquarium Bacteria and Filtration Manifesto,” Parts 1 and 2, OscarFish website)

As we can see, the eco-system in Crystal shrimp tanks is very fragile due to the low activity of the beneficial bacteria. Thus, it gives us an additional reason to watch water parameters very closely.

Filtration in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

Crystal Red Shrimp and Crystal Black Shrimp prefer soft and acidic water. Clean water is also a must as with all other shrimp. They do not really require much flow. You can have just ordinary sponge filters and they will all thrive with them.

A lot of shrimp breeders highly recommend using a sponge filter for crystal shrimp as these create a gentle water flow and cannot suck up tiny baby shrimp.

Plants in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

They are not obligatory but very welcome. Plants like Water lettuce or mosses can greatly benefit the shrimp tanks. CO2 is a big NO in crystal shrimp tanks!

  • Water lettuce.

This plant has very long roots, which provide quite a bit of surface area for the shrimp to graze on.

Another benefit of this plant is that it is a pretty good nitrate absorber. Water lettuce will reduce and in some case even remove all nitrates in the tank. Tip: Duckweed is also a good choice. The point is that the floaters tend to be one of the best ways to keep the nitrates down.

  • Moss

This plant is great in all parameters. 

  • Rotala rotundifolia (the dwarf rotala)

The good thing about this plant is that it usually grows as tall as the tank that you put it in. You do not have to go in there and trim it a bunch of times or cut it out. When it reaches the top of the water, it most the time stops growing and shoots off another sprout (instead of keep growing and overcrowding the tank). Compared to some other plants if you let them overgrow, you will have roots everywhere. Thus, when it is time to pull that plant out it becomes a nightmare.

Driftwood in Crystal Red Shrimp Tank

Another great addition to the Crystal shrimp tank. There are many options on the market but one of the best is Malaysian driftwood. The reason shrimp breeders like it:

  • It sinks instantly.
  • It does not leach anything toxic.
  • Malaysian driftwood is a safe choice for the majority of the time.
  • It provides hiding places.
  • Leeches good tannins for the water.
  • Algae and biofilm can grow on it, which makes it an essential part of a breeding tank.

Breeding Crystal Red Shrimp

First of all, you need to have a good ratio of males and females.  

As with all shrimp, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between males and females at a juvenile stage. Once females reach adulthood you can easily tell the difference between them. Females are easy to identify as they are larger and also have a curved underbelly. The saddle of the female shrimp may be virtually impossible to see due to the coloration.

You can read more about “Shrimp Gender. Female and Male Difference” right here.

It takes crystal shrimp a bit longer to reach sexual maturity, generally, about 4 – 4.5 months. Probably because they prefer slightly cooler temperatures.  At a size of just over two centimeters, the shrimp are ready to reproduce in your tank.

Crystal shrimp are high order breeders just like Cherry shrimp meaning that the females carry the eggs that hatch into miniature versions of the adults. Theoretically, at a higher temperature, the females can release up to 30 fully developed shrimplets every 5 to 6 weeks. Unfortunately, a higher temperature will increase their metabolism and shorten their life span.

Extended high water temperatures result in higher juvenile and adult mortality, and less egg survivability. Warmer water will bring invertebrates to sexual maturity earlier but with smaller body size than cold water. 

With keeping the temperature below 74 you are decreasing the risk of bacterial infections, and you are allowing your shrimp to live a longer, happier life without being super stressed out about breeding all the time.

Baby Crystal red and black shrimp

They have the red/black and white pattern from the first few days on. However, the grading of offspring cannot be performed until they grow a little bit more. You will see the coloration in the shrimp offspring but not the detailed features and patterns, which can differentiate between grades.

As with Cherry shrimp if you introduce a higher-grade shrimp into the colony with a few lower grade shrimp you will be able to increase the grade of your shrimps going forward.

Crossbreeding and Interbreeding

It is possible to keep Crystal red and black shrimp with Neocaridina shrimp without any risk of hybridization.

Crystal shrimp can crossbreed with other Caridina shrimp so it is highly advised that you do not keep them with most types of Caridina in the same tank. They are compatible with Amano shrimp or a Bamboo filter feeder.

Unfortunately, there is a popular practice of breeding Crystal shrimp with Golden bee (snow-white shrimp) to increase to overall grade pattern of the shrimp by introducing more of a white genetic.

This practice should not be encouraged. It is a well-known short cut to get high-grade pattern shrimp. The reason why a lot of shrimp breeders do not support it because the next generation of the shrimp can have strange coloration. Thus, customers understand that they got half-breeds and feel cheated.

Keep in mind that, if you crossbreed Crystal reds and blacks shrimp, in a few generations of it will lead to a brown coloration appose to red or black. Then you will have to line breed for many generations to get that red or that black color back out of it.

You can read more about “Culling Shrimp. Selective Breeding” right here.

Conclusion

Crystal red and black shrimp are, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful dwarf shrimp known to us. They are extremely popular shrimp in this hobby. These shrimp have a reputation for being a fragile and difficult breed. That is why they are not beginner shrimp. However, it becomes pretty easy once it is figured out.

Super crystal shrimp

Some Questions about Crystal shrimp?

Can I use Tap water with Crystal shrimp?

This is very risky and it is not advisable. The active substrate will lose its buffering capability very fast. In addition, in some cases, substrates will not be able to take even 8-9 pH down to 6.7 at all. Use RO water.

Why do My Crystals crawl out? What should I do?  

Well, this is what Caridina species can do every now and then. Use a lid and try to angle the tubes in ways that they cannot crawl using them.

How do I keep the low TDS using RO water? Why does my pH keep going up?

Most likely the problem is in your substrate. You are not using an active substrate it will rise over time.

 

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