Today I am going to show you how you can set up a basic (the simplest) shrimp tank for Neocaridina shrimp. This article will be especially helpful for beginners, who are getting lost in the ocean of information on the Internet.
In short. Neocaridina Shrimp do not require a lot when it comes to aquariums. Therefore, to set up a shrimp tank you need to add 2-3 cm (~1 inch) of an inert substrate to the bottom of the tank. Then, install an aquarium filter and air-pump. Fill it with water. Wait until the nitrogen cycle finishes. Add dwarf shrimp.
That is it! Frankly saying, I could have ended the article right here because it is the simplest setup which you can have and there is no much to talk about. However, if you are new to this hobby I will explain everything (including terms) in detail. I promise to make it also as simple as possible. In addition, I will give you tips, which you usually will not see in other articles.
Let’s get to the business.
Why Neocaridina Shrimp
I would like to start off by saying that there are many types of shrimp in this hobby. Nonetheless, when it comes to popularity we usually talk about two main types:
- Neocaridina shrimp (which is the easiest).
- Caridina shrimp (which is harder to keep).
Neocaridina genus includes around 20 species of shrimp. They are all pretty hardy therefore they do not need any extra supplements. This is exactly what we are looking for. It will be the best choice for this specific setup.
List of Necessary Items for the Tank Setup
- Inert substrate
- Sponge filter
- Test kit
That is pretty much all I am going to use in this tank.
1. Aquarium for Shrimp
Let’s start with the size. One of the advantages of shrimp keeping hobby is that you do not need a big tank. If you are a beginner, in this case, a 10-gallon tank is the optimal size for any dwarf shrimp.
Of course, it is possible to keep shrimp in a 5-gallon tank (or even less). The problem is that it will be harder to keep your water parameters stable. Remember, that consistency is the most important thing in the shrimp hobby.
Tip #1: Clean the tank.
Tip #2: Test the tank.
Optional: Paint the back of the tank.
Cleaning the Tank
Before you start to do anything, I would strongly advise that you clean the tank properly beforehand. For example, you can use hydrogen peroxide (cheap and handy household supply that is used for cleaning, healing, hygiene, etc). Then, wash it off properly (twice).
Note: Please use gloves before you start cleaning your tank.
Unfortunately, people often forget about it as well. There is nothing worse than setting up a tank, putting your substrate in, installing your filters and the tank starts leaking! As a result, you have to tear the whole thing down. Therefore, take the extra time and get this test done.
In order to make sure that the tank is not damaged, I usually put some paper underneath it. Fill your tank with water and leave it for 1 day. If there are any problems this leaking test will detect them. If there are no wet spots on the paper you are good to go.
Painting the Back (outside) of the Tank
First of all, it is not necessary. However, I would strongly recommend to do that because according to multiple studies, a dark background can significantly improve your shrimp coloration.
There are several ways to do that:
- Dark cloth.
Personally, I believe that the easiest way is to spray-paint the tank. Use adhesive tape to prevent painting the sides of the tank.
Tip: If you do not want your paint running, spray a thin layer of paint and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, spray a full cover. It is super simple and super easy. If you do not want to paint, you can cover the tank with the cloth.
2. Inert Substrate in Shrimp Tank.
Once we have done with cleaning, testing, and painting, we need to go ahead and add the substrate. Before I continue, I need to clarify the terms “Inert” and “Active” substrate. Actually, it is very simple.
Inert substrate – this is a substrate which does not alter water chemistry (PH).
Active (buffered) substrate – this is a substrate that alters water chemistry (pH).
Some examples of inert and active substrates (check out the price on Amazon).
|Inert substrate||Active substrate|
|ADA Amazonia aqua soil|
|Carib Sea Eco-Complete||Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil|
|Seachem Fluorite||Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum|
The reason, why we are choosing the inert substrate, lays in water parameters. As I have already said, inert substrate does not have any impact on them. Therefore, it will allow us to have pH of 7.0 – 7.5, which is optimal for all Neocaridina species. So if you have a pH 7 it will stay pH 7 (with inert substrate).
For example, if we decide to use an active substrate, our pH can get down to 6.2-6.9, which is best suited for Caridina shrimp species. This is not what we need for this setup.
What type of inert substrate?
There are so many options on the market that it will not be possible to name them all. However, in our setup, we can put them into two main categories:
Personally, I usually choose sand substrates for a shrimp tank (Carib sea sand – Check the price on Amazon). It looks very natural. In addition, fine sand will not allow debris to get down. Another great factor is that it is very cheap. Nonetheless, I would not mind against gravel as well. Basically, it is a matter of preference and price.
Keep in mind that you do not need a thick layer of sand. A layer of 0.5 – 1 inch (1 – 2.5 cm) will suit most shrimp tanks.
Tip: Actually, this is very important! The thicker the layer, the higher the chances of anaerobic areas you are going to have. As a result, you can get toxic gas (hydrogen sulfide) pockets in the sand. This gas is very dangerous and can kill all your shrimp.
Tip #2: Do not forget to clean and rinse sand (or gravel) to get rid of any debris or dust that might have been accumulated on it. When you think that it is clean enough, clean it again.
Tip #3: If it is possible, choose dark substrates (preferably) to enhance shrimp coloration. The darker the substrate the darker the colors will get.
No Additives to the Shrimp tank
Sometimes aquarists put a whole bunch of additives into the tank underneath the substrate. They do it to ensure that the shrimp are receiving all the proper nutrition minerals and trace elements. They are also good for the microflora of the tank.
However, keep in mind that you DO NOT have to do that. I am not saying that those shrimp keepers are wrong. It is just not necessary. In addition, if you are going to use fine sand, nothing can go through it. Thus, it will be a waste of money.
Note: The beauty of the sand is it is so fine that nothing will actually fall through it. Therefore, you can just go with your hose and pick up all the debris from the surface.
Adding Substrate to Shrimp Tank
This is the easiest part. Just do not dump everything at once. Remember that you do not need more than an inch of this substrate. Anything more than that would be just a waste. Then, spread it evenly over the bottom of the tank.
Tip: Use any unnecessary credit card to flatten out the top.
Recommendation: In aquascaping, aquarists usually do a little slant to give the aquarium a little more depth. That is for visual perception. Make it a little higher in the back and lower in the front. About half an inch in the front and maybe just over an inch in the back. Because of this trick, the size of your tank will look larger. Also, it will be easier to look at your shrimp.
3. Filter in Shrimp Tank
Given the size of the tank, a Matten filter (or a sponge filter) is a good choice. It will circulate enough water and will provide a good feeding ground for the shrimp. In addition, it will be also a safe place for the shrimp. Another obvious benefit is that sponge filters are cheaper than HOB (Hang on the back) or canister filters.
Also, sponge filters usually come already set up. It is quite simple and effective. In my opinion, it is the best filtration for our shrimp. Mainly because it is safe for the baby shrimp. You do not have to cover intakes to prevent baby shrimp from being sucked up into the filter.
Tip: if you have a 10-gallon tank, choose the filter, which is rated for at least 20 gallons. The difference in money is minimal but the benefit is huge!
There are many cheap and reliable filters. For example, Aquaneat Small Bio Sponge Filter or Huijukon Air Pump Double Sponge Filter (links to check the price on Amazon). It has recommended itself very well and it does not cost that much!
Tip #2: Do not forget to rinse the sponge filter. There is no need to use any chemical for that. Just wash the sponges with tap water.
Tip #3: If it is possible, pick a filter with high PPI (pores per inch) right from the beginning. For example, 25-30 PPI will be sufficient.
4. Airline tubing and Air Pump
You will have to attach an air pump to the sponge filter. Take in the airline tubing and connect it to the filter. Let me explain to you how it works.
When the air goes through the central pipe, it sucks the water through the filters sponges thus cleaning it in the process. Very simple.
Tip: If your suction cups do not want to stick to the glass use some saliva and stick it.
Tip #2: A lot of aquarists complain about their air pumps because they make some noise (sometimes a lot!). If you have the same problems, take a piece of foam or rubber for your air pump to rest on. This will help absorb the vibrations, resulting in a quieter operation.
Tip #3: If you buy an air pump, I would recommend buying an air check valve (link to check the price on Amazon) as well. It will prevent water from flowing back down the airline tubing if you have any problems with the air pump.
Tip # 4: If you have too much air flowing from your air pump you can use an air control valve (link to check the price on Amazon).
Filling Shrimp tank with Water
We are ready to start filling the tank with water. Put something (for example, I use an ordinary plate) on the substrate to prevent any disturbance. To tell the truth, you will still get some disturbance (clouding issues) for a day or two. However, it will not be a complete mess.
Now you need to decide what type of water you are going to use for the Neocaridina shrimp tank. Basically, there are two options:
- Tap water.
- RO/DI water (RO/DI is for Reverse Osmosis Deionization. It takes ordinary tap water and produces zero TDS. In other words, it is absolutely pure water without any elements in it. Because of it, you will have to remineralize RO/DI water with special shrimp additives later on.
Neocaridina shrimp are very tough species. They can live and reproduce under harsh circumstances (including in tap water).
Note: If you really want to be successful, I would strongly recommend using RO/DI water. You can read more about it in my article “7 Things Every Shrimp Keeper Must Have!” However, it will not be the simplest and cheapest setup anymore because it will transform into the safe one.
If you have a RO/DI unit in your home, in this case, use pure water. Do not remineralize it because it is not necessary right now. Throughout the cycling process, you are going to be doing water changes to remove your nitrates. That is why it will be just a waste of remineralizers.
If you use tap water you do not need to use anything.
5. Test kit and the Nitrogen cycle in Shrimp Tank
Now sit back and be patient as the tank will have to cycle for a few (4 – 6) weeks. It is called a nitrogen cycle. During the cycling process, the beneficial bacteria will break down ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate.
It is recommended to do weekly 50% water changes until the ammonia and nitrites disappear. Once the nitrite level becomes low you will notice that the nitrate level increases, this means that you at the final stage of the cycle.
Then, do 10 % water changes every day to lower the nitrate levels. In order to check the nitrate level, you will have to use a test kit. The test kit is extremely important for shrimp or fish keeping hobby. It will allow you to control all water parameters. I am pretty much sure that you cannot get away without it for a long period of time.
When the nitrate level becomes less than 10 ppm it is relatively safe for shrimp. Once the cycle is complete (you should not have nitrates), it is time to add the shrimp. Slowly acclimate the shrimp before releasing them into their new home.
Tip: You can add in a little bit of fish or shrimp food in the empty tank to boost cycling.
Note: There are several ways to speed up the cycling process but they require special chemical ingredients, which we do not use in this basic and super cheap setup.
This is it. There is nothing simpler than this. It is an easy setup for a beginner to follow. You do not have to add any substrate additives. You do not have to use RO/DI water. There is no need for a heater. Although, everything is extremely cheap (around 50 dollars for everything) and simple, this setup would be more than enough to start the hobby with Neocaridina shrimp.
Optional but Useful stuff for Shrimp Tank
- Porous brick (clean it first and boil it).
- Coconuts (boil it for 10 minutes to remove pests and release some of the tannins).
- Driftwood (boil it for 10-20 minutes to remove pests and release some of the tannins).
- Alder cones (do not pick near the roads or in the city).
Is it absolutely necessary to have plants in a shrimp tank?
No, it is not. However, they are extremely beneficial.
How many water changes are needed to finalize the cycling process?
It is not possible to say because it depends on the substrate and many other factors (temperature, light, plants, etc.)
Do I need a heater for a shrimp tank?
Considering they can easily withstand temperatures from 16 to 28 C (60 – 82 F), it is not necessary.
Do I need light for a shrimp tank?
No, you do not, if you are not planning to have plants.
I would say that your shrimp could live with room lighting (or light from your windows). Actually, they can live even without light! However, scientific tests indicate that supplemental lighting can improve shrimp breeding and have effects on shrimp nutritional characteristics.