Bee shrimp (Caridina cantonensis) are probably one the most popular dwarf shrimp species in the aquarium hobby. They are beautiful, easy to breed, and interesting to watch. So, today I would like to talk more about these wonderful shrimp, from their setup, diet to breeding, and find out if these are the shrimp for you.
They can be a great addition to a peaceful community tank filled with small fish or even kept in a species only tank. The combination of spectacular colors and cleaning functions places Bee shrimp between one of the most preferred ornamental species of freshwater invertebrates.
Therefore, if you are interested in keeping them as aquarium pets or want to learn more about these magnificent creatures, this care guide will tell you everything you need to know about Bee shrimp.
Quick Notes about Bee Shrimp
|Red Bee shrimp, Red Tiger shrimp, King Kong, Taiwan bee, and many others
|Tank size (optimal)
|10 gallons (~40 liters)
|Medium (a high order shrimp).
|2.5 – 3 cm (~1 – 1,25 inches)
|20 – 24 °C (68 – 74 °F)
|6.0 – 6.8
|3 – 6
|0 – 2
|Less than 20 ppm
|Way too many to describe
Taxonomy Problems of Bee Shrimp
In shrimp keeping hobby, the genetic pool of Caridina cantonensis (original Bee shrimp) has been serving as a basis for creating lots of different color variations.
For example, Crystal red shrimp, Crystal black shrimp, Blur bolt shrimp, Golden Bee shrimp, Red Bee shrimp, Red Tiger shrimp, King Kong, Panda shrimp, and many other color morphs were bred out of this species.
In some cases, new strains were created only from a few shrimp (for example, Crystal shrimp). Because of that, it made them especially demanding to water parameters, in contrast to its relatives of the genus Neocaridina.
In other cases, nobody really knows who, when, and how those color variations created. Even more, every year we can see more and more shrimp with some new, astonishing coloration.
However, genes play a huge role. Inbred species often do not have a good immune system, they are prone to diseases and die out easily. The problem is that we do not know the history of those shrimp.
I believe that shrimp keeping hobby urgently needs systematization and analysis.
There have been created so many different morphs of shrimp that we cannot even be absolutely sure what species we have in our tanks anymore. Sometimes we cannot even distinguish between Neocaridina and Caridina species.
Unfortunately, this is a huge problem for our hobby.
Natural Habitat of Bee Shrimp
Bee shrimp (Caridina cantonensis) species is widespread and abundant in southern China. These shrimp can be found in Nan’ao island, Guangzhou, Yangjiang of Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and northern Vietnam.
In nature, Caridina cantonensis prefer shallow, tropical clean freshwater areas, including rivers, streams, and mountain creek.
Even though this species is listed as endangered, these shrimp are still threatened to some degree by habitat fragmentation, pollution, and collection for the aquarium trade.
Description of Bee Shrimp
In Asia, Caridina cantonensis species is also called Red Bee Shrimp because of the striking reddish-brown transverse bands and numerous small dots on the body. It usually has 2 – 3 bands transverse the body (on the posterior end of the carapace and on the abdomen area.
However, it is most likely that you will not see the wild coloration of this shrimp in pet stores. After many generations of selective breeding, the most common ones are black or yellow stripes with or without dots.
Bee shrimp do not bread true. It means that even from the same batch of eggs, they will not be the same color and there can be some other color morphs.
Keep in mind that if they are experiencing stress from their environment, they will dull their coloration for some time.
Like all dwarf shrimp, Bee shrimp usually grow up to 2 – 3 cm (~1 inch).
Once a proper aquarium is set up and optimum living conditions are met, Be shrimp can reproduce and live up to 1.5 – 2 years.
Behavior of Bee Shrimp
Caridina cantonensis species is completely harmless and will not bother anybody in the community tank. They are not territorial and prefer to be in large groups.
Actually, the bigger the shrimp colony, the safer they feel and the more confident they act in the tank.
In the natural environment, they are nocturnal. The pick of their activity starts at dusk and gradually stops before sunrise. This nocturnal behavior is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.
Interesting fact: On a 24-h cycle, dusk is a period in which algae had maximum nutrients at the end of the photosynthetic period corresponding to profitable conditions for grazers to feed at the end of the light period.
However, in captivity, healthy shrimp will roam all over the tank, constantly searching for food. They seem to never hold still and are always moving around.
Feeding Bee Shrimp
Bee shrimp are opportunistic omnivores. They are excellent scavengers and can eat pretty much anything that they can find on the bottom of your tank.
While they might not be a substitute for tank maintenance, these shrimp will definitely help you to keep the tank clean.
In a well-established tank, they usually can find enough supply of food (algae and biofilm) by themselves.
Nonetheless, in order to keep Bee shrimp healthy, happy or enhance their coloration, it will be a good idea to supplement them from time to time with common shrimp foods such as Bacter A.E. (read more about it), and/or the varied range of great products, such as (links to Amazon):
Providing them with leaves and blanched vegetables (like carrots, sprouts, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, etc.) will also help them to get all the necessary microelements necessary for molting.
Bee shrimp are very adaptable when it comes to feeding and you should not have problems with that. On the contrary, their voracious behavior may lead to overfeeding. Be careful with that.
Feeding Rules and Overfeeding
Please, do not skip this paragraph. So many of us are doing this because we adore our pets.
However, proving our affection with extra food and treats is a dangerous way to show our love. These are some of the reasons why overfeeding is bad in shrimp keeping:
- Overfeeding can deteriorate water quality thus stressing and shortening their life span.
- Uneaten food will quickly decompose and change the balance of a tank’s chemistry.
- In addition, overfeeding can also cause an outbreak of infections and/or parasites. For example, Scutariella Japonica, Planaria, Vorticella, Hydra and Ellobiopsidae, or Green fungus can become a very serious problem.
That is why, if you are new to this hobby, you should NEVER overfeed.
You can feed Bee shrimp just once a day (or once in 2 – 3 days if you have a matured tank), making the keeping process both inexpensive and highly convenient. Actually, by doing so, you will give them enough motivation to clean your tank as well.
It is recommended to feed them in rations that would last up to 3 – 6 hours max when eating.
After that, depending on the food, it is better to remove the uneaten parts from the tank to prevent messing up the water quality and potential parasite contamination.
You can read more about it in my articles:
How and What to Feed your Shrimp.
How Often and How Much to Feed Shrimp
Indian Almond Leaves and Alder Cones in a Shrimp Tank.
How to Blanch Сucumbers and Zucchini for Shrimp, Snails and Fish the Right Way.
Molting Bee Shrimp
Like all shrimp species, Bee shrimp shed their exoskeleton (molt, read more about this process) as they grow.
At some point, you might even think that the shrimp is dead. Well, it is not.
The frequency of molting depends on the age of the shrimp. For example, fully-grown Bee shrimp molts every 4 – 6 weeks, while juveniles usually molt every week or two.
During this period, the shrimp will display signs of decreased activity and even less association with other tankmates. It is advised that you do not touch the shrimp as they are very vulnerable at this point and may die if disturbed.
Tip: Once done with molting, do not remove the old shell. The exoskeleton contains a lot of calcium and many other microelements. Your Bee shrimp will eat it later.
|Calcium plays a huge role in any shrimp. Therefore. I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.
Are Bee Shrimp Plant Safe?
Yes, it is completely safe to keep Bee shrimp in planted tanks. They are not really interested in eating up live aquatic plants.
As scavengers and clean up crew, they only eat dying, rotting, or decaying plants. This is another reason, why people love keeping them.
Note: Keep in mind that hobbyists often confuse grazing on (eating algae) with eating the plant.
Caring and Keeping Bee Shrimp
If you are a beginner at shrimp keeping, Bee shrimp should not be your first choice.
These shrimp have some specific requirements. It means that there is little room for mistakes.
In this section, I will cover the essentials that you need to be aware of when it comes to caring for Bee shrimp and tank setup.
Like all dwarf shrimp, Bee shrimp are favored for their small size. Although they can be easily housed in tanks as small as 5 gallons (20 liters) or even less, it is still not recommended if you do not have experience in shrimp keeping.
The point is that more water volume will increase the stability of water parameters which is very important when caring for dwarf shrimp and especially for most species in the genus Caridina.
Bee shrimp are more sensitive to changes in water quality. Therefore, 10 gallons (40 liters) is a more common and recommended option.
Temperature: The optimal temperature should be in the range of 20 – 24 °C (68 – 74 °F). However, Bee shrimp can tolerate lower or higher temperatures as well.
Shrimp are poikilothermic, which means that their body temperature completely depends on the temperature in their surrounding environment.
According to multiple studies, temperature is one of the main factors affecting their growth, survival, and breeding patterns. Higher temperature will increase their metabolism and breeding rate but will reduce their lifespan.
pH: Optimal water pH should be provided for this species in the range of 6.0 – 6.8. Bee shrimp will appreciate acidic water.
Note: In some cases, they can thrive in neutral pH (7.0) as well but only after several generations of breeding in these water parameters.
Hardness: Bee shrimp will appreciate optimal KH 0 – 2 and GH between 3 – 6 GH.
Important: Check your water parameters and do regular water changes. Be consistent in your water quality. Dwarf shrimp do not like big and sudden changes, they can have huge molting problems (like “The white ring of death”) because of it.
Type of Water and Minerals
In order to thrive, Bee shrimp require an excellent quality type of water. Therefore, we cannot use tap water. Our choice is only RO/DI water (reverse osmosis/de-Ionization)
A reverse osmosis system is an efficient, economical way to produce high-purity water. But this water does not have any minerals, so we have to define all water parameters (pH, KH, GH, and TDS) manually.
Luckily it is easy to do with shrimp re-mineralizers.
Nowadays, there are many really good products on the market. However, if you do not know what to choose, I always recommend Salty shrimp products (GH+) for that.
Active (buffered) substrate plays a crucial role if you need to keep your pH less than 7.0 (neutral). Active substrate means that it changes (in our case, it lowers) the water parameter (pH).
For example, it can be ADA Amazonia aqua soil, Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, Akadama-Bonsai soil, etc.
Clean water is also a must. Generally, as long as you have got the filter that works great with the size of the tank you have got, you will be fine.
Personally, I would always recommend using sponge filters or matten filters. These filters are cheap, easy to maintain and clean, provide a lot of surface to graze on.
In addition, they are absolutely safe for the baby shrimp. You will not have to cover the filter intake with a sponge to prevent baby shrimp from being sucked in.
Considering the fact that Caridina cantonensis species live in mountain streams and rivulets, we need to have good aeration as well for our Bee shrimp.
Light is not important for the Bee shrimp. Lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants in your tank.
Decoration, driftwood, and plants will provide more surface area for algae and biofilm growth. It will give them lots of places to hide during the molting process.
You can read more about it in my articles:
Important: Before putting Bee shrimp into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them (read more about it) as all invertebrates. Do it very slowly. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.
If you are going to add shrimp to the existing tank, I would recommend quarantining them as well.
Be careful with chemicals like copper (read more). Crabs, shrimp, and crayfish do not tolerate copper-based medications.
Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Sexing Bee Shrimp
There are few indicators that give away the sex of the Bee shrimp.
- The larger shrimp are females. Males are smaller.
- Due to the fact that females carry eggs, the underside (abdomen) of the females is wider, it goes down to protect the eggs. Males Sexy shrimp are thinner.
- The presence of the saddle.
Note: In some cases, the saddle (on the upper body, behind the head, where eggs are stored before fertilization) of a female Bee shrimp may be virtually impossible to see because of the coloration.
It is very important to have a good ratio of males and females to breed successfully if you have just started with this species.
Breeding Bee Shrimp
Bee shrimp are very prolific animals and can breed very quickly. You only need to set the right conditions for this to happen. Make sure that your water parameters are stable and there is enough food in the tank.
Depending on the temperature, Caridina cantonensis species become mature when they are about 3 – 3.5 months old.
Females molt prior to mating and release a certain chemical substance into the surrounding water to attract males. This signals the males that the female is ready to spawn causing the male shrimp to swim in frenzied circuits around the tank, seeking her out.
Depending on the size of the female, it can carry from 30 – 50 eggs. You will see it fanning its eggs regularly with pleopods. The female will keep the eggs for the entire time necessary for incubation. In most cases, it ranges from 4 – 6 weeks.
At hatching, the baby Bee shrimp are born as tiny replicas of the adults — not more than 2 mm in length and are perfectly independent.
Do not pay attention to their coloration at this stage. It will become more intense as the young mature.
Bee Shrimp and Suitable Tankmates
The ideal situation for the Bee shrimp is a species tank, but they can be kept with other fish as long as those species are chosen with care. Large and/or aggressive fishes should be avoided.
Due to their peaceful nature, it makes a lot of sense if dwarf shrimp are kept together with tank mates that are equally quiet, peaceful, and can share the same water parameters with them.
Bee shrimp are compatible with:
- Shrimp (for example, Crystal shrimp, Bamboo shrimp, Caridina cf. babaulti, Tangerine Tiger Shrimp, Blue Bolt Shrimp, etc.)
- Snails (for example, Japanese trapdoor snails, Ramshorn snails, Nerite snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails, Black Devil Snails, etc.). Just keep in mind that some snails can suffer from shell attrition whilst the pH is under pH 7.0.
Although Bee shrimp are not recommended for beginner aquarists, they are easy to care for once you understand their needs and preferences. They are cute, unique, and simply amazing! They can be a nice addition to any planted tank or a shrimp tank.