Crossbreeding: Can You Mix Different Color Shrimp?

Crossbreeding Can You Mix Different Color Shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are becoming an extremely popular choice even for beginners. These little invertebrates make a colorful and interesting addition to many home tanks. However, any temptation to keep and mix different color shrimp should be treated with utmost caution.

So, what is the main problem?

Mixing different color shrimp will definitely change a beautiful color to a wild-type color. Basically, your shrimp will lose their color. Unfortunately, this is one of the main problems shrimp keepers have to deal with.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to stick to a specific species (and specific color) that you want to keep and breed.

What is wild-type shrimp?

Wild-type shrimp, Cherry shrimp and Sakura shrimpDo you know that in nature most shrimp species do not have bright and beautiful colors? Do you know why?

The answer is pretty simple, actually.

Bright colors are not effective when you have to hide most of the time. Any shrimp with vivid colors will shine like a beacon for any predator. It can be especially dangerous during molting when they are weak and slow.

Evolution is all about passing on the genome to the next generation. Shrimp that can hide from predators the most effectively will live the longest and have better chances to breed.

Therefore, because shrimp are at the bottom of the food chain, they developed inconspicuous colors. It helps them to avoid any unwanted attention by imitating the surroundings.

How do wild-type shrimp look like?

Generally, wild-type shrimp are semi-transparent to brown or greenish-brown. They do not have any particular pattern.

Actually, wild-type shrimp can be pretty attractive in their own way.

Why Mixing Different Color Shrimp is Bad?

As I have already said, mixing different color shrimp is not a good idea. Even though the results will not show up immediately, they will definitely come.

At first or in a few generations, you will get some dodgy, unstable, and weird colors. After that, your shrimp start ‘losing’ their color and revert to their wild color.

What Will Happen When I Mix Different Color Shrimp?

Crossbreeding Can You Mix Different Color ShrimpAccording to the fundamental laws of inheritance, the next shrimp generation inherits one genetic allele from each parent. Different gene combinations result in different dominant/recessive ratios in offspring.

In simple words, wild-type color is Dominant (the stronger) and all other colors are Recessive (weaker).

That is why Dominant color will always be more prominent in shrimp.

Note: For example, if we look at Crystal Red shrimp and Crystal Black shrimp, we will see that black color is dominant and the red color is Recessive.

Can I Change Wild-type Color into the Normal One?

Yes, it is possible… It also one of the reasons that make dwarf shrimp exceptional pets.

However, I have to say it right from the beginning, it will also require a lot of dedicated work!

To do that you will have to start culling shrimp (or do selective breeding). Culling is the process of removing or segregating shrimp from a breeding stock based on a specific trait.

This is done to improve and exaggerate desirable characteristics or to remove and decrease undesirable characteristics.

When we are talking about genes, nobody can guarantee you how much time it may take. Even though most dwarf shrimp species reproduce quickly, you have to be prepared for months or even years of hard work.

That is why an absolute majority of hobbyists should never mix different color shrimp. Unless they are doing it as a personal challenge to prove their skill sets, or out of curiosity.

For more information, read my article “Culling Shrimp. Selective Breeding”.

Can you keep different types of shrimp together?

Shrimp taxonomy is not fully understood. Every now and then, we see some changes in classification. It also adds some problems for our hobby.

Some articles say that you can keep different shrimp species together. Well, this is not true. DO NOT keep different species of the same genus of freshwater shrimp. 

You can keep some species together, for example:

These species will not interbreed or crossbreed with other Caridina species. However, be very careful, with other species and do your research beforehand. 

Basically, the same can be said about Neocaridina species. In many cases, they can be just a color variation of the same species.

For example, the most popular Neocaridina shrimp (Red cherry shrimp) has lots of pattern and color morphs:

  • Cherry shrimp,
  • Sakura shrimp,
  • Fire Red shrimp,
  • Painted Fire Red shrimp
  • Blood Mary shrimp
  • Kanoko shrimp
  • Neon Yellow shrimp,
  • Blue Velvet shrimp,
  • Sapphire shrimp,
  • Blue Diamond shrimp,
  • Black Diamond shrimp,
  • Black Rose shrimp,
  • Orange Sakura shrimp,
  • Green Jade shrimp,
  • Rili Shrimp shrimp, 
  • Snowball shrimp, etc.

All these species belong to the Neocaridina genus and can crossbreed.

Another problem is that sometimes it can be really hard to see “The Difference between Neocaridina and Caridina Shrimp”. 

In Conclusion

  • Keeping and breeding dwarf shrimp is a really interesting and rewarding experience.
  • In nature, most shrimp species do not have bright and beautiful colors.
  • Almost all shrimp with beautiful coloration were artificially bred.
  • Selective breeding (culling) can be done. And probably the single most important factor is patience.
  • (Good) Different genus will not crossbreed and can be safely housed together. So, you canmix a Neocaridina with a Caridina species.
  • (Bad) Shrimp taxonomy changes from time to time. So, we cannot be absolutely sure that this or that species will not be moved to another genus.
  • Do your research before purchasing a new shrimp species because mixing different color shrimp will definitely change their color to a wild-type variation.

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Which shrimp will not interbreed?

Neocaridina, Caridina, Palaemonetes, and Atyopsys species do not crossbreed on genus level. Therefore, they can be safely housed together. For example, Red cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi), Crystal red shrimp (Caridina cantonensis), Ghost shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus), and Bamboo shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis) have different genus, so they will not crossbreed.

What shrimp can breed together?

Generally speaking, many different shrimp species within the same genus are able to interbreed and produce healthy and fertile offspring. They are often known as intra-specific hybrids, crosses, or Mischling shrimp. 

What is a Mischling shrimp?

Mischling is a German word for “crossbreed” shrimp. It is an intra-specific hybrid between Crystal shrimp and Taiwan Bee shrimp. These hybrids are hardier and cheaper than their parents. In addition, they have a high chance of producing good quality Taiwan Bee shrimp.

Can you mix blue and red shrimp?

It depends on the genus and species of the shrimp. Shrimp of the same genus and species are likely to crossbreed. So, you need to know the species they belong to.

Are there shrimp species within the same genus that do not crossbreed?

Yes, there are some shrimp species that do not crossbreed. For example, species of the genus Caridina like Amano shrimp (Caridina multidentata), Cardinal shrimp (Caridina dennerli), Red Nose Shrimp (Caridina gracilirostris), Malawa shrimp (Caridina pareparensis, Caridina parvidentata) will not crossbreed.

8 thoughts on “Crossbreeding: Can You Mix Different Color Shrimp?

  1. Thank you I much for this article! I’m starting my first planted shrimp tank and was considering a mixture of sapphire and Sakura neocardinia but after reading this I know better. Thank you

    1. Hi Frank Hollenback,
      I wish you good luck! It is always exciting to start something new 🙂
      Thank you for the kind words!
      Best regards,

  2. Can you house Neocaridina davidi with Caridina Denerlii or are there water parameters too different?

    1. Hi Thomas Ashe,
      Caridina Denerlii is a very sensitive species. It needs high temperature and pH. Even though Neocaridina davidi is pretty hardy, those parameters are not optimal for them.
      For example, females will start losing eggs when the temperature gets to 86F (30C). In addition, prolonged exposure to high pH will have a negative impact on their health and molting.
      Therefore, I would not recommend keeping these species together.
      Best regards,

  3. Did all neocaridina prone to bad crossbreed? Let say if I keep Red Fire neocaridina heteropoda and Blue Dream neocaridina cf. zhangjiajiensis will they make a transparent mischling or they will had mixed color like pinto in caridina?

    1. Hi Fadillah,
      Unfortunately, I believe that all types of neocaridin are prone to bad crossbreeding. As for your second question, the result of crossbreeding is always unpredictable. Even if the next generation is, for example, transparent, it does not mean that the subsequent generations will be the same. It all depends on the genetic pool, which undergoes significant changes during crossbreeding.
      Best regards,

      1. I see I probably don’t like result from it but I’m really curious to try one maybe I could try breed neocaridina heteropada green jade and neocaridina cf.zhangjiajensis blue pearl, maybe I could create something new.
        But if did created something new, how I could established population from it without losing the color? Should I breed the same batch or I should try another batch for more genetic variants?

        1. Hi Fadillah,
          One of the greatest advantages of keeping ornamental shrimp in an aquarium is that, with the desire and, of course, the time, anyone can attempt to create a new color variation.
          As for your question, to establish new colors, you will have to work exclusively with those shrimp that already possess such traits. As an example, we can take the well-known Crystal Red Shrimp, which were created by Mr. Hisayasu Suzuki from just a few shrimp. Of course, such inbreeding carries a number of drawbacks from the standpoint of nature and evolution (weak immune system, adaptive properties, etc.), but this is what many breeders have to sacrifice if they want to achieve a certain result.
          Best regards,

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