Hints for Survival and How Do Not Kill Your Shrimp

Hints for Survival and How Do Not Kill Your Shrimp

Shrimps are well known to be excessively sensitive compared to fishes. Even an insignificant alteration in the chemical concentration of their habitat can result in their death. Besides, a question often asked by a million people is, why are my shrimp dying? There are can be several reasons which can cause your shrimp’s death. That is why I resolved to give some tips about the possible causes.

Today, I am going to highlight the most widespread causes for the death of your shrimps. Though not in order of priority, these tips can help you to find the possible causes and thus, avert the deaths of your shrimp if only you will abide by them.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the saddest thing for any shrimp keeper. Why do shrimp die?

Case 1: Shrimps might have been shocked or under the weather when you brought them home

When your shrimp are imported, they must have gone through the stress of being taken from their initial habitat and put into bags or any other medium before shipping. They spent most of their lives overseas in one body of water, one set of parameters, and they are shipped from overseas to your country.

Then they are moved to your tank so being moved two times as a full-grown adult shrimp can be very stressful on them. Especially, if they were caught in the wild (like the most of the store-bought shrimp) or farm-bred usually suffer the most. Most times, the shrimp usually spend days or even weeks on transit.

As a result of the packaging (insufficient space for movement), the shrimp become stressed or under the weather making their death enormous. As a result, overall losses encountered are usually somewhere between 20% – 100% upon arrival.

And it is nothing you have done wrong!

A lot of people have the perfect set up, the perfect parameters and the shrimp are dying anyway.  So people are dumbfounded and think it is something they did wrong.

Tip: be wary of sellers that sell shrimps which were imported, disguising them as “home-bred.” In this manner, it would be best to buy them from trustworthy breeders or better still, go directly to the shrimp farm where the shrimp are being raised firsthand. When you do this, you will be astonished to have established your own shrimp population with hale and hearty shrimp.

Besides, if you decide to buy a shrimp from home breeders, bear in mind that there is certainly no rationale why shrimp should die or get under the weather during the shipment.

Thus, it is extremely advisable to buy shrimp only from a seller who has a good record shipping shrimp (alive and in good condition). However, you should be wary of sellers who will always want to include additional shrimp to compensate for the death of any shrimp during shipment.

If it were possible, it would be better to choose shrimp home breeders near your location. The upsides of such home breeders are that they know all parameters where the shrimp were kept. So they can tell you (just to make sure) that your perimeters are close or similar to theirs.

Do you know that Caridina shrimp do not die off as much? Well, that is because the exporters tend to send juvenile sized Caridina shrimp and they tend to acclimate better.

Case 2: Cycling and Recycling Problems

Aside from the water parameters, you want to make sure that your tank is fully cycled. A cycle mature aquarium is a must for shrimp because if you have nitrites or ammonia it means that your cycle is not complete.

Also, if your nitrates are too high that will cause stress and kill shrimp. So make sure that your tank is fully cycled.

Tip: First of all, it is not even a piece of advice, actually. You will need to buy test kits. It is absolutely paramount to know everything about nitrites or ammonia in your aquarium. Also, in order not to have recycling problems you can use snails, they are not pests by the way.

You can read more about “Benefits of Snails for a Shrimp Aquarium” right here.

Case 3: It is possible that there is a Chloramine (NH2Cl) in Your Water as the Sanitizer

An absolute majority of water suppliers have shifted from chlorine (17Cl) to chloramine (NH2Cl) as their choicest water sanitizer.

Although it is not harmful for humans, it is deadly to shrimp. As a result, it can result in the death of the shrimp when it is introduced into their habitat. Besides, shrimp is very sensitive when it comes to chemicals in their habitat.

Tip:  In order to detoxify any chemicals in your tap water, opt for Seachem Prime (or similar products). Since you cannot disperse chloramine from water, there is a need to contain it chemically and convert it into safe elements. To do so, you need dechlorinators else, the chloramine will continue to mount up in your tank every time you do the water change.

Consequently, if you put shrimps into this tank, they will begin to die.

Therefore, it is vital for you to use dechlorinators, if you want to eradicate chlorine and chloramine. As a precautionary measure, choose the best dechlorinators like Seachem Prime because even in authorized doses, some dechlorinators are still deadly for your shrimp.

Case 4: You used Hot Water in Water Changes

Maybe you will be surprised to know that a lot of people use hot water during the colder months of the year when they are doing water changes. They do it in order to regulate the temperature of the tap water. But right after changing the water, shrimp start dying and they ask themselves why?

Tip: to avert this menace, do not even think about using a hot water tap. Hot water reacts with copper pipes (also with the help of other chemical elements in the water), the pipe starts to rust. When corrosion occurs, copper ions are released into the water and this can result in the death of your shrimps.

Besides, when the hot water reacts with the chemicals added to the boiler, heavy metals are released into the water.

As mentioned earlier, the high sensitivity of shrimps to even minute changes in the chemical concentration of their habitat could lead to their death.

Case 5: High temperature. Heater.

People are using heaters and you might want to ask yourself why would you use a heater?  Really why? Shrimp really tend to prefer cool temperatures over hot.

In addition, heaters can malfunction so if something goes wrong it can cook your whole tank. Of course, there are shrimps that need higher temperatures but we are not talking about them right now.

Tips: Nevertheless, if the temperature in your home or in your shrimp room is below 68 degrees constantly and you want to just bring it up to 70 or 75F, you need to use a heater. But if your temperatures are between 68 and 72 degrees there is absolutely no need for that.

On the one hand, we need to keep the temperature consistent all the time because we do not want to stress the shrimp out.  On the other hand, these minor fluctuations will not have any impact on the shrimp. Everyday temperature changes happen so gradually that it does not affect the shrimp.

It is almost more natural to have daily fluctuations in temperature than it is to have a thermostat set at 74 degrees day and night.

Case 6: There is Too Much Copper and/or Lead in your Water Supply  

You could bet cold water still contains high concentrations of copper (29Cu) and/or lead (82Pb) as a result of their presence in the tubes and water valves. This could cause the sudden death of the shrimp.

Tip: testing for copper and some other heavy metals in the water will help you to understand what you are dealing with. High-quality test equipment to check for the presence of copper can be purchased at companies such as Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.

Although equipment for testing these metals are usually rare (people do not use them often) and costly, the choicest option is to purchase a Reverse Osmosis-Deionization filter (RO-DI) to eradicate every unwanted chemical from the water.

Other alternative options to buy a polyfilter (highly adsorbent chemical filter media pads).

You can read more about “How Copper Affects Dwarf Shrimp” right here.

Case 7: It is possible You are Overfeeding Shrimp

If you feed your shrimp more than is necessary, they will become inactive and eventually die. When it is time to feed, you will see how happy they are.  

Nevertheless, after some time, even when there is still food to eat, they will simply remain inactive. You can also notice that your shrimp will start losing coloration and die eventually.

Tip: once a day, feed them with only a little amount of food that they can eat in 10-20 minutes. Avoid leaving pellets of foods sitting in the aquarium for 5-10 hours. Give your shrimps hungry days from time to time. Use feeding dishes. 

You can read more about “Everything about Feeding Dishes for Shrimp” right here

Case 8: Water parameters. It is possible you have a Parameters Fluctuations

It is crucial that whatever species of shrimp you are getting that you meet the required parameters for that species of shrimp. Keep in mind that shrimp are not like fish. They cannot adaptable to different parameters easily.

Unfortunately, many people apply their fish knowledge or their fish husbandry to shrimp thinking that they will adjust or adapt that same way. No, they will not.

One of the secrets for successful shrimp breeding is to give them those parameters where they will really thrive in. Because if you go too far off those target parameters (GH, KH, TDS, and pH) you will start to encounter problems sickness, and/or death.

For example, sometimes, the inactivity of the shrimps can be attributed to a very low PH (less than 6). On the other hand, if the pH value increases beyond normal, it will result in the death of the shrimps as well.  It can take days and weeks actually.

Tip: Check your parameter all the time.

For instance, tanks using soft water may be faced with pH crash at some point in time as the tank and filter mature. The reason is that soft water will not give much pH buffering capability (KH).

If this happened to you, the best thing (often recommended) is to put some crushed corals either right into the tank or in your filter. These crushed corals will increase the buffering capacity and pH of the water depending on the quantity of crushed coral you added.

There is another way.

If you wish to add baking powder or other forms of pH adjuster, it is recommended to put it gradually into the water. However, you need to do it in a few days to avert pH crash. Also, on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, it is recommended to do no more than 15 – 20% of the water change.

Case 9: It is possible You Did Too Much Water Changing at a Time

There is nothing to add to this problem. Too much water changing in your tank at a time may lead to the death of the shrimps.

You can read more about “How to Do and How Often to Do Water Change in Shrimp Aquarium” right here.

Tip: it is advisable not to change too much of the water at a time. Consistency and stability should be your priority. That is why when you are changing the water in your aquarium you need to check your water temperature as well.

Case 10: It could be as a Result of the New Plant You Bought

Sometimes, the death of your shrimp could be a result of the new plant placed in the tank. Really quickly number one is certain chemicals on plants that you buy in a pet store. You put it in your tank and your shrimp are dropping dead like flies. There are chemicals on some of these plants that can really just wipe out your whole tank.

Tip: Before placing any newly bought plant into the tank, it is highly recommended to quarantine and wash them properly.

As it was mentioned several times earlier, shrimps, being extremely sensitive, will react to the chemicals (all types of pesticides) used when growing the plant. This can result in their death. It is recommended to purchase non-pesticide treated plants.

So, if you are buying plants and you are not sure about them you can use a test bucket or a tank with some cherry shrimp in it that you do not care about much. 

Put it in there if the shrimp are fine for a couple of days then you know it is fine. If there are toxins on plants they will kill shrimp very quickly so you will know pretty fast that something is wrong. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice a couple of shrimps than to lose them all.

You can read more in my articles:

Case 11: Dogs and Cats Treatments

Many people have cats and dogs. We treat our pets for fleas in the spring and summer. Did you know that those flea treatments that you put on your dog are highly toxic to shrimp? 

Thus if you put that on your pet and then you put your hand in your tank there is a good chance you are going to annihilate your tank.  Flea shampoos can be lethal to invertebrates.

Tips: You just want to be really careful with certain things that you are touching and then putting your hands in your tank for me

Case 12: You Have Dosed Up Your Shrimp or Fish

This is a common cause if there are fish and shrimps in your aquarium at the same time. It is possible that your shrimp have reacted to the medication, resulting in their death.

Tip: it is recommended you always inspect the label of any medicine you are purchasing. If there is a copper among the ingredients used, do not purchase such product as even minute concentration could cause the death of your shrimp.

However, some none-copper products could also be harmful to your shrimp. In this way, you will need to learn from experience.

Case 13: Imbalance in sexes. Too many Males in the Colony

As your shrimp colony grows, sometimes an imbalance in sexes can cause a problem. If you have too many males in the tank when the female is molting, the males will do this “happy dance” and kind of frenzy around the whole tank looking for that female.

Sometimes when there are too many males they overwhelm the female. It stresses her out and can kill her.  This is something to keep in mind. When you have a really large colony you notice that your female shrimp are turning up dead.

Tip: control your shrimp population.

Case 13: Pest infestation.

It is a big problem if you have pests like Planaria, Hydra,  Vorticella, Dragonfly nymphs, etc.

These are all little creatures that can kill shrimp and especially baby shrimp. Some of them you can unwillingly invite to your tank by overfeeding (like Planaria). While in other cases they can come in on some plants that are cultured outdoors (like Dragonfly nymph). The dragonfly nymph will hunt for your shrimps.

So if you see any of these pests you really need to eradicate them.

Tips: there are ways to get rid of planaria and hydra. For example, there is a product called No-planaria. It is a great product. You can read more about “Planaria and Shrimps. How to remove them” right here.

Dragonfly nymphs – just remove them with a small siphon or a plastic straw. You will have to agitate the plants to get them to move. Another way to bring them to the surface is to drop the temperature by 3 – 5 degrees. Keep in mind, that this can (will) harm your shrimps as well.

Scuds – well, it is going to be a challenge to get rid of them. I do not know any treatment that will not harm your shrimp at the same time. Moreover, scuds are significantly tougher than your shrimps.  

As a result, it is most likely that you will kill your shrimp first. So as you see them pull them out. They reproduce very fast and eventually out-compete your shrimps in the aquarium.

You can read more about it in my article “Scuds In Shrimp And Fish Tank”.

In Conclusion

I would be glad if any of the aforementioned cases identify the causes of the death of your shrimp. Also, there are other adverse cases that are not listed in this article. Nonetheless, in my next article, I will discuss more of the causes of the death of your shrimp.

Take care!

26 thoughts on “Hints for Survival and How Do Not Kill Your Shrimp

  1. My 2 freshwater baby shrimp died after 2 days? I bought an eco tank and it didn’t come with the shrimp so I bought 2 from the local fish pet store. I fed them just sprinkles of shrimp food and was told to acclimatise them for 30 mins which I did. I had a red and blue one and was advised just to use tap water. I bought the moss from the same store. Could the ‘eco’ water have killed them?

    1. To tell the truth, there is not enough information. There are so many things that can go wrong.
      Was your tank cycled?
      What are your water parameters?
      What species? Neocaridina, Caridina, something else?
      Frankly saying, 30 min is not enough. Read my article about acclimatisation.

  2. I have a 200 lire tank. I had black & white Crystal Shrimp and Cherry Shrimp, both populations were increasing and from the original 5 Cherries I had shrimp of all sizes totalling over 30 and the Crystals were increasing steadily from 3 original ones I had well over a dozen, with plenty of minute ones that can only be seen with a magnifying glass. I have acid water in Cornwall, but they all seemed happy enough, I put a few drops of Streescoat in the water that I use for changing and let the water stand for over 24 hrs. I use 4ml of Easycarbo every day to keep the plants growing to combat algae and use 10ml of Profitero nitrate free plant food twice a week. Virtually all of my shrimp disappeared over night with them all gone 2 days later. I had purchased several new “Shrimp-safe” plants the same week and reckon it could only be them that are the cause as they had harmful chemical in or on them. Needless to say I am absolutely gutted, the plants came from 2 different suppliers so I have no idea which or whose plants caused the meltdown; what’s done is done, but I would like to try again as I very much enjoyed watching them fan their eggs, hide away when the eggs are hatching and spotting the tiny little ones as they emerge and grow.
    Do you have any experience of this and if so how long do you reckon it will take the chemical to come out of the plants totally.
    I do have fish, carefully chosen, none of which ever show any interest in the shrimp, which is why they’ve been able to multiply quite successfully

    1. Oh, man!
      I feel your pain.
      Unfortunately, nobody can guarantee or tell you when it will be safe again. For example, some plant pesticides can last a week or two. While others have a killing potential for months!
      Read my article about pesticides, I hope it will help you.
      I would have done a massive water change, quarantined these plants and added Cherries in 10-14 days. Next, check out their reaction for the next 10-20 days before adding something more expensive like Crystals.
      In addition, I never completely trust any safe fertilizer. For example, in my article about copper in a shrimp tank. I advise starting at 1/2 dose.
      Best Regards,
      Michael

  3. I bought a freshwater tank with 10 shrimps in it,and only 1 plant.I did not cycle it for a week,just 2 days.
    They seemed great.The next day I bought 8 more.4 of them were green and I bought a lot of plants.2 days after 1 yellow one was dying.I am isolating it now,what to do?

    1. Hi Hugo,
      You did not cycle it for a week? Cycling usually takes from 4 – 6 weeks!
      Your tank is not established and there is a very high chance that all the shrimp will die.
      I believe that you need to find aquarists who can help you out by taking shrimp while your tank is cycling. Another option – return them to the pet store.
      You cannot skip cycling.
      Best regards,
      Michael

      1. My water parameters are good. My water is hard so I used filtered water to reduce the hardness. Have done small water changes. Temp is at 73 to 74 at any given time. I do not have a lot of surface movement. I added an air stone with micro bubbles which helped with the movement but not with the shrimp dying. The tank is about 5 months old. I have not added any minerals for them and I am using fluval shrimp substrate and it is a planted tank. Plants are doing great and I dont add fertilizer. The only two things is hard water which I then used filtered and the temp. I did add a corydora which died. Any ideas?

        1. Hi Colleen Mac,
          What shrimp species do you keep? How many shrimp died? How did it happen? How did they behave?
          Unfortunately, shrimp are pretty sensitive to water quality, and you need to know exactly pH, GH, KH, and TDS.
          If your water parameters are OK, I would check their diet.
          It can be a lack of calcium, for example.
          I need more information.
          Best regards,
          Michael

  4. My shrimp begin to died after i introduce some cardinal tetra, are the cardinal threaten them?

    1. Hi Ils,
      Although Cardinal tetras are pretty small and peaceful, it is still possible that they might bully your shrimp.
      They are definitely a threat to baby shrimp.
      Best regards,
      Michael

  5. Hi Michael, first of all, congratulations for keeping this incredible blog. I just saw four or five males swarming an old female, all of them blue neocaridinas. Although I believe I have a good male/female ratio in my tank, the male ones were feeding on her. She was the only one to molt in the entire tank. It was really a shock to me, seeing a shrimp to be eaten alive… She is still moving her legs, separated in another tank I have, but I don’t believe she’ll gonna make it. Any thoughts on this one?

    1. Hi MURILO BALLE,

      Thank you for the kind words!
      Sorry to hear that but it happens.
      It might be that the female did not molt completely, it could attract other shrimp to eat the old shell, but with the old exoskeleton, they unintentionally harmed her. As a result, the injury instigated their scavenger instinct. So, they “scavenged” her. Maybe she was too old and about to die anyway.

      Best regards,
      Michael

  6. Great post but think I will be giving up on trying to raise a shrimp tank. Started small with 3 shrimp (no live plants just the plastic ones). They all died in a day. Tested water and nitrates a little high. Nothing major, but waited until the number came down and introduced 10 new ones. Lasted about a week and they all died again. I thought would be fun just to have a 10 gallon of nothing but shrimp, but looks to require way more time than I have available if I have to constantly monitor and adjust. Thanks for post though!

  7. Hey! I’ve had shrimp for a year, 4 happy ones, amano and red cherry. Then I decided to add 2 new guys and a plant and all hell broke loose. Only 1 shrimp survived and I’ve got him safe in a separate container. I guess it was the plant, I wish they would say this stuff at the store that plants could be harmful…

  8. hello,

    for context this is a 10 gallon tank i am setting up in a relatively new apartment building, i used a de-chlorination, and bacterial starter, put in some driftwood that i got from a local river i treated by power-washing, scrubbing and boiling (repeated several-times), added some basic plants (anubias nana, moss balls, java-moss, some dragon stone, and some other rocks that i got from the river (power-washed, scrubbed, boiling water-bath etc). left it for 2 weeks while testing water for ammonia, nitrate, nitrites, pH, it has an internal filter, and heater and an air stone/pump for 10 gallon tank. i also used Flourish tabs as it is a gravel bottom aquarium. i put 3 algae eater shrimp in and some java moss into it 3 days ago, since then 2 of the shrimp have died. i acclimated them by letting the bag sit in the water until the temperature was ~ the same to the touch, then slowly adding more water over time. water parameters have been stable and ammonia, nitrates and nitrites are all where they are supposed to be, the ph is ~7.6. they seem to be doing fine and then i turn off the light and 1 dies.

    1. Hi James,
      Sorry to hear that.
      There are many things that can go wrong especially in the first month when we introduce them to the tank.
      I think that your tank was not established yet. Ideally, it is recommended to add dwarf shrimp after 1 month when the tank finished cycling.
      Best regards,
      Michael

  9. My shrimp (crystal red and blue velvets) are suddenly starting to die off- had them for over a month and they were doing great (two berried females) until this week I separated them into a breeder tank (I have a calm betta who leaves them alone, even when they swim right in his face) after noticing that their internal organs were turning orange/pink and I’ve alreadly lost five out of thirteen.
    I tested the water and the parameters (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, ph, kh, and gh) are all pretty much ideal- ph being about 6.8.

    I’ve been trying to treat them with small doses of hydrogen peroxide, but I’m still losing them.
    Any suggestions?

  10. hello, i was wondering if it would kill my shrimp if i took it out and held it. thanks in advance, kylee

    no i’m not kidding pls answer

    1. Hi kylee,
      It is highly not recommended to pick up dwarf shrimp with bare hands.
      However, it should not kill them if your hands are clean and you do not expose them to the air for too long.
      Best regards,
      Michael

  11. Hi i have added around 6 amano shrimps bought locally and they are dying 1 at a time very night by far only 3 are left so what do u think is the issue in this case also FYI there almost 12-18 other shrimps and they are unaffected at all.

    1. Hi Dhairya Shirishkar,
      Unfortunately, there are factors that are well beyond the control of hobbyists. For example, shipping stress.
      In addition, your Amano shrimp may have already accustomed to other water parameters. As a result, any attempt to introduce them to other water conditions can shock them.
      I have just finished an article about it – The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping.
      Best regards,
      Michael

  12. I had a 3 gallon tank with an 2 orange rilis, a black rose (maybe) and a blue velvet or dream (not sure). I use substrate gravel, well acclimated piece of drift wood, moss, live and fake plants. I did not or ever use water from sink to fill or add water to tank. I buy distilled water and treat it with Shrimp Essentials.
    Tank was healthy….started seeing baby fry (so cute). They were doing great for about 6 months. I bought another rili and 2 blue velvet or dreams. Before I added, the ammonia almost 0, PH was about 7.5, temp was about 74. I even checked the bag that the new shrimp came in and PH was much lower in pet store tank. Within one hour they all died….old and new. So upsetting! I could not figure out what went wrong but after reading your article, I added a new live plant before adding the new shrimp and I pulled out the filter and cleaned it with hot water in our sink in our old house with copper pipes. Because I dont love our water, I did rinse the filter with treated water after I cleaned filter but now I wonder if even after rinsing, there was still some copper in the filter. Do you think this may have been the case? Also is the copper now all in my moss, driftwood, substrate or does it eventually leave with a good water change. I dont want to start over and reacclimate. Please let me know your thoughts

    1. Hi Amy Lee,
      Copper is extremely dangerous to dwarf shrimp. Basically, in our hobby, we avoid it all the time.
      Nonetheless, are you absolutely sure that it was copper? Did you test it?
      What about your filter and plants?
      How did you clean the filter? Are you sure that you didn’t kill some beneficial bacteria causing mini-cycle?
      Maybe the problem was in the plant from the beginning? I mean there could be some chemicals pesticides, etc.
      Best regards,
      Michael

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