How Often and How Much to Feed Shrimp
So, how often and how much to feed dwarf shrimp in the tank? These are one of the first questions new shrimp keepers typically ask. And while it might sound like simple ones, the answer is anything but.
In fact, there are almost as many answers to this question as there are shrimp tanks. Generally, the amount and frequency of feeding depend on your tank set up, livestock, shrimp’s age, and the size of the shrimp colony.
Each set up is unique and requires a different approach when it comes to feeding. The problem, though, is that these general explanations usually do not help much, especially for somebody who is new to this hobby.
Therefore, in this article you will find out ways to figure out how often and how much to feed dwarf shrimp in the tank, how to prevent overfeeding, shrimp’s food preferences, natural habits, and some other useful information.
Dwarf Shrimp’s Natural Diet
Before we jump into discussions, I would like to start off with the general description of what dwarf shrimp eat in nature. That will help you to better understand their feeding requirements.
According to multiple studies, an analysis of the stomach contents of dwarf shrimp indicated that they are considered omnivorous scavengers. It means that they can eat any organic matter that falls on the bottom of the tank. It can be any:
- fish food, shrimp food, crab food, flakes, pellets, etc.,
- dying plants and leaves,
- different types of algae,
- tiny microorganisms that form biofilm,
- fish or snails waste,
- dead fish, dead snails or even other dead shrimp,
- detritus of any type.
As we can see, dwarf shrimp are detritivorous. They will eat anything they come across in the tank. It makes them an amazing cleaning crew.
What Dwarf Shrimp Prefer to Eat
Now, we know that our shrimp have a wide variety of food options but do they have any food preferences to meet their taste?
Well, yes, they do!
Gut analyses showed that, when given a choice, dwarf shrimp prefer to eat:
- detritus (it was found in 93% in shrimp guts)
- algae (it was up to 65% in shrimp guts)
- biofilm (it was from 30 to 85 % in shrimp guts)
How Often Dwarf Shrimp Eat in Nature
Strictly speaking, shrimp eat all the time. The digestive system of dwarf shrimp is pretty short and simple. It does not allow shrimp to store food, therefore, they have to eat constantly.
In the aquarium, you will always see them grazing on something, meaning that ideally they need a constant source of food. According to the study, some shrimp species can consume up to 51.0% of food weight per body weight per day.
Does it mean that you have to stay near the tank and drop food every few hours or so? Of course, not!
- As I have already mentioned, dwarf shrimp are outstanding scavengers and are fully capable to find food in the tank you did not know even exist.
- Despite the fact that they eat non-stop, shrimp are very small animals. In some cases, for example, the amount of food you give to your fish may be equivalent to the amount of food your shrimp colony needs for a week or more.
- When we are talking about starvation, they are super hardy. The result of the experiments showed that dwarf shrimp survived without food for 7 days without any major problems. After 14 days of complete starvation, they had some negative changes in their health. However, once shrimp started feeding, they restored everything in several days.
Note: It makes shrimp the best aquatic pet if you need to go on vacation. You can also read the article “8 Tips for Shrimp Breeding Vacation”.
How Often and How Much to Feed Shrimp
Now, when you have some background knowledge regarding shrimp’s nature, we have come to the most important questions of this article – how often and how much to feed dwarf shrimp in the tank.
The simple answer is usually the best explanation.
You can feed you shrimp as much and as often as you like only if you DO NOT overfeed them!
Depending on the tank set up, and how much natural food (algae and biofilm) there is, you can feed shrimp from 1 to 5 times a week. The optimal dose is usually determined empirically. Based on shrimp reaction, they need to eat the food in 2 – 3 hours. Leftovers must be removed.
None experienced shrimp keeper will ever tell you exactly how much and how often to feed shrimp. Nobody will take responsibility for giving you the wrong answer that may cause problems for your tank. I am talking about overfeeding.
DO NOT think that overfeeding is not a big deal. It is! Actually, overfeeding is one of the biggest causes of death for dwarf shrimp.
- Uneaten food can quickly decompose and cause an outbreak of infections and parasites. If you are overfeeding your shrimp there is a very high chance that Scutariella Japonica, Planaria, Vorticella, Hydra, Ellobiopsidae or Green fungus will visit your tank one day.
- Overfeeding may trigger pest snails infestation (Bladder snails, Pond snails).
- Ammonia and nitrates are caused mostly by an excess of food and organic waste. Therefore, you need to check how much you are feeding the shrimp.
Do not overfeed. This is a universal rule and it concerns all kinds of shrimp species. I cannot even stress enough how important this rule is. Unfortunately, a lot of beginner shrimp breeders usually forget about it or believe that it is not a big deal to give them a little bit more.
Do not be afraid to underfeed shrimp! It is way better than overfeeding.
How to Prevent Overfeeding in Shrimp Tank
Overfeeding is a variable parameter. There are many processes happening in our tank every day and most of them will affect how much you need to feed your shrimp. Let me give you a few examples:
- You cleaned the tank’s walls from the algae and siphoned the substrate. It means that shrimp will have less things to scavenge, therefore, they may need a little more manufactured food.
- Snail, fish, or shrimp died in the tank. More natural food for the shrimp, so, less to feed them.
- You decided to change the light timer from 8 to 9 hours. It will potentially increase algae growth. So, shrimp need less food.
- You have added almond leaves, cones, etc. to the tank a week ago. During this time a biofilm will develop, so, shrimp will need less food.
- After trimming, you removed some plants from the tank. It means that there is less surface area for algae and biofilm growth. Therefore, shrimp may need more food as well, etc.
Basically, everything in the tank will affect how much food you shrimp need. Nonetheless, it does not mean that you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out all this stuff. There is no need for that.
The only thing that you need to pay attention to is the reaction of your shrimp colony to the food.
Feed shrimp as much as they can eat in a few hours (2 – 3 hours is more than enough). If there is some food left, it is a sign that it is too much food for the amount of shrimp, you keep. Therefore, next time you can feed them less. On the other hand, if they eat it all in an hour, next time you can give them some more.
There are some useful tips that can help you here as well.
Feeding Frequency. Consider Your Schedule
If you are new to the hobby and have no idea how often you should feed shrimp. I would recommend starting with 5 days a week (Monday – Friday). Do not feed them during the weekend.
If you see that shrimp do not come to the food as fast (and as many) as they used to, it simply means that they are not very hungry. Therefore, you can change your schedule to 4 times a week, for example: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Every shrimp keeper has his own plan of feeding. It can be even 2 or 3 times a week, it can be every day. The most important thing is that you need to understand what works for you. You need to find the balance. That is why be ready to change the routine when it is necessary.
A great method to figure out how much the shrimp eat is using a feeding dish. It will also help you to determine how much your shrimp will actually eat within a few hours.
A feeding dish will also help to prevent spillage of the food. This way you can see if you are feeding them too much.
GlasGarten Shrimp Lollies (link to check the price on Amazon) are super delicious. Shrimp love them so much that they will come to feast on them.
Stick it right towards the front of the glass and watch them how quickly they come. It will give an idea of how hungry they might be. If shrimp are not coming out, there could be something wrong with the tank because shrimp Lollies are simply too tasty to skip.
It can be a little bit more difficult to feed shrimp with small babies in the tank. When shrimplets are small they tend to stay for several days in one the place where they can hide. They do not venture into the open and can get only floating particles, algae, or biofilm nearby.
Shrimplets cannot compete with adults for food and can starve to death rather quickly.
Therefore, it will be a really good idea to feed them powdered food such as Bacter AE (read more about it). It will guarantee that all your baby shrimp will get their share. However, be very careful with Bacter AE, it is very easy to overfeed with it.
If your tank is cycled and matured, you should have berried females. If you do not have them, it is a sign that there is something wrong in the diet, maybe you need to feed them more or change it.
Sometimes people stick to one food product and give it all the time. Do not do that. Imagine yourself eating the same food for months. Ideally, you need to have at least 3 different types of products. It will give your shrimp more vitamins and improve their immune system.
Different Shrimp Species
Some shrimp species cannot eat things like shrimp pellets, flakes, pills, etc. For example, Bamboo shrimp and Vampire shrimp feed mainly on drifting detrital particles by filtering from the water column with the cheliped setae.
So, if you keep filter-feeding shrimp with common dwarf shrimp, I would personally focus on feeding filter-feeders.
First of all, it is more important for filter-feeders. Second, as I have already mentioned, powdered food is great for any shrimp and shrimplet anyway.
Feeding Shrimp in a Community Tank
It can be a real problem to feed shrimp in a community tank. Fish are often pretty aggressive eaters. In most cases, they will eat most shrimp food in minutes.
Therefore, if you need to feed shrimp in a community tank:
- Use powdered food.
- Add leaves.
- Give them blanched vegetables.
- Feed them after dark. In nature, shrimp are nocturnal.
|Do not forget that calcium plays a huge role for the shrimp. Therefore. I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.|
There is a lot of confusion around how often dwarf shrimp should be fed. The more natural feeding grounds you have in your tanks the less you have to feed shrimp.
If you have a bare-bottom tank without any decorations, plants, driftwood, etc., you will have to feed them a lot more because there are not enough natural food sources. If your tank has lots of plants, leaves, driftwood, décor, etc. your shrimp will have a lot of natural food in the tank. So, you do not have to feed them as often.
Find a schedule that works for you and your shrimp – and then keep it consistent.
- Influence of the ornamental red cherry shrimp Neocaridina davidi (Bouvier, 1904) on freshwater meiofaunal assemblages. Limnologica 59 (2016) 155–161. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.limno.2016.06.001
- Life-history traits and ecological characteristics of the ornamental shrimp Neocaridina denticulata (De Haan, 1844), recently introduced into the freshwater systems of Israel. Article in Aquatic Invasions. November 2019. DOI: 10.3391/ai.2019.14.4.08.
- Assessment of a biofilm-based culture system within zero water exchange on water quality and on survival and growth of the freshwater shrimp Neocaridina heteropoda heteropoda. Article in Aquaculture Research. January 2015. DOI: 10.1111/are.12701.
- Autophagy and apoptosis in starved and re-fed Neocaridina davidi (Crustacea, Malacostraca) midgut. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 2018.
- Leaf-litter preferences of the introduced freshwater shrimps Atyaephyra desmarestii and Neocaridina davidi. Crustaceana 90 (14) 1715-1730. 2017. DOI: 1163/15685403-00003736