How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp

How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp

In this article, I would like to talk about how to improve breeding efficiency of Caridina shrimp. Whether your aquarist journey has only just begun or you are a seasoned aquarist looking for some new tips and ideas, there are some important things you should know and/or remember about shrimp breeding.

Caridina shrimp are more sensitive than most other shrimp species (except Sulawesi shrimp). These little critters require very stable parameters and adequate feeding. Therefore, everything described here has a direct effect on shrimp. I repeat – absolutely everything described in this article will result in performance improvement!

I need to start off by saying that I am not going to talk about the process of how to set up a Caridina shrimp tank. The basics are the same but there are some differences between nice and beautiful display shrimp tank and the most efficient methods of breeding. You will see it yourself.

Also, most of these methods are working in combination with each other. Therefore, please, read the article to the end. It will all make sense.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

1. Very Fin Layer of Substrate

If you have been in this hobby even for a bit, you will know that the general recommendation for the depth of the substrate is about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm). Actually, this is pretty reasonable advice because it gives you a lot of benefits, such as:

  • Visual perception. In aquascaping, aquarists usually do a little slant to give the aquarium a little more depth.
  • Plants base. This depth is enough to allow plants to root without floating away.
  • Beneficial bacteria support. Every other surface you may have within your aquarium targets for bacterial growth.
  • ‘Buffering’ capacity. In caridina shrimp tanks, the active substrate also plays a fundamental role as it helps stabilize the required water parameters. The buffering capacity of the water (KH) neutralizes the acidic soil.

Note: Active (buffered) substrate – this is a substrate that alters water chemistry (PH).

Unfortunately, there are also a few downsides, for example:

  • Accumulation of nitrogen. Leftovers, detritus, wastes, etc. enter the substrate where the shrimp cannot reach it. As a result, all this stuff builds up and rots in the substrate with the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates that comes with it. 
  • Limited time. The soil is acidic and the buffering capacity of the water neutralizes this acidity. And if there is too much of a buffering system in the water, it will use up all of the acidity in the substrate. In the end, pH is not going to be lowered for a long time.

When it happens, we have to change the substrate which is an extremely stressful process.

Having substrate in a display shrimp tank is OK.

Having substrate in an efficient shrimp breeding tank is wrong.

How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp - thin substrateEven though substrate can add great aesthetic value to your display tank and provide some other benefits, in reality, the cons are way too big, if you want to have a successful Caridina breeding tank.

Therefore, we need to use less substrate compared to traditional methods. Our substrate layer should barely cover the bottom of the tank!

Why not a bare-bottom tank?

Shrimp need to have something to grip on, actually. They also enjoy interacting with the substrate.

2. Substrate Box

So, now when we almost do not have an active substrate on the bottom of the tank, Trick with Active Substrates for Shrimp Tankshow are we going to keep pH stable?

Actually, we will still use active substrate, but this time we will put it in a plastic box. We can even put it in stockings and place it in the corner of the tank!

The more surface area connects to the water the better it will be for buffering your water.

What is the point of doing so?

  • ‘Buffering’ capacity. We can still stabilize the required water parameters.
  • Easy to change the active substrate. Just take out the box (stockings) and replace the soil with a new one.
  • Cheap. You will use 3 – 4 times less substrate compared to the traditional methods but with the same efficiency.  
  • Aquascape options. Instead of the thin layer of active substrate (read above), we can use any inert substrate (sand or gravel).
  • No accumulation of nitrogen. This is, probably, the most important reason.

3. No Plants in Caridina Shrimp Tank

Personally, I like plants and use them in most of my display tanks because of many reasons:

  • Algae control. Live plants can help keep unwanted algae at bay. 
  • Aeration. This is an excellent natural way to aerate the water in the tanks.
  • Additional filtration. Plants absorb nitrogen, chemicals, and other pollutants that can be harmful to our shrimp.
  • Feeding ground. Plants act as a buffet of biofilm, which is an ideal first food for newly hatched shrimplets.
  • Hiding place. They also serve as cover and shade for small invertebrates.
  • Aesthetic Value. Generally, most hobbyists keep plants because they add great aesthetic value to their tanks. 

However, if you are setting up a breeding Caridina tank, you should avoid using live plants because of two main drawbacks:

  • pH and oxygen fluctuations

It is a well-known fact that most Caridina shrimp species prefer acidic and soft water with very low KH. Unfortunately, in planted tanks pH levels will fluctuate if there is no KH present in the water.

Do you know that your plants will also affect your PH fluctuation? 

It happens because of photosynthesis where light, CO2, and pH are interlinked.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is vital for plant photosynthesis. During the daytime, the plants start absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. As a result, there is less Carbonic acid present in your water, and the higher your pH will become.

During the nighttime, we have a reverse process. When the lights are off, the plants do not absorb CO2. On the contrary, plants also breathe and produce carbonic acid that lowers pH. The more CO2 present in your water the lower your pH will become.

If you test pH in the evening and in the morning, you will see the difference.

Even though plants still produce more oxygen (during daytime) than they consume (during nighttime) – we should avoid any potential fluctuation.

Without plants, it will be easier to keep your pH stable.

Keep in mind that many aquarium plants will outcompete and inhibit the growth of algae. This is bad for any shrimp tank because algae are one of the main food sources for dwarf shrimp.

In addition, without plants, it will also be easier to see and catch shrimp in the tank.

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4. Sponge and Matten filters

How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp - filtrationThere are many filters out there in the market but sponges or, ideally, matten filters really improve the shrimp breeding experience.

In my article about the best filtration for breeding shrimp, I compared different systems. Even though there are many good filters, some of them are better suited for keeping shrimp than others.

Some of the most important pros include:

  • They are affordable.
  • They can be used in small tanks.
  • These filters are absolutely safe for baby shrimp.
  • They have got a very large surface area where your shrimp can feed on (It has a direct effect on the survival rates of baby shrimp).

5. Extremely Low Nitrates

Nitrates in shrimp tankNitrates are all by-products of organic waste breaking down in our tanks. Unfortunately, the danger of excessive nitrates in Caridina shrimp tanks is often misunderstood by many aquarium hobbyists, especially those who came from fish keeping.

It is true that many fish species will adapt to poor water quality and nitrates, at least to a degree. But this cannot be said about sensitive shrimp species.

Nitrates have wide-ranging adverse effects in dwarf shrimp, such as: increased mortality rate, growth reduction, reduced feeding rates, reduced fecundity, reduced hatching success, lethargy, behavioral signs of stress, physical deformities, etc.

In terms of concentration, nitrates should never be higher than 20 ppm in shrimp tanks. However, for breeding tanks, we need to keep nitrates below 10 ppm all the time.

Note: This is another reason why we should avoid keeping plants in shrimp breeding tanks. A nitrogen deficiency will affect the plants’ growth rate, causing new leave to become smaller and weaker.

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6. Aging Water for Water changes

If you think that aging water for water changes is a minor detail and can be neglected, you are wrong!

The small things do make huge differences. Remember, our goal is to create the most stable environment for Caridina shrimp.

The aging helps to stabilize the pH.

Do you know that water in our pipes is under pressure, and therefore contains dissolved gases, in particular, CO2?

When CO2 dissolves in water it temporarily lowers the pH of the water. After that, the pH may even rise.

Aging solves these problems. In addition, it eliminates microbubbles. Also, water chlorine dissipates almost fully in 24 hours.

Tip: you can speed up the process by using an air stone or wavemaker.  Surface agitation helps to dissipate chlorine from the water.

How long should I age water for the Caridina tank?

I do it for at least 24 hours. However, I know that some professional shrimp breeders do it for 3 days!

7. Water Preparation– Adding Minerals

Do not add minerals to your water right before you are going to use it. Mix the salts12-24 hours prior to water change.

Once again, we do that to stabilize water quality.

If you let the water age for another 12-24 hours, you will see that TDS always increases by about 10 to 15 points. So you may have to add more RO water to hit the perfect number.

Make sure you remember how much you use every time so that your water is always consistent. So next time you will know exactly how much you need to get a certain hardness of the water.
Avoid mixing minerals from different manufacturers, unless you do not have a choice.

Bee Shrimp minerals GH+ (for Caridina shrimp)

Recommendation by the manufacturer – use an evenly full measuring spoon (about 3 g) to 20 liters of water.

  • Caridina tanks minerals range from 135 to 150.

8. Slow Water Changes

DO NOT dump water all at once unless conducting an “emergency” water change! It may kill, stress, and cause molting problems in your shrimp.

Do water changes very slowly. The slower the better!

Slowly add in the amount of water you removed. Refill the tank at a rate of a gallon (~ 4 liters) per several minutes at most. Ideally, the drip method (3-5 drips per second) will be even better.

Important: Before using any water change water. We need to bring it up to a similar temperature first. 

9. Feeding Frequency and Overfeeding

Overfeeding is not a joke in shrimp tanks.

Overfeeding deteriorates water quality, causes infections, and diseases and in general, puts them in danger of serious health conditions.

We need to find this fine line where the balance is just right. 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 to prevent ammonia (nitrites and nitrates).

Because our substrate is very fine, it is really easy to clean. You can take a siphon and eliminate all the shrimp waste and leftovers very quickly.

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10. No tank mates

How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp - no snailsIf our goals are breeding and efficiency, we need to keep our shrimp in species-only tanks.

Shrimp are pretty shy creatures and without many hiding places (such as plants) they will not be comfortable even with peaceful community fish species.

There should not be even snails in breeding tanks. Sure, snails really benefit our tanks, but not in this case!

  • Competition. Snails will compete with shrimp for food (they also like algae and biofilm).
  • Water deterioration. Snails eat a lot and produce a lot of waste that turns into ammonia.

We do not want any of that!


Be patient and do not add sensitive shrimp species too soon. Our shrimp require a well-aged mature tank with lots of algae and biofilm.

I keep saying this all the time but … I still get messages where people skip this step and, eventually, have problems.

Can I use driftwood or rocks in the Caridina breeding tank?

Yes, I small piece of driftwood will benefit them.

Can I use the same approach with Neocaridina or Sulawesi shrimp?

Yes, using the same principles (excluding the substrate box) will improve their breeding rate as well.

In Conclusion

Cardinal shrimp are regarded as the jewels of the shrimp keeping hobby. These small critters come in a variety of colors and patterns. Their bright coloration can easily make them an interesting addition to any home aquarium.

Nonetheless, many aquarists have some difficulties in breeding them because they do not understand the main principle of shrimp keeping hobby – dwarf shrimp do not like changes.

Therefore, when we are talking about Caridina shrimp breeding efficiency, we have to do everything slightly different:

  • Using substrate in a very specific way.
  • No plants.
  • No tank mates.
  • Strict feeding and nitrates control.
  • Using sponge and Matten filters.
  • Doing water changes the right way.

All these small things play a huge role and make a huge difference.

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5 thoughts on “How to Improve Breeding Efficiency of Caridina shrimp

  1. hi , you are recommend use Malaysian Trumpet Snail in Breeding Cardinia tank , but under this guide , you not recommende use snial . what choose between these are?

    1. Hi Ali,
      It is true.
      As I have mentioned before – snails will be an excellent addition if you are not planning to breed Caridina shrimp at the best rate.
      Snails will benefit the tank in many ways.
      However, if your goal is breeding and only breeding shrimp, in this case, I would not do that because you will not have plant nor deep substrate. In addition, you should not overfeed. All these things are counterproductive if you also plan to keep snails.
      That is why you need to decide what kind of tank you need.
      for breeding only purposes – no snails
      for decorative and periodical breeding – snails will be great.
      Best regards,

      1. thank for replay <3 , I have a PRL breeding tank with Substrate Box and have a 2CM soil on bottom of tank , I intended to use the Malaysian snail. Is there a need for this?

      2. Hi, for some reason my comment is being marked as “a spam” so I’m seeing if replying works

        I know you’ve said not to include plants, but would a small amount of java moss be good for reducing nitrates and providing biofilm? Or would it be better to use cholla wood and/or beeramids?

        1. Hi Jason,

          In the article, I described, you could say, ideal conditions for professional shrimp breeding, where nothing distracts the breeder from achieving the goal. If you don’t have that specific goal but simply want better results, then Java moss and Cholla wood and/or beeramids should suffice.

          Note: I’m just not sure if a few plants can change the overall nitrate picture significantly (usually, you need a lot of them, and they should grow quickly, the faster, the better).

          I have a very strict filter because I receive a tremendous amount of spam. Unfortunately, this filter may occasionally block normal comments, but I still try to review them whenever possible, even in the spam folder. It just might take a bit more time to respond.

          Best regards,

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