How to Set Up a Caridina Shrimp Tank

How to Set Up a Caridina Shrimp Tank

Today, I will talk about how to set up a Caridina shrimp tank from A to Z, so that we could give them the best life possible. After all, this is our responsibility as their keepers. 

To cut the long story short. The main difference between Neocaridina and Caridina shrimp tank set up is that Caridina species require specific water parameters in aquariums (relatively low pH, KH, and GH). To achieve this, we have to use special water remineralizers.

Unfortunately many Caridina shrimp species (like Crystal shrimp) are not that hardy. Therefore, if you are a beginner shrimp keeper, please, be patient and follow the rules!

In this article, I will attempt to answer all questions that you might have. I will cover every angle of Caridina shrimp care to get you better acquainted with these magnificent creatures.

List of Necessary Items for the Caridina Shrimp Tank Setup

  1. Aquarium.
  2. Active substrate.
  3. Sponge filter.
  4. Air-pump.
  5. RO/DI or distilled water.
  6. Salty Shrimp GH+.
  7. Test kit.
  8. TDS pen.
  9. Decorations.

That is pretty much all we are going to use in this tank.

Setting Up Your Caridina Shrimp 

Step 1: Choosing Your Caridina Shrimp Tank

Empty shrimp tankTaking into account their small size, Caridina shrimp do not require big tanks. In most cases, a 10-gallon tank (40 liters) will suit them perfectly.

Can we use smaller tanks? Of course, we can. The problem though is that in this case, you will have to be in constant control over our water parameters! Remember, the bigger the tank, the easier it will be to look after. 

Important: All dwarf shrimp prefer consistency and stable water quality but with Caridina species this is absolutely crucial! In small tanks, everything can go wrong very fast.

Therefore, if you are new to the hobby or do not have a lot of experience with shrimp keeping, in my opinion, you should plan on housing them in a tank of at least 10-gallons. It will be the best and most forgiving of the occasional (beginner) mistakes in the tank’s water

Tip: If you have a choice, long tanks are better than tall tanks of the same size for keeping shrimp.

For example, Aqueon Aquarium (link to check the price on Amazon).

Step 2: Cleaning, Testing and Painting Caridina Shrimp Tank

Unfortunately, most hobbyists are so eager to start that they simply skip this step. So, I have to repeat it once again.

shrimp tank Hydrogen PeroxideDO NOT be like them!  We have to clean and test all tanks before using them. Yes, even if they are brand new.

It can be absolutely heartbreaking after setting up your tank to find out that it is leaking or there is still some kind of residue which is toxic to any shrimp, or snails.

  • Cleaning is a very simple process. Do not use soap. You need something that will decompose and will not leave any trace in the tank.

For example, we can use Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This is a cheap and handy household supply that is often used for cleaning and disinfecting. Spray it on the walls, and let it sit for 10 – 20 minutes. Next, wash it off properly.

Note: Use gloves for safety.

  • Testing. To do that you can put some paper underneath the tank, then fill it with water, and leave it for 1 day. If you do not see any wet spots on the paper, the tank is safe.
  • Paining. This is optional but I always strongly recommend doing that anyway. The point is that according to different studies, a dark background can significantly improve the shrimp coloration.

You can read more about it in my article “How to Enhance Shrimp Color?”.

How to paint the tank.

We can use a brush to do that but I think that the easiest way is to spray-paint the tank.

Tip #1: If you do not want your paint running, spray a thin layer of paint and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, spray a full cover.
Tip #2: Use adhesive tape to prevent painting the sides of the tank. 

Step 3: Adding Active Substrate to the Caridina Shrimp Tank

Here we have come to one of the most important steps. The substrate refers to whatever we are going to put on the bottom of the tank.

The substrate is essential for Caridina shrimp tanks as it hosts loads of beneficial bacteria and it will help stabilize the required water parameters.

Now, what is “Active” or “Buffering” substrate?

There are 2 types of substrate:

Inert substrate – this is a substrate that does not alter water chemistry (PH).
Active (buffered) substrate – this is a substrate that alters water chemistry (pH).

Fluval substrateBasically, the active substrate keeps the pH at a steady low level. Meaning that if your water is at a higher pH the buffering substrate will reduce it to the required level. As a result, as the substrate leaches its acidity, the buffering capacity of the water (measured by KH) will neutralize all of the hydrogen ions.

However, it is important to remember that active substrates are not active indefinitely. And at some point, as the soil uses up its entire hydrogen ion source, it will no longer lower the pH.

For example, if you have a 1 KH in the tank, it may last 2 years. But if you have a 5 KH, the substrate may only last a year, so we will have to change it. The numbers are random (because each substrate is different), just to show you the principle.

If you want to know in detail about water parameters and how pH, KH, and GH correlate to each other, I would strongly recommend reading my articles:

Examples of inert and active substrates (links to Amazon).

Inert substrate Active substrate

Carib Sea Super Natural Sunset Gold Sand

ADA Amazonia aqua soil 
Carib Sea Eco-Complete Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil
Seachem Fluorite Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

How to Prepare the Substrate

Obviously, it must be clean and free from any detritus. So, we can often see on the bags that the substrate is marketed as “pre-rinsed” or “pre-cleaned” by manufacturers.

Well,…even though the substrate itself can be clean, their bags often contain dust, debris, grit, or other residues from the workshop it was packaged in. Ideally, we do not need any of that in our tanks.

  • Place the substrate into the buckets.
  • Fill the buckets with tap water. The water should completely cover the soil.
  • Rinse it in the buckets. Stir in very vigorously! Ideally, you need to do it at least a few times a day.

Adding Substrate to the Tank

This is the easiest part. Just do not dump everything at once. Then, spread it evenly over the bottom of the tank.

Tip: Use any unnecessary credit card to flatten out the top.

Tip #2: In aquascaping, aquarists usually do a little slant to give the aquarium a little more depth. That is for visual perception. Make it a little higher in the back and lower in the front.

For example, it can be about half an inch (1 cm) in the front and maybe just over an inch (3 cm) in the back. Because of this trick, the size of your tank will look larger. Also, it will be easier to look at your shrimp.

How Deep the Substrate Should Be?

Actually, the answer depends on what else you are going to have in the tank.

If it is going to be a shrimp only tank, in this case, 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) will be good enough for Caridina shrimp.

However, if you are planning to add plants than you need to have at least 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7.5 cm).

No Additives to the Caridina Shrimp tank

Sometimes aquarists add lots of different types of additives (BeeMax, Bee3, MK Breed Z Silver Powder, Benibachi – Mironekuton powder, etc.) into the tank underneath the substrate. They do it to ensure that the shrimp are receiving all the proper nutrition minerals and trace elements. These additives should also improve the microflora of the tank.

Is it necessary?

No, it is not. We do not have to do that. I am not saying that those shrimp keepers are wrong. It is just not necessary. Cycling and post cycling takes a lot of time. This time will be enough for the tank to become matured. Therefore, there is no difference between having a fully cycled aquarium with or without powders.

Step 4: Adding Decorations and Plants to the Caridina Shrimp Tank

shrimp tank Brick, cones driftwood cocnutSometimes hobbyists intentionally do not add decorations to the tank. They do that so they can easily see what shrimp are doing in the tank.

Unless you are a professional shrimp breeder (why are you reading this?), do not do that. Driftwood, rocks, and decorations are essential parts of a successful shrimp tank.

First of all, decorations will replicate their natural environment, so, it will let them feel at home.

Second, we need to provide lots of hiding places to reduce stress (during molting, when they shed their old exoskeleton). Molting is the most stressful and important time in a shrimp’s life. This is the time when they are the most vulnerable and are prone to die.

That is why adding decoration here and there is not just recommended, it is crucial.

Tip: If you are planning to have a budget set up for your shrimp tank, use PVC pipes, or even bricks. They are dirty cheap and shrimp love them! The only downside is the way they look. Don’t forget to clean and disinfect before using them!

Examples (links to Amazon): 

Note: Professional shrimp breeders have bare minimum decorations or plants because it is easier to catch shrimp. They know what they are doing.


Top 5 Pros and Cons of having Plants in Shrimp AquariumIn the wild, shrimp are often found in dense vegetation. Therefore, planted tanks will be a great place for the Caridina species. Like most dwarf shrimp, they are completely plant safe. They will not eat, uproot, or damage plants in the tank.

In addition, plants will give them some places to hide. In addition, they provide a lot of surface area for the algae and biofilm.

Plants like mosses will greatly benefit them. The structure of the plan acts like a spider web, it catches all the free-floating particles. Therefore, it creates a natural feeding ground for the shrimp.

In addition, plants (especially Pothos plants or floating ones are absolutely wonderful for sucking up nitrates and ammonia).

If you do not want to have plants, I strongly recommend using at least some basic decorations!

You can read more about it in my articles:

Be Warned: Not Every Rock or Decoration is Safe for Your Shrimp Tank

Make sure that any rock or decoration that you put in your tank is aquarium safe. You are not alone if you have ever thought about taking a random rock from outside and putting it into your shrimp tank as a decoration.

However, foreign rocks can actually be extremely harmful to your tank. The rocks may contain some kind of bacteria that can affect your shrimp. They may also leach unwanted substances into your tank as well.

I have seen and read some tutorials where people say to boil the rocks to prepare them for the tank. By doing so, you will get rid of any nasty residents that may enter your tank.

While this is true, be very careful, the gas created from boiling the rock may be poisonous to humans depending on what is actually on the rock.

Therefore, I would advise you to buy and use rocks and decorations that are already deemed to be aquarium safe.                                             

Step 5: Install Your Filter

All tanks need filtration – and the Caridina shrimp tank is no different. The filter performs 2 main tasks:

  1. It cleans up floating debris.
  2. It harbors beneficial bacteria that allow your tank to cycle and become a healthy eco-system.

Matten filter and sponge filter in Caridina tank setupThere are several most popular types of aquarium filters out there (Canister filters, hang on the back filters and sponge filters). Which one do we need for this setup?

Personally, I always recommend using a Matten filter (or a sponge filter) for any shrimp tank. They are cheap, simple, effective, safe for the baby shrimp, and provide a lot of surface area for the biofilm.

You can read more about “The Best Filtration System for Breeding Shrimp” right here.

There are many cheap and reliable filters. Some examples (links to Amazon):

They have recommended themselves very well and they do not cost that much!   

Tip: if you have a 10-gallon (40 liters) tank, choose the filter, which is rated for at least 20 gallons (80 liters). The difference in money is minimal but the benefit is huge!

Tip #2: Do not forget to rinse the sponge filter. There is no need to use any chemical for that. Just wash the sponges with tap water.
Tip #3: If it is possible, pick a filter with high PPI (pores per inch) right from the beginning. For example, 25-30 PPI will be sufficient. 

Step 6: Install Your Air Pump and Heater

Aquarium air pumpShrimp will appreciate it if you add an air pump. Do not forget about it.

Whether you need a heater or not depends on the shrimp species. So you have to know the correct temperate that your species require.

However, in most cases, shrimp do not need heaters. They will be absolutely fine if your temperature is in the range of 20 – 24 °C (68 – 74 °F).

Nonetheless, if there are temperature fluctuations in the place you live, it can be a good idea to have a thermostat heater. Thermostat heaters work by maintaining a set temperature. Once the temperature goes below a certain degree, it turns on.

Important: Unlike filters, you have to choose only the heater appropriate for your tank size. If the heater is larger than what your tank actually requires, it may lead to overheating and ultimately – the death of all shrimp colony.

Note: Use only adjustable heaters. If you have a preset heater in your tank and it’s not heating it to the proper temperature, then there’s no way of adjusting it if it’s preset.

Some examples (links to Amazon):

Step 7: Installing Aquarium Light

No special requirements. Like all shrimp, Caridina shrimp are nocturnal creatures, they will not be bothered about the kind of light you use.

Basically, the lighting is mostly up to your taste and how well you want your tank to be illuminated.

If you want to keep shrimp in a planted tank, lighting should be adapted to their needs.

You can read more about it in my articles:

How Light Affects Dwarf Shrimp.
Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting.

Step 8: Filling up the Aquarium

Place a plate on top of the substrate, and pour water on top of the plate to fill your tank. Using a plate will prevent or reduce disturbance.  

Now you need to decide what type of water you are going to use for the Caridina shrimp tank. Basically, there are two options:

  • Tap water.
  • RO/DI water (RO/DI is for Reverse Osmosis Deionization. It takes ordinary tap water and produces zero TDS. In other words, it is absolutely pure water without any elements in it. Because of it, you will have to remineralize RO/DI water with special shrimp additives later on.

Most Caridina shrimp are not very tough species. They cannot live and reproduce in tap water. Now, you might think, wait a minute, why do we even have an option with tap water?

The point is that we do not have to use RO/DI or distilled water during cycling. In addition, we do not have to remineralize it yet. Throughout the cycling process, you are going to be doing water changes to remove the nitrates. That is why it will be just a waste of remineralizers.

Borderline, it is possible to use any type of water during cycling. 

Step 9: Cycling Your Caridina Shrimp Tank

This is the most important step if you skip this step your shrimp will simply die. 

All we can do is to sit back and be patient for a few (4 – 6) weeks until the tank gets cycled.

NitrogenCycle_DiagramNitrogen cycle is the process of the development of beneficial bacteria. Every other surface you may have within your aquarium targets for bacterial growth. It is on the décor, live or fake plants, driftwood, rocks, tubes, heaters, glass, substrate, and, of course, in the filter of your tank.

Why do we need beneficial bacteria? Why do we have to cycle the tank?

To put things simply, all living beings create ammonia when they poop or pee. Ammonia is very toxic to shrimp and ammonia levels can build up over time. This can lead to your shrimp dying if the ammonia has nowhere to go.

However, during the cycling process, the beneficial bacteria will break down ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate.

Can we boost the cycling process?

Yes, we can. We can add special supplements with beneficial bacteria to boost the cycling process. In this case, the process can take several weeks.

You can read more about “Step-by-Step Cycling your Shrimp Aquarium Fishless” right here. 

Some recommended products (links to Amazon):

Water Testing Kit

You have to buy a test kit. It is not possible to check water parameters without one. In other words, you are pretty much flying blind and hoping for the best.

That is why test kits are a must-have tool!

It should be one of the first things you buy. It is critical in the hobby to make sure everything is okay in your tank and that it is a healthy environment for your shrimp.

There are 2 types of test kits:

  • the test strips
  • the liquid tests.

API test kit for shrimpYet again, I would highly recommend using a liquid test as they are more accurate than the test strips.

Recommended product (links to Amazon):

Step 10: Adding the Caridina Shrimp to the Tank. Acclimation

After a month or so, if we let the tank cycle naturally, the cycle should be complete. It means that you should not have nitrates. Lots of articles and guides mention that after that you are free to add shrimp.

DO NOT do that.

DO NOT rush to add Caridina shrimp to the tank.

I have already said it several times – many Caridina shrimp species are pretty finicky when it comes to water parameters. Just a mere fact that your tank is cycled is not enough for them.

You have to wait 1 month more. Why?

First of all, during this time the tank will mature. It will develop a stable eco-system with biofilm and algae for your shrimp.

Second, during this time you will need to do weekly water changes and replace tap water (or just RO/DI water) with RO/DI water with minerals such as Salty Shrimp GH+ (link to Amazon) or something similar. Personally, I think that so far this product is the best on the market.

For example:

  • First week – 40-50% water change.
  • Second week – 30-40% water change
  • Third week – 20-30% water change
  • Fourth week – 10-20% water change

You can read more about the principles of water changes it in my article “How to Do and How Often to Do Water Change in Shrimp Aquarium”.

After that, you should have water parameters that suit your Caridina species. Keep checking the water parameters and TDS daily. You need to be absolutely sure that they are stable.

Now it is possible to add shrimp after acclimatization.

When you bring your shrimp home, they should be in a plastic bag or container of water. Do not put them directly in the tank!  You can shock them by changing water parameters and temperature too quickly.

To avoid it, you need to acclimate shrimp the right way. Read more about it in my article How I Drip Acclimate Shrimp and Why. 

In Conclusion

Setting up a Caridina shrimp tank is not difficult and can be easily done even by beginners. With a bit of research and investment of time and resources, anyone can recreate the ideal conditions for shrimp to thrive in their new home.

If you still have some questions, feel free to ask me.

Related article:

How to Set Up a Caridina Shrimp Tank pinterest

11 thoughts on “How to Set Up a Caridina Shrimp Tank

  1. Hey Michel I love your website.
    Very instructive.
    Would u give me your opinion about cycling and ph?
    I’m setting up a new tank for the first time. Cycling (6 days only) – 90 lites (23 gallons)
    I see my ph is very low. Margin 6, so I do salty water changes.
    I guess under 6 will be bad for create beneficial bacteria. Although water changes everyday (50%) first week doesn’t allow me to build up amonia for beneficial bacteria to be fed… (I’m adding seachem stability everyday day)

    The question is… is it an ok and normal process as I am using ADA Amazonia light soil which may be leaching acids and lowering too much my ph at this first stage?
    Um using my tap water that is normally 7.1

    1. Hi Flávio Almeida,
      6 days is not enough to estimate the cycling process. Sometimes the start can be delayed for weeks! That is why in this hobby we say that every tank setup is unique, even when we do similar things we get different results.
      You are right beneficial bacteria do not develop under pH 6.0.
      Personally, I would not rush the process, it is very possible that ADA soil does leach too much acids in the beginning.
      Best regards,

  2. Many thanks Michael,
    I started with mixed cherry shrimp and now I’m in the process of serious breading… My Bloody Marys have been talking to the rabbits and will need a bit of a cull soon! I love crystal reds and have teenagers at the moment, hopefully I will have some success. I think I am doing half right, but so wrong with everything else!
    Will take it all on board and see how I go….
    Sage advice

    1. Hi Jude,
      Do not worry! We all make mistakes!
      Actually, this is great that you can see and recognize your mistakes. It means that you understand the process and how it should be done.
      I am sure that everything will be fine but if you have some questions you can contact me anytime.
      Best regards,

    2. Hi Michael. I was thinking about starting a caridina tank of blue bolts I have a 55 gallon which is a lot, but my question is the breeder I’m planning on buying from recommends a ph of 6.0, kh of 0-1, gh 4, and tds of 100 but these look very low compared to your parameters should I look for a new breeder or should I run with it and see how it goes?

  3. Hi! My names Gregory and I’m new to the shrimp hobby. I have a beautiful iwagumi tank which has been running for 4 days now. I was hoping to buy some caridina shrimp online, so I was wondering if you could give any suggestions on what kh, gh, ph, tds, and temp to keep the tank at. I know caridina shrimp like 0 kh, 5 gh, 6.5 ph, and 130-160 tds. I have a kh of 4, no gh yet, ph 6.5, tds a whopping 180, and temp 74 degrees F. Should I lower my kh so my gravel lasts longer?

    1. Hi Gregory Dimov,
      In the article, I have a link to the guide about Crystal shrimp, maybe you missed it. Here is the link.
      Generally, your water parameters are not bad, but I prefer pH a little higher.
      What substrate do you use? What minerals do you use? RO/DI or distilled water? Do you have a lot of driftwood and leaves? Are you using peat?
      I am just trying to understand why your pH is 6.5.
      Best regards,

  4. Hello Michael.

    Thanks for your so much informative web-site! Any beginner can find necessary improtant information concering shrimps and other.

    Unfortunately, I did not find any mention of the Racoon Tiger shrimp on your site. Moreover, nowhere on the Internet can I find a review of at least one real owner of these shrimp – only sellers’ sites. There are also only a few short videos about Racoon Tiger on YouTube, released a few years ago.

    Do you know anything about Racoon Tiger? Maybe it’s Babaulti, only painted with stripes?

    1. He Sergey PAT,
      I haven’t kept those shrimp personally, but based on what I know and have seen, they are not babaulti, for sure. Their appearance and preferred water parameters suggest that they are closer to Caridina cantonensis (common Bee shrimp).
      It’s possible that they are a selectively bred variant or a species of Caridina that hasn’t been scientifically described yet. It’s hard to say for certain as there is very limited reliable information available about them.
      Best regards,

      1. Hi Michael! Thanks for quick respond.

        I have seen yesterday the story how Mr. Chris Lukhaup went to China and searched for caridina shrimp in the wild. It seems that you are right – those Racoon Tiger shrimps are kind of Caridina cantonensis.

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