Leopard Shrimp – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Leopard Shrimp (Caridina rubropunctata) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Leopard shrimp (Caridina rubropunctata) is a very rare freshwater shrimp that many hobbyists would like to have because of its unique appearance. The combination of spectacular colors and cleaning functions makes them an interesting choice in home aquariums.

The main problem, though, is that – these shrimp have very specific needs such as clean water, good water flow, and low temperature. Therefore, Leopard shrimp are not for beginners, Caridina rubropunctata species is more difficult to keep compared to most other shrimp species.

I need to start off by saying that knowledge of these dwarf shrimp is scanty. Nonetheless, in this guide, I have done my best to gather all information regarding Caridina rubropunctata including their behavior, life span, growth, feeding, handling, etc.

Quick Notes about Leopard Shrimp

Name Leopard Shrimp
Common Name
Leopard Tiger shrimp, Armadillo shrimp or Red-spotted shrimp
Scientific Shrimp Caridina rubropunctata
Tank size (minimum) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Medium-Difficult
Breeding Difficult
Size up to 1 inch (~2.5 cm)
Optimal Temperature 68 – 72 °F (20 – 22 °C)
Optimal PH 6.0 – 6.8
Optimal GH 4 – 8
Optimal KH 0 – 4
Optimal TDS 80 – 150 µS/cm or 40– 80 ppm
Nitrate Less than 10 ppm
Diet Algae eater/omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span 1 – 2 years
Color Form semi-transparent bodies with small reddish to black dots

Taxonomy of Leopard Shrimp

Caridina rubropunctata is a very young species. It was discovered in 2007 and described only in 2011.

The name rubropunctata is composed of the Latin adjective ‘Rubro’, meaning ‘red’, and the Latin adjective. Therefore, Rubropunctata means the red-spotted.

Natural Habitat of Leopard Shrimp

Caridina rubropunctata has a very limited distribution range. These interesting shrimp can only be found in the north of Vietnam (Thai Nguyen, Dong Hy, Van Lang).

These shrimp are typically found in rivers, and spring-fed streams in a mountainous region, where the water is generally soft and cool.

Description of Leopard Shrimp

Leopard Shrimp (Caridina rubropunctata) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding
photo by Christian Lukhaup

Leopard shrimp have a translucent body. Their semi-transparent bodies can acquire a yellowish or bluish tint with small reddish to black spots all over the body. It makes them look really fascinating.

Their rostrum, tail, and antenna (at the base) have a yellow to orange coloration.

Like all dwarf shrimp, Leopard Shrimp usually grows up to 1 inch (2 – 3 cm) long.

Note: These shrimp can be confused with young Amano shrimp. The last ones are bigger and rounder.

Lifespan of Leopard Shrimp

Under optimal conditions, once a proper aquarium is set up and optimum living conditions are met, Leopard Shrimp can reproduce and live up to 1.5 – 2 years.

Typical Behavior of Leopard Shrimp

In spite of their predatory name, Leopard Shrimp are not aggressive animals. On the contrary, they are completely harmless and will not bother anybody in the community tank.

Like most shrimp species, Leopard Shrimp are also social. These shrimp prefer to be in large groups. It makes their life richer and less stressful.

Leopard shrimp are also very shy, especially if they are kept in small groups. The bigger their colony, the safer they feel and more confident they act, venturing out from hiding more often.

The pick of their activity starts at sunset and gradually stops before sunrise. A nocturnal lifestyle is an absolutely normal behavior. In nature, it is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.

Interesting fact: On a 24-h cycle, dusk is a period in which algae had maximum nutrients at the end of the photosynthetic period corresponding to profitable conditions for grazers to feed at the end of the light period.

Features:

  • Social: Yes
  • Active: At night
  • Peaceful: Yes

Diet of Leopard Shrimp

Leopard Shrimp are omnivores. It means that they can feed on dead animal and plant matter as well as commercial (fish, shrimp, crab, etc.) food.

They are also good scavengers. In an aquarium, Leopard Shrimp will be your clean up crew against algae, biofilm, debris, and waste.

However, for the best growth, Leopard Shrimp need a good mix of meats and vegetation, where their feeds should contain protein at a level of about 20 – 30% of the diet.

Suggested foods for these shrimp are (some links to Amazon):

Providing them with dry leaves and blanched vegetables (like carrots, sprouts, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, etc.) will also help them to get all the necessary microelements necessary for molting.

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Leopard Shrimp: Calcium and Molting Cycle

All crustaceans have a hard multi-layered exoskeleton (shell). However, exoskeletons do not grow as the animal inside them grows. Therefore, our shrimp are forced to molt as they grow bigger.

Calcium (Ca) is an essential component of the exoskeleton composition. So, growing a new exoskeleton requires a high amount of Ca to facilitate calcification. The process of molting puts shrimp in a vulnerable state.

It is crucial that Leopard Shrimp get enough calcium. We can do that by regularly feeding specialized invert foods or calcium-rich vegetables. 

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How Often to Feed Leopard Shrimp?

The answer depends on your tank set up. If you have a matured tank (with algae and biofilm), it is possible to feed them only a few times a week.

In all other cases, it will be better to feed Leopard Shrimp more often (5 – 6 times a week).

However, be very careful! Do not overfeed your shrimp!

Without any doubt, overfeeding is one of the biggest causes of death for dwarf shrimp! It is even worse for very sensitive species like Leopard Shrimp.

Uneaten food and organic waste can quickly decompose and cause an outbreak of infections, parasites, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate spikes are caused mostly by an excess of food and organic waste.

It is absolutely important to check how much you are feeding the shrimp. Remember it is better to underfeed than overfeed!

Caring and Keeping Leopard Shrimp

First of all, do not add Leopard Shrimp to the tank if it is not cycled yet. High ammonia and nitrates will kill them.

The most important factor in keeping Caridina rubropunctata healthy is a stable nitrogen cycle. Always keep in mind that these shrimp are very sensitive.

Tank size:

Although these shrimp do not require a lot of space, the minimum recommended tank size for keeping Leopard Shrimp is a 10 gallon (~40 L) tank.

Stable water conditions are the holy grail for every aquarist. Especially, for those who do not have experience in shrimp keeping.

The main problem with small tanks is that it can be difficult to be in constant control over your water parameters. In small tanks, everything can go wrong so fast that you do not have time to fix things.

Having a larger tank is always preferable for the stability of water chemistry.

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Water Parameters: 

Important:  If you are buying captive-bred (for several generations) Leopard Shrimp you need to find out the water parameters they were bred in. If you can’t find this information, you will have to take the risk and presume that the breeder kept them in water parameters that are close to the natural ones. So, you will have to replicate them.

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·       The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping

Temperature: The ideal temperature for Caridina rubropunctata is 68 – 72 °F (20 – 22 °C). These shrimp are sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

pH: Leopard Shrimp will appreciate water with a slightly acidic pH, in the range of 6.0 to 6.8.

Hardness: These shrimp do not like hard water. They will appreciate the water hardness between the ranges of 4 – 8 GH and 0 – 4 KH.

TDS: Ideally, it should be in the range of 80 – 150 µS/cm or 40 – 80 ppm.

Type of Water and Minerals:

Leopard Shrimp require an excellent quality type of water. Therefore, we cannot use tap water. Our choice is only RO/DI water (reverse osmosis/de-Ionization)

A reverse osmosis system is an efficient, economical way to produce high-purity water. But this water does not have any minerals, so we have to define all water parameters (pHKHGH, and TDS) manually.

Luckily it is easy to do with shrimp re-mineralizers.

Nowadays, there are many really good products on the market. However, if you do not know what to choose, I always recommend Salty shrimp products (GH+) for that.

Aeration and Water Flow:

Leopard Shrimp require a well-oxygenated tank with a good water flow. Considering the fact that this species lives in streams and rivers, good aeration is also crucial.

Potentially, you will need an extra air pump to keep the water oxygenated. Low oxygen can be a real problem.

Lighting:

No special requirements. Leopard Shrimp are nocturnal animals. Basically, they do not really depend on the light.

However, if you have plants, lighting should be adapted to their needs.

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Substrate:

We need to use an active substrate to keep pH less than 7.0 (neutral).
Note: Active substrate means that it alters (in our case lowers) water parameters (pH).

For example, it can be ADA Amazonia aqua soil, Fluval Plant and Shrimp StratumAkadama-Bonsai soil, etc.

Filtration:

I would always recommend using sponge filters or Matten filters for any shrimp tank setup.

These filtration systems are cheap, easy to maintain and clean, provide a lot of surface area to graze on, and are absolutely safe for the baby shrimp.

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Decorations:

This is not necessary but any shrimp species will appreciate all types of leaves, rocks, driftwood, PVC pipes, etc. in your tank. It will give them some places to hide. In addition, they provide a lot of surface area for the algae and biofilm.

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 Acclimation:

Leopard Shrimp are not hardy animals. On the contrary, they are very sensitive to even small changes in water values. It can easily harm them.

That is why it is critical to acclimate them before placing them in the tank.

Do not rush the process. Do it very slowly to prevent any unnecessary stress. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.

Breeding Leopard Shrimp

Depending on the temperature, Leopard Shrimp become mature when they are about 3 – 3.5 months old. Because of their transparent body, it is very easy to see the saddle (on the upper body, behind the head, where eggs are stored before fertilization) of a female.

The life cycle starts with mating. This is a very brief (a few seconds) process.

Females molt prior to mating and release a certain chemical substance into the surrounding water to attract males. This signals the males that the female is ready to spawn causing the male shrimp to swim in frenzied circuits around the tank, seeking her out.

According to the study, some females can carry up to 59 eggs. Females keep the eggs for the entire time necessary for incubation. In most cases, it ranges from 4 to 6 weeks.

Leopard Shrimp do not have larval stages, so what emerges from the egg is a tiny copy of the adult shrimp.

Balance their feeding with powdered food. 

Baby shrimp do not move around as big shrimp do. Therefore, if they do not find enough food there they starve to death.

For more information, read my article “How to increase shrimplets survival rate?”.

In Conclusion

Leopard Shrimp are endemic to Vietnam and have only very rarely made their way into the trade.

These shrimp are not recommended for inexperienced aquarists, since they require very stable water parameters, lots of oxygen, and water flow.

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