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

Sulawesi Malawa Shrimp (Caridina pareparensis parvidentata)
foto Werner Klotz

Sulawesi Malawa Shrimp (Caridina pareparensis, Caridina parvidentata) are one of the most underrated shrimp in the hobby. Despite the fact that these shrimp were introduced to the US and European markets in 2008, not many people keep and breed them.

Well, I do agree that Malawa Shrimp are not super flashy and their coloration may not be very interesting visually compared to many Neocaridina and Caridina species. However, they have lots of other advantages too.

Malawa shrimp are so hardy and tough that they can be easily recommended for beginners. They are bulletproof. In addition, they are very curious, bold, and fun to watch. Malawa shrimp do not interbreed with other dwarf shrimp species, so you can easily keep them in a community tank.

Also, they seem like a good Ghost shrimp alternative for people looking for another variety to keep with small fish, shrimp, and snails but do not want to risk aggression.

Therefore, if you are interested in keeping Malawa Shrimp as an aquarium pet or want to learn more about these unique creatures, this care guide will tell everything you need to know about them.

Quick Notes about Malawa Shrimp 

Name Malawa shrimp
Scientific Name Caridina pareparensis, Caridina parvidentata
Tank size (optimal) 5 – 10 gallons (~20 – 40 liters)
Keeping Easy
Breeding Easy 
Size 2.5 – 3 cm (~1 – 1,2 inches)
Optimal Temperature 24 – 27 °C (75 – 80 °F)
Optimal PH 7.0 – 8.5
Optimal GH 4 – 15
Optimal KH 1 – 10
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Algae eater/omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span 1.5 – 2 years
Color Form Semi-transparent with many types of coloration (reddish, rusty, brownish, bluish, dark, etc.)

Taxonomy Problems of Malawa Shrimp

It is pretty strange but in shrimp keeping hobby, they are described as Caridina pareparensis parvidentata species.

The problem is that there are no such species as Caridina pareparensis parvidentata. Caridina pareparensis and Caridina parvidentata are two different species. So, how did it happen?

The only reasonable explanation that comes to my mind is that it can be close to impossible to see the difference between these two species. Therefore, to simplify the process of identification, Malawa shrimp received this ‘new’ name in the aquarium hobby.

Natural Habitat of Malawa Shrimp

They are native to Sulawesi Islands which are found in Indonesia.

Description of the Malawa Shrimp

Generally, they have a semi-transparent body that makes them potentially a really good replacement of Amano shrimp in aquascaping because Malawa shrimp do not distract attention from the scenery in the background but they do a great job of cleaning and moving around giving a little bit of motion.

Their bodies are covered with tiny dots that also have a lot of pattern and color variations. For example, you can find some very drab looking ones, and then there are the light yellow striped ones. The tiny dots on the body can have reddish, rusty, brownish, bluish, and dark coloration.

What is very interesting is that, in most cases, all these variations are not the result of culling. All these colors are the normal variation that exists in nature

Like all dwarf shrimp, Malawa Shrimp usually grow up to 2 – 3 cm (~1 inch).

Once a proper aquarium is set up and optimum living conditions are met, they can reproduce and live up to 1.5 – 2 years.

The Behavior of the Malawa Shrimp

These shrimp are extremely interesting in terms of behavior. Malawa Shrimp are not shy creatures, on the contrary, they are pretty bold and active regardless of the day time. It makes them a great choice for a peaceful community tank.

Malawa Shrimp are completely harmless and will not bother anybody in the tank. They are not territorial and prefer to be in large groups. Even more, the bigger the shrimp colony, the safer they feel and more confident they act.

Feeding Malawa Shrimp

Like most freshwater shrimp, Malawa shrimp are scavengers and omnivores. Therefore, they are not picky eaters. On the contrary, I would say that they are pretty aggressive eaters.

Malawa shrimp will eat just about any food they manage to find. Therefore, in a well-established aquarium, they usually can find enough supply of food (algae and biofilm) by themselves.

However, in order to keep your shrimp healthy, it will be a good idea to supplement them with common shrimp foods such as Bacter A.E. (read more about it), the varied range of Dennerle Shrimp King, Ebi Dama by Shirakura, or the Glassgarden Shrimp Dinner Food Pads, etc.

Expect them to feast their way through algae wafers, blanched zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, and spinach. Malawa shrimp are also good at eating mosquito larvae.

Important: It is very easy to feed shrimp and even easier to overfeed them. I will not get tired of repeating that overfeeding shrimp is the guaranteed way to kill them. That is why, if you are new to this hobby, you should NEVER forget this rule.

You can feed them just once a day (or once in 2 – 3 days if you have a matured tank), making the keeping process both inexpensive and highly convenient. Actually, by doing so, you will give them enough motivation to clean your aquarium.

Feed them in rations that would last them up to 3 – 6 hours max when eating. After that, depending on the food, it is better to remove the uneaten part from the tank to prevent messing up the water quality and potential parasite contamination.

You can read more about it in my articles:

How and What to Feed your Shrimp.
How Often and How Much to Feed Shrimp
Indian Almond Leaves and Alder Cones in a Shrimp Tank.
How to Blanch Сucumbers and Zucchini for Shrimp, Snails and Fish the Right Way.

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”.

Caring and Keeping Malawa Shrimp

First of all, your tank must be fully cycled. Despite their hardiness, they cannot survive during the cycling period. As all dwarf shrimp, they are susceptible to ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Be very careful about it.

Tank size

Malawa shrimp do not require a lot of space and can be kept in containers as small as 5-gallon tanks (~20 liters).

However, it is difficult to keep the proper balance in such small tanks. Therefore, people who wish to keep this species should plan on housing them in a tank of at least 10-gallons (~40 liters), especially if they are new to this hobby.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: Malawa Shrimp can live in a wide range of temperature conditions 21 – 32 C (70 – 89 F). However, the optimal temperature should be in the range of 24 – 27 °C (75 – 80 °F).

They do thrive in warmer temperatures although, in most cases, room temperature will suit them fine. However, if you are planning to breed them the most efficiently, I would recommend installing a heater.

pH: Although they come from areas that have a high pH, they can also tolerate low pH as well. Nonetheless, optimal water pH should be provided for this species in the range of 7.0 – 8.5.
Hardness: Malawa shrimp will appreciate optimal KH 1 – 10 and GH between 4 – 15 GH.


Unlike many other Caridina species, Malawa Shrimp do not need active (buffered) substrate. Actually, they prefer the inert substrate. In case you do not know, the inert substrate is a substrate, which does not change water chemistry (pH).


Regarding filtration, sponge filters are the best option (because of the surface area). I would highly recommend using Matten filters for any shrimp tank.

You can also read my article “The Best Filtration System for Breeding Shrimp”.

Last but not least, I always recommend using RO/DI water remineralized with Salty Shrimp GH/KH+. Of course, you can keep Malawa shrimp in your tap water but it is not a good option.


Light is not important for the Malawa shrimp. Lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants in the tank.

Decorations and Plants

This is not necessary but your shrimp will thank you if you give them some places to hide. Driftwood and plants will be excellent for that. In addition, decorations and plants provide a lot of surface area for the biofilm. In nature, the majority of the food is a biofilm.

You can read more about it in my articles:

Driftwood in Shrimp Tank
“Top 5 Pros and Cons of having Plants in Shrimp Aquarium” right here.

Important: Before putting Malawa shrimp into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them (read more about it) as all invertebrates. Do it very slowly. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.

Be careful with chemicals like copper (read more)Crabs, shrimp, and crayfish do not tolerate copper-based medications.

Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)

Sexing Malawa Shrimp

There are few indicators that give away the sex of the Blue bolt shrimp.

  1. The larger shrimp are females. Males are smaller.
  2. Due to the fact that females carry eggs, the underside (abdomen) of the females is wider, it goes down to protect the eggs. Males Sexy shrimp have thinner abdomens.
  3. The presence of the saddle (on the upper body, behind the head, where eggs are stored before fertilization).

You can read more about “Shrimp Gender. Female and Male Difference” right here. 

Breeding Malawa Shrimp

It is very easy to breed Malawa shrimp because they have larval stages after hatching and do not have any specific water requirements for the hatchlings. So, once they adapt to their environment (and if water parameters suit them well), you will see berried (eggs under the abdomen) females.

The female will keep the eggs for the entire time necessary for incubation (depending on the temperature it can range from 4 – 6 weeks). You will see it fanning its eggs regularly with pleopods.

After that, the female will release up to 30 fully developed shrimplets. At hatching, the young of this species are born as tiny copies of the adults — not more than 2 mm in length and are perfectly independent.

Note: If you are using hang on the back (HOB) or canister filters you will need to cover intake, as baby shrimp can be pulled into it.

Crossbreeding and Interbreeding Malawa Shrimp

Malawa shrimp do not interbreed/crossbreed with other Caridina or Neocaridina species. So, it is safe to keep them together in the same tank without risk of hybridizing.

Note: The only problem you may have with this species is that they can outcompete other shrimp species for food and outbreed them.

Malawa Shrimp and Suitable Tankmates

The ideal situation for the Malawa Shrimp is a species tank, but they can be kept with other fish in a community tank as long as those species are chosen with care. Large and/or aggressive fishes should be avoided.

Due to their peaceful nature, it makes a lot of sense if Malawa shrimp are kept together with tank mates that are equally quiet, peaceful and can share the same water parameters with them.

Malawa shrimp are compatible with:

Keep Malawa shrimp away from all types of crayfish and crabs. Even small African Dwarf Frogs can and will try to catch the shrimp whenever it is possible.

In Conclusion

Malawa shrimp are low maintenance and simple species to care for. They do not require large tanks, so even beginners will be able to keep them without problems since they are hardy and undemanding.

They can be a nice addition to any planted tank or a shrimp tank.

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