Missing Shrimp Eggs: Why This Occurs

Missing Shrimp Eggs: Why This Occurs

The hobby of keeping aquarium shrimp has been steadily increasing in popularity for years. Shrimp make a great addition to home aquariums and as an added bonus, they came in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. And while the care regimen for shrimp might seem intimidating for novices, it is actually fairly simple with a bit of research and background knowledge.

For those just getting into the hobby of keeping shrimp, missing shrimp eggs can be a frustrating and difficult to diagnose problem. There are a wide variety of causes that might cause a shrimp to lose eggs and it takes some time and research to pinpoint exactly what might be causing your female shrimp to lose eggs.

In this article, I have compiled a list of some of the most frequent reasons that shrimp lose eggs along with potential solutions to these problems.

Read the Guide: How to Breed Shrimp

Inexperienced Female Shrimp and Egg Loss

Perhaps the most common reason that new shrimp owners might find affecting their female shrimps’ ability to keep is eggs is simply the fact that they are inexperienced mothers. Female shrimp that have only experienced a few “pregnancies” will drop eggs quite frequently. This is a normal occurrence and should not be a cause of concern.

Most frequently, inexperienced female shrimp will lose eggs at the fanning stage of their pregnancies. Female shrimp carry their eggs underneath their tails by using pleopods, where they constantly fan the eggs to provide them with oxygen. Fanning also helps to ensure that the eggs stay clean and free of bacteria and mold.

This process may take a few pregnancies to master, but with a little patience, your female shrimp should be able to maintain successful pregnancies regularly.

New Shrimp, Stress and Egg Loss

Additionally, a new environment can be stressful for your shrimp and this added stress can cause them to lose eggs. You may even find that your shrimp will not breed for a period of time after bringing them into a new environment. This is a normal occurrence in both male and female shrimp.

Ideally, you should find out everything about water parameters where they were kept in and try to duplicate them. After that, slowly change to what you want them to be.

Related articles:

Early Stage Egg Loss

The two most common times for a female shrimp to lose her eggs are during the early and late incubation stages of the reproductive cycle. There are two primary reasons why a female shrimp might lose her eggs very early in the pregnancy.

The first is triggered by incomplete fertilization of an egg, in which the egg lacks the genetic material to develop into an embryo and the egg is lost.
Note: For example, it can happen in a heavily overstocked aquarium, when the quantity of the females starts prevailing over males.

You can read more about it in my article “Male to Female Ratio in Shrimp Tanks”.

The second occurs during the oviposition stage of the shrimp’s pregnancy when the shrimp lays their eggs. Shrimp lose their eggs at this stage because the eggs are not adequately attached to the pleopods of the mother and hence cannot survive. 

Late Stage Egg Loss

Late stage egg loss is somewhat harder to determine and can be caused by a wide variety of factors. By this stage in the eggs development, attachment structures connecting the egg to the mother have been exposed to more wear and tear and are thus more prone to loss.

In other cases, the appearance of late stage egg loss does not reflect a loss at all but rather a natural process called batching. Batching occurs when eggs hatch over a period of time rather than all at once.

One reason that eggs are lost late in their development is simply a result of their larger size. These larger eggs have more sophisticated metabolic structures than early stage eggs and as a result, they are more susceptible to increases in stress levels as a result of environmental factors. These environmental factors have perhaps the most significant impact on brood loss in females, but fortunately, they are also the easiest to control.

Environmental Factors (PH, Temperature, etc)

Brood loss by environmental factors can be triggered by improper temperature, water hardness (GH and KH) or PH levels (read my articles about it). Any sudden changes to these or other environmental factors will cause stress for your shrimp population which can easily trigger egg loss. Keep in mind that the most important thing for shrimp is consistency. 

Note: Calcium is a key component in promoting egg and shrimp growth, so maintaining adequate levels of calcium can go a long way in ensuring the healthy development of shrimp offspring.

I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.

Berried Female Shrimp and Molting

Unfortunately, female shrimp will occasionally molt with eggs attached to their exoskeletons, triggering a loss of the brood. Under normal circumstances, it usually does not happen in aquariums with an established eco-system. Unless some sudden fluctuations in water parameters shock them.

That is why do not ever do big water changes! It can shock them and they will try to molt when they are not ready yet.

You can read more about it in my article “Dwarf shrimp and Molting problems. The White Ring of Death”.

Other Causes of Egg Loss

There are several other potential causes of shrimp egg loss that have been demonstrated in recent studies. According to researchers, increased water uptake in eggs is a significant contributor to egg loss. This is because the increase in egg volume caused by water uptake limits the availability of egg carrying space, resulting in smaller broods.

Excessive handling of shrimp can cause increased stress levels, contributing to brood loss in berried females. Handling should be kept at a minimum when possible to reduce stress for all shrimp, berried or not.

Finally, an old shrimp colony that fails to introduce outside members for an extended period of time can also result in increased rates of egg loss. This can be attributed to a lack of genetic diversity resulting in more feeble offspring and occasionally even genetic mutations among the population. 

Read my article “Culling Shrimp. Selective Breeding”.

Saving Shrimp Eggs. Artificial Incubation.

On the positive side, you can still save the eggs and artificially incubate them. However, to do that, you will need an egg tumbler that you can make yourself or buy.

Read my article “Save the Eggs from a Dead Shrimp”.

In Conclusion

While egg loss in shrimp can certainly be a challenging problem to diagnose and resolve, it should not deter any new shrimp keeping enthusiasts from pursuing the hobby.

Though this topic has been somewhat under-researched thus far, the scientific community has made significant efforts to conduct research on shrimp egg development and egg loss. Hopefully, these studies will yield results in the near future. For now, however, the best thing to do is to gain a bit of knowledge and lot of experience to prevent egg loss in your shrimp.

23 thoughts on “Missing Shrimp Eggs: Why This Occurs

  1. After getting super excited at the first 2 pregnancies in my tank and being devastated at the loss, I’m happy to hear that it’s a normal occurrence in new tanks.

    P.S. I’ve just spent hours reading through this blog and it’s easily the best resource I’ve found for shrimp keeping since I got my shrimp 6 months ago

    1. Hi Syd,
      Thank you!
      Do you mind asking me – how old is your tank right now? Have you got 2 berried shrimp in 6 months?
      Best regards,

  2. hi I also found this very useful. I bought 12 Tiger Shrimp (Cardinia) and 12 Blue Velvet (Neocardinia) as I wanted shrimp that cannot cross breed in same tank. To my big disappointment they Tiger shrimp started to die off. I then google a lot about the issue and tested my water. In Estonia we have very hard water so hardness was around 230 ppm and PH around 7,5 and Chlorine levels around 0.5 to 0.8.
    I immediately ordered a RO and 4 weeks in I could start slowly changing the water parameters. When the dying off stopped I had 3 Tiger shrimp and 8 Blue left. The blue are very big but not breeding and it looks like they are all female (how unlikely that sounds they all have female shape).
    To my HUGE surprise suddenly 2 Tiger was pregnant like boom one day to the next – seems the third one was a male. I can’t believe my luck. Today I then saw one female had lost her eggs and I was so sad.
    For that this article helps. Just saw second female she is still berried but moves the eggs around a lot. at first I thought she tried to get rid of them. But it seems like she is reorganizing them maybe even sorting out bad ones? If I eventually will get shrimplets and a colony out of this it’s basically a miracle.
    However what to do about the blue Neos? Give them time too and see if there is a male or order new ones?

    1. Hi Tobias Andersen,
      It seems like you added shrimp in the tank not so long time ago. Therefore, I’d definitely give your Blues some more time.
      If in a few weeks you don’t see any berried female, well, you may have to order some more.
      Also, don’t be too harsh with yourself, the first month is the most dangerous in the shrimp keeping. There are factors that are beyond the control of hobbyists and we can only hope for the best (For example shipping stress, malnutrition, or harassment prior to selling, etc.).
      Best regards,

  3. And so one Blue is berried now and I counted 7 survivors the other day. Orange should “give birth” any day soon bu I fear my H. Rasboras will eat them. I can’t move them to the big tank as the Molly tank has had a major outbreak of ICH and in the end I treated with salt and high temperature (they seem to love it except swordtails).

  4. Very helpful article. I’ve had a starter colony of neocaridina for about a month, all seems well, two of the larger juveniles started showing saddles 2 weeks ago. Monday the shrimp with a full saddle moved her eggs to her belly and has way often “agitating” them yesterday after losing about half in the moving process. But all seemed well. This morning I didn’t see her for awhile but when I did, the remaining eggs were gone but she was still fanning actively. She molted about an hour ago (12 hours after finding her without eggs). I thought she had died after an unsuccessful molt as she was on her back, but she has since moved a bit. Hopefully just exhausted from the process and losing her clutch and she will recover.

    1. Hi Meg,
      Thanks for the feedback!
      Let me know how it goes.
      Best regards,

  5. Useful article but still not sure why i’m losing eggs. Lots of berried caridina shrimp in a well cycled tank which has been up for about 2 years. Water parameters are good with no shrimp losses. Just no babies. Any thoughts? 🙂

    1. Hi Leon Lu,
      Could tell me more about your tank setup and water parameters? Is it a community tank? What do you feed them?
      Best regards,

  6. I read your post , but i can’t find reason why I lose eggs.Have few neos like blues,reds, yellows, green, black , rilis and have problems with my yellows.i see berried lady”s but they lost eggs.gave them variety off food, use spring water , have them about 3 months and no babies.tnx

    1. Hi Zoran Popovic,
      Sorry to hear that.
      Could you clarify a little bit more about your setup, water parameters and situation in general?
      Best regards,

  7. We (bf and I) got into shrimps three months ago. We had a lot of fun watching them, 3 tanks and a lot of sht to get the water parameters right. So far we’ve only have had problem with low ph and low hardness but it’s all good now. Since they had fish swimming around them they probably weren’t feeling in the mood but now that they have a lot of space for themselves we’ve seen a few berried (4 so far). One of them lost her eggs but since the rest are fine I don’t worry too much. She have still two eggs and trying her best.

    1. Hi Luis Robles,
      It is really nice to hear.
      Stable water parameters, food and stress-free environment are keys of success.
      Best regards,

  8. This was such a helpful article. I have a Nano-aquarium that I’ve had for 9 months, un-stocked, and heavily planted prior to adding some Neocaridina Davidi wild-types after checking the parameters every other day for a month to make sure they were stable. I have a no-filter set-up with just a simple bubbler. I was happy to see that after 2 weeks I had 3 shrimp berried, but I only had 2 juvenile males to 9 females. So I think my issue was my ratio. Today my oldest female, who yesterday had at least 20 eggs, is now down to only 2. I checked my parameters in a panic but nothing has changed so I think it was only a fertilization issue because of this ratio. I’ll wait to see if these eggs come to term before I add more males just so I don’t stress them and cause more egg loss (also learned from reading this).

    Thanks again for your insight!

    1. Hi Kay M.
      I also hope that you found your problem but I still have some questions.
      What is your setup?
      How large is your tank? You mentioned that the tank is heavily planted. How heavy? Have you checked pH in the evening and in the morning – what is the difference? How much it fluctuates?
      Best regards,

  9. After a year I had one successful hatching with about 8 shrimplets. The other day I was excited to see another female berried and started filming her. Right away she started vigorously kicking at her clutch and whole clumps of eggs fell off on camera! I think she may have kicked off half of them. I had just done about a 20% water change a few minutes before I saw her. Could she have kicked them off on purpose because of the parameter changes?

    1. Hi Cheril,
      Of course, it is difficult to say for certain, but significant changes in water parameters can have an unpleasant effect on shrimp.
      They are generally not fond of any water changes.
      What are your water parameters? Have your shrimp only just started reproducing over the past year?
      Best regards,

  10. Hi,

    I have a 16gallon fluval vista tank with hob filter, heater and bubbler. I bought 40 cherry shrimp last week and they are slowly dying, like one or two a day. I slowly drip acclimated them over 2 hours.

    My ph is 7.8, temp 23C, 0amm, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates, gh 12, kh 3, Water tds is 300. I have some crushed coral mixed in my fluval flourite substrate. It is a pretty heavily planted tank with just some fry dwarf neons at the moment and the shrimp. The tank is 4 years old. My tap water has a kh of 1 and gh of 4. I stopped using seachem excel a week ago and only use Thrive S liquid fertilizer every 3 days.

    I feed the shrimp with hikari shrimp cuisine or they also eat some leftover hikari first bites i give the fry. I try to feed the fry only a small amount twice a day so not to overfeed the shrimp. I am finding the shrimp dead laying on their side sometimes showing the white ring of death.

    Is my gh too high or tds too high? Should I add blanched spinach and veggies to the diet? Are they having molt issues? Should I do 10% water changes once or twice a week with straight ro water to lower the gh and tds? Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Onkar,
      I’m sorry to hear about what’s happening with your shrimp. Overall, your water parameters seem suitable for cherry shrimp, but there are a few points to keep in mind:
      I’ve mentioned this many times on the website, in various articles and responses to questions, but the first month after purchase is crucial for adaptation. While acclimating them was a good step to reduce initial stress, complete stress removal can only happen when the shrimp have spent time adjusting to your water parameters. The first month can be considered a critical period, the most risky time. For instance, it’s possible that the shrimp you bought were kept in softer water by the seller.
      By the way, how are you mineralizing the water?
      Best regards,

      1. Currently I am just using tap water treated with api stress coat and topping off when needed with RO water. I thought about using straight RO and then mineralizing it but I have already added crushed coral deep into the substrate. I was thinking of lowering the gh and tds by doing small water changes with straight RO but do you think a gh of 12 and tds of 300 is ok? Also is there any point wouldn’t the coral just act as a buffer and return the gh to 12 anyways?

        1. Hi Onkar,
          The situation is a bit clearer now. I have two hypotheses now.
          First, it’s possible that there is something in your tap water that the shrimp don’t like. We can’t test it for all metals, and TDS won’t help with this because it measures all the total dissolved solids in the water.
          My second hypothesis, as I mentioned earlier, is that your shrimp were kept and bred in different water parameters, and they have become accustomed to those conditions. As a result, they are now stressed. Did you ask the seller about the water parameters?
          Regarding hardness, I’ll reiterate that your parameters are quite suitable for cherry shrimp. However, over time, corals can act as a buffer and may raise the GH depending on their quantity in the water.
          However, it’s important to understand that any adaptation doesn’t happen instantly. In other words, even though shrimp can reproduce within a wide range of TDS, pH, GH, etc., if the shrimp were previously kept in, let’s say, soft water conditions (3-5 GH) with low TDS (100), they will feel uncomfortable in your water for quite a while. That’s why I mentioned the critical first month. During this period, they also usually molt, which helps them adapt more quickly.
          Best regards,

  11. Hi Michael
    You might tell your Followers that these babies that come out of the shrimp are so tiny. They may not even see them. And then the fish eat some and whatever but they may hatch, but they’re so tiny. It’s unbelievable mine breed all the time. And it’s so funny cause they just hang on the side of the glass or a plant or rock. I didn’t even know I had any in the beginning until they were a month old and then I saw these little guys swim around

    1. Hi Joy,
      Yes, they are really tiny (about 2mm), which makes it difficult to notice them in the aquarium. If there is a lot of plants in the aquarium, you may not see them at all in the beginning.
      Best regards,

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