10 Most Common Shrimp and Fish Tank Mistakes

10 Most Common Shrimp and Fish Tank Mistakes

There are ample learning opportunities in every field or hobby you engage in, and the aquarium hobby is no different. As humans, we are bound to make mistakes and we develop skills by learning from them.

Thus, it is absolutely necessary to learn from other people’s mistakes to prevent the potential loss of resources, time, and energy invested in the hobby going forward.

The fundamental cause of the aquarium mistakes identified is lack of proper knowledge, and for this reason, this article will be focusing on the 10 most common mistakes that shrimp and fishkeepers make and how to avoid them.

Some of these mistakes I made myself when I was new to this hobby, others I constantly see in the letters sent to me by my readers.

Mistake #1: Skipping Tank Cycling

Setting up the tank and adding livestock the same day is by far the most common mistake. This act might seem harmless at first, but it is lethal and against the ethics of the aquarium hobby.

Many new aquarists are probably unaware or hurry to add their beautiful pets and thus skip the cycling process.


Cycling a tank makes the aquatic environment safe for shrimp, fish, crabs, crayfish, snails, frogs, axolotls, and other aquatic animals.

During cycling, good bacteria grow within the new tank to convert toxins into less toxic compounds, thus keeping the ecosystem clean.

The bacteria are essential to remove harmful toxins from the aquarium water. The bacteria break down harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrites, and the water is kept pure.

Generally, the cycling process can span between 4 to 8 weeks. However, it can be sped up by adding the filter media from the already cycled existing tanks or buying a bottle of beneficial bacteria.

Live bacteria starter can be used as an alternative when cycling the tank. It shortens the cycling period by half or even more. The bacteria can come either in liquid or powdered form — sold at pet stores.

Note: Keep in mind that the rapid cycle with bottles of beneficial bacteria is an extremely controversial topic. There are some aquarists who tested different products and never had any success with any of them. It is really hard to say the reason why, but I’d assume that bottled bacteria do not live as much as it is advertised. So, I would not completely rely on the product!

While cycling, some think ammonia is harmful, but the reverse is the case at this stage. It is needed by the bacteria to form colonies and flourish. If live bacteria is not introduced, the tank will take a more extended period to cycle.

Unfortunately, dwarf shrimp are very sensitive to ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. So, we should never add them to the uncycled tanks. Do not make this mistake or your pets may die.

Mistake #2: Lack of Regular pH Checks

Regular checking of your water parameters, especially the pH level, is needed to keep the water and the aquarium inhabitants healthy.

The typical pH level of freshwater tanks is between 6.5 – 7.5. However, the shrimp and other inhabitants usually determine the pH level to be maintained in the tank.

If the pH level spikes or fluctuates severely, it will cause harm to your shrimp. Many aquarists fail to carry out routine water testing, resulting in the loss of aquatic lives in the long run.

The safety of your shrimp and other pets is a priority, so regularly using an accurate aquarium pH kit to measure the pH level is recommended.

Without testing your water parameters, you will not even know what could go wrong. In other words, you are pretty much flying blind and hoping for the best.

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Mistake #3: Under-Cleaning the Tank

Cleaning an aquarium can be tasking, so some aquarists neglect it.

The main problem of this simple mistake is that people often do not see a pronounced negative effect of not doing proper maintenance until it becomes a real problem.

Aquarists are meant to regularly carry out partial water changes, gravel vacuuming, and filter maintenance to keep the aquarium clean, safe, and habitable for the shrimp, fish, etc.

Note: Good thing is that dwarf shrimp are great scavengers and do not produce a lot of bioloads. That is why shrimp tanks do not require constant cleaning like tanks with fish (waste producing machines).

Of course, shrimp tanks do not require constant cleaning like fish tanks.

Partial water replacement is needed to remove nitrates in the aquarium water. While at it, make sure to vacuum the aquarium gravel.

Neglecting these routine maintenance practices will result in the build-up of toxins in the substrate and aquarium water, which will cause harm to your pets at elevated levels.

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Mistake #4: Over-Cleaning the Tank

Over-cleaning the aquarium can also affect its balance and stability, thereby putting the aquarium inhabitants in harm’s way.

Resist the idea of over-cleaning the aquarium gravel, changing a massive volume of aquarium water at a go, or thoroughly rinsing the filter media.

Important: Beneficial bacteria attaches itself to any surfaces throughout the aquarium, it is on the décorlive or fake plantsdriftwood, rocks, tubes, heaters, glass, substrate, and, of course, in the filter of your tank.

Therefore, such practices are also reckless and uncalled for as they can cause a reduction in the population of beneficial bacteria and alter the conditions of the aquarium.

To this end, you should not over-clean your aquarium substrate and filter media.

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Mistake #5: Not Doing a Proper Acclimation and Quarantine

The temptation to add your shrimp straight into the tank can be very high after accepting delivery. However, this is improper as it has some risks attached to it.

Note: Even though the ‘dropped and plopped’ method can be used for some fish species that are particularly hardy, it is absolutely NOT recommended with dwarf shrimp.

Unquarantined animals may introduce diseases to the tank, and they also tend to undergo stress due to handling/transportation. Therefore, it is ideal to allow them to recover and get acclimated to the new conditions before introducing it into the main tank.

Some aquarists make this mistake because they are not acquainted with the process or lack the facilities to quarantine the new fish properly. The good news is a lot of space is not required for quarantine. A small tank or sizeable container can serve this purpose.

The quarantine period may span from two to four weeks. This process ensures that the animals are disease and stress-free as the timeline covers the incubation period of most common diseases.

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Mistake #6: Overfeeding.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common mistakes in the aquarium hobby.

Many aquarists feel that feeding their shrimp and fish is a sign of love and caring. However, they do not realize that overfeeding deteriorates water quality, causes infections, and diseases.

For example, in shrimp keeping, without any doubt, overfeeding is one of the biggest causes of death for dwarf shrimp! In fish keeping, it leads to an abundance of health problems that will shorten or endanger their lives.

As I have already said, uneaten food and organic waste can quickly decompose and cause an outbreak of infections, parasites, ammonia, and nitrate spikes are caused mostly by an excess of food and organic waste.

Overfeeding is not a joke and we have to take it very seriously! It is better to underfeed than overfeed.

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Mistake #7: Over-medicating Your Pets

We all worry about the health of our pets but we also should not panic when we have to deal with medications.

New hobbyists often unconsciously fuss over their tanks. The temptation to over-medicate arises.

Ideally, when fish or shrimp gets sick, they should be separated from the display tank and catered for. Sometimes, it would not need medication, while it may require medication on other occasions.

Fish problems: It is best to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions when using a fish medication, or you can get a professional involved to avoid over-medicating your fish.

Shrimp problems: It is more complicated with dwarf shrimp. So far, there are no professional services that can help us. That is why we have to take their health in our hands and use treatments at our own risk.

On my blog, I gathered the most effective methods to treat that Scutariella JaponicaPlanariaVorticellaHydra, Cladogonium ogishimae or Ellobiopsidae, Rust disease, etc.). 

Mistake #8: Wrong Substrates

Some beginners get carried away with aesthetics when choosing a suitable substrate for a tank.

  1. Unsafe substrate.

They would prefer to pick the multi-colored gravels and pebbles, which gives a more aesthetic appeal to the tank but can be poisonous to the animals in the long run. Some of such pebbles and gravels are painted with dyes that can cause problems for the shrimp and fish. Regular gravel colors are advised.

Another mistake is the size of the substrate. It is not a problem for shrimp but with fish, you need to be very careful. For example, fish may ingest small-sized gravel.

Some rocks can have sharp edges and can easily harm fast-swimming fish or fish that stays very close to them (bottom-dwellers).

  1. Wrong choice – Inert or active substrate.

All substrates can be divided into 2 categories: inert and active.

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).

It is important to do your research beforehand regarding preferable water parameters for this or that species. Otherwise, your animals will live in suboptimal conditions that will affect their lifespan.

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Mistake #9: Compatibility and Overstocking

While there are many stunning aquatic species to choose from in the aquarium trade, you need to match species that can coexist to prevent compatibility issues.

It’s common knowledge that many crayfish, crabs, fish, and even shrimp species (like Whisker shrimp) are aggressive and even territorial, whereas others are peaceful.

There is a simple rule about fish. If it fits their mouths they will eat it. So if you are serious about breeding shrimp then this question should not even be on your mind.

Maintaining the proper stocking levels is another matter of concern to avert adverse situations such as oxygen depletion, increased waste build-up, lack of space, and increased stress levels.

The good news though is that overstocking is a rare problem in shrimp keeping.

Also, in the face of such a decision, remember that not all aquatic creatures have the same aquarium water requirements. Temperature, pH, and flow needs differ from species to species.

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Mistake #10: Introducing Detergent into the Tank.

This is also amongst the mistakes that many shrimp and fishkeepers make.

In a bid to thoroughly clean the aquarium and its components, some aquarists make the grave mistake of using cleaning agents like soap and detergents.

Important: Do not use soap, detergents, or bleach to clean your filter media. These chemicals are harmful to your beneficial bacteria and can disrupt the nitrogen cycle in the tank.

As for the soap, it is really hard to remove it completely. The oils within the soap are incredibly harmful to the gills of fish, shrimp, crabs, etc. In addition, even traces of soap negatively affect fish’s slime layer.

Therefore, if you forgot and accidentally did so – drain the tank completely, scrub it clean with hot water and start from scratch then rinse it again!

In Conclusion

The above are the 10 most common mistakes that beginner aquarists are likely to make when setting up an aquarium or maintaining it.

The best way to avoid such mistakes is to be careful and engage in adequate, proper research. Lastly, whenever it is possible, ensure only to follow professional advice and opinions.

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