The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping

The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping (Freshwater Tanks)

So, what are the ideal water parameters for fish and/or shrimp keeping? Today I would like to address this question that we see happen a lot in comments, forums, and Facebook groups.

Even though this may, at first sight, appear as a simple question but it is not. The problem is much more complex and the answer lies in the adaptation abilities.

It means that once your fish, shrimp, crabs, etc. get accustomed to certain water parameters and start breeding consistently – you have found water parameters that suit them well and make them happy. Basically, you may call them ideal for your tank setup.

Of course, some aquarists may disagree with me by saying that ideal water parameters should only replicate their natural environment (actually, from time to time I also say that). Seriously, why should fish or shrimp adapt to water parameters that are already natural for them?

Well, on this and some other questions I will try to answer in this article.

Be Careful with Recommended Water Parameters

It is not a secret that aquarists usually wonder what are the ideal water parameters for their pets.

Our hobby is not cheap and with so much resources invested in making sure that our fish, invertebrates, and plants thrive, we want to do everything right.

That is why it is absolutely crucial to understand water chemistry in the first place.

We religiously do our best to ensure that every water parameters (PH, KH, GH, TDS, Nitrates, ammonia, etc.) are in line. We follow guides meticulously and we expect to have the results they show us.

And …

In some cases, it does not work!

Why? What happened?

We start checking and double-checking our CO2, fertilizer dosages, pH, GH … and everything seems right. However, it only seems right because, in reality, it is totally wrong!

The reason behind this is that fish or shrimp may have already accustomed to less ‘ideal’ water parameters. As a result, any attempt to introduce them to other water conditions can shock them.

Replication of Natural Habitat vs Optimal Water Parameters

So, should we focus on the replication of natural habitat? Can we get better results in fishkeeping if we only try to copy all the water parameters to the exact numbers?

Well, depending on the situation, the answer can be yes and no at the same time.

Why replication of natural habitat may be wrong?

The answer is that most of these fish, shrimp, crabs, etc. are bred in other water parameters.

In many cases, we have several generations of captive-bred species under conditions that do not even resemble the water that they would have been in the wild.

Therefore, we are taking them away from the water that they are used to while trying to give them the ‘proper’ water parameters. It can shock, weakened, and end up killing our pets.

A great example of this kind of thing is Discus from Germany.  Stendker Discus are kept in TAP WATER for many generations! Their fish are used to harder water that is about a 7.5 pH. That’s what they are used to it.

So, if we put them in our tanks and start chasing the pH to get it all the way down to 6.5 (that is presumably the ideal/natural water parameters) … what will happen? It will be a miracle if they survive at all.

How to Find Optimal Water Parameters?

We have to consider the source from where your fish, shrimp, crabs, snails, etc. came from.

It is very important to know the history of these animals. Are they captive-bred and if so, how long the species have been bred? Are they the first, second, etc. generation? 

It is best to be cautious when buying them. Don’t hesitate to ask the necessary questions and purchase only from reputable vendors.

One would also have to worry about:

  • where the animals were obtained,
  • how they were shipped,
  • whether they were shipped in water and in the right temperature,

Of course, you may not get all the answers but at least you will try your best. All these questions can give you ideas of what you can expect in the future.

What to Do When You Do not Know Anything

Sometimes it is not possible to find any information regarding water parameters in captive breeding. In addition, pet stores usually do not breed animals and prefer to buy animals from other sources.

In this case, I would stick to optimal water parameters we can usually see in articles about this or that species.

Also, do your research, if you find out that animals are not often bred in captivity, you can be sure that natural water parameters will be the best for them. 

Wild-Caught vs Home-Bred Aquarium Pets

There are many reports that make me believe that if you are only starting out, home-bred fish or shrimp are most likely easier to keep and breed.

There is no stress of shipment. In addition, tank-raised animals are already used to being in an aquarium. They are used to being fed artificial diets and they are used to being around people. So, they will show less shyness.

Overall, home-bred ones are usually stronger and healthier. As I have already said, they are less stressed and less stress leads to a longer lifespan and if you keep them in a healthy environment, they are going to live a long time.

Therefore, if you are lucky enough to have local breeders, it will be absolutely better to just drive away to pick them up. This way it will also be easier to ask all the abovementioned questions.

In Conclusion

1. If you are buying wild-caught fish, shrimp, etc. you need to replicate the water from where they came from.

2. If you are buying captive-bred (for many generations) fish, shrimp, etc. you need to find out the water parameters they were bred in.

3. If you are buying captive-bred fish, shrimp, etc. but you do not know anything about them, including how many generations were bred in captivity, I would recommend following optimal water conditions we can see in articles about these species. They can still accustom to various water parameters, provided they have not adapted to water parameters that are far out of the normal range.

Examples of water parameters and Types of Shrimp

Name Optimal PH Optimal  GH Optimal  KH
Bamboo shrimp 6.5 – 7.5 6 – 8 2 – 6
Caridina cf. babaulti 6.5 – 7.5 6 – 8 3 – 8
Snowball shrimp 7.0 – 7.5 6 – 8 2 – 4
Crystal red shrimp 6.6 – 6.9 4 – 6 0 – 1
Ghost shrimp 7.0 – 7.4 5 – 8 5 – 8
Amano shrimp 7.0 – 7.4 7 – 8 2 – 4
Cherry shrimp 7.0 – 7.5 6 – 8 2 – 4
Cardinal shrimp 7.8 – 8.2 6 – 8 4 – 8
Blue tiger shrimp 7.2 – 7.4 6 – 8 2 – 4
Blue bolt shrimp 6.0 – 6.8 3 – 6 0 – 2
Vampire shrimp 6.8 – 7.2 6 – 12 2 – 15
Opae Ula shrimp 8.0 – 8.5 0 – 12
Sulawesi Malawa Shrimp 7.0 – 8.5 4 – 15 1 – 10
Blue bolt shrimp 6.0 – 6.8 3 – 6 0 – 2
Tangerine Tiger Shrimp 6.0 – 7.5 4 – 8 0 – 4


4 thoughts on “The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping

  1. I know chasing numbers is bad and stability truly is the most important but I’m building out a new shrimp tank and I wanted to make sure I used RO water and remineralize. Right now I do not have shrimp in the tank.

    So, I used Salty Shrimp GH/KH+ (this is for neos) and added up to 200ish TDS. I think the actual number was 195. It crept up a little in the tank. It’s 208.

    My kh is 4. My GH is very high at 11 though. Ph is around 7.2, tough to get exact with the API kit.

    Any ideas here? Do I have a bad TDS pen? It tested RO water at 2 ppm.

    1. Hi Jarrod,
      Personally, I would not worry about such small differences.
      Your GH is not that bad either.
      I have seen much worse water parameters and shrimp were fine, because, as you already said it yourself – stability plays the most important role.
      Best regards,

  2. I kept aquariums when I was in high school back in the 1960s and 70s but haven’t since then.

    When I was learning about setting up my first shrimp tank, your website helped me a lot. So I cycled my tank and aged it and let the algae grow while I learned about water parameters. Things look good after about 6 weeks and I let it run and I got the parameters stabilized and learned how to create the same GH and KH every time I water change. I decided to go with RO water because my tap water is much harder than what I wanted.

    Anyway, I now have some beautiful yellow Neocaridina.

    While I was doing research, I started reading some online aquarium and shrimp forums, and I’m really surprised at the number of people who don’t do any research until after the first batch or two of shrimp that they buy all die on them.

    I’ve tried to answer a couple questions, and tried to be very tactful, but I’ve pretty much stopped doing that. So many people are more interested in defending what they did wrong, than to listen to any suggestions on what they might look to change. So many say “my parameters are perfect” and when pressed say that they can’t really test or give results way outside of any sensible range.

    I guess I’ll just stay off those forums. I don’t know how you continue to try to help people, you have my utmost respect.

    1. Hi Thomas H Saunders,
      Thank you for your kind words, I’m glad that my articles were helpful to you!
      Regarding the situation with forums, etc., that is indeed the case. It seems to me that we are currently living in a very fast-paced time, where people simply stop delving into the essence of things and understanding the details. Everyone wants everything to be quick and easy. Lots of people simply do not understand that achieving balance in an aquarium and even a relative understanding of how it all works is very difficult to explain in just a few words. Nevertheless, I strive to make the most of what I know to help someone in some way.
      Best regards,

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