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Old 05-15-2012, 08:04 PM   #1
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Default Sage Advice for Noobie Shrimp Keepers

All the advice is already here, but the "I lost another shrimp today" threads are never going to stop. The most common complaints are:

1) Bacteria infection - How do you diagnose or remedy?
2) Molting issues - Is your GH (general hardness) too low?
3) Unstabilized tank - Does your PH swing dramatically from day to night? How to solve? What about NTS (new tank syndrome)?
4) Lack of Oxygen content. How to address?
5) Young shrimp or Berried female dying. What are the root causes?

There are others. So, here are some of the things that a shrimp keeper can do to lessen their burden, and all in one post. This thread is caridina heavy, but not specific. What works well for caridinas often works well for neocaridinas. None of these are my ideas of course. With that said...

- If I had just one piece of advice to give, it would be to buy a sponge filter. Biological filtration is paramount in keeping and breeding shrimp, and setting up an air-driven sponge filter is one of the simplest "upgrades" you can make to your shrimp tank. Not only does it promote beneficial bacteria, but the break in water surface also provides oxygenation.

- You can never have too much filtration in a shrimp tank. Yes, you can have too much flow. Otherwise, don't be afraid to go overboard. I have a CBS tank that has been going for a few years now that has 2 HOBs and a canister and all for a 10 gallon. It is heavily, heavily planted so this is the only shrimp tank I have that doesn't have a sponge filter. The more filtered your water, the less you have to perform water changes. Also, I never have a death in this tank, ever.

- Use TDS as a way to monitor your water changes. Spend the money and invest now in an accurate TDS meter. It will save you so much hassle, time and money later on if you take this step now. When should you change your water? Every week? Twice a week? Every other week? You don't have to guess if you have an accurate TDS meter at your disposal. Different shrimp require different parameters, but in general, if you're performing small water changes in your caridina tank once the TDS starts to hover above 200 then you're doing fine.

TDS is a measure of the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid. Truly "pure water" has zero total dissolved solids. If you run your tap water through a good enough filter, you will come up with "pure water", and your TDS meter will read zero total dissolved solids, aka filterable residue. This residue is mostly comprised of the most common chemical constituents, calcium, phosphates, nitrates, sodium, potassium and chloride, but it may also contain pesiticides. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia and is a widely used drinking water disinfectant in North America, often used as an alternative to chlorine because it is longer lasting and has less of an odor than chlorine. Most of these elements you could do without in a shrimp tank.

Depending on where you live, the TDS of your tap water may be dramatically different than others you encounter on this forum. That's why, for example, some aquarists in San Francisco don't fret tap water much. We receive our water from Hetch Hetchy, and it's "liquid gold" for planted tanks as has been said. However, others aren't so lucky. For shrimp keeping, how much are you willing to risk it?

Keep in mind that everything adds to your TDS. If you dose Prime, the TDS will rise. If you EI dose, you will see high TDS levels. Decaying plant matter, fish waste, etc., they all raise your TDS, and that's why we have water changes. Using a TDS meter to gauge the quality of your water lets you know when it may be a good time for a change.

Water Hardness definitions:

Soft - 0 to 75 parts per million
Moderately Hard - 75 to 150 parts per million
Hard - 150 to 300 parts per million
Very Hard - more than 300 parts per million

- If you're planning to buy and especially breed Taiwans/BKK, do your due diligence and create the right environment for them. Whether your are using multiple, large sponge filters or have created an under gravel filter, make sure that you have plenty of biological filtration for your shrimps. Many/most Taiwan keepers are also dosing beneficial bacteria like Mosura BT-9 and the like. What is the point of buying hundred dollar shrimp and not investing the small amount of time it will take to create a healthy, stable environment?

- Plan for the right PH, GH, and KH levels BEFORE you buy and house your new shrimp. If you are keeping CRS, make sure that you bought a soil that keeps PH low so that you don't have to fight and struggle later on. If your tap water is 8.5, you can put it in an Akadama tank and still see 5.9. You can put it in an ADA Amazonia tank and still see 6.5. What you can't do is put it in a Fluval Shrimp Stratum tank and see anything under 7 unless you are going far out of your way after the fact. So, know what shrimp you want to house and build the right kind of environment for them before that big purchase. The substrate examples were only examples. There are a lot of ways to get this right, and even more ways to get it wrong.

- The most important water quality component for shrimps is stability above everything else. If you follow the stability rule above all others then you will likely end up more successful at keeping and breeding shrimp than your neighbor shrimp-keeper who shows "perfect CRS parameters", but yet somehow still has an unusual amount of casualties. Shrimp like things status quo, and that's a fact. They prefer that status quo over a wild change in parameters even if what they are used to is far less than ideal. I personally know someone who has very successfully bred CRS in 650 TDS water with a GH of 15 and a ph of 5.6 ph. She uses only tap treated with Prime. How successful? She started with 5 CRS and turned them into 70. As of today, her tank has 11 berried CRS. Why is she so successful while others have failed with "perfect" parameters? It's simple. She "keeps it simple stupid" or KISS.

- How should you lower your ph?

If for whatever reason you did not set up a terrific shrimp environment for your new pets from the outset, or if you have an ok environment but want to make it even better, there are steps you can take. You can, for example, quite easily find a steady supply of uber-clean, zero TDS water via an RO/DI water unit. One of the best/cheapest options out there can be found from This is only one option, and there are many good ones out there. You can reminearlize your water using a shrimp-safe remineralizer like Fluval Mineral or Mosura. All of the shrimp supplement makers sell these now. My advice is to buy yourself a dropper. For example, I drop 18 drops of Fluval Mineral in about 5 gallons of water and use this for water changes and top-offs in a 10 gallon. It keeps my CBS tank right at 5 gh, my goal level.

Additionally, you can add items like Peat Moss in a bag in an HOB filter or canister or Indian Almond leaves right in your tank. I weight mine down with plant weights, and the shrimp will graze on them in between meals. Driftwood is also known to release tanins in the water, further lowering ph. Mosura and Benibachi, etc. also make ph down powders now. If I was forced to use something like this, I would buy from them. DO NOT use ph down from Seachem. This will likely kill your shrimp.

- PH and water changes. Water changes are crucial and necessary. A shrimp tank needs to stay within particular TDS ranges depending on the shrimp, and there are certain precautions you can make to make sure you aren't killing shrimps with each water change.

1. Use RO water. As a shrimp keeper, I could never imagine going back to tap unless I was only raising Neos. I have terrific water here in San Francisco, but I still won't risk it. What comprises that 40 TDS that comes out of my tap? Heck if I know, but I no longer have to care.

2. Age your water. Keep buckets for your water, be it tap or RO. Age days to a week if possible. Better still, run an airstone in it overnight to off-gas any nasties that may be in your tap water. Additionally, aging your water has also been found by some to lower PH to something manageable without even having to dose additives.

3. Do small water changes. 15-20% every other day for 3 days is WAY better than a 50% water change.

4. Make sure that the temperature and ph of your new water is at least comparable to that of your tank water. If your tank water is 6.4 but your tap water is 8, you may have a problem. Invest instead in a safe PH down alternative in order to get your bucket water down to something manageable. Dose the GH remineralizer in the bucket water and not right in the tank if you can help it.

- Rocks matter. As has been well-reported, Seiryu stones will raise both your ph and your KH. This isn't an ideal rock in a CRS tank. However, OEBT, for example, actually prefer a higher ph and KH so a Seiryu stone can be just find for breeding these types of shrimp. With all rocks, make sure you do a vinegar test on them before putting them in your tank. If you want to be extra careful instead, use Muriatic Acid. I boil any found rocks I use as well. WARNING: Don't over-boil rocks or else they could, theoretically, explode on you.

Most Taiwan keepers won't put a rock in their tank. Personally, as long as I can identify the rock, I don't see a problem with it.

- Use Purigen. It's such a simple step to take, and it give you clear water. Purigen is the best filter media out there for shrimps and gets rid of all kinds of harmful elements. Using either a Purigen reactor or just a pre-filter used instead as a post-filter to a canister is an ideal place to put carbon or Purigen. Inside an HOB is also great, anything that provides easy access for swapping out and/or regenerating (Purigen).

- Cuprisorb. Seachem makes this. You can bag it and throw it in your HOB or canister if you been having mysterious shrimp deaths. Most liquid fert combos come with a little bit of copper. How much is dangerous? Beats me. I don't dose those things in my high-end shrimp tanks. If I did, I would use cuprisorb though for peace of mind. Does your residence use copper pipes? Do those pipes affect your water quality by adding trace elements of copper to your tap? I don't know either. Inquiring minds.

- What is so great about a ________ filter? (HOB, canister, sponge, UGF)

HOB filters. Why? They break the water surface which oxygenates the water so in that sense they are great for shrimp. They are a snap to install. Best of all, one can easily switch out media and/or clean media. It's basically hassle-less. Whether you are adding or removing Purigen, activated carbon, or a bag of peat moss, it doesn't get much easier. What does it lack? A lack of biological filtration and beneficial bacteria. Additionally, it will suck up baby shrimps if you're not careful. That's why you need a stainless steel pre-filter.

Canisters. What's so great? Nothing supplies as much pure filtration as a canister. Mechanical, biological, chemical, you can do it all and with great efficiency. Further, you can add on to your canister by attaching things like a pre-filter and/or a reactor. What is it lacking? Unless you are staging your lily pipes just right, you may not always be breaking the water surface. This can be ideal in a heavily planted tank which requires CO2, but otherwise you will experience both water surface film buildup as well as a lack of oxygenation.

Sponge filter. The oldest and perhaps best shrimp filter? Plenty of top breeders use only large sponges, even when breeding BKK. You can get by with just a sponge. It prevents tons of beneficial bacteria, something shrimps, especially baby shrimps, thrive on. They are cheap and easy to install as well. What does it lack? Mechanical filtration is lacking here. Chances are it is going to be harder to keep your TDS down in a sponge-only setup.

UGF (under-gravel filter). The new wave/old wave? These have been popular forever but have been recently making a comeback in shrimp circles for their ability to create huge pockets of aerobic beneficial bacteria in the substrate. Whether you go easy-custom with some PVC pipe or just buy a cheap-o from EBAY, it can be a terrific setup for your shrimps. Why not use a UGF? They won't work so terrifically in heavily planted tanks (one type of shrimp scape). Also, if you don't build it well, you could end up with clogs. What's the difference between cleaning a UGF vs. cleaning an HOB? The difference between 5 minutes and an entire rescape of your tank. UGF are totally worth it, but prepare accordingly.

So what is the best filter? All of them. Used in combination, it's easy to create a perfect shrimp environment. There is no such thing as too much filtration. Go ahead and do a search on TPT, and try to locate threads and posts that explain, "my shrimp, they were doing just fine... but then I added more filtration!" Mix and match to get the best outcomes. Also note that cleaning filters and changing out media is much easier and less demanding when you know that you have back-up filtration which is still running. While you're cleaning your canister, it's nice to know that sponge filter has your back.

For both HOBs and canisters, buy yourself a stainless steal pre-filter. Mordalphus sells one so don't be afraid to him up first. If he happens to be out, there are other avenues. Why not just throw on a sponge instead? After all, it will give you some added beneficial bacteria that the steel strainer won't. Right. However, no matter how high the quality of the sponge, it is going to clog on you, likely in a matter of weeks and not months, and that will reduce your flow to almost nothing. On an HOB, this may even mean shutting down your motor.

- What to do about critters. I can only speak to what I've had to face, but they are common enough in the hobby that you may run across the same little devils. You will find yourself with planaria in your tank at some point. When that happens, you can either dose febendazole in the form of Panacur- C, or else use Benibachi Zero Planaria. For panacur, you can cut the 1oz package into 10 even amounts with a razor blade and dose 1oz at a time per 10 gallons. For the Zero, you just follow their dosing instructions as they include a spoon.

The other critter I've fought, and admittedly, with limited success, are scuds. I don't like scuds. Some people love them as they are a natural fish food. You can arm yourself with a turkey baster if you want and pick them out one by one, or sometimes, 15 at a time. However, no matter how hard you "suck", you won't ever get them all minus a full rescape. However, the easiest passive approach by far is just to slice off a piece of organic zucchini, weight it down with a plant weight, then leave over night. In the morning, yank it out. The scuds are slow and dumb, not at all like shrimp. They will hang onto the zucchini as you yank it out while any shrimps will safely jump off.

- Co2 in a shrimp tank? Most breeders shy away unless they are breeding neos. Still, if you're smart about it then you can absolutely breed caridinas while supplementing Co2. To set up a good Co2 environment for shrimp, make sure that you are breaking the water surface somehow, be that with an HOB or a sponge filter. Further, running a very small bubble count (1 per second or less) 24/7 will give you very consistent, lower ph in your shrimp tank. A few breeders in my local club have used this method to good effect. If you have a planted tank, this method makes sense as happy plants means less waste in the water, and therefore, creates a beneficial environment for shrimp.

- What about blue/green algae? I have seen this come up quite a bit lately so it's worth addressing. Shrimp keepers tend to closely monitor their nitrate levels, wanting them as low as possible. This presents quite a dilemma in heavily planted shrimp tanks, no doubt, because the plants end up lacking in nutrients, creating deficiencies. Even in a sparsely planted tank this can be a problem, however, because low-flow tanks that are especially low in nitrates seem to be a good environment for blue/green "algae" to thrive. BGA isn't an algae though. Rather, it's a bacteria. Fortunately, you can safely wipe this out in your shrimp tank, and in short order, but dosing the antibiotic, Mardel Maracyn, available at most LFS. It will not kill your tank's beneficial bacteria, but the erythromycin will wipe out the BGA for you in a matter of days. To be safe, and so that you don't create a bacteria super strain, make sure to dose at 1/2 the recommended dose or less for 5 straight days until it's gone. Then, a 25% water change to follow, and you're all set. Magic! Even your high-grade shrimp won't blink an eye.

- CRS grading: There are two types of grading when it comes to CRS. Pure Red Line (PRL) and non-PRL. This legend represents what most people keep, the non-PRL type. Visit the nice folks at planetinverts for more great info on shrimps.

- Talking to your LFS (local fish store) about inverts. LFS owners are knowledgeable. Most tend to know a lot about fish, and many know a lot about plants. That said, they are typically a terrible resource for inverts. Why? If they sell inverts then the vast majority of their species are neos. This means that they haven't had to work, claw, and scratch out plans for best keeping cards. If they do sell CRS/CBS, you will usually only find low grades, also easier to take care of. So, don't be afraid to ask your LFS about inverts, but don't be surprised if the advice you receive is either limited or sometimes just plain false. That's no knock on the LFS mind you. Most can't afford to dabble in such delicate species.

I don't pretend to have "all the answers". No one does. Some of the very best shrimp breeders out there scoff at taking so many precautions. They know what works for them, and that's plenty. However, no one can account for the different water quality found city to city, country to country, etc. Nor can they attest to the strength of the shrimp colony in general, where the shrimp came from, etc. You can still have a perfect parameter tank and see shrimp deaths. Still, if you take some of the advice above, you will limit the dangers in the long run.

If any one else out there has advice, or even if you take exception to some egregious point I've made above, feel free to chime in.

Finally, just for fun, here's a video of an OEBT in macro. Watch closely for when he adjusts his eye.

Last edited by youjettisonme; 05-25-2012 at 01:47 AM..
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