Thoughts on recent ghost shrimp death issues (and mildly lethargic nerite) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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Question Thoughts on recent ghost shrimp death issues (and mildly lethargic nerite)

I have a 2 month old Fluval Spec III (2.6 gal) with three nice clumps of sword ferns and one taller wisteria. I have some loose java moss stuffed into a cholla log, and then two marimo moss balls in there. Inhabitants are one male betta, one striped nerite snail, and 2 ghost shrimp.

I fill my tank with my public tap water, conditioned with Prime.

I do 40%-50% water changes every week. I have not yet taken the filter/media out to clean it, per the instructions on the tank. Water is tested each week with Tetra 6 in 1 strips and it has remained constantly spot on as far as no chlorine or ammonia, safe nitrite/nitrate, and safe pH. My water is very hard and it does show up as the hardest result possible on the strip.

Because it is a Betta tank, I have done the "Fluval Spec mod" of putting a foam filter piece over the filter outlet so it doesn't cause the betta stress with forceful water flow.

First month of the tank, the betta was a bit sluggish and shy, but the shrimp were going everywhere...flying up to grab the betta pellet food, investigating all over, etc. The snail cruised around really "fast", too. This last 3 weeks, the betta has gotten more and more active and really looks happy. The snail has seemed to have slowed down, staying still a lot of the time. She has been laying white eggs around, so maybe that's a sign she is healthy. At the same time, one of the shrimp turned opaque white and died. I replaced it a few days later. Then the other original shrimp got white and sluggish and died. Today, about a week later, the last remaining one, the "new" shrimp ,is white and sluggish and on his last legs.

I am confused about what could have changed.

I did recently reduce the hours of the LED (factory) tank lighting from 14 hours to 6 hours since I was having algae issues on my plants and the glass. It has improved the algae on the glass a lot, but the plants still have a fuzz of green on them. I scrape the sides each week when cleaning, regardless. I would be shocked is less light is killing the shrimp though? Plus, the tank gets decent indirect sunlight each day.

Is the hardness of the water an issue? But then why would the shrimp do so well for a month and now even new shrimp are dying in a week?

One theory which I don't think is a very good one is that the betta is now much more active and aggressive, and he eats all the food I add pretty quickly. Originally, he would just lay around and the food would float for some time so that the shrimp could swim up and and grab one each to snack on.My impression is that shrimp are pretty scavenger-y and they'd likely find all the food they need down in the gravel and in the algae/moss balls, etc.

I hate to keep replacing the ghost shrimp just to have them die in a week or two over and over. Also tempted to try the fancier blue/red/striped shrimp, but at $7 a pop, I'd be more annoyed if they are dying so quickly.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 07:55 PM
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Ghost shrimp are sold (and treated) as feeders through wholesalers and usually have a tough road before they ever reach your home aquarium. But a 2 month old tank is usually just getting shrimp-ready in terms of complete cycling and biofilm and film algae growth, so I would hold off on more ghost shrimp and especially fancier Neos for a bit longer. Pretty much all shrimp fare better in mature tanks. Also, paper test strips are less than ideal, you'll probably find that liquid reagents would serve you better. Not saying toss the ones you have, but can't hurt to keep an eye out for a nice master test kit (something with KH & GH ideally) as they start running low.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 08:21 PM
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Are you using tap water? Does your household have copper pipes? If so, then there will likely be very high concentrations of Cu that's present in the water. One way to remove the Cu is to use Seachem Cuprisorb which will remove the copper and some other heavy metals.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 08:36 PM Thread Starter
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Are you using tap water? Does your household have copper pipes? If so, then there will likely be very high concentrations of Cu that's present in the water. One way to remove the Cu is to use Seachem Cuprisorb which will remove the copper and some other heavy metals.
Yes using tap water but no copper anywhere along the lines.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 08:39 PM
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Yes using tap water but no copper anywhere along the lines.
What about Cu from the source water? Have you tested your water for Cu?
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
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What about Cu from the source water? Have you tested your water for Cu?
No, I don't think that's on the 6 in 1 test strips. Still though, seems odd that they'd be fine for the first month and then new shrimp are dying quickly now, and it's all been the same water source.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 09:07 PM
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It can take a while before the accumulative effects of Cu poisoning results in death; they don't die immediately at toxic concentrations. Some possible signs of heavy metal poisoning include aggressive behavior, lethargy.

Other possibilities may be that the source water is contaminated with pesticides or other toxins.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-04-2020, 09:36 PM
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A simple Brita filter will (claims to anyway) remove copper if you suspect that. Running your change water through one wouldn't be too big a chore for a small tank like that. According to the EPA, Nebraska and Delaware seem to be the states that fail copper compliance the most. The 1.3 mg/l limit is well beyond the .5 mg/l that causes 100% mortality in freshwater shrimp though. I have copper pipes in my own home and have never been able to get a water sample that showed a testable amount on an API kit. The first color change is for .25 mg/l, if I recall. While copper toxicity is always a possibility, it's not in the top handful of things I'd suspect when shrimp are slowly dying in a newer tank.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 03:10 AM
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White bodies would either indicate stress or bacterial infection.

What temperature do you keep the tank at? Or what does it stay at?
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 03:32 AM Thread Starter
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White bodies would either indicate stress or bacterial infection.

What temperature do you keep the tank at? Or what does it stay at?
Heater is supposed to be a constant 78į but my thermometer mostly says 75-76į
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 11:20 AM
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40-50% water changes not needed, 20-30% will be fine.

Clean your filter pads, I donít care what Fluval says, just do it in the old change water when you do water changes.

If your water is that hard just buy a gallon of distilled water and mix it 50/50 With your tap.

Always let your change water stand in a open container overnight to stabilize, add dechlor right before you use it and always test your tank and your change water after stabilizing to make sure the water parameters (PH/KH/GH) and temp are fairly close to avoid shocking tank/inhabitants. Float a jug of hot water in it for a few minutes if you need to raise temp.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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40-50% water changes not needed, 20-30% will be fine.

Clean your filter pads, I don’t care what Fluval says, just do it in the old change water when you do water changes.

If your water is that hard just buy a gallon of distilled water and mix it 50/50 With your tap.

Always let your change water stand in a open container overnight to stabilize, add dechlor right before you use it and always test your tank and your change water after stabilizing to make sure the water parameters (PH/KH/GH) and temp are fairly close to avoid shocking tank/inhabitants. Float a jug of hot water in it for a few minutes if you need to raise temp.
Thanks. All good advice, I think. Unfortunately, for a Fluval Spec 3, the difference between a 30% and a 40% water change is literally 3-5 seconds of siphoning. I even have the hose clamped down most of the way. Anyway, I use a bucket that is about 1.2-1.3 gallons, so it's probably in that 40% range .

For what it's worth, I decided to do a mid-week cleaning since that last ghost shrimp did die while I was at work yesterday. The water was pretty cruddy that came out from the change (I tried to dig in more aggressively to the gravel this time), so maybe when time allows, cleaning it every 4-5 days isn't a horrible idea? One problem might be that I didn't realize how much the full size striped nerite poops. She's like a machine, and I think it's a lot of waste from that.

I also went ahead and pulled the filter foam piece out and cleaned that. I treated a bucket of clean water with Prime and then dunked the filter in that to clean it. I read somewhere that rinsing it under just tap water wouldn't be good since the chlorine in that can kill the good bacteria that have been building up in the filter material. Growing up, as a kid, I was on well water so that was never an issue, so I'm glad I read about that and avoided an issue.

I took the plunge and invested $8 in one red sakura and one orange sakura (pet shop called them bumble bee, but googling it, I think there are actual bumble bee shrimp that are totally different than this. This is basically just an orange little shrimp.) They look nice and I hope they survive. At first glance, they seem to munch on the algae way more than the ghost shrimp did. The betta doesn't seem to want to attack them, either.

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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 06:31 PM
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They're Neocaridina shrimp, regardless of trade name. Those look like standard cherries to me, lower one may be an orange. They are both super hardy as Neos go, but they are still shrimp and do better in mature systems as I said earlier. If they don't live long, I'd implore you to wait until your tank is nearing the 6 month mark or so from when it was set up to introduce any more shrimp.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-07-2020, 03:21 AM
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I have to mention: Your "Sword Fern", is actually a Java Fern, and it shouldn't have it's rhizome buried in the gravel, it will actually attach to the upper most grains of gravel, and it will grow better.

Snail poop is shrimp food, I hope your tank light is strong enough to grow some algae for your hungry Nerite.

You might even get adventitious baby plants sprouting off the spreading roots once it gets established.

Having the rhizome attach to the gravel's upper surface(s) has it's advantages, for one you can pick it up and it's firmly attached gravel pieces and move it elsewhere in the tank. Also the rhizome will form a warren of little nooks and crannies for food and micro-organisms/algae and a place for your potential shrimp babies to lurk and find sustenance.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
250 gallon stock tank, "pond"
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-07-2020, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I got an API GH and KH test kit.

Results looks like

KH: 90ppm (5 drops)
GH: 161 ppm (9 drops)

Any glaring concerns there?


The shrimp seems to be snacking on the plant algae. Little shrimp poops all over the leaves.

I did also drop one shrimp food wafer in (Aqueon herbivore shrimp food) but nobody is touching it after 10 hours.

Also, stupid question but when I’m seeing things like “ideal GH for cherry shrimp is 5-14”, does that number 5-14 equal the number of drops to achieve the test in the API kit? Just confusing since the API kit says the drops equate to numbers way higher than that (in parts per million, I guess).
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