Usually, when we think of shrimp, we think of saltwater shrimp, but freshwater shrimp have been steadily growing in popularity in the freshwater aquarium keeping hobby. They come in a large variety of colors and patterns and varieties of freshwater shrimp sport traits like filter-feeding “hands” and color-changing abilities.
They can be a little bit of work to keep, and some varieties of shrimps are much hardier than others, but with good water quality and a solid foundational knowledge of their needs, freshwater shrimp can be an excellent addition to freshwater tanks. It is important to remember, though, that shrimps are naturally prey species and can be preyed upon by large or aggressive tankmates, like cichlids, goldfish, bettas, and assassin snails. Read on to learn about 19 of the most popular freshwater shrimp varieties!
The 19 Popular Freshwater Shrimp Species
1. Red Cherry Shrimp
One of the most popular varieties of freshwater shrimp is the Red Cherry Shrimp. They are bright, cherry red and tiny, only reaching around one and a half inches in length when full-grown. On average, they live for 1–2 years. These shrimps come in graded shades of colors, with the darker and more solid color shrimp being the most sought after and expensive. They are sensitive to changes in water parameters, but if the water parameters are kept stable and the tank is kept in a tropical temperature range of around 75–80˚F.
These petite shrimps require moss in their tank and love having lots of plants to hide in. They will look brightest and healthiest if they are kept happy and feel safe. Red Cherry Shrimp should be housed with other Red Cherry Shrimps, but also can be housed with multiple varieties of snails, other varieties of freshwater shrimp, and gentle fish like cory catfish. Like most invertebrates, Red Cherry Shrimp are extremely sensitive to copper. They will eat algae and detritus in the tank, but due to their small size, they are not particularly efficient at keeping tanks clean.
2. Yellow Shrimp/Neocaridina
Yellow Shrimp are a variety of freshwater shrimp that originated from the same breeding stock as a specific variety of Red Cherry Shrimp called Sakura Cherry Shrimp. These shrimps are, as their name suggests, various shades of yellow, but some can be more translucent as well. They have the same tank needs as Red Cherry Shrimp and are both easy to care for and easy to breed. Their life expectancy is 1–2 years, and they are a beautiful and bright addition to planted tanks.
3. Pinto Shrimp
Pinto Shrimp are named after the Spanish word for spotted, “pinto”. They are sometimes referred to by other names including Pinto Tiger, Pinto Mosura, Galaxy Shrimp, and Pinto Zebra. These shrimps reach up to one inch in length and live to be approximately one year old, although they can live longer than this when cared for appropriately.
Pinto Shrimp are usually white or black with red stripes or splotches. They prefer cooler water, around 65–75˚F, and are less hardy than Red Cherry and Yellow Shrimps. They are social and curious, enjoying the company of other shrimps and exploring their environment. They eat algae and biofilm, and although they are small like Red Cherry Shrimp, Pinto Shrimp are exceptionally good at cleaning up biofilm and detritus considering their size. They are like goldfish in that they are constantly on a search for more snacks.
4. Tiger Shrimp/Red Tiger Shrimp
Tiger Shrimp and Red Tiger Shrimp can be sensitive varieties of shrimp and can be costly to acquire, making them not ideal as starter shrimps. Tiger Shrimp have yellow-tinged heads and tails with black stripes on their bodies. Red Tiger Shrimp look the same except they have red stripes, not black stripes. They need moss and plants or other hiding places to feel safe and may not eat well if they are nervous. Because these shrimp varieties are shy, they are best kept in a tank with only other shrimps or very gentle tank mates that will not bully them. Tiger Shrimp and Red Tiger Shrimp prefer warmer water, usually around 75˚F, and need clean, soft water with stable parameters to survive.
5. Bamboo Shrimp
Bamboo Shrimp are one of the most popular and accessible freshwater shrimp varieties, maybe even more popular than Red Cherry Shrimps. Bamboo Shrimp can reach sizes up to three inches and live for up to two years. They are shades of brown, making them not a very colorful addition to tanks, but they make up for this lack of color in personality. They are very peaceful and like Pinto Shrimp, they love to eat.
Bamboo Shrimp have small appendages at the ends of their four front legs that are fan-shaped and function as small filters. These shrimps will stand in gentle water currents and hold their appendages up, allowing water to pass through while the filters catch food particles in the water. It can be very enjoyable to watch Bamboo Shrimps alternating their appendages to bring food to their mouths. These shrimps prefer tropical tank conditions and stable water parameters. They are happiest with other peaceful shrimps.
6. Ghost Shrimp
This variety of freshwater shrimp has a completely clear body, giving it a ghost-like appearance as it moves throughout the tank. They can be difficult to spot due to this, but they are usually very busy cleaning up the tank, so keeping an eye out for little busybodies is the easiest way to spot them. They reach up to an inch and a half in length and live upwards of a year.
Ghost Shrimp are one of the hardier varieties of freshwater shrimp and are inexpensive, making them a good choice for beginner shrimp keepers. They are peaceful and like most shrimp, appreciate moss and hiding places. They are not particularly social and do not require tankmates, but they can be safely paired with other Ghost Shrimp, other varieties of shrimps, and gentle fish.
7. Crystal Shrimp
Crystal Shrimp reach just over an inch in length and can live to be around 18 months old. They come in different shades of striped or splotchy white and red. The more well-bred the shrimp, the more opaque the colors become. They are sensitive to changes in water parameters and copper. This variety of shrimp is extremely peaceful, making it a great choice for community tanks with small, peaceful tankmates like guppies.
Crystal Shrimp enjoy the company of other shrimps and will appreciate a tank with moss and grasses. They will help keep your tank clean by eating algae, biofilm, and detritus.
8. Black King Kong Shrimp
This is a specialty variety of shrimp that are valuable and difficult to keep. These are not good shrimps for beginners and can be difficult even for experienced shrimp keepers to care for. Black King Kong Shrimp reach just over an inch in length and live over a year in ideal conditions. They prefer cooler water and are extremely sensitive to changes in water parameters.
Black King Kong Shrimp are usually a solid velvety black but can have small, white markings on them. If white markings are present, they may be called Panda Shrimp. They can also come in a color variation with blue stripes, sometimes called Shadow Panda. These shrimps are herbivores and will appreciate having fresh vegetables available to eat. Since they are sensitive to water parameter changes, it’s imperative that the vegetables are changed out frequently, and they are not overfed to prevent waste product build-up in the water.
This variety of shrimp has been inbred heavily to produce the desired color traits, so researching breeders for responsible breeding practices prior to purchasing shrimps will usually result in the healthiest shrimps.
9. Wine Red Shrimp
This variety of shrimp is related to Black King Kong Shrimp. Wine Red Shrimp have the same care needs as BKK shrimps, reach the same average size, and have the same life expectancy. Wine Red Shrimp are usually a solid, wine red or wine red with some small white spotting around the head. They can also have more distinct white spots or even white bands on the body. This variety of shrimp is sometimes referred to as Wine Red Panda Shrimp.
10. Amano Shrimp
Amano Shrimp are one of the more active types of freshwater shrimp, enjoying both swimming and climbing. They appreciate having lots of places to explore in their environment. These shrimps can reach up to two inches in length, making them one of the larger varieties of freshwater aquarium shrimps.
Amano Shrimp are usually a translucent blue-grey with dots and dashes punctuating their bodies. They can also have shades of green, brown, and red. They are sensitive to copper and quick changes in water parameters, but they are one of the lowest maintenance and hardy varieties of shrimp. They prefer harder water than most shrimp varieties and enjoy moderate water currents. Amano Shrimp can be housed with other shrimp varieties and shrimp-safe fish.
11. Bee Shrimp
These shrimps are sensitive and not a good choice for beginners. They prefer soft, warm water and usually only live to be 12–18 months old. They are named Bee Shrimp due to their striped bodies, although they are usually not black and yellow. Bee Shrimp come in multiple varieties and Crystal Shrimp, Black King Kong Shrimp, and Tiger Shrimp are all Bee Shrimp varieties. They appreciate lots of plants and are usually very shy. Female Bee Shrimps are usually slightly larger than males.
12. Red Rili Shrimp
Red Rili Shrimp reach up to one and a half inches in length and are named for their coloration pattern, called Rili, which consists of them having a translucent body with red markings. These markings are most prominent on the head and tail but can also be present on the body itself.
Red Rili Shrimp were created through selective breeding of Red Cherry Shrimp. These shrimps are hardy, able to live in soft or hard water, and able to tolerate a temperature range of around 68–78˚F. They are social, curious, and enjoy the companionship of other shrimps. Due to their social nature, they are easier to breed than some varieties of shrimps because they are less fearful of predation.
13. Blue Bolt Shrimp
Like Wine Red Shrimp, Blue Bolt Shrimp are related to Black King Kong Shrimp and may be referred to as Blue King Kong Shrimp. This variety of shrimp are a beautiful blue and white coloration. The blue can vary from a light, powder blue to a bright, cerulean blue. This is a rare and expensive variety of shrimp.
14. Blue Velvet Shrimp
This variety of shrimp are closely related to Red Cherry Shrimp and have similar care needs, enjoying warm water and tolerating both soft and hard water. They reach up to an inch and a half in length and can live for up to two years. They enjoy living in planted tanks with hiding places but are social and will frequently be seen out and about. Blue Velvet Shrimp are a beautiful shade of bright blue, often with some darker blue spotting. They bring a lot of color and life to tanks and can be a nice starter shrimp variety.
15. Snowball Shrimp
Snowball Shrimp, like Blue Velvet Shrimp, are closely related to Red Cherry Shrimp and are just as easy to care for. They are social and easy to breed. Snowball Shrimp are named for their translucent white coloration. Sometimes, it is possible to see developing eggs under the female’s tail due to the body’s translucence, with the eggs having a rounded “snowball” appearance. On close inspection, it is even possible to see the dark eyes of the shrimplets in the last few days before they hatch.
16. Vampire Shrimp
Vampire Shrimp are a fun, distinctive variety of freshwater shrimp. They can reach three inches in length or more and are easily identifiable by their more heavy-set body appearance than most freshwater shrimp. Like Bamboo Shrimp, Vampire Shrimp have fan-like appendages on their front legs that allow them to catch tiny food particles in the water. They like warm water with a moderate current. They are shy and enjoy lots of hiding places, but are social with other shrimps, especially other filter-feeding shrimps like Bamboo Shrimp. Unlike their name suggests, Vampire Shrimp are extremely peaceful tank inhabitants.
17. Baubalti Shrimp
This variety of shrimp is extremely unique because unlike most shrimp species, they do not have a set color. Like chameleons, they are able to alter their coloration based on their environment and level of comfort. At baseline, they are translucent or transparent and can have spots or stripes, but they can change their body color to match tank décor like plants, driftwood, and rocks, as well as changing their coloration during mating season to attract mates.
Baubalti Shrimp have very similar care needs to Red Cherry Shrimp and are just as hardy, but with one major weakness. This variety of shrimp is extremely sensitive to stress, especially shipping stress, so it is not uncommon for them to not survive shipping. However, if they arrive safe and healthy and are properly cared for, they make a great addition to tropical freshwater tanks.
18. Indian Whisker Shrimp
These shrimps are similar in appearance to Ghost Shrimp, having clear bodies with minimal markings. However, Indian Whisker Shrimp are slightly larger, reaching up to two inches in length, and they have a vastly different personality from the peaceful Ghost Shrimp. This variety of shrimp is known to be somewhat aggressive, making it better suited for solitary tanks or community tanks with non-aggressive fish that will keep their distance.
These shrimps have been known to kill other shrimps or small fish. They can also usually be housed with peaceful varieties of snails. They are relatively hardy shrimps when kept in tropical freshwater tanks. They will feed on biofilm, plants, and tank detritus, but love to eat Marimo moss balls, cucumber, and leafy greens like spinach.
19. Grass Shrimp
Grass Shrimp are translucent white with few markings. They got their name from their ability to blend in with their surroundings, like aquatic grasses, due to their translucence. They prefer warm water but can survive water as cool as 68˚F. They reach up to two inches in length but are short-lived, rarely making it past one year of age. They are hardy shrimps that are easy to keep, but a breeding population is a must to keep them for longer than a year. However, these shrimps will usually self-manage their populations by cannibalizing the young of other Grass Shrimps, which ensures they will not overrun tanks. They enjoy planted tanks and will feed on biofilm, algae, and detritus.
For anyone willing to put in the little bit of extra work that shrimps require, they can make an inimitable and colorful addition to the tank. They are fun to watch and due to the ease of breeding multiple varieties of freshwater shrimps, it can be easy to keep a population of them. Their ease of breeding also means that it is usually best to keep different varieties of the same species of shrimps in separate tanks. Hybridization can occur and usually results in shrimps reverting to more dull, wild colors.
Freshwater shrimps can benefit tanks by cleaning up plant matter and waste and the high-quality water parameters they require will certainly benefit all tankmates as well. Some shrimps are herbivores and others are omnivores, so knowing what dietary needs varieties of shrimps have will ensure long, quality lives. Most shrimps are extremely sensitive to copper, so care must be taken when adding medications and chemical products to any tank containing shrimps.
Freshwater shrimps are just plain cute and when cared for properly, their playful and curious personalities really shine through. Remember to provide shrimps with safe tankmates, plants, hiding places, and appropriate food, then sit back and enjoy the show.
Featured Image Credit: Toxotes Hun-Gabor Horvath, Shutterstock