Thinking about raising shrimp in your freshwater aquarium? The amazon shrimp is one of the most captivating and enjoyable shrimp species to raise, and as a result is also one of the most popular. These charming critters eat amazing amounts of algae, and have become incredibly prevalent in the aquarium trade within the last fifteen years.
If you’re considering raising amano shrimp, you may have found yourself hesitating out of a fear that these creatures are too delicate or too difficult to raise. However, the opposite is true. After reading the ultimate guide to the amano shrimp, you’ll be ready to raise these lovely invertebrates – even without any prior experience.
When you head to the aquarium or pet store to purchase your amano shrimp, you may initially be taken aback by the plethora of names by which it is known. The amano shrimp is known as the algae eating shrimp, the Yamato shrimp, the Japonica shrimp, and the Caridina Japonica. These shrimp were brought to popularity by Takashi Amano for their prolific reputation for controlling algae and keeping tanks sparkling clean.
There are over 200 different varieties of shrimp that are closely related to the amano shrimp, so it’s easy to be mistaken when you are purchasing your shrimp. A true amano shrimp can be identified by its behavior; while other species of shrimp are lazy and don’t like to clean algae on a regular basis, the amano shrimp will be a diligent cleaner as well as slightly larger than related varieties.
Aside from the cherry shrimp, the amano shrimp is the most popular freshwater shrimp of all. Even though they are difficult to breed, they are readily available because they are sold commercially from origins in the wild. A hardy species, amano shrimp are a great choice for beginners interested in experimenting with invertebrates in a freshwater tank for the first time.
Amano Shrimp Appearance And Behavior
Despite being called dwarf shrimp, amano shrimp are some of the largest of their kind and can grow up to two inches in length. More commonly, they will be about an inch in length at the time you purchase them. Although some shrimp sold at the pet store may be a bit smaller, don’t’ be deterred by a shrimp that is a shorter length. Size is not an indicator of health with this species, and many mature and grow quickly once you get them home.
These shrimp have translucent gray bodies with lines of reddish brown or dots that are bluish grey. The presence of stripes versus dots indicates the sex of the shrimp, but the coloration of the dots can also vary depending on the shrimp’s diet. A shrimp that feeds heavily on algae and other green foods will have a more greenish hue to its dots. The tail of the shrimp is also translucent.
Because these shrimp are so nearly see-through, they can camouflage themselves and blend into your tank and their surroundings with ease. In fact, when they’re in the mood to hide, they can be quite difficult to find. If you worry that you have lost your shrimp, simply shine a spotlight into the tank toward the substrate. You’ll be able to see the eyes reflecting and shining back at you.
You can tell the difference between male and female amano shrimp based on their appearances. Females are quite a bit larger than males, and the dots on a female’s exoskeletons will look like long dashes, whereas the males will have evenly spaced specks. Females will also have saddles beneath their stomachs where they store their eggs.
Amano shrimp, like most other shrimp species, are incredibly peaceful. However, they become a bit more agitated at feeding time, when you will likely find them racing frantically after the food. In these situations, you may be able to observe the largest shrimp dominate the rest of the group – it will rise above the rest in the pecking order and show a bit of aggression as it does so.
Besides this, amano shrimp are relatively calm. They will spend most of their days foraging among the plants and the substrate of your tank, looking for leftover food and other debris that they can eat. They will climb over all of your live aquarium plants, swimming from plant to plant as they look for new places to explore.
Amano shrimp molt roughly once every month, and go into hiding when they shed their shells. This is why a heavily planted tank is so vital when you are raising this kind of shrimp. Amano shrimp are also great swimmers, and can be kept in tanks of nearly any size as long as the regular rules of fish husbandry and populations are adhered to. Do not overstock your tank with amanos. Although these shrimp are excellent cleaners, they produce a significant amount of waste themselves and can add to the build-up in your tank.
Amano Shrimp Tank and Water Requirements
These shrimp are native to Asia, mostly to countries like China, Taiwan, and Japan. They live in large groups within freshwater streams and rivers. They also can survive in brackish environments. In fact, only adults live permanently in freshwater. Larvae require brackish waters in order to hatch and survive, and only migrate to freshwater rivers after they have matured.
Amano shrimp should be kept in at least a 10-gallon tank, either with species of their own kind or in a community tank. Whichever option you choose, just make sure the tank is heavily planted and contains plenty of hiding spaces.
As a hardy species, amano shrimp can tolerate a wide variety of water conditions. They like heavier currents because their natural environments are rapidly flowing streams and rivers. The pH level of your tank should stay between 6.0 and 7.0, while the temperature should hover between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Your water hardness should be between 6.0 and 8.0 DKH. Use a hang-on back filter to ensure optimal water quality.
Amano shrimp are shockingly resilient to ammonia spikes and can therefore tolerate poor water quality. However, it is advised that you keep your tank in good condition, performing regular water changes to keep thing sin tip-top shape for your amano shrimp as well as o=your other aquarium inhabitants. They should not be exposed to rapid fluctuations in pH or temperature.
Amano shrimp should be kept in a ten gallon aquarium. With an aquarium this size, you can easily keep five shrimp. A good rule of thumb for increasing your amano shrimp population after that number has been surpassed is to add no more than one amano shrimp per every two gallons. This will, of course, depend on the other types and quantities of fish you have in the tank, but it is a good way to estimate how to safely increase your populations.
Amano shrimp originate from swampy areas, so they should be housed in heavily planted tanks with other groups of small, peaceful fish. They can tolerate low to moderate levels of salinity, making them a good algae controller for ponds and water gardens in areas that do not experience hard winter freezes.
Decorating an Amano Shrimp Tank
It is important that you make sure your amano shrimp tank is heavily planted. This will provide them with plenty of shelter and comfort in times of stress, and it will also most closely imitate the shrimp’s natural environment. Amano shrimp can get along well with live plants, so those such as Java Moss and green Cabomba are good selections.
You can’t overdo it when it comes to decorating an amano shrimp tank. You can add wooden branches or even shrimp tubes to give them additional hiding places. This will allow them ample area to escape when they have shed their exoskeletons.
Whatever you do, do not add amano shrimp to brand new tanks. Wait until the tank has become more established, as they need small amounts of algae and debris in order to be healthy. These elements will not be present in newly cycled tanks. Good choices for substrate include small rocks and pebbles that will mimic the shrimp’s natural environment, but you can really use any kind of substrate with these versatile creatures.
What Do Amano Shrimp Eat?
Amano shrimp are not picky eaters, and will feed upon any leftover sin your tank. As one of the best cleaners in the aquarium industry, amano shrimp will happily munch on algae, plant debris, detritus, and leftover food. While they will eat just about anything and need to have ample amounts of algae and other plant detritus in their diet, you do need to supplement their diet with certain foods.
The more algae and debris your shrimp have, the less supplementation they will need. However, as omnivores, they need to eat both plant and meat matter. You should feed them a high quality algae wafer or pellet, or you can turn to sinking pellets, frozen foods, and vegetables.
Amano shrimp love vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, squash, and cucumber. If you are feeding fresh or frozen vegetables, make sure you break these down into small pieces and always blanch them first. You can also feed frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Don’t allow any leftover foods to remain in the tank for over an hour, as this can contaminate your water.
The only other word of caution in feeding your amano shrimp is that you should never feed them anything containing copper. You also may not place anything containing copper in your tank, even if it is not intended for your amano shrimp. This is because, just like cherry shrimp and other varieties of shrimp, amano shrimp are sensitive to copper and can die fit hey are exposed to it. Be careful applying fish foods and medications, as many of these contain copper. Similarly, amano shrimp will not eat black beard algae, so if you have a lot of this growing in your tank, you may need to use another kind of algae eater to get rid of it.
Feeding Amano shrimp is easy, but not without effort. Many people falsely assume that since their amano shrimp eat algae, they do not have to feed them anything else. These shrimp do have a reputation for being industrious aquarium cleaners and will feed on most forms of soft algae, so you don’t want to keep your tank too clean because your shrimp won’t have anything to eat. However, you will still need to add other foods to support your shrimp’s health.
Amano Shrimp Tank Mates
Amano shrimp are commonly viewed as food by certain fish species, so it’s important that you take the personality and behavioral traits of your existing fish into consideration when adding amano shrimp. Although the shrimp themselves are peaceful, it is not uncommon for more predatory fish to view the shrimp as food.
Add only peaceful, small or mid-sized community fish to your shrimp’s tank. You can add other algae eaters like the cherry shrimp, Malaysian snail, bamboo shrimp, vampire shrimp, otocinclus catfish, cory catfish, nerite snail, mystery snail, or bristlenose plecos. Alternatively, you can safely introduce freshwater fish like the tiger barb, neon tetra, discus, or guppy.
There are many fish you should avoid keeping with amanos shrimp. If you aren’t sure, remember the adage that if the shrimp can fit in the fish’s mouth, you need to exercise caution. Fish that should definitely be off your list include cichlids, gouramis, bettas, goldfish, crayfish, oscars, and arowanas.
You can safely keep amano shrimp with other amano shrimp, just remember to increase your tank size as you do so. In fact, amano shrimp actually prefer to be housed with others of their kind. Keep them in a group of at least six to limit dominant behavior, and try to maintain a relatively even ratio of females to males. Amano shrimp produce minimal bioload, so it’s difficult to overload your tank unless you have it completely packed with shrimp.
Common Amano Shrimp Diseases
When thinking about the types of diseases to which amano shrimp are prone, there really is not a lot of variation between those diseases and those experienced by freshwater shrimp in general.
Vorticella is the most common disease that affects freshwater shrimp. This disease is actually a protozoa of sixteen known species and attaches itself to plant detritus, rocks, or animals (specifically shrimp or other crustaceans). These organisms feed on bacteria, and can cause death in their host shrimp. The easiest way to cure vorticella is by completing a salt bath with aquarium salt. Caused by poor water conditions, this disease can be prevented by engaging in regular water changes.
Bacterial infections are also not uncommon among freshwater shrimp populations. In transparent shrimp, like the amano shrimp, this disease is easy to spot. You will be able to see an internal infections by looking directly at your shrimp. Since your shrimp is mostly translucent, you will be able to see dark, pink or inflamed areas in your shrimp. These infections tend to kill your shrimp within just a few days, and there is not much that you can do to treat an infection.
However, bacterial infections can also be prevented by keeping and maintaining a clean tank. Keep up with your water changes and remove any uneaten food or debris. Bacterial infections are more common in hot summer weather, as the heat can increase the likelihood of bacterial growth. During the summer, consider opening your tank lids to let the heat out, and add water on a regular basis to keep up with that lost from evaporation.
Even parasites and other bugs can be found infecting your amano shrimp! Luckily, these tend to be not as dangerous to your shrimp, and many parasites actually live in symbiotic peace with the shrimp in the wild. However parasites can quickly infect other inhabitants of your tank, so if you suspect a problem, you should act quickly to prevent any further issues.
Parasites can be prevented and treated by incorporating a salt bath with aquarium salts. Do not use table salt with iodine. You may need to conduct these baths several times until the parasite is eliminated, so keep any infected shrimp in a breeder tank until the treatments are completed. Water changes and preventing spikes in ammonia can help prevent the development of parasites in your tank.
Breeding And Life Spans Of Amano Shrimp
Although sexing amano shrimp is relatively easy, breeding them is another story. These shrimp are notoriously difficult to mate, and there are few documented cases of amano shrimp having been bred in captivity. This is likely due to the need for young shrimp to be raised in brackish waters. In the wild, males will fertilize the eggs before the female carries them. She will carry the eggs for about six weeks, during which time she will wag her tail to push oxygen over the eggs.
After six weeks, the eggs are released as larvae into brackish water. The larvae require a higher portion of salt in the water, using less as they age and ultimately being able to move back into freshwater.
Adults cannot be placed in brackish water, as even small amounts can kill them. If you are attempting to hatch your own amano shrimp eggs, you can move your breeding shrimp to another tank and then, as soon as the eggs are laid, move the adults back to the community tank and increase the salinity of the breeding tank. This will allow the larvae to have access to brackish water without accidentally killing your adult amano shrimp.
If you’re interested in breeding amano shrimp, it’s worth a try, but only if you have a relatively large amount of experience as a fishkeeper. Breeding shrimp is better carried out with creatures like cherry or ghost shrimp.
In general, amano shrimp can live for about two to three years in captivity. Though they are difficult to raise to maturity, it can certainly be done if you are diligent about providing your amano shrimp with plenty of nutritious food as well as a tank with good water quality and minimal stressors.
You can increase the lifespan of your amano shrimp by reducing stress. They frequently die immediately after being introduced to a tank, so introducing your shrimp slowly is a good way to prevent this stress of transport. As long as water conditions are ideal and predators are absent, these algae eating shrimp can live long, healthy lives.
When your amano shrimp dies, it will turn bright orange in color. You may notice other shrimp or snails eating it right away. These other organisms are scavengers and eat dead shrimp in order to conserve and ingest its minerals. You can allow them to do this, as it is a natural behavior, but remove the rest of the carcass from the tank when they are done with it to prevent spikes in ammonia.
Is An Amano Shrimp For You?
Amano shrimp are prized invertebrates in the aquarium trade, and will work relentlessly to keep your tank sparkling clean and free from algae. These delightful organisms are compatible with almost every other kind of fish – particularly those that are peaceful and will not try to eat the amano shrimp!
The amano shrimp is both resilient and hardy, and will work double-duty at cleaning up your tank. If you’re interested in raising shrimp as a beginner, you should definitely consider those fun-loving species as a new addition to your aquarium this year.