With their striking red bodies and white spots, the various species of cardinal shrimp make attractive little pets. However, they are certainly not the easiest of shrimp to maintain and not a good choice if this is your first aquarium. Experienced hobbyists should not have too many problems. Set up a dedicated tank for these species as they have specific needs and are not well suited to a community tank.
Set up a 20-gallon or larger freshwater tank with light and heater and allow it to cycle fully before introducing the shrimp.
Provide plenty of flat surfaces, for example, with rocks. These encourage the growth of surface algae, which forms a supplemental food for the shrimp.
Check the water parameters. The needs of the different species vary slightly but Planet Inverts notes that cardinal shrimp generally do best in a hard water tank with a pH of 7 or above.
Set the thermostat to 78 to 84 degrees, preferably closer to the upper end of this range.
Feed the shrimp once a day on algae tablets, blanched vegetables and sinking fish food. Do not give the shrimp more than they can consume within an hour or so. When you first get them, determine how much to feed by providing a tiny amount and adding a little more when that has been eaten. Repeat until you have an idea how much they will eat within a couple of hours. Do not provide any more, as uneaten food pollutes the water.
Perform partial water changes at least once a week. Although cardinal shrimp are scavengers, they do not thrive in a dirty tank.
- It is best to have a dedicated tank for cardinal shrimp, perhaps with a few of the Sulawesi snails native to the same habitat.
- To culture surface algae yourself as a supplemental food for these shrimp, set up a small tank with the same water parameters, a bright light and numerous small flat rocks. Move a few of the rocks into the shrimp tank once they have extensive algal growth, replacing them as the algae is eaten. Phytoplankton – free floating algae – is not the same.
- If you do decide to keep cardinal shrimp in a community tank, remember that copper is extremely toxic to crustaceans. It is crucial to treat sick fish in a separate tank if you are using copper-based medications.
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Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.