The red cherry shrimp, also known as Neocaridina heteropoda var. Red, cherry shrimp, RCS, or cherry red shrimp, is incredibly popular among hobbyists. Many people view the red cherry shrimp as a great introduction to dwarf shrimp in general and as a bonus, red cherry shrimp tend to be less expensive than most other shrimp. Attention: don’t be fooled into thinking that this makes them easy to care for – aquarium shrimp have specific requirements that must be met.
The red cherry shrimp has been selectively bred based on the naturally occurring red colouration in the wild shrimp, Neocaridina heteropoda. You will notice multiple grades or colourations of RCS and this is due to the selective breeding that led to the development of the species with these higher graded specimens typically selling at a premium. You are likely to find red cherry shrimp for sale in many aquatic retailers, especially given their ever increasing popularity.
It is fairly easy to find good water conditions for the red cherry shrimp. Temperatures can be anywhere between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 28°C). You can have soft or hard water and a pH between 6 and 8. Despite being one of the easiest shrimp species to care for, you should still include a filter as an absolute necessity. An air-driven sponge filter is ideal for red cherry shrimp, especially when they begin to breed, as the gentle flow avoids sucking them into the filter whilst their growth of micro-organisms on the sponge surface is a great source of food. You should never keep these in a vase or similar minuscule body of water as is suggested by some. The ded cherry shrimp tank should be a filtered aquarium; there are a number of very stylish tanks on the market that really suit this purpose and often come with integrated filtration and lighting systems.
Feeding Red Cherry Shrimp
The red cherry shrimp is not a picky eater, accepting nearly any type of fish or shrimp food. The RCS will also eat dead fish or inverts, molted shell, and even its own exoskeleton. On the subject of molting, here’s a video showing a red cherry shrimp molting.
It is ideal to feed your RCS once daily and to give them the right amount of food. Try not to give them more than they can eat within two or three hours as the food will then sit for too long. Overfeeding may affect the water quality or even cause death. Owing to the fact that shrimp are scavengers in the wild, they do not have a problem eating only once a day and it is possible to skip a day or two of feeding. This will give your red cherry shrimp a chance to cleanse their systems while maintaining the water quality.
Predators and Tank Mates
Owing to their small size, red cherry shrimp are vulnerable to predators, with the exception of other herbivores. If the shrimp will fit in an animal’s mouth, it will be prey. You can, however, keep shrimp in the same environment as other fauna, but it depends on the aquarium size, type of predator, as well as their level of aggression and number. Remember, however, that if you keep predators with the shrimp, that they will not grow in numbers, few offspring will reach maturity, and they will not be as active.
Another way in which red cherry shrimp are great for beginners is the ease of sexing them. Females will have a darker red color, be larger than their male counterparts, and have an underbelly that is curved. Those who have cared for these shrimp for just a short period of time will typically be able to sex them almost immediately.
Another way to tell the females and males apart is the presence of a saddle. This is the name given to the eggs within the ovaries, which are right behind the shrimp’s head on the top area of their bottom. The saddle got its name because it resembles the shape and location of a saddle that we put on a horse. The majority of saddles will be yellow, but some will be green. The presence of a saddle means that a female is sexually mature and will be producing eggs soon.
Red Cherry Shrimp Breeding
Red cherry shrimp are prolific breeders so you should have no problem encouraging them to grow in number providing their basic care requirements are met. This means that females in a healthy colony will be nearly constantly pregnancy, leading to fast population growth. To encourage breeding, make sure your tank is at least 10 gallons and you have a good number of shrimp. When the females lay eggs underneath their saddle, they will release pheromones that let the males know it is time for fertilization. After the eggs are fertilized, the female red cherry shrimp will carry them in her fins.
In most cases, a RCS will take between 30 and 45 days between the beginning of pregnancy and the hatching. There are two great methods of telling when a female is close to hatching. If a new saddle begins to appear, this indicates that she is getting ready to have more eggs, letting you know that the ones she is holding will be hatching soon. You also know the eggs will hatch soon if you can see their eyes within each egg. When the eyes appear, hatching will occur within a few days. There are usually 20 to 30 eggs at a time and they will hatch in two to three weeks. The shrimp fry will hide in the aquarium’s moss and feed on micro-organisms while they are young.
Most of the time, a female red cherry shrimp will have a green saddle with green eggs. Experts believe that this is because wild Neocaridina Heteropoda have green saddles and this element of their genetics has remained the same even during the selective breeding. In the case of females with a yellow saddle, their eggs will be yellow as well. The colour of the saddle and eggs should not cause a concern as it doesn’t indicate health or affect the red cherry shrimp in any way.