Friday, September 13, 2019

The Best Foods to Feed Your Cherry Shrimp

So, you got your first cherry shrimp but have no idea what to feed them! Keep reading to find out what my shrimp go crazy for versus what they avoid like the plague.

When I started my first shrimp breeding tank, I was really nervous about what to feed them. I heard things like:
  • “Feed mostly vegetables; don’t want to bloat them with too much protein."
  • "Wait, they need enough protein to breed or they’ll cannibalize each other."
  • "What about essential minerals for proper molting?"
  • "Above all… don’t feed them too much!”
Gah, it’s enough to make anyone go insane! Lucky for you, one of my favorite things to do is feed my shrimp random stuff and see what happens. There’s nothing like seeing a horde of shrimp swarm on food like ants on a piece of candy. At this point, I’ve fed my red cherry shrimp at least 30 different foods, so I’m going to quickly summarize the results for you.

Biofilm and Algae

I’d say the #1 important thing for your tank is to grow tons and tons of biofilm and algae because it’s something that both adults and babies can eat and have 24/7 access to, day or night. Algae, of course, is very easy to grow. Just leave your lights on for 8-12 hours a day, and you should grow a healthy crop of on your walls and various surfaces. I scrape the front panel of the aquarium for viewing purposes and leave the other 3 walls to get nice and green.

The next important step is to provide lots of moss, fluffy plants, and floating plants with fuzzy roots… anything that easily traps food particles floating in the water. Not only do they provide safe hiding spots for babies, but also the shrimplets can just park in one area and eat all the yummy crumbs that get caught. Even sponge filters are a great spot for shrimp to graze on because it continually sucks in food in the water column.

Now let’s talk about how to actively grow biofilm – that slimy coating of bacteria and other microorganisms that grows on all underwater surfaces and happens to be what cherry shrimp naturally eat in the wild. One way to grow biofilm is to use dried catappa leaves or Indian almond leaves. There are many other kinds of aquatic botanicals that are suitable for shrimp, but if you get the large catappa leaves that are bigger than your hand, feed one Indian almond leaf per 20 gallons about once a month. For me, I cut off half a leaf for my 10-gallon tank, and whenever I start to see holes in the first leaf, I add a second piece because it takes at least a week before the leaf stops floating at the surface and actually starts breaking down. If you’re going out of town, soak several leaves in a bucket of water for 3 weeks so that they get really slimy with biofilm, and then drop them in your shrimp tanks as a long-lasting vacation food.

Cholla wood and Malaysian driftwood are both softer woods that are also great for breaking down
more quickly and growing yummy biofilm for shrimp. Just a heads up, adding all these leaves and driftwoods will add tannins and give your aquarium water a slight brownish tint. However, with the amount of botanicals I’m using, I hardly notice the color change at all until I do a water change.

If you’re looking for an actual jar of food you can buy to feed your shrimp babies and greatly increase their survival rate, get Bacter AE. It’s basically a powder food that spreads all throughout the tank and contains microorganisms and other nutritious compounds that boost the growth of biofilm. It comes with a little measuring spoon with dosing instructions on the back, but for my 10-gallon tank, I feed about one-fourth a scoop at least once a week. You can also make your own DIY powder food by crushing up fish flakes and algae wafers using a little coffee grinder.

Favorite Foods for Shrimp

To be labeled a favorite food means that as soon as I drop it in, the whole tank swarms it. So far, I haven’t bought that many specialty shrimp foods, but the two I’ve tried are definitely on the list – MK-Breed Cheeseburger (which is an all-in-one, comprehensive food) and Shrimp King Mineral (which provides extra minerals that help with molting and such). Both break down quickly, allow shrimp of all sizes to share without a ton of fighting, and get eaten very quickly without any leftovers.

Their favorite vegetable is canned green beans, by far. I like the French cut version because then the softer insides of the bean are easily accessible.

Finally, they go nuts for Repashy gel food. I’ve tried Community Plus and Soilent Green so far, and they’re great. Repashy is very soft and flakes off into tons of floating particles for the babies to eat. Plus, you can also feed them the straight powder form if you like.

Treat Foods for Shrimp

This category of foods are also favorites for my shrimp, but I don’t feed them as often and use them as occasional treats. They love any kind of powdered food, whether it’s crushed-up flakes, powdered fry food, or Sera O-Nip tabs (which breaks down into a million particles).

Their second favorite vegetable is canned carrot slices. I should probably feed it more and see if the beta carotene enhances their red coloration. Lastly, you can feed frozen foods of any type (like bloodworms, daphnia, and baby brine shrimp). They’re excellent protein sources that help promote breeding, but the adults seem to hog them all, leaving nothing for the juveniles.

Rejected Shrimp Foods

And then we have the foods that my shrimp just hated for one reason or another. For prepared foods, I tried Hikari Crab Cuisine and algae wafers, which are both nutritionally great, but they don’t break down quickly so only the adults get to eat them. They’d probably be just fine if I crushed them up in the coffee grinder. I also got a free sample of Ocean Nutrition shrimp wafers, but nobody would touch them.

Now, in the fish world, live foods are touted as the best thing you can feed them, but don’t try it with cherry shrimp. They are called scavengers for a reason and won’t even eat live baby brine shrimp or the seed shrimp I see crawling all over the algae-covered walls.

When it comes to vegetables, mine are super picky and don’t like anything remotely tough, like spinach, Brussel sprouts, peas, and okra. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have eventually eaten them if there was nothing else around, but that’s not a great review. Even zucchini squash attracted very few shrimp, but 24 hours later, it did somehow get consumed. (P.S. Other people have told me that I didn't cook the vegetables long enough, so maybe try boiling them until they become very mushy.)

Future Shrimp Foods to Try

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of every shrimp food in the world, so there’s a ton of stuff
I still want to experiment with like:

  • Other blackwater botanicals to make biofilm
  • Snowflake food (aka soybean shells)
  • Shrimp lollies
  • Spirulina algae powder
  • Bee pollen
  • Dandelion, nettles, mulberry leaves… the list is endless!

Question of the Day

What's your favorite food to feed shrimp? Comment below to share your experiences because I’d love to hear them. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

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