Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Algae? (Hair, Green, Brown, Staghorn & More)

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I remember when I didn’t know what type of algae cherry shrimp ate, and I would feed them various types, with mixed results. They definitely loved the brown algae but refused to eat many other types. Luckily, as time passed, I learned what types of algae cherry shrimp prefer. 

Cherry shrimp will eat soft algae, such as green, brown, hair, and black beard algae. However, they will avoid eating blue-green, staghorn, and green-spot algae. You may encourage cherry shrimp to eat algae by feeding them less, although they cannot survive on algae alone.

As we proceed, I will share four valuable techniques to encourage your cherry shrimp to eat the algae in your tank. But for those of you who are in a rush, that involves measuring the water parameters using the well-known API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon).

Will Cherry Shrimp Eat Algae?

Yes, cherry shrimp eat algae. That being said, if your aquarium has a severe algae infestation, you cannot rely on cherry shrimp to resolve it. Consider the following:

  • Understanding Algae

Algae are problematic plants because they consume nutrients. Their presence can also ruin the look of your tank. But you cannot avoid algae; they are one of those inescapable aspects of fish keeping.

That being said, a healthy volume of algae is suitable for your tank because various species feed on it, including cherry shrimp. They will scour all the hard surfaces in the tank to find it.

  • How Cherry Shrimp Feed On Algae

Cherry shrimp will find the algae wherever it exists. They can even attach themselves to the algae on the walls of the tank during feeding sessions. They are small and light enough to feed at awkward angles.

Their legs do most of the work. They pick the algae off the surfaces in the tank before lifting it to the shrimp’s mouth. Depending on the number of shrimp in your tank, they may graze from a particular spot individually or in groups.

Groups of cherry shrimp will feed on a section until all the algae are gone. Then they will move on to another section. Cherry shrimp can feed in both small and large groups without fighting. They are capable of grazing in peace.

What Type Of Algae Do Cherry Shrimp Eat?

Many aquarists will tell you that cherry shrimp graze on soft algae.[1] But you can find soft algae in a variety of types. If you want to introduce algae to your aquarium for the express purpose of feeding your cherry shrimp, you must select the appropriate type. Some suitable options include:[2]

  • Green Algae

This type grows at a rapid rate. In the worst cases, it can give your tank a murky look that you do not want. But if you can control it, your cherry shrimp will eat the algae. It is very common.

  • Brown Algae

Brown algae consist of diatoms. These are tiny animals that you cannot see with the naked eye. The presence of brown algae shows that the water quality in a given tank has deteriorated, which is why the algae appear in cycling tanks.

Luckily, cherry shrimp can eat it.[3] Where cleaning is concerned, the type doesn’t present a challenge because it is soft. You can rub it off.

  • Hair Algae

Hair algae appear in tufts and strings. It grows rapidly, and if you don’t manage it, the type may overwhelm your tank. Amano shrimp can eat hair algae. However, many aquarists cannot agree on whether or not cherry shrimp can eat the algae as well.

Some people will tell you that they have seen their cherry shrimp eating hair algae. Others argue that cherry shrimp can only consume hair algae that aren’t fully grown. You also have those who do not count hair algae among the types that cherry shrimp can eat.

  • Black Beard Algae

This type also manifests as dark tufts. Some people have compared the algae to short shaving brushes. It is a challenge because it grows quickly. Like hair algae, aquarists are divided on whether or not cherry shrimp will eat black beard algae. 

Some of them have suggested that cherry shrimp can eat the algae if they don’t have any other food option in the tank.

What Algae Cherry Shrimp Won’t Eat?

While cherry shrimp can eat almost every type of algae,[4] like other shrimp, they have certain species that they avoid, including:

  • Blue-Green Algae

Even though people call it algae, this type is actually a bacteria.[5] It produces a musty smell that people can use to identify it immediately. You cannot rely on algae eaters to remove it. They won’t eat it. That includes cherry shrimp.

  • Staghorn Algae

This type appears in strands that are arranged to look like the antlers of a deer. Placing it in alcohol turns the algae red, proving that it is part of the red algae family. Amano shrimp can eat it but not cherry shrimp.

  • Green Spot Algae

It is worth noting that green algae aren’t all the same. For example, some tanks have green spot algae, which, as the name suggests, manifests as green spots on the surfaces in the tank. Removing this type is challenging. In some situations, you have to use scrappers and razors. 

Green dust algae aren’t necessarily better. On the one hand, because it resembles loose dust, you can wipe it away with a sponge. But if you allow it to cement, the algae will become very difficult to remove. Amano shrimp can eat both types. But cherry shrimp are unlikely to eat green spot algae or green dust algae.

Some people might argue that green water algae are too small for cherry shrimp to eat. But there is evidence showing that Amano shrimp can eat green water algae. In that regard, it may be possible for cherry shrimp to eat green water algae as well.

How To Make Cherry Shrimp Eat More Algae?

Some cherry shrimp show no interest in algae. If yours are the same, there are ways to change their behavior, including:

1. Choose The Right Number Of Cherry Shrimp

Some people think that their cherry shrimp have refused to eat the algae in the tank when, in truth, they are eating the algae, but the creatures are too few to make a difference to the algae population in the aquarium. 

Try adding a few more cherry shrimp to the environment. You may start noticing a significant reduction in the algae. As a rule of thumb, place two to five cherry shrimp for each gallon of water. So, for example, if you have a 5-gallon tank, place 10 to 25 cherry shrimp. 

2. Remove Algae That Cherry Shrimp Don’t Eat

If you have multiple types of algae in the tank, remove the species the shrimp cannot eat, such as staghorn and blue-green. Even if all the algae types in the tank are suitable for your cherry shrimp, mechanically removing the old strands and tufts may encourage the shrimp to eat the new growth.

3. Feed Your Shrimp Less

Some shrimp will stop eating algae because you keep filling their tank with supplementary food. If the food from the aquarist is enough to satisfy their appetites, they are more likely to ignore the algae.

The obvious solution is to starve the shrimp. I suggest cutting back drastically on the amount of food you add to the tank. Eventually, the cherry shrimp will have no choice but to turn to the algae in their environment.

4. Improve The Water Conditions

Are your shrimp eating other types of food, or have they stopped eating entirely? If the creatures are not eating the algae in the tank or any other supplementary food items, you have a much bigger problem on your hands.

One or more factors have compromised the shrimp’s appetite. You have to identify and resolve them before it’s too late. In many cases, the water quality is to blame. Though, sickness and stress can produce similar results.

If you can improve the conditions in the tank while also eliminating any elements responsible for the stress in your cherry shrimp, their appetite will return.

That is why I recommend getting the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon). This bundle will accurately measure your aquarium’s pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites levels. It also lasts for about 800 measures, turning it highly cost-effective.

These are the water parameters you should aim for when it comes to cherry shrimp:

  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Temperature: 65 to 85 degrees F
  • Ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites: 0 ppm.

I also suggest keeping the temperature stable. Consistent fluctuation will stress your cherry shrimp and compromise their appetite. In my tank, I use the Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater (link to Amazon), which I also reviewed here.

Can Cherry Shrimp Survive On Algae Alone?

Cherry shrimp cannot survive on algae alone. They need other sources of food to keep them healthy, such as bloodworms or frozen foods. Feeding solely on algae would not provide them with enough protein and can lead to vitamin deficiencies.

Cherry shrimp can survive in a planted tank for several days. They will eat the soft algae found in the aquarium. But that isn’t their only source of food. They also eat biofilm, a slimy organic material found on various surfaces in the tank. 

That being said, cherry shrimp cannot survive on algae and biofilm for weeks at a time. You are expected to supplement their diet with pellets, algae wafers, zucchini, kale, broccoli, etc. But try not to give them too much food. Most of their diet should be met by the algae and biofilm.[6]

Can Cherry Shrimp Prevent Algae Explosion?

As was noted in the beginning, even though cherry shrimp are great algae eaters, you cannot rely on them to keep your tank free of algae. First of all, you don’t want to remove all the algae in the tank. You need a healthy amount that the cherry shrimp can eat.

Secondly, if the algae population runs out of control, your cherry shrimp are unlikely to eat enough algae to make a difference. So you have to aid them by taking steps that can prevent the algae from growing out of control.

That includes reducing the lighting, taking measures that can prevent overfeeding, performing water changes, routinely cleaning the surfaces in the tank, and adding live plants that will consume the nutrients that algae require to survive.

It should be emphasized that you need some algae to remain in the tank for your cherry shrimp to eat. Otherwise, you may have to rely on algae wafers to supplement the shrimp’s diet.

Do Amano Shrimp Eat More Algae Than Cherry Shrimp?

While cherry shrimp are great algae eaters, they are inferior to Amano shrimp. Amano shrimp are up to 6 times more efficient than cherry shrimp, partly because they are bigger.[7] 

Therefore, if you want a species of shrimp that can help you control the algae population in your aquarium, Amano shrimp are a better option.

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Conclusions

Cherry shrimp are great algae eaters that will devour the strands and tufts of algae in your tank. They prefer to eat soft algae, including hair algae, brown algae, and green algae. On the other hand, they usually avoid black beard, blue-green, staghorn, and green spot algae.

Bear in mind that cherry shrimp will only eat a portion of the algae in the tank. Therefore, I suggest not counting on them to eat all the algae or prevent algae explosions. To encourage them to eat more algae, consider adjusting the water parameters, including the temperature, pH, and ammonia. 

Maintaining the tank in good condition and feeding them less food will encourage them to consume more algae. To fight algae, I suggest placing two to five cherry shrimp for each gallon of water in a tank. You may also place a few Amano shrimp because they are better at eating algae than cherry shrimp.

References

  1. https://shrimptips.com/what-is-the-best-algae-eating-shrimp/
  2. https://www.thesprucepets.com/aquarium-algae-1379979
  3. https://vivariumtips.com/do-cherry-shrimps-eat-brown-algae
  4. https://www.tfhmagazine.com/articles/freshwater/red-cherry-shrimp
  5. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/aquarium-algae
  6. https://modestfish.com/cherry-shrimp/
  7. https://tropica.com/en/guide/algae-control/test-of-algae-eaters/

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