Cherry Shrimp Keep Dying: 5 Practical Solutions

Cherry Shrimp are a beautiful addition to fish tanks. However, sometimes it can be challenging to raise them. For example, there were periods when they consistently died in my tank. Over the years, I’ve learned a few reasons for that issue. I also learned a few tricks to prevent this from happening again.

Cherry Shrimp typically die due to inappropriate water conditions, including elevated ammonia, nitrates, copper, and chloramine. However, sudden death in shrimp could also be secondary to drastic temperature changes and inadequate acclimatization. In some cases, the shrimp merely died of old age.

As we move forward, I will share a few useful solutions to keep Cherry Shrimp from dying in the future. I will also show you what to do with a dead shrimp and elaborate on the particular case of a pregnant Cherry Shrimp that suddenly died.

Why is my Cherry Shrimp Dying?

If your Cherry Shrimp keep dying, you have to ask why? It isn’t always an issue of diseases, infections, and parasites. There are a variety of factors that can cut your Cherry Shrimp’s life short, including:

1. The Shrimp Has Aged

For the most part, this shouldn’t concern you. Though, it is worth mentioning because it never occurs to some aquarists. Cherry Shrimp are mortal creatures with a limited lifespan. They rarely live past their second year, even under the ideal conditions.[1]

Naturally, old age cannot explain multiple shrimp deaths, especially if those deaths keep occurring within hours, days, or even weeks of one another. That being said, you should keep the age of your dead shrimp in mind before you panic.

2. Your Shrimp Suffered in the Store

In many cases, when a Cherry Shrimp dies, the aquarist is at fault because they failed to maintain the aquarium’s proper conditions. But in some cases, their retailer is to blame. That is to say; some Cherry Shrimp are kept in terrible conditions in the store. As such, they are already sick and stressed by the time you buy them.[2]

On occasion, these ill-treated shrimp will recover and thrive once they are introduced to the appropriate conditions in your aquarium, especially if they are kept on a nutritious diet. But it shouldn’t surprise you if they suddenly die off. This can happen to individual Cherry Shrimp or entire batches.

3. Inappropriate Acclimatization and Shock

If you introduce Cherry Shrimp to a tank without acclimating them, the shock can kill them. This is common in Cherry Shrimp that had to undertake long and arduous journeys before they reached your home aquarium. 

The same thing will happen to shrimp from tanks whose parameters vary drastically from those in your home tank. If many of your new shrimp die soon after you buy them, blame it on the shock resulting from the absence of proper acclimatization.

4. Your Tank isn’t Suitable for Cherry Shrimp

There are three factors to keep in mind where the conditions in the tank are concerned:

  • Cycling – Cherry Shrimp cannot live in tanks that haven’t been fully cycled. The concentration of ammonia and nitrites will keep spiking, eventually killing them.
  • Parameters – While Cherry Shrimp can survive in aquariums with the wrong parameters for a while, if such conditions persist, they will eventually die. They are sensitive to factors like the wrong pH, temperature, and hardness.
  • Stability – Cherry Shrimp hate fluctuations. A spike or crash in the pH is just as likely to kill them. The same is true for the temperature. You have to prevent fluctuations in the parameters at all costs. Otherwise, you may lose your entire Cherry Shrimp population.
  • Chloramine – Chloramine can enter your tank via tap water, which many governments treat with the substance to make it safe for human consumption.
  • Copper – Copper can also come from tap water, mostly if the pipes in your home are made from copper. If you use hot water whenever you perform water changes, you are more likely to introduce copper into your aquarium.
  • Plants – Plants are another common source of toxins like copper and lead. Shrimp prefer planted tanks. But unless you take the necessary preparatory steps, your plants may introduce toxins into your aquarium.
  • Medicine – Are your fish sick? Have you decided to help them by treating the entire tank with commercial products? Some drugs have toxic components such as copper that will poison your Cherry Shrimp.
  • Fertilizers – Plants require various macroelements to thrive. That includes magnesium, zinc, and sulfur. They get these elements from fertilizers. Unfortunately, some fertilizers have dangerous components like copper and lead that may kill your Cherry Shrimp if their concentrations are high enough.

6. Your Shrimp Failed to Molt

Molting refers to a process in which a Cherry Shrimp discards its old exoskeleton. It always grows a new one. For molting to occur, the exoskeleton must break at one point near or around the neck area. This allows the shrimp to slip out of the exoskeleton. 

But in some cases, breaks occur all over the exoskeleton. Once this happens, the cherry develops an ailment known as the white ring.[3] The name comes from the ring that appears when the shrimp’s flesh is exposed after these breaks occur.

While the white ring sounds like a mild complication, it can prevent the shrimp from leaving its exoskeleton. A shrimp that cannot successfully molt will eventually die. Molting complications are common in tanks with the wrong pH, kH, and gH. 

They can also occur due to an inappropriate diet, one that prevents your shrimp from receiving the appropriate amount of calcium and protein. If multiple Cherry Shrimp are dying because of the so-called white ring of death, you can conclude that the tank’s conditions are wrong.

How to Keep Cherry Shrimp From Dying?

If your Cherry Shrimp keep dying, these are just a few of the steps you can take to improve their chances of survival:

1. Adjusting the Water for Cherry Shrimp

I highly suggest that you test your water regularly, at least once a week. That is the only way to catch troubles in time. I personally use the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That affordable bundle accurately measures my pH, nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia. Within minutes, I can tell if something went wrong.

Here is what these parameters should look like:

  • Water pH: of 6.2 to 8.0.
  • Ammonia and Nitrite: 0ppm.
  • Nitrate: below 20ppm.

If the pH is too low, or you notice spikes in ammonia and nitrates, your best solution is to change the water. As I will also mention, later on, try not to replace more than 20% at once. Otherwise, the changes will be too drastic for your shrimp.

Your tank should also feature the following conditions:[4]

  • Temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees F.
  • A GH of 4 to 8.
  • A KH of 3 to 15.
  • A tank of at least 5 gallons (or more depending on the number of shrimp).
  • Slow rates of water flow.
  • A functional heater that can maintain a stable temperature.
  • A sponge filter that will keep pollutants out of the tank.
  • Airstones that will keep the water sufficiently aerated.
  • Plants that shed a lot (shrimp will eat the rotting leaves).
  • A substrate and decorations with dark colors to enhance the appearance of the shrimp.

The right conditions in an aquarium will prevent molting complications like the white ring of death. If your shrimp are still struggling to molt in a well-maintained tank, add some calcium mineral rock.[5] This will increase the calcium content in the water. 

From my experience, the DreamDealsSG Tourmaline Balls (link to Amazon) can easily take care of calcium deficiencies. All you have to do is to scatter a few of those at the bottom of your tank. It is also worth mentioning that they are copper-free.

You can also use crushed coral. Crushed coral prevents pH crashes or spikes by enhancing the buffering capability of the water. However, none of this matters if your tank isn’t properly cycled. Allow each new aquarium to cycle before you introduce shrimp.

2. Getting Rid of Toxins

There are several methods that you can use to keep toxins out of your Cherry Shrimp tank:

  • Plants – Find a retailer you can trust. Ask them to sell you plants that haven’t been treated with pesticides. If you don’t trust your retailer, make sure you carefully rinse new plants before adding them to the tank. Better yet, find professional aquarists that are willing to sell plants from their aquariums.
  • Feeding – Don’t overfeed the inhabitants of your tank. That includes both shrimp and fish. Shrimp require tiny amounts of food. It would help if you only fed them once a day in quantities they will finish in a few minutes. Cherry Shrimp in tanks with plenty of algae require even less food. 

The average fish eats food once or twice a day. Overfeeding encourages the inhabitants of your tank to produce more waste, which, in turn, leads to ammonia and nitrite spikes. That may also lower the pH drastically.

  • Conditioners – I suggest using the Seachem Safe (link to Amazon) to neutralize toxins like chloramine and ammonia. Don’t rely on de-chlorinators alone. They will remove the chlorine from the chloramine, leaving the ammonia behind. 

Find a conditioner that can remove the chlorine while also neutralizing the ammonia left behind. If you suspect that copper is to blame, you can efficiently deal with it by getting the Seachem Cupramine Copper (link to Amazon). Either way, don’t use hot tap water, especially if your pipes are copper.

Some aquarists despise commercial products because of their chemical components. They use Reverse Osmosis Deionization Filters to keep toxins out of their water. You can achieve positive results with either approach. Though, reverse osmosis has been known to remove elements that your fish require. But you can use commercial supplements to replace them.

  • Research – Talk to your water supplier. Most companies have websites that you can check to identify the water elements that comes out of your tap. And if you have additional questions, you can always call the company directly. This will allow you to use the right conditioners to combat the toxins in the water.
  • Water Changes – While water changes are essential to your Cherry Shrimp’s health, you should keep them small. Massive water changes are more than capable of killing your shrimp because of the stress they induce. Don’t change more than 20 percent at any given time. In the right proportions, water changes will keep toxins out of your tank.

3. Get Your Shrimp From a Reliable Source

Find reputable retailers that you can trust to offer you locally bred shrimp kept in the right conditions before they leave the store. Imported Cherry Shrimp are a problem since the long journey they have to endure induces too much stress. 

Make an effort to investigate your retailer of choice. Online reviews can tell you volumes about the quality of their stock. It is easier to keep your Cherry Shrimp alive if they were healthy when you got them.

4. Feed Your Shrimp Adequately

While Cherry Shrimp can feed on the algae in the tank, you are expected to complement their diet with blanched vegetables and algae wafers. Feed them sparingly. They will also eat flakes. As was noted above, overfeeding has deadly consequences.

5. Allow Proper Acclimatization

The only way to protect shrimp from the shock of a new tank is to use the drip method to acclimate them. This will allow them to grow accustomed to the new parameters. Here is a good Youtube video that describes just that:

I also suggest keeping your Cherry Shrimp away from aggressive fish like cichlids that will either eat or harass them. Friendlier fish like tetras are a much safer bet. But they can also attack your Cherry Shrimp.

Why did my Pregnant Cherry Shrimp Die?

Pregnant Cherry Shrimp typically die due to drastic fluctuations in parameters, underfeeding and overfeeding, and toxins like ammonia, nitrites, copper, and chloramine. Pregnant Cherry Shrimp are vulnerable to the same factors that kill ordinary Cherry Shrimp, but they are relatively more sensitive.

For that reason, aquarists who want to breed Cherry Shrimp are encouraged to test their aquarium water regularly to ensure that all the parameters are within the required range. Weekly measurements will prevent unnecessary fluctuations.

Should I Remove Dead Cherry Shrimp?

Yes, you should remove dead Cherry Shrimp. If your living shrimp (or the fish) have shown no interest in eating their dead counterparts, remove the carcasses. Otherwise, they will rot, causing the ammonia levels to rise. 

A dead Cherry Shrimp could become food for the other shrimp in the tank. They will swarm around it and consume the creature. In the best-case scenario, they will eat the entire carcass. However, that isn’t always the case.[6]

If you found this article useful, these may also interest you:

Conclusions

If you keep buying shrimp that consistently die, there is probably something wrong with the water parameters. That is even more likely if your shrimp die in batches. In that case, your first step should be testing the water by using a kit. Check if the pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites fall within the desired range.

However, if only one shrimp lost its life, but the rest seems okay, it could be that it died due to its age. Cherry Shrimp don’t live that long. But that should be the conclusion only when other factors have been ruled out.

References

  1. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/breeding-red-cherry-shrimp
  2. http://www.petshrimp.com/articles/whyshrimpdead.php
  3. https://www.shrimpscience.com/articles/molting-and-common-problems/
  4. https://modestfish.com/cherry-shrimp/
  5. http://redcherryshrimp.net/shrimp-care/shrimp-molting/
  6. https://www.theshrimpfarm.com/posts/common-myths-the-shrimp-keeping-hobby/

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