Cherry Shrimp Swimming Frantically: 4 Practical Solutions

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As an aquarist, I enjoy growing Cherry Shrimp in my aquarium. However, sometimes they behave unpredictably. For example, there were times when I caught my shrimp swimming around frantically. Over the years, I learned what causes that and how to solve the issue. Now, I am willing to share what I learned.

Cherry Shrimp typically swim around frantically as part of their mating ritual. During this process, the female releases her pheromones while the male swims around to find her. However, shrimp also swim frantically when stressed, mostly due to inappropriate water conditions and abrupt water changes.

As we proceed, I will elaborate on the different causes that may force shrimp to swim around none-stop. I will also share four essential steps that you should follow to solve that issue. These will ensure that your shrimp are stress-free and enjoy their environment.

Why are my Cherry Shrimp Swimming Around?

It isn’t that uncommon for Cherry Shrimp to swim frantically. But they shouldn’t do this all the time. If your Cherry Shrimp are swimming all over the place for no apparent reason, you should consider the following factors as potential causes:

1. The Male Shrimp are Looking for a Female

Cherry Shrimp molt every few weeks. They replace their old exoskeleton with a new one. With female shrimp, mating tends to follow molting. Both male and female shrimp prefer to hide after molting. This is because they are vulnerable, and they do not want to encounter conflict until their new exoskeleton has hardened.

That being said, female shrimp tend to standout. When females hide following a successful molt, they also produce pheromones designed to attract their male counterparts. If your male shrimp are running around the tank and the water conditions are appropriate, you can assume that they are looking for the female.

The female remains in hiding, and the male Cherry Shrimp has to find it, which may take a while. Of course, you have to ensure that the hidden shrimp is actually female before you conclude that your male shrimp are swimming erratically because of the pheromones. 

Watch out for the following:[1]

  • Female shrimp have an abdomen whose underside is curved and smooth. The underside of a male shrimp is almost straight.
  • Female shrimp have a yellow (or green spot) on their back called a saddle
  • Female shrimp are slightly larger. Though, the difference in size is difficult to determine because Cherry Shrimp are very small.
  • Female Cherry Shrimp are deeper and more vibrant in the colors they present.

Once you learn to differentiate between male and female shrimp, you can observe the erratic shrimp to determine their gender. If they are all male, you have every reason to assume that they are looking for females.

2. Your Shrimp Adjust to Their New Environment

Even though Cherry Shrimp are hardy, it takes them a while to acclimate to new environments. You have no way of predicting the behavior of a new Cherry Shrimp. Some shrimp become inactive because of the stress. 

Others do the opposite and start swimming frantically. This is especially true for shrimp in tanks whose conditions differ significantly from the shrimp’s previous tank conditions. Cherry Shrimp are sensitive to dramatic changes. 

If the new tank’s conditions are appropriate, the shrimp will eventually grow accustomed to their new environment, and their frantic behavior will disappear. But if your tank is poorly maintained, the wild swimming will get worse. The Cherry Shrimp may die in the end.

3. The Tank Wasn’t Properly Cycled

Some aquarists believe that cycling primarily matters to fish. However, like fish, the tank a Cherry Shrimp inhabits must be adequately cycled. This is the only way to introduce the good bacteria that turn toxins like ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.[2]

A tank that hasn’t been cycled is a significant source of stress for shrimp. Shrimp will manifest that distress by swimming frantically. An uncycled tank is deadly to the creatures. It is more than capable of killing them, which is why some of them will run to the surface. 

If they can’t leave the tank altogether, they will continue to swim frantically until the poor conditions sap them of their strength. Eventually, the shrimp might die. Therefore, if you didn’t cycle your tank, you should take the frantic swimming symptom seriously.

4. The Water Parameters are Wrong

Do you have a testing kit? If not, you should get one. Even though Cherry Shrimp are adaptable, you are still expected to keep them in tanks whose parameters match the conditions they usually encounter in the wild.

That means maintaining the correct pH, KH, GH, and temperature. In many cases, a Cherry Shrimp only swims frantically because the tank’s conditions are wrong for one reason or another. And in most of those cases, the parameters are to blame.

The temperature and pH are either too high or too low. You also have the hardness to consider. If the water doesn’t have enough minerals, the shrimp’s health will suffer, and it may manifest its displeasure by swimming frantically.

5. Elevated Water Toxins

Ammonia is just one toxin among many that can make life a living hell for your Cherry Shrimp. Other problematic substances that may encourage the creature’s erratic behavior include chlorine, chloramine, copper, and lead.

It is worth noting that Cherry Shrimp can survive in water with the wrong parameters. The conditions will make them uncomfortable, but they can survive. On the other hand, a toxin like copper will kill them. This is why you are encouraged to act whenever you detect copper in the tank. That also applies to chlorine and chloramine.

If you use tap water during water changes, but you haven’t bothered to add conditioners, then you can blame your shrimp’s erratic swimming patterns on chlorine and chloramine. They are used to make the water safe for human consumption. Unfortunately, these two are deadly to aquatic creatures like Cherry Shrimp.

6. Inappropriate Water Changes

The average aquarist responds to the presence of toxins by performing a water change. But a large water change will only make things worse. As you now know, Cherry Shrimp do not like dramatic changes, and extensive water replacements cause just that.

If your shrimp only acts up in the aftermath of a water change, you can safely conclude that the water change is at fault. Either the water changes are too large, or the new water you have added to the tank has ruined the parameters.[3]

Many toxins are introduced to the aquarium via water changes. That includes copper and lead. If your shrimp have responded negatively to a water change, test the new water. This will prevent future water changes from producing similar results.

What to do When Your Cherry Shrimp Swim Around?

First, bear in mind that Cherry Shrimp are curious creatures. They have been known to run around their new surroundings, not because they are stressed, but simply because they want to explore the tank.

This behavior tends to subside after a few weeks. But if you are sure that additional factors besides exploration and mating drive your Cherry Shrimp’s behavior, you can take the following steps to help them:

1. Providing the Proper Conditions

Cherry Shrimp are peaceful omnivores that spend a lot of time grazing on the algae in the tank. If their peaceful existence has been disturbed by their water’s low quality, you should take immediate steps to fix their situation before they suffer any lasting damage. 

That includes the following:

Food – A common cause of stress in shrimp is starvation. And stressed shrimp are more likely to manifest erratic swimming behavior. Shrimp can survive on the algae in a tank, but only if your aquarium is mature and has sufficient algae quantities. 

If your tank is new and doesn’t have enough algae, you should feed your shrimp vegetables and algae wafers. They will also eat peas, flakes, and pellets. Here is a good Youtube video that helped me properly feed my shrimp:

Lights – While Cherry Shrimp are not that fussy where the type of lighting is concerned, they still require light. Keep their tank illuminated for at least two hours each day. I also suggest turning the lights off at night to create a balanced day and night cycled.

Parameters – The only way to ensure that the parameters in your tank are accurate is to test your water regularly. Adjust the parameters where necessary. You can do this by installing an efficient heater to maintain the right temperature. You can also use conditioners to ensure that your water has the right minerals.

Shrimp also require elements like calcium and magnesium to harden their shell. Don’t forget to use buffers that will prevent the pH from crashing. Regardless of what you do, every change you make should be gradual, not sudden.

To achieve all that, here are the products that I use in my tank:

2. Getting Rid of Toxins

Pay close attention to your water source. Water from a tap should be treated with conditioners to remove copper, chlorine, and any other toxic substances. Some people eliminate chlorine by allowing their water to stand for 24 hours before adding it to the tank.

But that won’t help with chloramine since it is more stable than chlorine. Copper is even more problematic. And you can’t always eliminate ammonia and nitrates through water changes. Sometimes, a Cherry Shrimp is so stressed that water changes that are large enough to remove ammonia are more likely to do more harm than good.

This is why you should keep conditioners on hand. They work in minutes. The API Stress Coat Water Conditioner (link to Amazon) does the trick, as I previously mentioned. It also takes care of heavy metals like copper.

3. Changing the Water Properly

Even if your tank is free of toxins, you are still encouraged to change the water regularly to keep it clean. I also suggest using a setup that includes a siphon and a dripper. It lets you perform a water change by allowing the water to trickle into the tank over several hours.[5]

This approach is attractive because it changes the water without exposing the Cherry Shrimp to sudden alterations. Any changes that occur will happen gradually. This will protect your shrimp from the stress that is associated with large water changes. It has fewer reasons to maintain its erratic behavior.

Ultimately, if you keep your Cherry Shrimp in clean and comfortable tank conditions, it will behave. However, if you allow the conditions in its environment to deteriorate, it will respond unpredictably.

4. Adding Some Vegetation

Because erratic swimming is usually a sign of stress, the presence of hiding places can help alleviate that stress. This is where plants and various aquatic decorations like rocks enter the picture.

You don’t have to use real plants if you are worried about the extra work. Plastic ones will do just fine. Either way, try not to overstock your tank. Your shrimp should have enough room to swim freely. Otherwise, they might get even more stressed.

If you found this article useful, here are a few related ones that may also interest you:


If you caught your Cherry Shrimp swimming frantically, it might be in the middle of the mating process. You can determine whether it’s the case by looking for the female. Usually, you will find her hiding in a particular spot without moving.

However, if the situation persists, the next step would be testing the water. Start by checking the temperature, pH, ammonia, and nitrates. If everything is okay, make sure that you check the water you add during water changes. Focus on chloramine, chlorine, and copper.