Cherry Shrimp Turning White: 4 Effective Solutions

Cherry Shrimp are quite popular among aquarists since they are pretty easy to grow. However, sometimes they show signs that worry me. For example, there were times when my Cherry Shrimp turned white. Over the years, I’ve learned a few common reasons for that issue.

Cherry Shrimp typically turn white when they are molting, a natural process in which they shed their exoskeleton. However, whitening among Cherry Shrimp could also be due to inappropriate water parameters, including temperature, pH, copper, and toxins. In some cases, the creature merely grew old.

As we move forward, I will share four essential solutions to deal with a Cherry Shrimp that turned white. At this point, I would suggest getting the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). This bundle will ensure that the pH and ammonia are within the desired range (6.5 to 8.0, and 0, respectively).

Why is my Cherry Shrimp Turning White?

Cherry Shrimp are not red in the wild. The color is the result of selective breeding, which is why it is primarily found in tanks. It is also the reason why people buy Cherry Shrimp. Their presence will enhance the appearance of your aquatic environment.

But a Cherry Shrimp that is turning white should concern you because it usually signifies trouble. Common causes of such discoloration in Cherry Shrimp include:

1. Your Shrimp is Actually Molting

Cherry Shrimp have an exoskeleton that they shed every few weeks. This is a sign of growth. The creatures have to discard the old tight-fitting exoskeleton to grow a new, better fitting replacement. It isn’t that uncommon for shrimp to become pale as they approach the molting stage.

Generally, this shouldn’t concern you. Molting is only a problem when the Cherry Shrimp develops a white ring around its body.[1] For molting to occur successfully, the exoskeleton has to open around the neck area, allowing the shrimp to escape.

If things go wrong due to dramatic water changes, excess protein, low water conditions, and the like, a white ring will form because the exoskeleton has broken all over the shrimp’s body. Some shrimp eventually escape, but in many cases, the shrimp dies because it is trapped.

2. The Water is not Suitable for Shrimp

If the shrimp isn’t molting, you should take a closer look at the water conditions. Like fish, shrimp do not respond well to low water conditions. And the discoloration is simply one symptom among many that will manifest if the conditions are allowed to deteriorate. 

Hence, I highly suggest that you keep an eye on the following:

  • Parameters – Like fish, Cherry Shrimp have specific parameters they require to thrive, including a pH of 6.5 to 8.0 and a temperature of 65 to 85 degrees F.[2] Cherry Shrimp are hardy. They can survive in a variety of conditions, even when the pH and temperature are wrong. But they are more likely to turn white as a result.
  • Copper – The pH and temperature are not your only concern. Shrimp do not like copper. They use the substance to process oxygen, which is why they have some copper in their organs. But the absorption of large amounts of copper from the water can affect a shrimp’s ability to process oxygen internally. This can lead to copper toxicity and related illness. The discoloration is just one symptom among many that you may notice.
  • Instability – Cherry Shrimp are sensitive to drastic changes in water chemistry. If you allow the pH and temperature to rise and fall too quickly and too dramatically, your shrimp may show you their displeasure by turning white.
  • Toxins – Copper is not your only concern where Cherry Shrimp are concerned. They will respond just as poorly to high concentrations of ammonia and nitrites. That usually happens in overcrowded tanks that are poorly maintained.

3. Your Shrimp Got Old

It is common for shrimp to lose their color as they age, and Cherry Shrimp are no different. They have an average lifespan of 1 to 2 years.[3] As they approach the end, they may turn white or become transparent.

4. The Shrimp is Continuously Stressed

Aquatic creatures do not like stress. It can affect their appearance and behavior, and Cherry Shrimp are in the same boat. Stress can cause them to become a little pale or white. You typically see this in the new Cherry Shrimp that you just added to the tank.

If the journey was too rough or if the conditions in their new tank differ from what they know, they will manifest signs of stress such as discoloration. Cherry Shrimp can respond this way even if their new tank conditions mirror their old tank conditions. You should expect similar reactions in cases of overcrowding and bullying. Because they are hardy, the shrimp may survive these challenges even after turning white.

5. The Original Color Was Dye

Some Cherry Shrimp were never red, to begin with. Or their colors were far paler than you realized. Shady stores have been known to feed their shrimp dyes to enhance their color. Once you buy these creatures and take them home, the dye’s effects will begin to fade as they acclimate to a proper diet.[4]

6. The Lighting Has Changed

It would help if you paid close attention to the lighting since it will affect your perception of the color. The same is true for the environment. Dark colors in the tank typically produce more vibrant colors in shrimp. That includes the color of the substrate and decorations. 

However, brighter colors will do the opposite. They will give the shrimp a paler look. If you have just changed your lighting system or switched the tank’s location, likely, the shrimp didn’t change its color from the start.

7. Your Shrimp is Suffering From a Disease

Cherry Shrimp have several diseases that can cause them to take on a pale or white appearance, including:[5]

  • Vorticella – This parasite causes a whitish fungus to grow on the shrimp. You will see the parasite in dirty water with inadequate filtration systems and insufficient water changes.
  • Scutariella Japonica – This parasite has been compared to the flatworm. It can infect the gills and mantle, eventually laying eggs that may appear as white dots. While you can sometimes see them on various body parts, the parasites are most commonly found between the eyes. Their presence will affect the shrimp’s breathing and movement.
  • Muscular Necrosis – If your shrimp is only turning white on the back, muscular necrosis is a potential cause. The term refers to a situation where the cells in a particular area decompose. Common causes of this condition include oxygen deficiencies, drastic pH swings, and the wrong parameters, to mention but a few. If your shrimp’s abdomen has already turned white, it can’t be cured.
  • Fungus – External fungal infections can take the shape of white, fluffy growths that look like cotton. They tend to appear on the head and abdomen. You can expect fungal infections in weak shrimp. A healthy shrimp is more than capable of shrugging a fungal infection off. Shrimp that are sick because of molting, diseases and the like are vulnerable to attack.

How to Treat Whitening Shrimp?

Many of the factors that cause shrimp to turn white can lead to death, which is why you need to act once you notice this phenomenon in your tank quickly. Some common treatments for whitening shrimp include:

1. Adjusting the Water for Cherry Shrimp

Your Cherry Shrimp requires a clean, well-maintained tank. Keep the following in mind:

  • Water Testing – Your tank should cycle for at least four weeks before you introduce the shrimp. You should then test the water for ammonia and nitrites every three days during the first few months. Once you are satisfied with the results, you can cut back by testing the water every 14 days. 

If you haven’t purchased one already, I highly suggest getting the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). This bundle will quickly measure your ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and pH. Within five minutes, it will let you know if anything has gone wrong. It also lasts for hundreds of measures.

The objective is to prevent drastic changes in the parameters. You can’t do that unless you know where your parameters stand, especially the pH. Consistent measurements will allow you to react in time before things deteriorate.

  • Water Changes – Shrimp require weekly water changes of 15 to 20 percent. The new water parameters added during the water changes should match the parameters of the old water, especially where the softness and pH are concerned. Otherwise, the instability could disrupt the shrimp’s molting process. You could also induce stress.
  • Tank Size – Like fish, Cherry Shrimp do not like overcrowding. They require roughly 10 gallons. The more shrimp you have, the more water you need. If you’re looking for a bigger one, here are my recommendations for aquarium kits.
  • Tankmates – Cherry Shrimp should be kept in groups. Try to keep them away from dangerous fish like Discus, Oscars, and cichlids. Prioritize smaller, less aggressive fish like small plecos, neon tetras, and dwarf gouramis. They can also live with snails.
  • Plants – Cherry Shrimp are so small that even peaceful species like neon tetras and mollies can eat them after accidentally confusing them for food. This is why you are encouraged to fill their tanks with plants like java moss that they can use to hide.
  • Food – Shrimp are omnivores. They need a balanced diet that includes bloodworms, seaweed, and vegetables like spinach and cucumber. They will eat the algae in the tank along with flakes, pellets, and algae wafers. A proper diet will enrich Cherry Shrimp’s natural colors.
  • Environment – If your Cherry Shrimp is healthy, you can further enhance its colors by adding dark gravel, driftwood, caves, rocks, pots, etc.
  • Conditioners – Shrimp do not appreciate water changes that exceed 20 percent. If you have recorded toxins like ammonia, nitrites, and copper, rather than performing a large water change, use a conditioner. It will neutralize the toxins in minutes.

2. Treating Cherry Shrimp Diseases

If your shrimp is sick, the treatment deployed will depend on the type of infection. Aquarists tend to rely on the following:

  • Quarantine – Many illnesses require antibiotics. However, because some antibiotics are not safe for use in tanks with healthy shrimp, you should isolate the sick shrimp in a hospital tank. That way, you can treat the entire tank without endangering the other shrimp.
  • Salt Bath – Salt baths are simple solutions that will encourage the recovery of your Cherry Shrimp. They are particularly effective against infections. I personally use the API Aquarium Salt (link to Amazon). The ratio should be one tablespoon for every three gallons of water.
  • Commercial Solutions – A lot of aquarists use Seachem Paraguard. Others depend heavily on hydrogen peroxide and UV light, especially where bacterial infections are concerned. But if your shrimp is carrying a disease, I highly suggest that you consult a vet. They can prescribe some effective antibiotics.

3. Dealing With Molting Cherry Shrimp

If the white ring appears and your shrimp fails to escape its exoskeleton, fight the temptation to help it. These creatures are so delicate that you are more likely to do more harm than good. Your only viable option is to prevent this ailment from occurring in the first place.

You can do this by giving the shrimp a balanced diet that includes blanched vegetables, adding crushed eggshells to the water to increase the calcium content, and performing sufficient water changes (not too much and not too frequently).

If you do not expect your shrimp to escape its skeleton successfully, talk to a vet once the white ring appears. They have the tools and expertise to help the creature. In any case, try not to intervene directly without professional assistance.

4. Acclimatizing Your Shrimp Properly

Like new fish, new Cherry Shrimp must be acclimated before you add them to the home tank. The process doesn’t differ that drastically from what you use to acclimate fish. The drip method is quite useful.

This is where you keep the shrimp in a bowl of its original water. Then you slowly drip water from the new tank into the bowl until the shrimp are accustomed to the new tank’s conditions. After two to three hours, you may pour the shrimp into its new tank.

How Can You Tell if Shrimp Are Molting?

You can tell if shrimp are molting by observing their behavior and general appearance. Molting shrimp usually become white and less active, even in the presence of food. Also, they will spend most of their time hiding, compensating for their temporary vulnerability.

Generally, molting is normal. When a shrimp’s body becomes too big for its exoskeleton, it will leave it and then grow a larger one. This happens every few weeks. Younger shrimp molt more frequently than the adult ones (one to two weeks vs. three to four weeks). 

Why is my Cherry Shrimp Turning Clear?

Cherry Shrimp typically turn clear due to ongoing stress, secondary to aggressive tankmates, inadequate pH, and temperature swings. However, Cherry Shrimp also lose their color when carrying a disease, particularly bacterial and parasitic infections. But in some cases, it is merely genetics.

If you noticed that your Cherry Shrimp starts to turn clear, here is a little more information regarding its situation:

  • Stress– Some Cherry Shrimp are clear when you first acquire them from the store. However, once they are exposed to the healthy conditions in your home tank, their color improves. This shows you the impact stress can have on shrimp when they are forced to tolerate poor conditions in the tank, such as the wrong pH, extreme temperatures, the presence of hostile tankmates, etc.
  • Disease – Infections, either bacterial or parasitic, can cause a shrimp to change color. Sometimes, they become white. In other cases, they take on a clear or transparent tone. In this case, your shrimp will also seem sluggish and show little interest in food.
  • Dye – Some shrimp have naturally clear bodies. However, they are given dyes by store owners that artificially enhance their colors. Once they start eating regular food in your tank, the effects of those dyes fade, allowing the shrimp to regain their normal clear appearance.
  • Genetics – Some Cherry Shrimp were bred in a manner that causes them to lose their color over time. In this case, there is little you can do to solve the situation. You may suspect that this is the case if other offsprings are gradually turning clear.

Conclusions

If your Cherry Shrimp is gradually turning white, you should first determine whether it is molting. Follow the creature’s behavior for a couple of days and see if its exoskeleton has been shed. If it didn’t, check the water parameters.

Make sure that the pH is between 6.5 and 8.0. You should also make sure that drastic temperature changes do not occur in your tank. If the parameters are correct, quarantine the potential sick shrimp and consult an aquatic veterinarian.

References

  1. https://www.shrimpscience.com/articles/molting-and-common-problems/
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/cherry-shrimp/
  3. https://modestfish.com/cherry-shrimp/
  4. https://cripticthoughts.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/shrimp-that-change-colour-some-reason
  5. https://acuariopets.com/cherry-shrimp-diseases/

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