Cherry Shrimp Laying Upside Down: 7 Essential Solutions

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As a fish owner, I enjoy growing Cherry Shrimp. They are both hardy and beautiful, which makes them the ideal choice. However, sometimes they behave in a way that worries me. For example, quite a few times, I caught my Cherry Shrimp laying upside down without moving. Over the years, I’ve learned a few reasons for that issue.

Cherry Shrimp typically lay upside down when they are molting. By flailing on their back, the shrimp can escape their exoskeleton. However, laying upside down could also be secondary to inappropriate water conditions. That ends up with a sluggish shrimp that cannot roll back after a fall.

As we move forward, I will list seven steps to help you deal with a Cherry Shrimp that consistently lay upside down on its back. I will also show you how to determine if your creature is dead or merely sleeping.

Why is my Shrimp Laying Upside Down?

It isn’t that uncommon for Cherry Shrimp to walk upside down after attaching themselves to objects such as plants’ leaves. They sometimes do this because they want to eat the algae on the leaves. It is also not that unusual for a shrimp to swim upside down.

At the very least, this behavior shouldn’t concern you if the Cherry Shrimp is perfectly healthy. But if your Cherry Shrimp is neither walking nor swimming but simply lying upside down, then you have every reason to worry. The same is true for shrimp that are lying on their sides.

Some factors that may contribute to this occurrence include:

1. The Shrimp is Molting

Shrimp molt by shedding their exoskeletons.[1] As the creatures mature, they also grow in size. And once a shrimp’s body becomes too large for the exoskeleton to accommodate, it will shed it before growing a new one. The creatures molt every few weeks. 

If your Cherry Shrimp is lying upside down and it is kicking, flailing, or struggling somehow, you have to consider that it is attempting to escape its exoskeleton. When molting goes wrong, a shrimp that has failed to escape its exoskeleton may die.

2. Your Shrimp is too Weak to Roll Back

Cherry Shrimp live an average of 1 to 2 years. As they grow older, they become less active. An old shrimp that was forced onto its back by a strong current or an aggressive fish may lack the strength to turn itself right-side up.

3. The Water isn’t Suitable for Shrimp

The wrong conditions in the aquarium can have a devastating impact on your Cherry Shrimp’s health, leading to erratic swimming behavior as well as lethargy, loss of appetite, and the like. Generally, sluggish shrimp will find it harder to roll back once they fall on their back.

A listless, distressed Cherry Shrimp that is upside down because of dirty water may even die if its environment’s problems are not resolved. Some of the more dangerous conditions that aquarists encounter include:

  • Copper – Shrimp need copper. You can find trace amounts in their blood. However, copper in the water in large quantities is dangerous. The substance has been connected to reproduction issues, labored breathing, and compromised immunity.[2] Copper can enter your tank through the water added during water changes, medications, and conditioners. Some tanks are treated with copper before they are sold to aquarists.
  • Chloramine – Shrimp hate chloramine. While the substance makes tap water much safer for humans, it kills shrimp. If you use tap water during water changes, but you do not rely on conditioners to detoxify the water, you can blame your Cherry Shrimp’s odd behavior on the presence of chloramine.
  • Rapid Changes – Cherry Shrimp should be kept in water that falls within a specific pH and temperature range. However, while they can survive in water with the wrong parameters, they are not as accommodating where rapid changes are concerned. The creatures are susceptible to pH. If it keeps fluctuating, the shrimp will respond negatively.
  • Water Changes – Every tank requires regular water changes. Without them, toxins and waste will accumulate, endangering the lives of the tank’s inhabitants. However, you cannot change too much water at once, not if your tank has shrimp. The process will exert undue stress. Large water changes also cause notable shifts in the tank’s parameters.

4. The Cherry Shrimp is Shocked

If your Cherry Shrimp were imported from abroad, then the journey probably left them in shock. Even if you got them from a local store, it might take them a while to grow accustomed to your home tank. Lying upside down is one of the symptoms they may manifest. 

Naturally, this is a gamble. If you leave them alone, some shrimp eventually right themselves. But others are just as likely to die in that position because of the stress. As you might have guessed, that is likely the case if you’ve just bought your shrimp.

5. Your Shrimp is Carrying a Disease

Cherry Shrimp are vulnerable to various bacterial infections, parasites, and illnesses. That usually includes Vorticella, Leeches, and Scutariella Japonica.[3] Serious diseases leave Cherry Shrimp in a weakened state. Once they fall on their backs, they may stay there until they die or until an improvement in their condition gives them the strength to right themselves.

6. You’ve Used Products Containing Copper

Pay close attention to the medicine you use to treat tanks with sick fish. Some commercial products use ingredients like copper that are bad for shrimp.[4] This is why aquarists are encouraged to place sick fish in hospital tanks. This way, they can dose the entire tank without affecting the fish’s healthy tankmates.

How to Treat Upside Down Cherry Shrimp?

A Cherry Shrimp that is lying upside down may die if you fail to intervene in time. Some practical solutions that you can use to improve the creature’s situation include:

1. Maintain Hygiene in Your Tank

I highly suggest that you keep your tank clean. That includes occasionally cleaning the tank itself, scrubbing the hardware and decorations with hot water, and boiling the substrate. Naturally, you need a decent filter, one that is powerful enough to keep pollutants out of the water. 

However, the filter shouldn’t be so powerful that it runs the risk of sucking the Cherry Shrimp in and killing them. So if you are looking for a new one, I genuinely suggest checking the AquaClear HOB Filter (link to Amazon). After trying multiple devices, that is the only filter that is both quiet and cleans the water effectively.

2. Adjust the Water Parameters

I highly suggest that you test the water regularly to ensure that the parameters are accurate. I personally use the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That affordable bundle will accurately measure your pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. Within minutes, you’ll know if something went wrong.

If you notice anomalies, take immediate steps to resolve them. Keep the following in mind:

  • For Cherry Shrimp, the pH should sit between 6.5 and 8.0.[5] Try to Keep the water hard. Soft water is more susceptible to pH crashes. Some aquarists use crushed coral to increase the buffering capability of their water. If you prefer commercial products (or even baking soda), add them gradually. As was noted before, wild swings in pH are bad for Cherry Shrimp.
  • The temperature should fall between 65 and 73 degrees F. A 65 to 85-degree range is also compatible with Cherry Shrimp.[6] Check your heater regularly. If it malfunctions, it could kill your shrimp by either cooking the tank or allowing the temperatures to drop dangerously low. As with the pH, fluctuations in temperature are unacceptable.
  • Where the hardness is concerned, you should keep the KH between 1 and 4 and the GH between 6 and 8.

3. Perform Regular Water Changes

Even if your filter works correctly, you are still expected to carry out water changes. However, it would help if you kept them small, no more than 20 percent. Test the new water before you add it to the tank to ensure that its parameters match the old water parameters.

If you have to carry out more extensive water changes, allow the new water to sit in a container for a while. Once it reaches room temperature, you can add it to the tank. This doesn’t guarantee positive results. You still ran the risk of inducing stress in the shrimp. But this risk is so much smaller.

4. Allow Gradual Adaptation

Try to find out where the Cherry Shrimp came from before you buy them. Home-bred shrimp are less likely to struggle with new aquariums. Though, a retailer can pretend that an imported shrimp was bred locally.

Some people think that they are helpless against the shock that assaults some shrimp when introducing them to a new tank. But that isn’t true. It is possible to acclimate your Cherry Shrimp to reduce the stress they will suffer when entering the new tank. 

The drip method is quite useful. It exposes the shrimp to the new water conditions before you add it to your home aquarium. Follow the Youtube video below to get a better understanding regarding that method:

5. Eliminate Toxins

First of all, you should ensure that your tank is adequately cycled before you add your shrimp. Secondly, whenever you perform water changes, use conditioners like Seachem Safe (link to Amazon) to eliminate toxins like ammonia and chloramine.

Some conditioners are just dechlorinators. Others remove ammonia or copper and nothing else. You also have those that do a little bit of everything. You have to ensure that the conditioners you have chosen can combat all the toxins. 

Sometimes, that means using multiple conditioners. That is why I also use the Seachem Cupramine Copper (link to Amazon). This product helps me to deal with copper, which could be harmful to fish and shrimp.

6. Avoid Hot Tap Water

Don’t use hot tap water if you can help it. If the pipes are copper, the hot water is more likely to introduce copper ions to the shrimp aquarium. It is better to add water that is a bit colder than what the tank contains and not vise versa.

7. Treat Sick Cherry Shrimp

The response to diseases in shrimp will depend on the type of illness. In some cases, it is necessary to quarantine the sick shrimp. Many aquarists also rely on salt baths and antibiotics, particularly in the case of bacterial infections.

Regardless of the illness, water changes are encouraged. Sick Cherry Shrimp cannot recover in dirty water. Maintain the right parameters and eliminate sources of stress, such as aggressive creatures in the tank.

If a failed molting is the cause of your shrimp’s behavior, don’t help the shrimp. In an effort to pull it out of its exoskeleton, you will most likely hurt the creature. Leave such situations in the hands of a vet. You can tell that the shrimp failed to escape its exoskeleton if a white ring developed around its neck.

Do Shrimp Sleep Upside Down?

Shrimp, including Cherry Shrimp, can sleep upside down. Though, they primarily cling upside down to objects like leaves. As far as the average aquarist is concerned, it is not normal for Cherry Shrimp to sleep while lying on their backs.

But if you notice this behavior towards nighttime, it is possible that your Cherry Shrimp chooses to sleep this way. Bear in mind that its environment should be ideal. Otherwise, your shrimp will suffer and find it difficult to roll back.

How do You Know if Cherry Shrimp are Dead?

You can know that a Cherry Shrimp is dead by observation. A dead Cherry Shrimp will remain motionless, usually at the bottom of the tank. Then, the shrimp will gradually turn pink, and once it starts to decompose, it will float to the upper sections of the tank.

People think that they can identify dead shrimp by their lack of motion. Yes, dead shrimp are motionless. However, that is also true for shrimp that just molted. You have to observe them for hours, if not days. Molting shrimp will also respond to stimuli, such as water movements.

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If your Cherry Shrimp lays upside down on its back, you should first make sure that it isn’t molting. If the creature seems to be struggling, it is very likely trying to escape its exoskeleton. However, that could also be a sign of a weak shrimp.

Therefore, I suggest that you check your water parameters. Test the water pH, ammonia, nitrates, and temperature. Make sure that they are suitable for shrimp and do not swing drastically. Otherwise, the shrimp will get sluggish and find it difficult to roll back.