Why is my Shrimp not Moving (Cherry, Ghost, Amano & Others)

I remember the first time I saw my shrimp not moving. I panicked, thinking they had died. Then, I realized they were simply resting on the bottom of the tank. Luckily, as time passed, I learned why shrimp stop moving and how to deal with the issue.

Shrimp usually stop moving when they are stressed. That could be secondary to aggressive tankmates or inappropriate water conditions, including elevated ammonia, nitrates, and temperature. Stressing factors will force the shrimp to enter a resting phase to survive.

This article will discuss why aquarium shrimp stop moving and how to solve the issue. If none of the above causes are present, you may need to check your water chemistry or start with a new tank.

Why is my Shrimp not Moving?

As was mentioned earlier, several reasons might have caused your shrimp not to move:

1. Inappropriate Water Conditions

Most shrimp require a temperature of 70 degrees F, hard alkaline water, and a high oxygen level.[1] Most shrimp cannot tolerate a pH lower than 8.0 but are well suited to an average of 7.5-9.0 range.[2]

Ammonia and nitrates should be kept under 0.3ppm and 10ppm, respectively. That will ensure the shrimp are not being stressed in the presence of these toxins. The more ammonia and nitrates are present, the better you will want to increase your water treatments.

It is typical to find ammonia spikes in under-filtered and over-stocked tanks, or if your bioload is heavy and you are using too many fish or too much food. The latter is the most common cause of ammonia spikes in shrimp tanks.

Heat stress will also cause shrimp to stop moving. That is because the shrimp is no longer able to control its own body temperature. In order for the shrimp to survive, they need to enter a dormant phase.

2. Aggressive Tankmates

Many of the newly-caught shrimp are aggressive towards each other and will come to dominate the tank. While this can be good for breeding purposes, it also has a negative effect on the shrimp’s movements.

When an aggressive shrimp overcomes its competitors, it will quickly move from one side of the tank to another in order to avoid being consumed or consumed first. In some cases, aggression can cause as much as 90% of a tank’s shrimp population to stop moving.

Other intimidating tankmates that might stress shrimp include Damsels, Gobies, Cichlids, and Puffers. These fish can quickly eat the shrimp, depending on their species and size. Even if a shrimp is too big for these fish to eat, the fight will scare it and make it stop moving.

3. Stocking Size

The ideal shrimp stocking level is 2-5 shrimp per gallon. A heavy bioload full of fish and other community tank animals can outcompete the shrimp for food and cause the shrimp to stop moving. This is a common problem in tanks that are too overcrowded or which have too many aggressive tankmates.

Not only will a heavy bioload stress the shrimp, but it puts more strain on your biological and mechanical filtration systems. That is because the shrimp are constantly releasing ammonia, which is harmful to their environment. 

4. Stress From Too Much Light

Most shrimp are not able to tolerate bright light. That is because the shrimp can detect light fluctuations and adjust its body temperature to stay within a specific temperature range.

The shrimp will stop moving under low light because there are other visual cues it can use to determine whether it has reached the optimum temperature range. The lack of sight will also cause them to become stressed as they cannot find food or other hiding places. 

On the contrary, when you start seeing only a few shrimp swimming around your tank, they could be stressed because of too much bright light. 

5. Lack of Oxygen

If your shrimp are not moving, check the oxygen level in your tank. If it is low, your shrimp may be in a resting phase where they will stop moving until the oxygen level returns to normal, and they have no other choice but to move around and breathe. 

If your shrimp are not moving, although they may still be alive and breathing, they will be unable to move around and usually will not survive for long. As I will explain later on, the best way to improve the oxygen levels is with an airstone.

6. The Shrimp Died

The most unfortunate reason for a shrimp that is not moving is a dead shrimp. You can tell whether your creature is dead by creating stimulation. Try touching the shrimp or shaking the tank a little.

If it does not move, it is most likely dead, and you should do a thorough water change to ensure that it was not killed by disease, parasites, or ammonia, or nitrate poisoning. Otherwise, other creatures in your tank may die as well.

How To Get Your Shrimp Moving Again

If your shrimped stopped moving, but it isn’t dead, you must take the necessary steps to solve that issue. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before the shrimp dies.

1. Check the Water Parameters

The first step would be checking the water parameters, including pH, ammonia, and nitrites. You can easily do that by using the well-known API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That bundle includes test strips and a color indicator strip, allowing you to see the results right away.

If the shrimp stopped moving due to ammonia spikes or nitrates, you must perform more frequent water changes. Start with at least a 20% water change every week, and see how the shrimp react to the cleaner. 

Also, make sure to remove debris from the glass and change the substrate. This will prevent leftovers from rotting and overtaxing the shrimp’s biological filtration system.

2. Increase Oxygen

As I said earlier, the shrimp is being stressed by having low oxygen. So to get your shrimp moving again, you need to increase the oxygen level in your tank. You want to keep the oxygen level above 5ppm.[3]

You can increase the oxygen level in your tank by using an air pump and stone, or you can use a fish tank aerator.[4] The fish tank aerator is more reliable than an air pump; however, most decent air pumps are also reliable enough for shrimp tanks. 

I personally use the Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon). All you have to do is place it in the middle of your tank, and the device will take care of the rest. I have one in my 55-gallon tanks, and it works flawlessly.

3. Adjust the Temperature

The next thing you need to do is adjust the temperature of your tank. This way, the shrimp will be able to go back to their normal behavior. Start by adjusting the temperature of your tank to around 78 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You can easily do that with a pyrometer or a thermometer. Ensure that the temperature changes are gradual; otherwise, your shrimp will not be able to adapt to the temperature change.

I also suggest that you avoid temperature fluctuations by all means. Consistent changes in temperature will induce stress in your shrimp and fish. To achieve that, I use the Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater (link to Amazon), which I also reviewed here.

I highly recommend that heater since it’s small enough to fit in a shrimp tank. Instead of using a heating mat, this heater will provide you with a stable and constant temperature, which means your shrimp and fish will be healthy.

4. Pick the Right Tankmates

If your bioload is heavy, you might need to remove some fish or other tankmates that do not play well together. Please get rid of the most aggressive species and replace them with reluctant species. If you feel that you are one fish away from a bad situation, take it out immediately.

It is also crucial that you pick the suitable tankmates for your shrimp. If you have too many fish in the tank, your shrimp will be unable to move around, and they might also suffer from some ammonia spikes.

If you are keeping Cherry or Ghost shrimp in your tank, some suitable tank mates would be peaceful fish or tetras. I recommend keeping those shrimp with a minimum of 3 in a 55-gallon tank or 5 in a 75-gallon tank.

For Cherry Shrimp, avoid aggressive tankmates such as Corydoras, large Plecostomus, and other bottom dwellers. Also, do not keep them with Goldfish for apparent reasons. Other fish to avoid include Guppies or livebearers and all cichlids.

For Ghost Shrimp, get Barbs (Barbus spp) but avoid Tetras, Mollies, and other bottom dwellers. Also, try to avoid cichlids such as Damsels and Astronotus spp. By that, you shouldn’t keep the Ghost Shrimp with any fish that resembles a Clownfish. This includes Neon Tetras and Peacock cichlids with their neon colors.

5. Adjust the Light for Shrimp

The best lighting for shrimp is a daylight fluorescent bulb. Most experts recommend that you not use a bright white light because it can affect the fish’s natural instincts and cause behavioral problems. 

When it comes to lightning hours, the rule for most aquarists is to keep the lighting in the tank on 8-10 hours a day. This will mimic the natural cycle and help prevent shrimp stress. However, some would say that over 8 hours will induce algae growth.[5]

If you want a brighter light for the shrimp, you can use digital night lights. You can get phosphorescent bulbs or get the LED fixtures such as the well-known NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light (link to Amazon). That is the particular set I use in my tank.

I chose that one mainly because it is pretty versatile and allows you to change the light colors depending on the hours of the day. This way, I can switch from a blue night light to a red one depending on my needs.

6. Plants and Hiding Places

Shrimp appreciate plants because they use them as hiding spots. They are also food sources and a place to reproduce. I highly recommend you put in some plants and vegetation in your tank. 

There are two types of plants you can use: small-leaved and large-leaved. Both types will suit the shrimp’s habitat. You want to keep the plants as close to the substrate as possible because that is where they will get most of their food and shelter from predators. 

I also suggest that you consider adding a few hiding places to your tank. You can use pebbles, driftwood, caves, ornaments, and artificial fortresses. These types of tank decorations will not only keep the shrimp stress-free but make your aquarium look more beautiful.

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Conclusions

Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand why your shrimp is not moving in your tank and how you can fix the problem. If you still suspect that your bioload might be causing the problem, consider getting rid of some of the undesirable tankmates and increasing the water parameters.

If things still do not work out, get a professional to check it out for you. Aside from their expertise, they will also be able to help identify the cause of the problem. Overall, following these steps will help you get your shrimp moving again and prevent the same issues from happening in the future.

References

  1. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/breeding-red-cherry-shrimp
  2. http://www.fao.org/3/ac210e/AC210E09.htm
  3. https://www.maheshaqua.com/technical-info/water-quality-management/
  4. https://aquagoodness.com/how-to-increase-oxygen-in-fish-tank/
  5. https://aquariuminfo.org/shrimptank.html

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