What Do Cherry Shrimp Do In Fish Tanks? (5 Essential Benefits)

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When I considered getting cherry shrimp for my fish tank, the first question I had was: what do they do in the tank? Well, the short answer is quite a lot. In this article, I will discuss the five benefits I experienced from my cherry shrimp population.

Cherry shrimp are scavengers, meaning that they will eat leftovers, rotten plants, and algae from your tank. As a consequence, they will keep your tank’s water crystal clear and reduce the number of times you need to vacuum it. More importantly, they reduce toxins like ammonia and balance the pH.

As we move forward, I will elaborate on the cherry shrimp’s contribution to fish tanks. I will also discuss whether they will eat fish eggs, poop, or aquarium plants. As you will see, they rarely destroy the scenery in your tank.

What Do Cherry Shrimp Do In Fish Tanks?

Cherry shrimp are attractive. But do they serve any additional purpose in the tank? Because they are small and delicate, some people tend to dismiss shrimp. They do not realize that the creatures could be one of the most important additions to your aquarium, and for a variety of reasons, including:

1. Cherry Shrimp Will Clean Your Tank

Cherry shrimp are easy to rear because they are omnivores. They eat both plant matter and meat. More importantly, they are scavengers. They spend their days trawling the bottom of the tank, looking for any edible items that might have sunk to the substrate.[1]

Their feeding habits do not seem that important until you realize that aquariums are filthy places filled with leftovers, rotting organisms like fish and snails, decaying plants, and various forms of debris that fell into the water without your knowledge.

Those pollutants are not just an inconvenience. They will ruin the tank’s chemistry, raising the concentration of toxins like ammonia and ultimately harming and possibly even killing the tank’s inhabitants.

This is why aquarists are encouraged to create regular cleaning routines that include weekly water changes. But sometimes, a regular cleaning routine isn’t enough. Some aquarists have small tanks that encourage toxins to spike at a faster rate, and they simply can’t keep up. Others do not have the time to vacuum their substrate regularly.

This is where cherry shrimp enter the picture. They will eat all those pollutants for you, not just the decaying plants and leftovers but even the rotting organisms. As opportunistic eaters, they will consume anything and everything they come across.

This is the reason why some people describe them as a cleaning crew.[2] The creatures cannot replace your regular cleaning routine. But if you have enough of them, they can complement your cleaning routine.

2. Cherry Shrimp Will Buffer Your Aquarium Chemistry

Rotten food and debris will negatively impact your aquarium chemistry. The involved factors are usually ammonia and water pH. Ammonia levels will rise because algae and decaying food release it through pore secretion. The pH of the aquarium will also drop because of rotting food and waste products.

Both of these factors have a negative impact on the health of your inhabitants. This means that if you leave your tank for hours, days, or weeks without cleaning, you can expect to see a decline in water clarity and water quality. 

Luckily, cherry shrimp will deal with all this for you and reduce the risk that any part of the water chemistry will fall out of balance. Yet, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test your water occasionally. While cherry shrimp buffer the aquarium parameters, they can’t do that on their own. 

3. Cherry Shrimp Help Getting Rid Of Algae

Ordinary pollutants are not the only threat your tank has to overcome. Aquariums cannot avoid algae. It will always form. Even though it is technically a plant, algae do not benefit your aquarium. In fact, they will harm the tank by consuming the nutrients your plants need to grow.

Algae is also unsightly. It can turn the most carefully curated aquatic environment into a cloudy mess. This is why cherry shrimp are so important. They are excellent algae eaters.[3] Technically speaking, they can survive on the algae in the tank. Though, you are expected to occasionally complement their diet with external food items like flakes, pellets, and algae wafers.

A sizable population of cherry shrimp can consume all the algae in an aquarium. This is why some aquarists encourage the algae in their tank to grow. They want to give their shrimp access to as much alga as they could possibly want. Though, you don’t have to do this. If you don’t want any algae in your tank, let your cherry shrimp devour it all.

Interestingly enough, cherry shrimp can also eat spot algae, a type of algae that is notorious because it can form on hard surfaces like glass, preventing conventional algae eaters from reaching it.[4] The shrimp will attach themselves to the algae on the glass to feed on it. Their light, agile bodies make this possible.

If you are interested, feel free to check this article, where I discussed what types of algae cherry shrimp tend to eat. I also shared a few tips to encourage your cherry shrimp to consume algae, turning your aquarium unbelievably clean.

4. Cherry Shrimp Are Quite Aesthetic

Cherry shrimp are attractive. For instance, if you have red cherry shrimp, their vibrant color will add a spark to the look of your aquarium because of the way it contrasts with the green plants in the tank.

The creatures are not nocturnal. They are most active during the day, which gives you plenty of opportunities to observe and appreciate their beauty. The fact that they are peaceful means that you don’t have to worry about the cherry shrimp antagonizing their neighbors.

What I chose to do in my tank was to mix different kinds of shrimp. There is nothing more pleasant than seeing a variety of these beautiful creatures roaming around the tank. If you like this idea, I recommend checking this article I wrote on what shrimp can live with cherry shrimp.

5. Aquarium Fish Can Be Fed On Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp are a nutritious source of food for your fish. Some people hate the idea of fish consuming the cherry shrimp in the tank because it sounds like a harsh fate. However, it is the same fate they would meet in the wild. 

It is worth noting that cherry shrimp are easy to breed. Whenever the livebearers fall pregnant, they can add dozens of young shrimp to your tank in one go. As such, if you have a massive population of cherry shrimp, they will keep the carnivorous and omnivorous fish in the aquarium well fed. 

Fish that are more likely to eat cherry shrimp include Oscars, Angelfish, Goldfish, and Barbs, to mention but a few.[5] You don’t have to store all the shrimp in the community tank. You can add a few at a time, depending on the appetite of the fish. 

Cherry shrimp are very easy to care for. As scavengers, they can survive on the edible detritus and debris you find in most tanks. Therefore, it doesn’t take much effort to rear them for the express purpose of feeding them to fish.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Fish Poop?

Cherry shrimp do not eat fish poop. While they will happily consume leftovers and algae, shrimp won’t benefit from eating fish poop. Cherry shrimp might nibble on fish poop occasionally, but they won’t consume it entirely.

Species like cories and Bristlenose plecos are similar to cherry shrimp in the sense that people also use them to keep tanks clean because they will eat any edible detritus and debris they can find. But they won’t eat fish poop either.[6]

Some people will argue that they have seen their cherry shrimp eat poop. But they probably misunderstood what they saw. As scavengers, cherry shrimp will sift through the poop to find undigested elements. If they can find those undigested elements, the shrimp won’t hesitate to eat them.

But if the poop doesn’t have any nutritional value, they will ignore it. The next time you see a cherry shrimp eat poop, you should stick around. Keep watching. More than likely, the shrimp will simply nibble on the fecal matter.

Once it realizes that the poop is an inappropriate food source, the shrimp will back off. Some shrimp may swallow the poop completely. But once they realize what it is, they will spit it back out.[7] They can tell that it isn’t meant to be consumed.

On the rare occasion that you encounter a cherry shrimp that actually eats fish poop, you cannot rely on that shrimp to keep the tank free of fish poop, at least not in the same way that you would rely on a cherry shrimp to keep algae and leftovers out of the aquarium.

Those random shrimp that eat fish poop cannot eat enough of it to make a difference. They are not the solution to your poop problem. Even if you have a large population of cherry shrimp and they can eat fish poop in sufficient quantities, don’t forget that those cherry shrimp are also pooping.[8] Therefore, their strange eating habits will not benefit your tank in the long run.

If you want to eliminate fish poop, you must remove it yourself by scooping it out, performing regular water changes, and installing powerful filters.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Fish Eggs?

Cherry shrimp do not eat viable fish eggs. Some may be convinced that they have seen cherry shrimp eat fish eggs. But what they probably saw was the cherry shrimp cleaning the eggs by eating the debris, detritus, and biofilm attached to them.

Admittedly, it can look like the shrimp are eating the eggs. But if you do an egg count before and after, you will see that the cherry shrimp have not harmed the eggs. There is only one notable exception to this rule.

On the other hand, if the eggs are rotten, the cherry shrimp might eat them. But that perfectly aligns with their profile as a species that eats rotting organisms in the water. It is also a good thing. Those rotting eggs will pollute the water. 

By eating them, the cherry shrimp is keeping its aquatic environment clean. Naturally, you cannot rely on the cherry shrimp to behave if they are hungry. Like fish, starving cherry shrimp will eat anything.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Plants?

Cherry shrimp do not eat viable plants. Sometimes it seems like they are eating the plants, but they are actually going after the biofilm and detritus that the plants shed. However, on the other hand, cherry shrimp will happily eat rotten plants that actually harm the water chemistry.

A cherry shrimp that is trying to reach that algae can look like it is grazing on the plants themselves when that isn’t the case. Cherry shrimp are not a danger to living plants. However, the same cannot be said for dying plants.

Cherry shrimp will eat decaying plants.[9] But that is a good thing. Decaying plants can increase the ammonia concentration in the tank. You want the cherry shrimp to eat them before they ruin the chemistry of your aquarium.

Some shrimp may nibble on java moss, but that isn’t an issue either. They won’t eat enough to harm the java moss significantly. Additionally, you have to trim the java moss occasionally, so the cherry shrimp that nibble on java moss is merely doing some of your work for you.

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Conclusions

Cherry shrimp have many ways to make your aquarium cleaner and more enjoyable. In addition to eating biofilm, they also like to eat algae and other detritus that the fish have left behind. But these shrimp are not going to eat everything in your tank.

Certain factors limit the cherry shrimp’s diet. For example, they won’t eat fish eggs or poop if the food or feces is appropriate, which isn’t often the case. But either way, they serve as a beautiful addition to the aquarium and don’t require much work from you.

References

  1. https://www.petmd.com/fish/care/6-things-you-didnt-know-about-aquarium-shrimp
  2. https://shrimptips.com/what-shrimp-are-good-for-your-aquarium/
  3. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/red-cherry-shrimp/
  4. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/red-cherry-shrimp/eating-algae-glass/
  5. https://fishkeepup.com/are-shrimp-good-for-fish-tanks/
  6. https://aquariawise.com/how-to-get-rid-fish-waste-from-aquarium/
  7. https://vivariumtips.com/shrimps-eat-poop-explained
  8. https://acuariopets.com/do-shrimps-eat-poop/
  9. https://www.aquariadise.com/what-do-shrimp-eat/

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