Advice for future nano shrimp tank


Hey y’all!

I’m thinking of setting up a nano shrimp tank for my little sister. I have two unused tanks that were given to me for free: a standard 2.5 gallon (without lid) and a 1.70 gallon cube (with lid). I would like to transform one of these into a nano planted tank. Here are my questions:
  • Which tank would be better a better fit?
  • Which species of shrimp would be best to add? How many?
  • What type of plants are good for nano aquariums?
I am doing my own research, too, but would appreciate any suggestions!

Thanks :D
Have a sunny day!


Use the larger tank. I wouldn't recommend anyone starting out to go with anything less than 5 gallons, since water parameters can get out of whack sooner in smaller tanks, but if you're careful you can make 2.5 gallons work.

Some months ago someone asked basic questions about keeping shrimp, so I typed up some information and saved it. I've gradually added to it as more occurred to me or I learned something new. See below. I believe it will answer your other questions.
  • The two most common ornamental shrimp are caridina and neocaridina. There's a small window where their desired water parameters overlap, so while it’s possible to keep them both in the same tank, it’s not a task for an inexperienced shrimp keeper. The caridinas need lower pH and softer water, and are generally more difficult to keep and more labor intensive. Neocaridinas are more forgiving, and generally do better in higher pH and harder water than caridinas. They're often referred to as red cherry shrimp, though there are several other colors available. Neos are the only ones I have any experience with, and if they like your water they're pretty easy to keep.
  • If you’re curious about how many to start with, the answer is as many as you can afford, but if money is a factor (which it often is for most of us), you can get a nice colony going to 10 or so. Of course, it will take longer than if you start with 25, but you’ll still probably get to 100 sooner than you expect.
  • There are many color varieties of each species, and while caridina and neocaridina shrimp won't breed with each other, any of the color varieties within the same species will, and the results will generally be brown or clear after a few generations. For this reason, if you want to maintain a specific color it's best not to mix them.
  • To get the most enjoyment from shrimp, keep them in shrimp only tanks, or just shrimp and snails. You don't have to worry about predation, and they'll also be more visible if there aren't predators in the tank with them, even if the predators are too small to be a threat to adult shrimp.
  • Even if they are the only things in the tank, they will feel more secure with hiding places, especially when molting or when a female is releasing babies. Dense plants are a good option (Java moss, guppy grass, and pearl weed are popular choices), along with a pile of rocks, sized so that the shrimp can crawl inside.
  • They are sensitive to changing water parameters, so most experienced shrimp keepers recommend limiting water changes to around 15%, and there shouldn’t be a big temperature difference. If you do larger water changes, it’s even more important to temperature match the water.
  • They need biofilm to graze on, which is why it's usually recommended to let a tank run for several months before adding shrimp. You can do it sooner by adding a sponge filter, plants, substrate, etc. from an established tank, but you still aren't likely to have as much success as you will if you're patient and let the tank "season" (I know this from first-hand experience).
  • In addition to the biofilm, they will also benefit from being fed. There are several commercial foods especially for shrimp, but I've also given mine several kinds of fish food, and they've eaten all of them. While there are mixed opinions about it, many people believe they also benefit from blanched vegetables once or twice a week. I've tried several things, and mine seem to prefer zucchini and spinach, followed by sweet peppers. I usually feed those late in the evening and remove any uneaten portion the next morning. By the way, shrimp just LOOOVE freshly crushed snails. Mine will swarm all over one.
  • Neocaridina shrimp will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but around 72° F is generally considered best. At higher temperatures they will grow faster and breed faster, but they will also not live as long. Basically, higher temperatures accelerate their lifespan.
  • If you use CO2 in shrimp tanks keep it around 10 – 15 ppm, and definitely below 20 ppm. They often can’t tolerate the pH swings and/or elevated CO2 levels at higher concentrations.
  • Of course, if you want to establish a colony you need males and females. Females are usually larger, and have better color, so you can get all females if you aren’t careful when selecting them in a store. It’s not difficult to tell them apart, even on shrimp that are the same size. The abdomen (the rear half) of females is larger than males, with the bottom line sagging down. Males’ abdomen is thinner, and it’s pretty much a straight taper from front to back.
  • As they reach maturity, females will develop a “saddle” on their back. This saddle (usually yellow) is the unfertilized eggs showing through their shell. After the next molt, they’re ready to breed, after which the fertilized eggs will move down below their abdomen where they will constantly “fan” them and juggle them around with their swimmerets to keep them aerated. They’ll hatch as fully developed, but very small, shrimp after about 4 weeks.
  • If you suddenly notice the shrimp swimming around the tank more than usual, it’s probably nothing to worry about. When a saddled female molts she releases pheromones signaling she’s ready to have her eggs fertilized, which gets the males swimming around trying to find her.


This is awesome!!! Thanks a billion for all this information! 2.5 gallon is what I was thinking, too (but I may go out and buy a 5 gallon after all). From everything you’ve said, I’ll probably go with cherry shrimp because I have hard water. I have two more questions:

  • I know typically people test their tank water once a week, but if I end up using the 2.5 gallon, would it be wise to test more often—say twice a week?
  • What do you do if your shrimp colony grows too big? Especially if they’re in a 2.5 gallon? I have other fish tanks—do you transfer into those?
Thanks again!


  • I'd test it often, at least for a while, until you get a feel for how the tank is doing.
  • A five gallon tank can hold a surprising number of shrimp, but yes, eventually you'll probably need to thin them out. I'd suggest culling out any undesirable colors and putting them in your other tanks. After that you may be able to sell your excess.

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