Maintaining your shrimp tank.

Once you are up and running, you will occasionally have to maintain the conditions in your tank to keep shrimp healthy.

My tank glass is covered in algae

My fish tank is algae free on the glass walls. My shrimp tank … not so much!!!

The cause in my case was 

  1. direct sunlight 
  2. build up of Nitrate
  3. No filter cleaning

So, I used a metal blade tank scraper to clean the algae of the sides. Did a third water change (re mineralised rain water), and cleaned out the filter (put in some new filter pads/wool). I also cleaned out the cooler to maximise its effectiveness for the hot days when it will be working hard to keep my shrimps cool. 

If your tank is balanced (cycling well to keep Nitrite at zero and water changes to take out Nitrates) , your glass may stay totally clear. To help, Nerite snails will keep it clean but they don’t like low PH/acidic water so they may not be an option for shrimps that like low Ph water. 

Water changes

Some people do it daily, others weekly or even monthly. Some people take out a third water, others 50% or more.

Personally I do two checks to decide on what to do.

  1. How is my TDS?
  2. How are my Nitrates?
  3. How does it look!

If my TDS reading is a little high and the water is low from evaporation, I just top up with filtered rainwater. If it needs a big top up I add mineral powder. 

If my Nitrates are high (and algae is blooming) both are indicators for a good 25-50% water change. I re mineralise and make sure the water temperature is not going to dramatically change.

My shrimp are observed – irrational/frantic swimming can indicate the change is too much from what they have become used to … so slowly does it.  

Filter maintenance 

I have an external canister filter and an internal filter that came as a single unit. The internal filter sponge needs washing out monthly and the spray bar weekly. (Dental floss brushes are great for cleaning the nozzles). 

The external canister gets done yearly. 

Never throw out all your filter medium. Inside the canister are two sponges and the ‘stones’ which hold the good bacteria that keep your tank cycling. The sponges can be easily and cheaply changed or even washed out. The stones I change every 12-18 months – but only half of them. Don’t throw away your stones or your nitrogen cycle will reduce or stop! Never wash out your stones.

Here is my filter sponge!! Totally black and decayed. No wonder it wasn’t working.

I tipped out the filter stone medium and sieved out the black water. I then replaced them back into the filter. You don’t want to leave your stones out of water for very long  because the bacteria could die.

Anyone for coco pops?

Cooler maintenance 

Every year the cooler gets flushed out with tap water and reflushed with rain water. This pushes the slurry out of the unit and gets it working efficiently for the hot summer days. It’s an expensive bit of equipment so I want it to last. 

Soil changes

I never change the soil. Nutrients may deplete but my tank is a living tank with live plants and shrimp/snail poo which are also giving nutrients into the soil and water as well as taking them. The plants are healthy so I’ll take that as confirmation all is well.

Plant trimming

If you have live plants and good conditions they may grow like crazy! I have some aquascaping tweezers and sharp scissors to prune my plants. In the summer this might be weekly. 


If your hands are submerged most of the time, wear pond gloves to avoid transmitting poisons to your tank and being poisoned by bacteria etc in the tank. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. 


Avoid over feeding shrimp so that food build up doesn’t accumulate for algae to flourish. 

All clean and looking much better.


Shrimp / fry net box – my thoughts.


So I wanted to catch my shrimp, and hold them in one place whilst I did the new tank (and have a holding place to breed shrimp separate from the main tank inhabitants).  This was £3 (16x13x12cm) from eBay and when assembled was pretty good for the price. The net was fine and easily went around the frame and it hung on my tank fine. I liked how easy it was to assemble, felt study enough, and you could take off the bag to wash it out.

However, what I didn’t realise was that the shrimp could get stuck between the net and the frame – you know how they are so curious they crawl around anything. So when I thought the were all out of the net – they were hiding under it (and at this point out of the tank and about to be stored away in my cupboard!). Shrimp crawled between the grooves of the frame and wouldn’t come out without a lot of hassle.

So, I think for large adults, it would be ok as a mating box, but smaller shrimp, they can easily trap themselves or wedge themselves out of view.

It is a good little basket for growing out moss – put in a little from a new plant, and it can grow to the amount you need for a project without escaping – so thumbs up for plants, thumbs down for shrimp.

Glue for aquascaping – best thing ever

DUPLA_PLANT_FIX_LIQUID Glue is my best friend. The hours I spent with fishing line, aquarium/aquascaping nylon, hair nets, plastic grids etc, trying to get the darn plants and moss to stay where I wanted … ah ha…. not any longer. This time I glued them on and it was much less stressful, very quick and …. well a no brainer to do it any other way.

What I used: I used Duple Plant Fix Liquid. It’s basically a gel type of superglue and costs around £16-25 depending from where you get it from (It is generally imported from Europe and not usually stocked in shops where I live).   It comes in a metal tube which is easy to squeeze and control with a fin tip nozzle. The glue lasts about 6 months from opening. It will glue your fingers together somewhat – but you can’t really use it for aquascaping without getting it on your fingers.

IMG_6106 How I used it: First up, my Anubias (a plant with rhizomes that needs the main root to be above the soil) was glued onto a piece of stone – just a few dabs, hold in place, press, unglue fingers, and easy as that. Fixed.

Next up was the moss. I wanted to glue it onto a stone and the the ends of some twigs to make some trees. So I smeared the gel all over the top of the twig (pre soaked and gently patted dry with kitchen paper), grabbed a bunch of damp moss and pinched it onto the twig. Water oozed out, some bits broke off. It was a bit messy as some moss then got stuck to my fingers and they looked more like a tree than the twig. However, most of it stayed on – and I just kept adding it until it looked good. I then glued the tree onto a stone – holding it in the glue gel for about 10 seconds. Job done. I placed each item in a bowl of tank water to keep the moss wet.

Result: I am super pleased with how easy this was and I’m never trying to use thread again to hold down moss. At first the glue goes bright white when placed in the water – but as the moss grows, you can’t see it. I can’t see any glue on the Anubias root – it just look like it magically holds.

Other glue: The active ingredient in the gel is: Cyano Acrylate which hardens under water.


Instructions: Available in pdf from their web site and in the box.

Shrimp soil and substrate choices

So… what to choose for soil and or substrate / stratum?

So I’m starting my second tank to replace the first – just to upsize a bit now I have an appreciation of what is involved.

My first tank used a base of Tropica Plant Growth Substrate, topped with Fluval Shrimp Stratum. My pH was around 7.5 with this combination with no leached ammonia, great plant growth and within 6 months no algae and always clear water. I had hard water so suspect the pH buffering was used up quick.

I’ve made notes on some that I have found – most say to use alone but other shrimp keepers use a combination. Substrate doesn’t last forever (and if it has to work hard against very hard water, it won’t bring the pH down for very long).

Possible choices I’ve seen include:

1) Scaper’s Soil by Dennerle (link here)

Scaper_s_Soil___DennerleThe website says this is a fertile volcanic soil suitable for shrimp. It is slightly acidic (buffers to 6-6.5) and made from ‘natural soils) to provide plants with trace elements. It has irregular grains 1-4mm and quite loose. It is a deep black colour (although in the picture it looks dark brown). It also reduce kH.

I like the idea of this one – and have always wanted slightly acidic water … but my Nerite (snail) likes to live in slightly alkali water and he is my main algae cleaner – so not so sure about that aspect.

It comes in 4 litres bags – suitable for a 30 L cube like mine (or 8 litres if you are lucky enough to have a 50L tank!). Costs around £15 for a 2.4kG bag.


2) Fluval Stratum -used to be Fluval Shrimp or Fluval Plant – now it appears to just be Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum. (Link here).

Fluval_2kg_Shrimp_Stratum__Amazon_co_uk__Pet_SuppliesThis is from Mount Aso volcano in Japan – so it is mineral rich, loose stratum that feels like little beads. It is dark black and my shrimp love to pick it up and turn it as they feed – which is quite amusing.  Fluvial say it promotes a neutral to mildly acidic pH.

It comes in 2,4,and 8 kg backs and you lay it about 1.5-2 inches deep.

A 2kG bag was fine for my 25 litre tank with a quarter left over (using it as a top soil). It costs around £8 per bag + £10 postage on Amazon (and currently can’t find it anywhere on the net for less). You can wash it to remove dust before putting it in.



3) ADA (Aqua Design Amano) Aqua Soil comes in three types (Africana, Malaya and Amazonia). It is the favoured soil of many highly planted tanks.

Colour varies from red brown to dark brown. They leach ammonia so cycling without shrimp is the way to go.

ADA also comes as a fine grain soil powder for small nano tanks (or layering it under of over other ADA soils. Costs can be £23-£50. Can last many years – but depends if you disturb it. Eventually the nutrients will be used up – so that could be a problem if you don’t use plant fertilisers like me.

*Note that ‘new’ versions of the soils may vary.

Here is a review over on red




4) Fluorite by Seachem.(Link here)

Seachem_Flourite_3_5kg_£12_99_-_Buy_Substrate_System_AccessoriesFluorite is a clay gravel that can be used with other products. It says it never has to be replaced and does not alter pH. You rinse it before use and comes in 3.5 or 7kg bags. (Comes in black, dark, red and also sand variations). The red version contains lots of iron and they are investigating it as a potential source of arsenic at plant toxic levels. See their website for updates.  It is also full of minerals like copper, potassium and they produce a chart to compare. *trace copper should be fine for shrimp. It is priced around £13-15 for 3.5kg.

5) Sands and gravel e.g. granite etc.

Many colours and grain sizes – huge range of good examples over on Aqua Essentials. I’ve used it in my tank to help keep the soil where I wanted it (although long term the soil made its way through). You have to wash it well in tank / dechlorinated water. They generally don’t alter pH but you do need a soil underneath for a planted tank.

6) Tropica Aquarium Soil and substrate range. (Link here)



This is what I used in my tank beneath Fluval and some granite sand. My plants loved it and it is a contender for my new tank. It is also cheap – £7 approx for 1 L which was enough for my Nano tank with some spare. (1 L does up to a 27 L tank)

It is a clay and sphagnum combination with slow release of nutrients to the plant roots. My water was clear (like any soil, dampen it down with the water your will use, top it off with gravel, and fill the tank up by GENTLY pouring water over a saucer – undisturbed the water will stay clear or at least clear up within 24 hrs).

Tropica have a soil range that doesn’t need covering up with a grain size 2-3 mm. It says it ‘naturally reduces KH and pH’ and ensure good water changes in a new aquarium suggesting it leaches ammonia but I’m only guessing.

7) Ebi Gold Shrimp Soil (Link here) or their rubbish website here.

This soil is popular amongst shrimp keepers. It has small grains 1-3mm and buffers the water to a pH of about 6-6.5 and TDS will reduce to around 150-180 (KH 1-2) Different types exist but it is essentially natural clay and volcanic minerals. It might need to be replaced after a year and it does leach ammonia/nitrite – so only introduce in a shrimpless cycle. It is one of the more expensive soils.


Patter of tiny shrimp feet.


Good news and bad in my shrimp tank. I lost one of my Rilli today which wasn’t happy whilst moulting – then shed it’s skin and died! However, on the plus side, yesterday I discovered two berried shrimp (shrimp carrying fertilised eggs).

Here is a video showing her fanning her eggs – which are green (but the babies won’t be – that’s just the egg colour).

Once a female has shed her skin, this releases a pheromone into the water and drives the guys crazy! After a blink of the eye meeting belly to belly, the female passes her eggs from the saddle (top of their body that looks like a horse saddle) through the sperm to the lower part of its body.

The eggs develop underneath her and in 30-40 days (hopefully) I should have lots of baby shrimps.

I like the way they are ‘radioactive green’ in colour lol.



Lost one shrimp but the other 7 doing well…



Shrimp Day + 3 daysIMG_9810

Yesterday I lost one shrimp – one of my red ones I think. Today the head count is 7/8 and they seem happy pootling around investigating everything and munching the algae. I gave them some shrimp food – a small pellet yesterday but they moved quickly back to foraging algae.

They are also growing and shedding – we already found and empty skin case, so that was a clean healthy moult (picture above).

The netting and canvas you can see is how I grew a lawn on my tank floor – plastic canvas from hobby craft, a hair net over it and moss pushed inside. Over time all the moss will poke through and provide a lush carpet. This area is at the back of my tank, behind the statue, with least light – so might not grow totally. The shrimps never seem to get tangle up or anything – they kind of tip toe over like little fairies!


My water parameters seem good – and the water is already getting much softer according the general hardness measurements (we live in a very hard water area). So far so good.


All lush and low levels of algae. Some brown type creeping back on my Anubia (more about these lovely plants in my next post) – but still pretty bright.