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.


Making a new planted tank

Yesterday was an exciting day. After 3 months of buying all new stuff – the day to create my new fish tank had arrived.

I’m writing about how easy it was to do because it’s exactly the same whether you put fish or shrimp in it. I hope it might inspire you to care for a beautiful aquarium too!

Step one

Research what you need and get everything ready. Over the course of 3 months I bought:

  • 50 litre tank (Dennerle)
  • External filter (Eheim 150)
  • Scrapers soil (Dennerle)
  • 2 Lights (Leddy Smart Plant LED)
  • Heater (Tetra)
  • 1 unit to put the tank on.

The day before we connected up the filter and added an additional plug socket  in the wall. The empty aquarium had already been pre filled and emptied to check for leaks. The light and heater were added.

We had also collected 5 X 10 litre tubs of rainwater and filtered it through our home made filter station.

So this is how we looked the night before if you ignore the moist soil!


Step 2

On the day it took about 4 hrs to complete. We re -mineralised the rainwater and poured it into the soil until it started to pool. We then landscaped it – less at the front and higher into the back for perspective.

Step 3

Now for the fun bit. I already had wood planted up with a variety of plants that was in the fish tank. Basically I glued rhizome plants on the wood.  So that came out of the fish tank.

I also had some spare pieces of Dragon Stone (About Dragon Stone) and some green slate paddle stone from the outdoor pond. Paddle stone is slate which has been tumbled smooth to look like rock that has been washed by a river for decades. 

I washed it several times in a high vinegar to water ratio. This removed dust and tested for fizzing. If a rock fizzes when acid is poured on it this indicates carbonate is present which will increase pH. Vinegar isn’t a strong acid so it’s not the best test but the only thing I had to hand. It did fizz slightly so I will use with caution and check the pH. I can always take them out.

Next I took out masses of Pogostemon (See blog page About Pogostemon) from my shrimp tank. I also took out all their moss which had taken over and not stayed attached to any wood where I glued it!

 Now it was just a case of arranging it in the new tank.

I kept tall plants to the back (Pogostemon) wood plants in the front but away from touching the glass as much as possible. 

These are some overhead pictures before the water went in.

I also played around with some moss- more about that in another blog post.

Step 4

Next we added re-mineralised water very slowly so as to not disturb the soil or plants. 

About an hour later it was complete.

The filter was turned on, heater and thermometer used, spray bar adjusted and voilà! The filter is totally silent – superb. Plants have a good  sway to them and the water is crystal clear thanks to gentle pouring of water and polishing from added Purigen.

Bacteria were added, the soil has ammonia so just letting it cycle now for 4-6 weeks or until it’s balanced. Then it’s ready for aquatic animals.

Collecting Rain Water

When it comes to filling your shrimp tank with water (or changing water or topping up) you have four options.

1) Rainwater

2) RO water (more about this later)

3) Tap water

4) Bottled water.

Tap water and the things to watch out for.

The easy option is tap water. I started my first tank using tap water. Anything from the tap has been through a massive chemical clean up to make it fit for human consumption. Chemicals which are added vary in different countries. They can include a range of things including adding chlorine (and chloramine) and ammonia.  That’s right – the key things you don’t want (unless you want dead aquatic animals).  If you have old copper pipes – then you can add copper to the list of nasties.

So, you then need a de-chlorinator liquid to add. These liquids usually get rid of both Chlorine and Chloramine – BUT check the table as there are some which are chlorine only.

Chlorine, eventually, will dissipate if you leave tap water for long enough (24 hrs or more depending on the amount/surface area). Chloramine is a problem because it is a mix of chlorine and ammonia. This will not dissipate and will kill aquatic life.

Using these liquids can bring up bad results on ammonia test kits – unless they actually measure both free and ionised ammonia (NH3 and NH4+)

Tap water for us is monitored – we are on a water meter so it would cost us to money we didn’t need to spend.

The main problem is the pH – our water is very hard and has a high pH – so high that the shrimps were not coping very well. So for healthier animals, we switched to rainwater.

RO units – why I didn’t choose these.

The cost of purchasing the unit, and nowhere to put it were the main two factors for me.


RO water (Reverse Osmosis) is a way of passing water through a group of filters at high pressure. Dissolved organic solids are removed from the water through a membrane to remove impurities. It can involve a number of stages (from 3 to 6) which the water passes through.

How effective they are depends on the filter stages, water temperature and pressure from your mains supply. They can cost £40  to £400.

Filters include sediment, carbon and the membrane itself.

The pH is close to neutral and the TDS (total dissolved solids) measures around 0. Once impurities are removed, water must then be re-mineralized to the level that the aquatic animals need.


  • Pure water –  99% removal with higher end units. TDS around 0
  • Don’t use electricity – they run on your water pressure.


  • Plumbing it it – Installation is usually under a sink as it needs to attach to your water supply.
  • Uses tap water – so the expense of that water.
  • Can be slow – can take 12-24 hours to produce enough.
  • You need to keep the filters wet.
  • You will need a pressure pump if sending rainwater through it.
  • many require a connection to a drain for wastewater
  • Up to 50% reduction in the amount of water filtered if pressure and temperature are too low.
  • Filters need replacing every 4-6 months or as stated on the product
  • Units need maintenance – lubrication, filter replacement, replacement parts and flow valves.
  • Storage is needed for the clean water.


Rain Water – why I chose this method

The benefits:

  • Free (as a source)
  • Better for aquatic life
  • Better for the environment
  • Easy to add minerals to in the concentration that shrimp prefer.
  • No need to use chemical or chloramine removers.

Disadvantages are:

  • Not as pure as RO (TDS around 50)
  • Initial cost / time adding a way to collect it
  • Initial cost of making a filtering unit and buying a filter canister
  • Running outside every time it’s raining!
  • Storing the filtered and dirty collected rainwater
  • Time filtering it.
  • Storage

The benefits outweighed the effort and intial cost – simple as that.

How we collect and prepare the water.


First collecting it

  1. We set up a flexible pipe coming from the drain pipe
  2. Wait until it has rained hard for about 20 minutes (once the rubbish has been washed off the roof and the rain is less likely to bring with it pollutants from the air)
  3. Stick the pipe into a cheap collecting container to collect the rain.

These are 10L containers of food grade Polyethylene (so they are UN tested for Leaks and Impacts and certified safe for food storage). You get two for around £8. If it’s safe for humans it’s safe for shrimps! These are also stackable and very robust. We have about 6.




Next we filter it.

1) At a time that is convenient, we tip the water into our sediment filtration system and collect it in a clean container labelled ‘filtered water only’ containers.

I was only concerned with filtering out particles and do not run the water through carbon – although you could add another level of filtration. We store the unit in the garage and it takes a few minutes to filter 10L

The water flows, under gravity, into the filter canister (£22 from Vyair UK), through the 5 micron RO filter cartridge which is like a fabric/fibre roll with a hole down the middle (£7.99 for a pack of 3 and we use one a year) and out of the pipe into the container on the floor.

The filter is easily replaced – you just unscrew the canister and pop it it!

So it costs very little and produce a particle free water. Yes there could be bacteria and microbes in it but then that’s nature and a risk I’m prepared to take.

2) Sometimes I boil it – sometimes I don’t.

I sometimes boil the water before re-mineralising.  Daphnia and other organisms can still be present unless the water is boiled which seems to kill them. They aren’t harmful to shrimp but they ruin a good shrimp photo.

3) Finally I store the water in the dark until I need it to prevent algae growth.


I test the water in my aquarium. If the TDS meter says it is more than 230, I don’t add minerals – I dilute the tank with filtered rain water for top ups to lower the TDS back to what I want.

Salty_ShrimpFor water changes (or top ups if the TDS is 230), I re-mineralise. This is simply a case of adding mineral salts like this (left) until the TDS meter reads 230 or just under (depending on what it is in the tank at the time).

Then into the tank it goes!

The shrimp seem healthier, I get to choose what minerals go in and also the pH.


Acclimatising Shrimp

So your new shrimp arrived and it’s time to put them in your aquarium.

Like all aquatic animals, your new shrimps won’t appreciate the trauma of being put straight into new water. 

With fish, you might be familiar with the old ‘float them in your tank and add a little of the new tank water to the bag’ method or similar. 

This brings in two elements we need to do with shrimp – get them used to the temperature and water parameters of their new home.

With shrimp, they are more likely to withstand the shock if you do it very VERY slowly. 

Sensitive shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are sensitive creatures. They can easily be stressed by new changes – even a water change can freak them out! They    can start to frantically swim around, moult ( shed their skin) and lose their colour. They can die because of this.

The best way to introduce them is with such small changes that they don’t even realise. This gives them the best chance.


So, this is what I do. 

I put my shrimps into a casserole dish with some moss to hide under. I have a thermometer as well to check the temperature. 

I now gently, with slow movements, take out about 2/3rds of the water with a yogurt pot. 

Next I set up my drip. This consists of an enema bag I got cheap on eBay for just such an occasion.  I flush it through with tank water and adjust the tap to get a flow of about 1 drip per second. 

Next I tape the nozzle so it drips into the bowl with my shrimp. 

…. then I use this 3 hr window to coo over my new shrimps and post their photos on FaceBook. Once my friends are fed up with shrimp, I take out the same amount of water and repeat. This time I go faster with the water – 2 to 3 times faster. 

If they aren’t the same temperature as the tank I use an ice wrap or heat pad around the bowl.  

So now they are used to the water parameters and temperature of my tank – so in they go. I prefer catching them with a glass shrimp catcher and keeping the bowl water out of my tank.

All about shrimp tank 2

So a week last Monday was ‘Shrimp Day’. Here is what happened.

The all day (and half the night) process of setting up the new tank to replace the first was very exciting.



For tank 2 there were some key things I knew I wanted to do different – having learnt from tank one.

  • A bigger tank – only 5cm wider but around 10 cm taller.

The mantra seems to be the smaller the tank the harder it is to keep looking good.  It’s harder to landscape with plants, harder to do water changes without disturbing the layout, harder to maintain a stable temperature and water conditions, hard to clean/scrape – you get the idea. It’s HARD!!!

So, although this increase is only from a 25-30 litre tank – it feels like a massive amount of room – and looks so much bigger (but takes up very little desk space).

  • An aquascape (planting scheme) that doesn’t touch too many sides of the tank – so much nicer for water to flow round, shrimps to ‘do their thing’ and I’m hoping less algae and disturbance if I do have to scrape.
  • My filter is the same but this time the spray bar is about an inch above the water – so much better flow, not blocked by ‘stuff’.   Also, the empty water space above the plants has been changed from about an inch to a 2-3 inches. This gives lots of room to scoop out and replace water without knocking over ‘stuff’ in the tank.

Basically, it is less cluttered and designed to be easier to maintain. I can see my shrimps better and I’ve invested in a shrimp feeding tube to keep their food out of the substrate and on top of a rock.

The only down side, so far has been that the light no longer penetrates as well because the tank is taller – so will have to see how that goes. It definitely isn’t as well illuminated.

Tank Set Up.

1) Dennerle Nano Cube – 30 Litre tank – £37.99 from SwellUK

It’s a nice tank with curved front edges (that you can’t see in the picture), tested it out for leaks and was fine – bit messy on the silicone though and the glass top is very thin.

The glass top sits on plastic hangers – which were a very tight fit and I worried the glass would shatter. I have discarded the top and my husband made a new one to fit around the filter out of acrylic.















2) Same filter as last time

3) Some new wood and plants + old ones replanted – £40 approx

4) Rain water, filtered for large particles, boiled and remineralized.

4) Dennerle Scaper’s soil + topped with Fluval Shrimp Stratum

5) Same light

6) Same cooler

Set up:

It took all afternoon to set up and all evening to catch the shrimps and swap over the filter and cooler and take out the other tank. I had a plan and itemised the order of things to keep organised.

First the tank was tested for leaks within 24 hrs of it arriving (to enable a claim to be made if needed for a replacement). Then substrate was added (no washing needed apart from the Fluval topper) and the prepared water (boiled and remineralised) was added just so it soaked into the substrate to saturate it.

The shrimps were taken out of the old tank – well as many as possible and transferred to a net/fry box sitting in a bowl of water. I’ll review this later – but basically they got out of the net and into the bowl – some got stuck and that part was a bit of a nightmare. A thermometer was placed in to keep an eye on them.

Next the wood and plants were added to the new tank (the old one now became a swirling mess of remaining shrimp and soil).

Water was added – about another 4 inches.

We took down the old tank and closed down the cooler and filter. Water staying in that part of the circuit to keep the important filter bacteria wet and alive.  Next we carried in the new tank, connecting it up to the cooler and filter.

The old tank went into the kitchen so my husband could catch more baby shrimps – my motto is ‘leave no one behind’!!

So, the tank was then topped up to the top (gently and slowly pouring water in so as not to disturb the soil) and left for the evening to settle down.

I tested the water and the ammonia reading was really high – the soil leached a lot more than I thought it would. I dosed with Prime, added a top up of bacteria for the filter and in went the shrimp.

A few days later I dosed with AmGuard – for emergency ammonia removal as it was still showing up and my pH was above 7.

Than tank seems ok now, all shrimp (plus babies and berried females) survived and apart from the slight problem of floating wood (now held down by dragon stone) – the water is clear, the shrimp are happy and it’s looking great. Ammonia is reading zero and I feel relieved!

I will do a 25% water change next week, as soon as it rains to lower the Nitrate.

Next blog

Over the next weeks I will review how to catch shrimp – what worked well and what didn’t plus some of the equipment and test kits I used (and whether they were any good!).

You can also find out what happens when you drop a pot of shrimp remineralisation powder into a bowl of water…


Handy conversions for Nano tanks

The number of times I forget how US gallons translate into litres or dosages of things. So I’m noting it here.

1 US gallon = 3.78 Litres or

1 Litre is 0.26 US gallons.

Popular UK Nano tank sizes:

10 Litre =  2.64 US gal = 2.19 Imperial gal

20 Litre = 5.28 US gal = 4.30 Imperial gal

25 Litre = 6.6 US gal = 5.49 Imperial gal

30 Litre = 7.92 US gal = 6.59 Imperial gal

For my 30 L tank …. (20 L of water to treat)

* remember, dosages are for the WATER volume – not tank volume so it’s bit of a guess as to how much room all the wood/plants and substrate take up. Also I have an external filter and cooler which will hold an amount of water. I’m going for 20 litres.

Fenbendazole – 0.1 g per 10 US gallon, 0.1g per 37.8 Litres of tank water (10 US gallons), 0.05 g per 20 Litre

[ 0.1 / 37.8 ] x 20 to treat for worms  / planar / hydra

Malefix by API = 5ml per 10 US gallon, 2.6 ml per 20 Litre of tank water,

[ 5 / 37.8 ] x 20 = 2.6 ml for  antibacterial, fungus and cracks.

Paraguard by Seachem = 5ml per 40 L,

[5 / 40 ] x 20 = 2.5 ml per 20 L of water to treat external fungus/bacteria and viruses

1ppm = 1mg /litre


Water Hardness Degrees and PPM

The concentration of calcium and magnesium and other ions in the water. Measured in degrees. 1 degree = 17.9mg/l

The symbol for degrees hardness is dH

4-8 dH = very soft water

12-18 dH = fairly hard water.

  • In parts per million (ppm) this is:

4ppm = 4 mg/l  =  4 ml/l

20 degrees =  20×17.9 = 358 ppm

6 degrees = 6×17.9 = 107.4 ppm

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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.