Freshwater Shrimp Tank Set Up Guide: Beginner Friendly

shrimp tank set up

Other than fish, what else can you keep in an aquarium similar to a fish? It’s not hard! You already know from our title we are talking about shrimp. They are now trendy among many aquarium enthusiasts.

Shrimps’ active nature, small size, and appealing looks make them an excellent choice for someone wanting to have a small aquarium. There are many species of small shrimp-like dwarf shrimp or ghost shrimps. These are the two commonly kept pet shrimps in a freshwater aquarium tank.

You may be thinking, “Shrimp tank set up may be hard. How will I be able to do it as a beginner?” Although shrimps are delicate and small, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep them as pets.  Let us help you with our complete shrimp aquarium guide so you can watch your little Shrimpies all day.

Is Setting Up a Shrimp Tank Hard?

No, setting up a shrimp tank isn’t that hard. You just have to know the type of shrimp and suitable equipment for that shrimp. Then setting up the whole thing won’t seem hard at all.

But the process is lengthy. It may take you up to two months until you can actually put your shrimp in the aquarium. Yes, we know you are impatient. We all are sometimes. So, we will also let you on some secrets to speed up the process.

Moreover, it seems complicated for some people because these tiny invertebrates are still a mystery for many. Many don’t know the proper way to maintain them and usually have inadequate tanks, which leads to losing many shrimps.

With our help, you’ll be ready to have your own shrimp aquarium. First, you do need to work on some shrimp tank ideas. Let’s get to it.

Shrimp Tank Ideas

In this section, we will discuss the six different species of shrimps that you will love and three types of aquarium tanks you may prefer. First, let’s talk about the tanks.

1. Saltwater Shrimp Tanks

To set up this tank, you need to be really specific with the salt-to-water ratio to match the content of the ocean. So, usually, people don’t prefer this type of tank arrangement.

2. Brackish Shrimp Tanks

Just like saltwater tanks, brackish tanks are not also a fan favorite. They need to have a mixture of freshwater and saltwater to give some shrimp a balanced living environment. These tanks are hard to maintain for beginners and sometimes even for the pros.

3. Freshwater Shrimp Tanks

This is the preferable tank among the others. It’s easier to maintain, and you can keep different species of freshwater shrimps here. It’s an aquarium with a temperature of 20℃ to 24℃ (68℉ to 75℉) or room temperature.

Different Aquarium Shrimp Species

colorful shrimp species in aquarium
Image credit: Toxotes Hun-Gabor Horvath, Shutterstock

Now that we have explained the types of tanks let’s move on to the different species of shrimp that are suitable for each tank type.

???? Neocaridina Shrimp

These shrimps are your go-to aquarium pets if you are a beginner. They are hardier than the other dwarf shrimps and have a variety of colors. Neocaridina shrimps also make great ornamental aquarium pets if you plan to add them to your running aquarium. Some popular picks are Red Cherry Shrimp, Blue Dream Shrimp, Snowball Shrimp, and Green Jade Shrimp.

???? Caridina cf. cantonensis

If you have been working with shrimp tanks for a while now, you’re ready to get Caridina cf. Cantonensis. They have been selectively bred and have a wide range of colors and patterns that will make your aquarium pop. Do you know why a beginner can’t handle them? Because they are fussy little creatures. Some popular picks are Crystal Red Shrimp, Golden Bee Shrimp, and Black Bee Shrimp.

???? Caridina cf. babaulti

These shrimp species are rare and hard to find. But, if you’re looking for some Shrimpies similar to cf. Cantonensis, you can probably get these. Do you know the best part about this species? They are easier to maintain than cf. Cantonensis.

???? Ghost Shrimp

Such an interesting name for a shrimp, right? Well, it got its name because of its glass-like transparent body. Ghost shrimps are usually fed as fish food and sometimes kept as pets. They aren’t much visible because of their tiny size and transparent body when young, but you can always use a magnifying glass to see them when they are adults.

???? Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimps contribute to keeping your tank partially clean from algae. They grow slightly bigger than dwarf shrimps and don’t breed in freshwater tanks.

???? Sulawesi Shrimp

If you plan to add some color to your aquarium, Sulawesi shrimps are a great choice. Although they are not beginner friendly, they are bound to get lots of looks and attention.

You know better about the shrimp species now, so which are you favoring? We suggest you get the freshwater shrimp (Neocaridina Shrimp) for easing into the aquarium shrimp care.

Tips to Choose the Best Shrimp Tank Kit

You have decided on a shrimp species and what type of fish tank they need. But have you about which tank will be better for your shrimps to thrive? We will be focusing on freshwater shrimp tanks as they are beginner friendly.

Here are a few tips for choosing the right aquarium kit.

4 Tips on Choosing a Shrimp Aquarium Kit

FAQ: What’s a shrimp aquarium kit? It’s mainly an aquarium that comes with lights, a filter, a heater, filter cartridges, water conditioners, food samples, thermometers, fishnet, an aquarium cover, and a setup guide—the whole package for beginners. 

Tip 1: Go for a larger tank. As a beginner, you might make the mistake of choosing a small tank for your shrimp pals. But shrimps need a large tank minimum of about 10 gallons to thrive. It solely depends on how many shrimps you are planning to get.

If you get a 5-gallon tank, it’s also okay as long as you limit the number of shrimps in it. Remember, shrimps breed fast in the proper environment and may overpopulate your tank sooner than expected.

Tip 2: Opt for tanks that have inbuilt LED lights. It will be beneficial for you to see your shrimps whenever you want. Dwarf shrimps are small, so these lights are a great way to keep an eye on them. Moreover, you can take note of their feeding habits and if they are doing well with other fish.

Tip 3: Always get a tank with a cover. Trust us, shrimps are sneaky and sometimes try to escape the tank. Getting an aquarium with a cover is always better, so there’s no uncertainty of your shrimp escaping and dying.

Tip 4: Get a tank with a robust operating filtration system. You must have a filter system that’s not too big for your shrimps to get sucked up. Moreover, the filter should be of good quality; otherwise, it may not work properly and slowly contaminate the water. We will discuss different filter types in the article’s later parts.

How to Set Up a Shrimp Tank

The most awaited and essential part of your aquarium experience is here. Yes, you guessed it. Shrimp tank set up! As you have come all this way, you will surely be able to wait for your aquarium to be ready for shrimps. Remember to be patient because we mentioned it would take some time.

The first part of setting up a shrimp tank is checking if you have bought everything. Let’s go through the necessary equipment list. For your convenience, we’ll also briefly explain their purpose and performance.

Necessary Supplies List

  1. Aquarium kit: We previously mentioned what an aquarium kit should have. You can follow it to get yourself one. It’s a perfect and complete package for beginners within a budget. Even if you get a shrimp aquarium kit, it’s better to look for better working filters, heaters, nets, etc.
  1. Aquarium substrate: You can choose any bedding, such as marbles, gravel, stones, and sand, for your shrimp tank if you get fake plants. But, if you plan to get live plants, you should definitely get gravel or sand.

There are a lot of discussions on whether to get gravel or large-grained sand. To make the decision easier for you, here’s a comparison.

  • Gravel allows plants to root themselves more easily and firmly. It also doesn’t get compact, but it’s hard to clean as poop gets trapped.
  • On the other hand, large-grained sand doesn’t trap leftover food or poop, making it much easier to clean.

For a beginner, we suggest you test both materials and find your perfect fit. The best part of being a beginner is that you can experiment with your plant substrate as long as it doesn’t harm your shrimp.

Moreover, there are also buffering substrates that help to keep the water pH level in balance and boost plant growth. Many fussy shrimps appreciate this type of substrate. But as a beginner, you might want to avoid it as it needs a ton of maintenance. Otherwise, your shrimps can be in danger.

  1. Powerful-operating filters: Filters are necessary for every aquarium to have a healthy, balanced ecosystem. They cycle to keep the tank clean from debris and also helps them grow good bacteria that are essential for fish or shrimp to live. But the most crucial part of choosing a filter is ensuring it’s shrimp-safe. Otherwise, the robust filter will suck up your tiny shrimps.

Here are four commonly used filters for shrimp aquariums.

  • Internal filters are the most popular and common shrimp tank filters people prefer for their aquarium. You should still look for a shrimp-safe internal filter that won’t cause accidental oopsies for your beloved shrimps.
  • Sponge filters are the most shrimp-friendly filters out there. You will see great reviews for this air-powered filter from many expert fish keepers. They work by using an air pump and are great for small tanks up to 15 gallons.
  • With its five-stage filter, canister filters work great for keeping the water quality at an optimum level. They are also customizable. You can add any filter media to it for your shrimps’ utmost safety.

Moreover, it also causes surface agitation, which helps to add oxygen to the tank water for your shrimps’ easy breathing.

The two downsides of this filter are that the maintenance is high, and you’ll need to clean it twice every month, dumping out everything from the tank, and it’s only suitable for large tanks of more than 20-gallon tank.

  • Hang-on back filters(HOB) are perfect for giving your aquarium a flawlessly beautiful look. As the name says, it hangs on the back of the tank, so it’s not visible. An inlet pipe sucks up water, filters it, and then sends the water back into the tank through a waterfall system. Be sure to get a sponge filter guard to make it safe for your shrimps.

Whatever filter you choose, it should be able to cycle the number of gallons per hour. So look out for it.

  1. Heater: Heaters aren’t necessary for a shrimp aquarium unless your water temperature fluctuates significantly. Although, it’s essential during the cycling stage.
  1. Thermometer: Your shrimp tank needs to be at an optimal temperature, but if you don’t have a thermometer, how will you know it? So, a thermometer is a must and easy to install in your shrimp tank.
  1. Test kit: Shrimp are very sensitive to water quality changes. They need a specific water quality parameter to thrive. Test kits are helpful for this purpose. It helps to know the water quality accurately, and then you can adequately manage the water quality balance.
a person holding a water quality test-kit
Image credit:, Shutterstock

But don’t go for test strips. They are literally awful and won’t give you accurate results. On the other hand, liquid test kits give visible results accurately. Whatever you choose, your shrimp test kit should be able to detect Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, gH, kH, and pH.

Here are some other important pieces of equipment that are self-explanatory.

  1. Siphon
  2. Spare filter medias
  3. Lighting
  4. Decorations, plants
  5. Fish or shrimp food
  6. Net
  7. Glass cleaning scraper
  8. TDS meter
  9. Bucket

Basic Tank Set Up

Have you got everything you need to set up your shrimp tank? If you read the necessary supplies list carefully, we bet you did. Now to the easy part of the shrimp tank setup. In just three easy steps your aquarium will be all set to go.

Step 1: Placing the tank

You need to place your tank in a place without direct sunlight and away from any loud disturbances. Moreover, it should be near two electric sockets for the light and the filter.

Even if your substrate is chemical free, wash them properly and place them on the tank’s bottom. At this point, you can put any decorative item or live plants on your substrate.

Step 2: Fill with water

Carefully fill your tank with chlorine-free water. Make sure not to move the substrate, decorative items, and live plants. Then turn on your filter, heater(72℉-85℉), and the lights(8 hours/day).

Pro Tip: Use a water conditioner if your tap water isn’t chlorine free.

Step 3: Let the cycling process begin!

This is the hardest part because now you just have to wait. And, we all know how impatient we can get sometimes. But cycling your aquarium is an essential part of the whole setup process for beneficial bacteria to grow and for your substrate to have the ability to process any toxins to non-toxins. It will take up to 2 months or so for the cycling process to successfully finish. You can always research how to cycle an aquarium online if you don’t understand the process.

Bonus Read: Speeding up the cycling process

We promised to let you in on some secrets to speed up cycling. Well, here we are! We always keep our promises.

First Way: You can add good bacteria directly to your tank using API QuickStart. It makes the process faster and decreases the time to a few weeks. But, we still won’t advise you to add your shrimp immediately.

Second Way: If you already have another fish tank or know someone who has one, you can ask them for some of the already biological media present in the water. Adding that water to your fish tank will help add the necessary bacteria for your tank. This is a speedy way to get your aquarium up and running. But, we still advise you to wait a week or two before adding shrimps not to spike any ammonia increase.

Adding Decorations & Live Plants

You can decorate your tank however you want. There’s no limit! But most shrimp keepers prefer to keep it bare minimum so that the shrimps are easily visible. That’s not a bad idea either!

But if you still want to add some decoration to your shrimp tank, we have nine beginner-friendly plants that won’t cause any harm to your shrimp nor pollute the water.

16 Beginner-friendly aquarium plants

  1. Java Moss
  2. Anubias
  3. Green Hygro
  4. Java Fern
  5. Sunset Hygro
  6. Moss Balls
  7. Rotala Rotundifolia
  8. Christmas Moss
  9. Hornwort
  10. Duckweed
  11. Water Lettuce
  12. Moneywort
  13. Brazilian Pennywort
  14. Crypt Wendtii
  15. Monte Carlo
  16. Pelia
sakura shrimp on cholla wood
Image credit: Shrimplake, Shutterstock

In addition to plants, you can also add rocks, driftwood, and cholla wood to your tank. Cholla wood is not only a beautiful decorative piece but also a permanent food source for your shrimps. It grows biofilm which is the staple food for shrimps. 

Adding Shrimp to Aquarium

We have finally come to the stage of adding shrimp to your aquarium. The wait has come to an end! But still, there are some things you need to maintain while adding your shrimps.

After the cycle is complete, you need to add your shrimps 5 to 10 at a time. Don’t just dump all of them together. Wait a week or two to add more. If you don’t wait, the ammonia percentage of the water will spike and kill all your shrimps. Moreover, the filter won’t be able to handle all the waste and debris they produce at once.

If you want, you can add snails at this point. They produce a ton of bioload which helps to keep the beneficial bacteria alive. The cycling process will continue this way and create a sustainable ecosystem for your shrimps.

Freshwater Shrimp Tankmates

Having only shrimp in your tank can seem a little boring after some time. No problem! You can add some shrimp-friendly fish as their tankmates. But don’t limit yourself to just fish. There are many more water creatures you can add to your aquarium.

13 Shrimp Friendly Tankmates

  1. Clown Killifish
  2. Kuhli Loach
  3. Endler’s Livebearer
  4. Chili Rasbora
  5. Pencil fish
  6. Ember Tetra
  7. Neon Tetra
  8. Horned Nerite Snails
  9. Thai Mico Crabs
  10. Otocinclus Catfish
  11. Corydoras Catfish
  12. Celestial Pearl ‘Danio’
  13. Guppies

Is it Possible to Have a No-Filter Shrimp Tank?

Yes and No. Shrimp species like Cherry shrimp can’t survive without a filter, but others can survive without filters. We are using the word survive here because they won’t be able to thrive and grow or reproduce. They will just survive if kept in a filterless tank.

You can find nano shrimp tanks that only need heaters for the shrimp to survive. They are filterless and don’t contain any CO2. It’s possible to keep your shrimp in these low-maintenance nano tanks by performing a 30% water change every week.

Get Going!

We are so proud of you for patiently setting up your shrimp tank through all the steps. We hope all the mentioned details will help you take care of your shrimp. 

Remember, shrimps are delicate and a lot of work. You shouldn’t get them until you’re ready. So, what are you waiting for if you’re up for it? Get your shrimp tank now.

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