Do Red Cherry Shrimp Need A Filter? (finally answered)

I have been fascinated by Red Cherry Shrimp for over a decade. These small, brightly colored characters bring life to parts of the aquarium that the fish never seem to venture into.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

The rise in popularity of Red Cherry Shrimp has simultaneously given rise to the popularity of small, shrimp-only tanks. Those new to shrimp-only tanks might find themselves wondering, do red cherry shrimp need a filter?

Whilst it is technically possible to keep Red Cherry Shrimp in an aquarium without a filter, it is still considered best practice to run a shrimp-only tank with a filter, even if it is just a small sponge filter. Filters make the shrimp tank water clearer, cleaner, and healthier for the Red Cherry Shrimp.



Do Red Cherry Shrimp Need A Filter?

In my fish room, I now have close to 100 aquariums. Almost every single one of the community-style tanks has some Red Cherry Shrimp living in it. I also have a number of small, shrimp-only tanks which have either just Red Cherry Shrimp or Red Cherry Shrimp with another inhabitant like snails or clams.

In my experience, whilst it is possible to run a shrimp-only tank without a filter, the amount of work required to keep the water clean and clear out ways the enjoyment of the tank.

I have found that a small sponge filter is probably the best way to filter a shrimp-only tank.

Why Do Red Cherry Shrimp Need A Filter?

Before I can answer ‘why do Red Cherry Shrimp need a filter?’ I need to address what a filter is and what it does.

An aquarium filter’s job is twofold. Firstly, a filter is used to physically remove particles from the water to keep it looking clean, and secondly to keep the water chemically clean by neutralizing the fish waste. Whether it is a small, air-driven sponge filter or a large, external canister filter, the principle is the same.

The physical removal of waste is a simple concept. Water is drawn into the filter and through a physical media (usually a sponge or similar material) where dirt and debris are physically trapped, removing it from the water column.

Chemically cleaning the water is a slightly more complex process. Fish, and shrimp waste, are high in ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic to both fish and Red Cherry Shrimp. Luckily, there is a strain of bacteria that naturally live in our filters. These bacteria consume ammonia and convert it to the less toxic, but still dangerous, nitrite.

Nitrite, although less toxic, is still harmful to fish and shrimp. Once again we are fortunate that a different strain of bacteria also colonizes our filters. This strain of bacteria consumes nitrite and converts it into far less harmful nitrate. Fish and shrimp can tolerate far high concentrations of nitrate.

So back to the original question, why do Red Cherry Shrimp need a filter?

Both the strains of bacteria mentioned above occur naturally in our aquariums. They canonize all surfaces equally. They happily live on the aquarium glass, on plant leaves, on the gravel, everywhere. Filters however provide the optimum place for them to live.

A sponge has a massive surface area, and the filter physically passes water through that sponge all day and all night. The water passing through the sponge contains ammonia and nitrites. We are essentially providing a perfect home for the bacteria to live on, and delivering their food straight to them.

What Are The Benefits of Having A Filter

There are essentially three major benefits to running a filter on a Red Cherry Shrimp. These are physically cleaner water, chemically cleaner water, and higher levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Running a filter on a Red Cherry Shrimp tank will;

  • Remove floating debris
  • Help the process of breaking down fish waste
  • Remove chemicals from the water (if activated carbon is used)
  • Increase oxygen levels in the aquarium
  • Remove potentially harmful heavy metals such as copper (if appropriate resins such as CupriSorb are used)


What is the Best Filter for a Red Cherry Shrimp tank?

The answer to what is the best filter depends on what size tank is being used. Below I consider the different options depending on tank size.

Best filter for a small Red Cherry Shrimp tank

On my own very small Red Cherry Shrimp tanks, those 5-gallons (19 liters) or less, I use small sponge filters. I have had great success using the AQQA sponge filter as they don’t require a separate air pump to run.

Sponge filters are very effective at removing physical waste from a small aquarium thanks to the nature of the sponge they use. This same sponge also provides the ideal location for bacteria to colonize.

The downside of a small sponge filter is there is no good place to add activated carbon or chemical removing resins.

Best filter for a medium sized Red Cherry Shrimp tank

For the slightly larger tank, maybe up to 40-gallons (150 liters), I like to use a hang-on-back filter.

Hang-on-back filters are a lot more versatile than sponge filters. They work by sucking water from the aquarium up into a media chamber. The chamber can be filled with various different media depending on what you want to achieve.

I have always found the Fluval C-series of hang-on-back filters to be excellent and reasonably priced.

In Conclusion

I have run Red Cherry Shrimp tanks both with and without filters, and I can assure you that running a shrimp tank with a filter is less work and leads to stronger, more colorful shrimp as well as a larger shrimp colony in general.

It is possible to just change the shrimp water instead of running a filter, but in all honesty, the tank just becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor