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Red Cherry Shrimp, or Neocaridina davidi to give them their scientific name, are one of the most popular and easy to keep shrimp in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby. Over the last 15 to 20 years the popularity of the Red Cherry Shrimp has rocketed. They are now commonplace in thousands of aquariums across the globe.
Red Cherry Shrimp are omnivores, which means they need a diet made up of both meat and vegetable matter, all be it at an almost microscopic level. Red Cherry Shrimp eat both algae and the natural biofilm that builds up over time on our aquariums. They also eat many commercially available foods.
Over the years I have bred thousands of Red Cherry Shrimp. Although they are often considered scavengers or ‘clean up crew’, in my experience, the secret to a healthy Red Cherry Shrimp colony is feeding them a balanced diet.
Red Cherry shrimp are constantly on the go and they eat from the moment the lights go on in the morning until they go off again at night.
Red Cherry Shrimp are often described as being grazers due to their non-stop eating habits.
What foods do Red Cherry Shrimp eat?
In my experience, Red Cherry Shrimp will happily just about any commercially available fish food that is placed into their aquarium. I have had good success feeding them pellets, flake food, and algae wafers such as the Hikari Algae Wafers.
Shrimp Cuisine, which is also made by Hikari, has always proved popular with all my shrimp, especially the Red Cherry Shrimp.
Shrimp Cuisine is a small, sinking pellet that has been developed with freshwater shrimp in mind. It seems to hold together well in the water until the shrimp eat it and it contains color-enhancing ingredients like spirulina, alfalfa meal, and seaweed.
Red Cherry Shrimp will also benefit from the addition of blanched vegetables in their diets such as green beans, zucchini, and carrots.
I tend to place just one green bean or a small piece of carrot into their tank and leave it for a maximum of 2 days. After 2 days I take the uneaten food out and dispose of it.
Another food that I frequently feed to my Red Cherry Shrimp is Zoo Med Plankton Banquet blocks. These small white cubes not only contain plankton and spirulina algae meal, but also calcium, which is essential for healthy shrimp growth, and many different macronutrients and micronutrients.
Although Catappa, or Indian Almond leaves, are not directly eaten by Red Cherry Shrimp, the bacteria that break down the leaves are eaten by Red Cherry Shrimp.
As such, I always have at least a couple of Catappa leaves in my shrimp tanks.
Catappa leaves provide an excellent source of microscopic food which is especially useful for baby Red Cherry Shrimp to eat.
How much do Red Cherry Shrimp eat?
Red Cherry Shrimp do eat huge quantities of food. Each Red Cherry Shrimp is very small and only requires a very small amount of food each day. However, an army of 200 to 300 Red Cherry Shrimp can eat a surprising amount of food in a single day.
In my shrimp-only tanks, I tend to feed a lot more food than I do in my tanks which also contain fish. Naturally, if I am feeding my fish 3 or 4 times a day, a portion of that food is going to make it past the fish and down to where the Red Cherry Shrimp are living.
No matter how many Red Cherry Shrimp you have, I would recommend adding a small pinch of food, then seeing how quickly the shrimp eat it. If that pinch of food is all gone within a couple of hours, then add a little more next time.
Equally, if you add just one algae wafer and 300 shrimp are crawling all over it, try adding 3 wafers next time and see what the response is then. Getting the amount right can require a little trial and error. Just bear in mind it is better to feed too little than too much!
How often should you feed Red Cherry Shrimp?
Over the years, I have found that feeding my Red Cherry Shrimp every 2 to 3 days is about right, depending on what I am feeding them and what else is living in the tank with them.
I currently have a very large Red Cherry Shrimp colony (probably over 1,000 Red Cherry Shrimp) living in a 55-gallon (210 liters) tank. I usually add a handful of pellets or a couple of small Hikari Banquet Blocks 2 or 3 times a week. I will also give them one or two blocks of Repashy Community Blend once a week.
When Red Cherry Shrimp are kept in an aquarium that also contains fish, you may only need to target feed the shrimp once or twice a week if they are managing to get sufficient food when the fish are fed.
Do Red Cherry Shrimp eat algae?
When I give fish and shrimp keeping talks at clubs around the country, I am often asked whether or not Red Cherry Shrimp will eat algae. I get asked the question so often I wrote an entire article about the subject titled Do Red Cherry Shrimp Eat Algae? which addresses the question in some depth.
The short answer is YES, Red Cherry Shrimp do eat algae. They seem to prefer the softer green and brown algae, especially diatom algae. Red Cherry Shrimp will also pick at Black Beard Algae, although they are not as proficient at eating Black Beard Algae as other shrimp such as Amano Shrimp.
In the wild, algae would make up a considerable part of a Red Cherry Shrimps diet. They are also known to eat aufwuchs, which is essentially surface growth on rocks and bits of wood.
According to seriouslyfish.com, aufwuchs is an adopted German term meaning ‘surface growth’ used to describe the aggregate of plants, animals, and detritus adhering to solid surfaces such as rocks or vegetation in aquatic environments.
Do Red Cherry Shrimp eat fish poop?
Red Cherry Shrimp will and do eat fish poop. Red Cherry Shrimp are often described as a clean-up crew for a fish tank because of their ability to eat, and therefore break down, fish poop, making it smaller and more easily picked up by the aquarium filters.
Fish poop, like the poop of many land animals, contains both digested and undigested food. The Red Cherry Shrimp simply take advantage of this nutritious food source.
I firmly believe EVERY aquarium should have Red Cherry Shrimp or snails, or both. Creating a whole ecosystem where the fish poop is broken down by others, then broken down still further before being absorbed by live aquatic plants makes for the best possible environment for our fish.
Do Red Cherry Shrimp eat their babies?
No, Red Cherry Shrimp do not eat their babies. However, if a shrimp abandons her eggs for some reason, then it is very likely both she and other Red Cherry Shrimp will eat those eggs.
Generally speaking, Red Cherry Shrimp show no parental care for their babies once the female releases them. On the other hand, they show no desire to predate on those babies either. In my experience, there is almost never any need to remove Red Cherry Shrimp babies to raise them in a separate aquarium.
Do Red Cherry Shrimp eat fish eggs?
No, Red Cherry Shrimp do not usually eat fish eggs. In fact, many fish breeders, including myself, actively keep Red Cherry Shrimp in tanks with breeding fish.
It is not uncommon for the fish to allow the Red Cherry Shrimp to crawl over the eggs, cleaning them of food and other debris that might have landed on the eggs and even eating some fungi before they have a chance to take hold of the fish eggs.
Red Cherry Shrimp are omnivores who eat a wide and varied diet that tends to be made up of algae, tiny waterborne crustaceans, uneaten fish food, fish poop, and also dedicated commercial shrimp foods.
Red Cherry Shrimp do not require feeding very much or very often, but there is no doubt in my experience, that ensuring they get a quality, varied diet improves their lifespan, coloration, and willingness to reproduce.