Why are my Red Cherry Shrimp Losing Colour?

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Red Cherry Shrimp are famed for their bright red color.  The females especially can demonstrate colors that vary from light pink to fire red, and everything in between.  Sometimes, however, even the brightest red cherry shrimp can fade and become pale.  In this video, I will share the main reasons this happens and why red cherry shrimp may be losing their color.

Like so many inhabitants of our aquariums, Red Cherry Shrimp can vary the intensity of their color based on their mood, health, quality of their water, and surroundings.  

A sudden or unexpected change of color can be a great indicator that your Red Cherry shrimp are not as happy as they could be.  Typically, when conditions are less than optimal, Red Cherry Shrimp transform from their usual bright reds to a much paler, washed-out color.

There are a number of reasons this may happen.

Water Quality

The most likely reason Red Cherry Shrimp lose their color is due to a reduction in water quality.  If there is ammonia or nitrite present in the water, the Red Cherry Shrimp will soon suffer and may grow pale before eventually passing away. 

Ammonia and nitrite, both of which are the result of excess fish waste in the water, can kill shrimp very quickly. 

High levels of nitrates can also be an issue.   Nitrates are the final step in the nitrogen cycle.  The beneficial bacteria in our aquarium filters convert the fish waste from highly toxic ammonia to less toxic nitrite, and finally, to nitrate, nitrates are only toxic to shrimp in high concentrations.

When the levels of nitrates build up in our aquariums, the best way to reduce them is to carry out partial water changes.  Changing 10% to 50% of the aquarium water will reduce the level of nitrates present in the aquarium water. 

Hopefully, this change in water quality will prompt the Red Cherry Shrimp to return to their normal, vibrant color.

Light Substrate

Another common reason Red Cherry Shrimp lose their color is that they are being kept on a light substrate.  Red Cherry Shrimp know they are at the bottom of the food chain, and they are not especially keen on being eaten.  

A bright red Red Cherry Shrimp really stands out against a light substrate such as sand or white gravel.  In an attempt to blend in with their surroundings, Red Cherry Shrimp kept on a light substrate may try to reduce the intensity of their colors to make themselves less conspicuous.  

If you find your Red Cherry Shrimp are not as bright as they could be, and they are being kept on a light substrate, consider changing the substrate for something a little darker. 

I find Fluval Stratum to be the perfect substrate for Red Cherry Shrimp.  Although it is a little more expensive than sand, it helps provide an ideal environment for shrimp. 

Lack of Hiding Places

Along the same lines, Red Cherry Shrimp that find themselves living in an aquarium with very few hiding places may try to reduce their presence by turning a lighter shade of red.  

In my experience, live plants make the ideal hiding places for Red Cherry Shrimp.  A large clump of Java Moss in a tank will make the shrimp feel safe and secure and provide them with hiding places where the fish are less likely to eat them. 

Typically this means the Red Cherry Shrimp will be more comfortable showing their true colors.


Another reason your Red Cherry Shrimp may have become paler is due to diseases. 

Red Cherry Shrimp diseases are still fairly poorly understood, and although there is work taking place to better understand them, few medicines are currently available.  

If you believe your Red Cherry Shrimp may have become pale because they are unwell, you are best to isolate them in a separate tank away from your other shrimp, so they do not spread the disease, and seek help from others, possibly via forums, Facebook groups or speaking to other members of your local fish club.

One important point to remember is that color can naturally vary from one Red Cherry Shrimp to another. 

Male Red Cherry Shrimp will almost always be less colorful than females, and just because you bought a group of high quality, brightly colored Red Cherry Shrimp, it does not necessarily mean their offspring will share those bright color traits.  

Without heavy culling and careful selective breeding, the color of a group of Red Cherry Shrimp can quickly decline within a few generations.

In Conclusion

Red Cherry Shrimp are incredibly colorful, and if yours have turned pale, it is well worth exploring the possible causes.

Working through the points above can help improve the color of your Red Cherry Shrimp

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