View Full Version : Need help with my shrimp!

07-12-2007, 02:56 PM
I'm having some very big problems with my red cherry shrimp.
I had a death a few days ago, which got me pretty concerned, but I was hoping it was not a big deal. When I found the dead one, I tested Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates (0, 0, and 0).
I came home last night to another dead shrimp. Again, all toxins tested at zero; I even went to the petshop and bought completely new test kits, since I noticed that my nitrate kit had an expiry date on it and had expired. I got new ammonia and Nitrite testers too, since they had a sale on the master test kit. (everything was still 0) There was one shrimp who looked like he was having difficulty molting or something, and when I got back from the petstore, he had died as well. I then noticed another female who had the same problem, but was acting healthy at the time. I got a good picture; it looks like she cracked her shell and started molting, but something went wrong. I started looking very closely at the rest of the shrimp, and found another half dozen who had the same condition. Ranging from a simple crack, to a full out gap like this:


This female was acting healthy at the time, but this morning she looked awful, and I don't expect her to survive the day.

I've been doing everything I can think of to provide them with ideal conditions for optimal health, and the only thing I could think of is something in the water.

I had previously been using Aquasafe by TetraAqua to treat my water for chloramine. A lot of shrimp keepers swear by Prime, so I picked some of that up too, and performed a water change with it last night. It's hard to imagine a water conditioner causing problems, but I've searched for people with the same problem with their shrimp and only found one - and they'd been using the same brand I was. Could be a coincindence, but I'm definately sticking with the Prime.

Has anybody else seen anything like this before? Any suggestions?

07-12-2007, 03:07 PM
I am sorry to hear about your problem. I do not know that I have seen any shrimp with that wide a gap between the segments (i know wrong word, I cannot think right now).

I have been having a similar problem in that all of my berried females are dieing off. I think my problem was that I feeding them to much, and there would be a small ammonia spike, but by the time they were dead and I tested it, it was gone.

Since I have backed off to one feeding per day I have had much better results and a few new babies swimming around the tank.

07-12-2007, 03:33 PM
Thanks, I've heard so much about overfeeding shrimp, since it's apparently really easy to do, but I'm actually more worried they may not be getting enough food. Algae doesn't grow worth a damn in our water, and they always seem so hungry. I do only feed once a day, and they go completely nuts when I do. My substrate is black sand, so any uneaten pieces would show up easily. Most pieces get picked off the surface by shrimp swimming upside down, and the ones that do sink get snatched up pretty quickly also.

I had a clear container full of dirty tank water, an ornament, and some pieces of fake plants sitting out in the direct sun for the last four days or so, trying to grow some algae and additional micro-organisms for them to feed on. You couldn't see anything on it, but holy crap did my shrimp ever go crazy over it when I put it in the tank (late last night). I think every shrimp in my tank was grazing on the ornament at the same time. I took a bunch of pics, but haven't looked through them yet to see if any turned out.

07-12-2007, 03:42 PM
My other thought is that there could have been some sort of contaminant in my holding reservoir? I have a 12 gallon rubbermaid that I age my water in for water changes. I do 25% changes weekly, taken from this pail, which is topped up with treated water, and a little bit of tank water. There's a large piece of lava rock, some ceramic biomedia, and some sponges in this tank. The used tank water is to hopefully get some little critters growing in there for my shrimp to eat. It does seem to work, I posted a video recently of my shrimp grazing on a sponge that had been soaking in there for several days. Whenever I put a sponge from the holding tank to my main tank, the shrimp seem to eat whatever was living on it pretty quick, since they practically ignore it after a day or so.

When I did my water change last night, I didn't take water from the reservoir, I just treated and heated the new water in a five gallon pail.

07-12-2007, 04:23 PM
I would like to know the GH and pH of your water. Have you tested these values?

Ah, and what is that black substrate you have?

With 0 nitrates there's no wonder you don't have algea, btw - and also a good sign that you are not overfeeding. ;)

07-12-2007, 05:01 PM
GH was 9 degrees (161), and PH was 8.2
So obviously it's not a lack of calcium or anything, and cherry shrimp are supposed to like hard alkaline water, so I think those are well within their comfort range.
I believe the substrate is called tahitian moon sand, I bought it several years ago and really like it. It cleans well, settles easily, doesn't compact or anything, and is good for burrowing in.

07-12-2007, 05:01 PM
Hmmm, ive heard that too much inbreeding can cause defects and sudden deaths. Have you bred them yet?

07-12-2007, 05:20 PM
Nope, just got them two weeks ago to the day (as juveniles). I have lots of saddled females, but haven't seen any berries yet.

The breeder who sold these to me has not been raising them for very long, but I can't comment on his original stock.

Also, FWIW, I've researched the topic of inbreeding in shrimp, and it seems that they are not nearly as prone to genetic defects the way fish or other more complex organisms are. Something to do with less genes or differently structured DNA or something (sorry I don't actually remember). But I did read up on it a few months ago, and that's the impression I got from a good variety of knowledgeable sources.

07-12-2007, 08:22 PM
I don't age water , but I do use Prime.
I've had my shrimp for about 6 weeks. There are 2 bunch's of babies and I just counted 8 berried females

07-12-2007, 11:55 PM
I emailed the breeder of my shrimp and asked if he had any advice for me. He had a lot of good suggestions, and strongly recommended I test for copper ASAP, so that will be my next step.
edited for spelling

07-13-2007, 02:06 PM
Some updates:
I went to three petstores after work last night, but none of them carried a copper test kit. I did get something to remove copper anyway. It is a small packet of adsorbent media that you just place in your filter. It removes other heavy metals also, and changes color when it becomes saturated. I would reccomend them to anyone keeping inverts as a safety measure even if you have no known water problems.

The only reason I hadn't gotten one earlier is that I was under the assumption that removing copper was going to be a big deal. I thought it would be a continual battle, routinely adding expensive chemicals to convert the copper present into less toxic compounds.

I've also done three water changes with Prime to try and remove the previous water conditioner in case that was a problem. I haven't been vacuuming the sand, and I also stir it up a little after each change to keep the water from getting too clean.

I also upgraded my lighting to promote algae growth. I think my previous fixture was 8W or 13W; right now I've got a 20W plant fixture from the hardware store sitting on top of the tank. The 10 gallon tank they're in now is not a permanent. They're going into a 15G once I finish the stand I'm building, so I didn't want to spend big bucks on a new canopy (The fluorescent fixture was $12 on clearance from $59).

And yes, the female shrimp in the picture died. The rest are definately not getting worse at least, and they may even be getting better. I've had three successful molts since Wednesday, and I think at least one of them was one of the shrimp with the pronounced gaps in it's shell.

07-13-2007, 02:47 PM
I thought the common water treatment products like aquasafe would bind any heavy metals, including copper. TetraAqua and Prime does not?
Since it was clear you were using such products I didn't even consider that it could be copper poisoning.

If you want any algea I believe you will also need to increase the nitrate concentration.

07-13-2007, 05:02 PM
I too was under the impression that water conditioners were able to bind certain heavy metals, but I checked the labels and could not find any claims of such. That may be a myth then? Or maybe there is only a very small amount that conditioners can deal with, and I was above that level?

Edit: I was wrong, Prime does specifically state that it can neutralize small amounts of heavy metals.

Also, does copper build up slowly in shrimp? Ie. is it cumulative? That could explain why they were doing fine and molting well for almost two weeks before this problem showed up?

07-13-2007, 05:10 PM
Ok, here's a summary of my molting issues. I will continue to update this post with new information.

Update and summary of my molting issues. The female I first showed you died the day after I noticed her. Since I noticed the gaps among my shrimp, I've had five deaths. Three were shrimp with severe gapping, one of them looked normal, but I don't know about the very first, it had been partially consumed when I found it.

Here's my timeline, I tried to keep it concise:

Tuesday evening, I spent a couple hours watching them closely, and taking hundreds of photos; they were looking and acting fine.

Wednesday evening, there is one (older) partially consumed dead one, and I notice a fairly young one with the gap - she dies a few hours later. A third (older) shrimp is badly gapped, but acting normal; swimming around, grazing etc. A few others are moderately gapped. I perform two successive water changes with Prime to dilute the Aquaclear treated water in case that was actually a problem.

Thursday morning, the third shrimp is nearing death, can barely move. A (younger) shrimp had molted successfully though.

Thursday evening, another successful molt, the third shrimp has died. The remaining gapped shrimp are looking a little better (I think). There is only one that still looks bad. I add a bag of copper remover.

Friday morning, another successful molt, this was one of the older ones.

Friday evening, the one in bad shape is looking much worse. (The shell looks the same, but her behaviour is terrible). A little later friday evening, there is another molt. I'm not sure which shrimp molted.

Saturday morning, The shrimp who was in grave shape last night has died. She was the last one left with the extra large gap.

Saturday evening, there is another molt, and a fresh death. There is nothing visibly wrong with the corpse.

Sunday Morning, another successful molt.

Sunday evening, another successful molt.

Monday morning, two more successful molts.

Edited again for updates

07-13-2007, 06:06 PM
Also, does copper build up slowly in shrimp? Ie. is it cumulative? That could explain why they were doing fine and molting well for almost two weeks before this problem showed up?

I believe most heavy metals are hard to get rid off for any living organisms, so yes it would be cumulative.

07-14-2007, 06:55 PM
I've heard shrimp accumulate toxins in their shells, so they can be removed when they molt. I've been removing molts from the tanks for this reason.

I've also posted some updates in my timeline post above (another death, more molts).

07-15-2007, 01:42 PM
Yet another death, and further molts. The one that died this time did not have an abnormal gap...

07-17-2007, 02:23 AM
Crap. More molting problems - I'll probably have another death to report shortly.. This guy only managed half a molt. The front half came part way off, but is still attached. He must have been fighting it for some time, since it looks like he's about given up now :scry: It's kind of hard to tell in the picture, as there's no depth, but almost the entire shell is raised off his body a considerable degree.

I don't think there's anything I can do at this point. I think I've solved their water conditions, but I can't do a thing about the heavy metals that have already accumulated in their bodies... I'm trying really hard to be patient and wait it out, but this is so damn frustrating. :ssad:

Edit: He managed to get the rest of his carapace shed the following day, but wounded himself in the process. It's been two days since then and nothing new to report. No molts, no deaths, and the injured shrimp is acting fairly content.

08-08-2007, 11:09 AM
Molting problems with shrimp are not really understood yet. You may want to check petshrimp.com. Mustafa may have a few theories on the subject,

08-12-2007, 05:12 PM
Yes, I posted on the petshrimp forum actually, and Mustafa recently commented that he's seen problems similar to the picture I've posted, which was really interesting, but basically just confirmed the obvious, that the shrimp has some kind of health issue as a result of water paramaters, diet, stress, etc.

Sorry I hadn't updated this thread in a while, but my shrimp are doing a lot better. The mass moltings stopped, the deaths tapered off, and the females have just recently regained their saddles. I've continued monitoring water quality very closely (daily tests), and I've been feeding them a LOT more. I've increased the lighting massively, (I'm up to 50 Watts over their ten gallon), and still can't grow algae; the shrimp gobble it up as fast as it can grow. I also bought a bag of assorted plant clippings from the LFS, and some of it was just covered in thick green algae, which they demolished within a day. I've continued culturing micro-organisms and algaes outside in direct sunlight in buckets of dirty fish water, for them. And of course I've been supplementing with dry fish food as usual.

If I could maintain a bit of algae growth in the tank, I'd finally be assured that they were getting enough food. I only have one other fish tank running right now, but the Amano in there keep it completely free of algae too.

08-12-2007, 05:43 PM
I'm glad to hear your shrimp are getting better - you may be the only person here complaining about how hard it is to get algae to grow though:ezpi_wink1:

Just kidding - hope your shrimp stay happy & healthy!

08-12-2007, 05:54 PM
Wow sorry to hear of all your troubles. I agree with ^^^ though, I have a 10 gal that they would have a feast on!

08-12-2007, 11:30 PM
Well, I always tend to understock my tanks, so the bioload is never huge to begin with, and I'm pretty good about routine maintanence, so Nitrates never get a chance to build up. Plus I've never kept live plants until just recently, so lighting has generally been whatever dim flourescent fixture came with the tank, and I've never kept tanks in any room with any appreciable amount of natural light. I also have hard, alakaline water; I think this might help avoid algae?

At the moment, my water has absolutely no iron in it. I was concerned about heavy metals earlier, so I had added cutri-sorb to my filter. This could be preventing the algae from growing. I've heard proper iron levels are crucial for most plants to grow. Btw, I've since removed the cutri-sorb, as I've removed all possible sources of heavy metal contamination, and I've confirmed that my tapwater is very clean.

What's weird though is that my plants are growing just fine.

Here's where it gets even weirder. I've been monitoring water params, and Nitrates were at zero for about a month. Then about two weeks ago, I had two or three deaths, and Nitrates went up to about 7 or 8. They have bounced back and forth between 7 and 8 since then, no matter what I do. I will read Nitrates (8ppm), do a 50% water change, and test Nitrates again the following day, and they're at 8 still, sometimes 7. My last water change was last Thursday I think, and I haven't fed them anything at all since then except for algae coated plants (both real and fake).
I've also added a bunch more plants to try and use up the nitrates. In addition to my Java Moss, I've now got a piece of anacharis, several pieces of wisteria, a few pieces of some kind of hygrophila, some Hornwort (I think), some other unidentified plant, and some duckweed. I've been testing Nitrates every day, and they remain at 7?? I've also tested tapwater, and the treated, slightly aged water that I use for water changes, both remain zero...

Why are my Nitrates not going down? Tank is spotless, filters are spotless, bioload is nonexistant, and plants are all growing great. Oh, and did I mention I've got 48W over this 10G tank? And no algae?

08-13-2007, 01:41 AM
your tap water may contain nitrates, but since you have live plants the nitrates need to be 10 or a little higher so I wouldn't worry about it. My tap water has no iron and is soft, plants were show a little yellow until I started dosing chelated iron

08-13-2007, 01:48 AM
Nitrates are not going down because plants needs a certain ratio of trace elements, nitrogen (nitrates), potassium, and phosphorus (phosphates). You are probably lacking in one or more of those as you have such a small bioload, which is why your plant uptake has basically stagnated. How long have you had the live plants? Generally, new plants from the nursery can go about a month before they start showing signs of nutrient deficiency, since they arrive with such a large store of food built up.

Or heck, maybe your test kit has gone screwy, heh. Or, as Algenco said, your tap may contain nitrates.

As for the shrimp, are you feeding anything other than algae? If I recall, shrimp need iodine to molt properly, whether via food or absorption from the water. Perhaps add some more nutritious food like NLS/Hikari algae wafers or pellets especially created for shrimp?

08-13-2007, 03:32 AM
Thanks for all the insight, this in particular was really interesting:

Generally, new plants from the nursery can go about a month before they start showing signs of nutrient deficiency, since they arrive with such a large store of food built up.
That could easily explain why they're doing so well without using up any of my nitrates.
And yes, I got all the new plant clippings less than a week ago.
Even my Java moss, I've only had for about six weeks. It's done really well, I'd say it's increased about 4X it's original size, but it's an extremely undemanding plant too, so it may not even be concerned about nutrients within the water column yet.

Yes, I've ran tests on my tap water, to verify that my test kit is functioning properly, and it always shows up as zero. I even tested my treated water, in case my water conditioner (prime) was messing up the tests somehow.

As far as feeding the shrimp? Oh yeah, I've been feeding them all sorts of regular fishfood too. Just not the last few days, (as an experiment) since I've been trying to get the nitrates down. But wow, have they ever been eating a lot. My method of feeding lately has been to submerge a plastic beaker, and place a bunch of food inside. The shrimp all go in, consume the food, and I can remove the beaker with any waste / leftovers after they're done. But I can put (what I consider) a ton of food into the beaker, and they will clean it completely up, then all leave. I can then add even more food, and they'll be right back in to polish it completely.
Even just lately, with all the algae I've been putting in, they go completely nuts, until it's picked clean, and they leave behind a very significant amount of waste, poop, feces... What's the proper term here?

But the strangest thing about my nitrate levels, is that they don't change appreciably after a water change. That's really confusing the heck out of me... It's like there's some natural force at work buffering them somehow.
7ppm is probably not a dangerous level for cherry shrimp, as sensitive as they are to nitrates, but I would still really like things to be ideal for them, not just acceptable.

08-13-2007, 03:52 AM
It sounds to me like overfeeding is the main issue. 7 ppm nitrates is not a problem for cherry shrimp (which are considered pretty hardy for shrimp anyways). Many people with planted tanks run at 15-20 ppm nitrates with shrimp and have no issues. Like you said though, cherry shrimp are hogs and will eat whatever you put in the tank, so try to cut back on the feeding. How much I don't know. I don't feed my shrimp, as there is always a bit of algae and leftover food, heh.

08-13-2007, 04:23 PM
One of the few things Iím actually sure on, is that Iím not overfeeding. Iíve never actually fed them until they were full; they always finish the food Iíve supplied and then return to combing the tank for algae and microorganisms. I said they eat a lot of food, but Iíll try and clarify that statement. Like you mentioned, theyíre pigs; theyíre capable of eating a heck of a lot more than their tiny size would suggest. I think most people have algae in their tanks, and all sorts of other things the cherries can feast on, so the danger of overfeeding becomes significant. In my relatively barren tank, they do not have that chance. Itís been six days now since Iíve fed them any fish food, though I will be feeding them tonight. Partly because Iím out of algae, but also to begin re-introducing assorted nutrients into the tank.

Although 7ppm is not a dangerous level for nitrates, Iíd still be happiest if they were if they were at zero. Iím perfectly happy with nothing but a couple different types of slow growing mosses. Most of the plants currently there are only temporary.
What worries me about the nitrates is that they donít even change; thereís obviously a nutrient imbalance that needs to be addressed. If the plants are getting by on previously stored nutrients, then theyíre likely to crash once thatís used up, and that could be a problem. More importantly, the shrimpís main diet is supposed to be the myriad of micro-organisms and micro-algae that need a lot of those exact same nutrients to thrive.

I'm expecting that once I resume feeding the shrimp, the nitrates should begin to fall. It was the fact that the plants were doing so well that really had me perplexed. If they had internal nutrient stores, then I think it all falls into place. The nutrient defficient water column is to blame for both the failure of the plants to use up the nitrates, and also the innability for me to grow algae.

08-18-2007, 12:40 AM
Well, I think my nutrient levels are returning to normal. I fed my shrimp, and have also allowed some of the smaller pieces of dead plant matter to remain in the tank to decompose. My Nitrates are down to around 4 now.

08-26-2007, 07:07 PM
Nitrates are barely registering (around 2 maybe?), I have some algae growing on certain areas of the glass, and my shrimp are doing GREAT! I've had five females drop their eggs in the last week. Here are a couple pictures of one of them. They hide a LOT when they are carrying, so it's really hard to get pictures. This one was on the back of the tank, so I wasn't even able to look through the viewfinder, and the quality is not great. The algae doesn't look so hot either, but I'm not complaining!!


And here is the same shrimp from the bottom.


08-26-2007, 08:23 PM
Those are too cool!

Glad they are happy & healthy!

10-02-2007, 08:43 PM
Great info in this thread.
I'm still learning but ours seem to like the small piece of driftwood we put in.
May help with hardness and high ph we have.
And they like the small bits of algae wafer we give them at night.
Love to see more pics.
I think our shrimp came from Mustafa via Aquatic warehouse here in San Diego.