Cherry shrimp make for awesome pets in any aquarium. Their colors are stunning and they get along with almost all tank mates.
Not to mention, cherry shrimp are a breeze to care for. When it comes to diet, cherry shrimp are far from picky!
If you’re wondering “what do cherry shrimp eat?”, “what do cherry shrimp not eat?”, or “how long can cherry shrimp go without food?”, then you’re in the right place!
Today’s article is a cherry shrimp feeding guide that’ll answer all these questions and more, so keep reading for better knowledge of these fascinating crustaceans.
Cherry shrimp are opportunistic omnivores, which means they’ll eat pretty much any food they find. This includes both plant and animal matter.
What’s more, cherry shrimp are scavengers.
In this feeding behavior, the cherry shrimp spend most of their time roaming around the bottom of the tank in search of any edible bits that found their way down to the substrate.
All these traits make cherry shrimp terrific tank cleaners. While they can’t replace a regular cleaning routine, they can help make it less frequent and more effective.
Here’s a closer look at each food category that cherry shrimp munch on:
As mentioned above, cherry shrimp are omnivores. Their main food source on the plant side of the spectrum is algae.
Cherry shrimp will feed on algae anywhere it exists throughout the tank as their bodies are tiny enough to let them reach every nook and cranny.
Cherry shrimp can also eat algae in awkward positions. For example, they attach themselves to the algae on the aquarium walls.
Similar to other shrimp species, cherry shrimp can munch on a wide variety of algae.
However, they do prefer certain types and tend to avoid others. Knowing what algae your cherry shrimp likes helps you tailor their diet to keep them happy (and save money!).
Generally, cherry shrimp like to eat soft algae. These mainly include:
- Brown algae: this type of algae is made up of microscopic animals known as diatoms. If your tank contains brown algae, it’s usually a sign of poor water quality.
Luckily, your cherry shrimp can help you clean up by eating it and you can simply rub off the rest.
- Green algae: this type of algae is very common and grows very quickly. Your cherry shrimp can get the cleaning job done if the infestation isn’t too heavy.
But if the spread is out of control, the shrimp probably won’t be able to keep up and the green algae will make your aquarium look murky and gross.
- Black beard algae: This type of algae grows in the form of tuft-like clumps, which is why some people compare its appearance to that of small shaving brushes.
While cherry shrimp are happy to eat black beard algae, the issue lies in the plant’s growth rate. Black beard algae can spread so rapidly that the shrimp struggle to keep up.
So, if you want to get rid of this algae, chances are you’ll need to help your shrimp using additional solutions for algae removal such as trimming plants and disinfecting decorations.
- Hair algae: this type of algae grows in strings and tufts (similar to black beard algae). It’s also fast-spreading, which means it can quickly overwhelm your tanks if you don’t manage it in time.
Many aquarists report that their cherry shrimp can feed on hair algae without a problem. Others, however, say that cherry shrimp will only eat immature hair algae.
Cherry shrimp also feed on biofilm, which actually forms a staple part of the crustaceans’ diet. Biofilm is a mass of microorganisms where cells stick to each other as well as wet surfaces like tank walls.
The best part is that you don’t need to do anything to grow biofilm in your aquarium. It pretty much grows automatically as long as the light is on for about 6 to 8 hours a day.
Algae and biofilm don’t contain all the nutrients necessary to keep cherry shrimp healthy.
While they do make up the bulk of the shrimp diet, your cherry shrimp will suffer from protein and vitamin deficiencies if they only eat algae and biofilm.
As such, you need to provide your cherry shrimp with other food sources to ensure a balanced diet. Here’s a list of foods to give to your cherry shrimp to keep them healthy and thriving:
- Pellets (copper-free)
- Algae wafers
- Lobster/crab bits
Cherry shrimp also eat dead shrimp, including cherry shrimp and brine shrimp.
They also eat shrimp exoskeletons resulting from mottling. These contain vitamins and minerals (such as calcium) that make up for the nutrients lost during molting, providing shrimp with an extra boost of strength for the new exoskeleton.
Baby cherry shrimps, also known as cherry shrimp fry, are a lot tinier than the already small adult cherry shrimp. As such, they can’t eat most of the foods that make up the regular diet of adult cherry shrimp.
During the first 2 months or so of life, the main sources of food for baby cherry shrimp are biofilm and algae. If you want to also give them commercial food, baby cherry shrimp can eat powdered spirulina algae.
You can also provide your baby shrimp with anacharis plant leaves (also known as waterweeds). These offer extra nutrients to promote growth.
Keep in mind that you need to keep your baby cherry shrimp in their own tank. Due to their tiny size, they can easily become food for larger fish.
Because cherry shrimp are omnivorous scavengers, you don’t need to worry about giving them food every day.
Cherry shrimp eat plenty on their own as they roam around the aquarium, especially if your tank is well-aged.
Feeding your shrimps every day will make them less efficient in cleaning the tank since they’re not very hungry.
Not to mention, you’ll be putting them at risk of overfeeding. This can cause poor water quality and result in various infections and fungal diseases, leading to a shorter lifespan.
Although cherry shrimp will munch on pretty much any type of food, there are some items they don’t eat.
For example, cherry shrimp will avoid certain types of algae such as green spot algae, green dust algae, green water algae, staghorn algae, and blue-green algae.
Additionally, cherry shrimp don’t eat fish poop, unlike what many people think.
Of course, you won’t actively give your pets fish poop, but you may be tempted to not clean the tank out and just let the shrimp deal with the poop.
Yes, cherry shrimps are opportunistic omnivores that scavenge for food and will happily feed on decaying plants, rotting organisms, and leftovers. But they won’t feed on feces.
Cherry shrimp would sift through fish waste to look for undigested food particles. They’ll eat those, not the poop itself.
Occasionally, you may notice your cherry shrimp nibbling on fish poop out of curiosity. However, they’ll back off once they realize it’s feces, spitting out whatever they swallowed.
Some beginner aquarists wonder if they need to feed their cherry shrimp if the tank has enough algae and biofilm.
The answer is yes because algae and biofilm don’t contain all the nutrients necessary to keep cherry shrimp healthy. Your pets will survive, but not thrive.
While algae and biofilm represent the bulk of their diet, your cherry shrimp will suffer from protein and vitamin deficiencies if they don’t eat anything else. They won’t be as vibrant, grow as big, or live as long.
This is why you need to provide your cherry shrimp with other food sources to ensure a balanced diet.
Cherry shrimp are scavengers that roam around the bottom of the aquarium searching for anything edible, so you don’t need to feed them very often.
As a rule of thumb, you should give food to your cherry shrimp every other day or 2 times per week.
If you don’t give your cherry shrimp any food, the length of their survival period will depend on the state of the aquarium as follows:
- In a well-aged tank, there’s a higher chance there’ll be enough algae and biofilm to sustain your cherry shrimp for a while (more than a week).
- In a new or bare tank, there won’t be enough build-up of algae and biofilm to sustain your cherry shrimp. In this case, your cherry shrimp probably won’t last longer than a few days.
There you have it, a detailed cherry shrimp feeding guide to help you provide the best care for your aquatic pets.
The diet of cherry shrimp primarily consists of algae and biofilm. To get all the nutrients they need, you should also give your cherry shrimp other foods like blood worms, kale, pears, spinach, cucumber, and crab bits.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.