Peaceful and low maintenance, cherry shrimp are becoming more and more popular pets. Their colors are stunning, so they can liven up the aesthetics of any aquarium.
Cherry shrimp also demonstrate interesting behaviors you should know as a responsible owner. One of them is a process known as molting where shrimp shed their outer “skin”.
If you’re wondering “when do cherry shrimp molt?”, “Why do cherry shrimp molt?”, or “what is the ring of death?”, then you’ve come to the right place!
Today’s article is a cherry shrimp molting guide that’ll answer all these questions and more, so keep reading for a deeper insight into the fascinating world of these dwarf crustaceans.
Molting is a process during which the exterior shell of the body is shed to be replaced by a newly formed one.
While it may seem like something is wrong with your pets, molting is a perfectly normal phenomenon in cherry shrimp.
So yes, molting happens to all cherry shrimp. In most cases, it’s actually a good sign of healthy development.
Molting occurs over the following 4 stages:
- Pre-molting: the shrimp start scratching their backs to weaken the exoskeleton. Their color turns muddy and they start to eat less.
- Molting: the shrimp begins drawing water up to its body to break the old shell. The exoskeleton starts breaking at the neck and then continues to separate from the rest of the body.
- Post-molting: this is the shortest stage, lasting around 2 days. During this time, the shrimp inflates the new shell with water to have it fit its new body size and then it begins hardening.
- Inter-molting: this stage represents the end of molting as the new exoskeleton becomes fully functional.
Cherry shrimp mainly molt when they’re growing, which happens throughout their lives.
As cherry shrimp grow, their bodies get bigger. However, their exoskeletons don’t grow, so it becomes too small to house their bodies and provide the necessary protection.
The growing shrimp needs to develop a new exoskeleton to fit its larger body. To do this, it must first remove the current exoskeleton by shedding it.
As molting mainly happens because of the continuous growth of the shrimp, the frequency of molting in cherry shrimp depends on their age.
As you’d expect, the younger the cherry shrimp in question, the more often it will molt since its growth rate will be faster than an older shrimp. Here’s a general estimation:
- If you consider a cherry shrimp in its larval stage, you’ll find that it grows rapidly each day. So, it’ll molt pretty much every day to keep up with changing body size.
- A cherry shrimp in its post-larval stage will molt less often because its growth spur slows down. The frequency decreases to once every 3 to 5 days.
- In the juvenile stage, cherry shrimp continue to grow but not as fast as before. Consequently, the molting frequency decreases to once every 7 to 10 days.
- As adults, cherry shrimp have the slowest growth rate, but they’re still growing. The molting frequency drops to become once every 3 to 6 weeks depending on the particular growth rate of each shrimp and the tank conditions.
Several factors can affect how often cherry shrimp shed their exoskeleton. Here are the most common ones:
As mentioned above, age plays a crucial factor in the frequency of molting. The younger the cherry shrimp, the more often it will molt since its growth rate is rapid.
On the other hand, adult cherry shrimp will molt less frequently due to decreased growth rate.
If you have a different breed along with your cherry shrimp, you’ll notice they don’t molt as often as each other. For example, cherry shrimp molt more times than fire shrimps.
Water parameters can affect the rate and success of molting in cherry shrimp. The wrong conditions can hinder or accelerate molting, both of which can harm the health of your shrimp.
Optimal water conditions for cherry shrimp during molting are:
- Temperature: between 70 and 80 degrees F (21 to 26 degrees C).
- pH level: between 7 and 7.5.
- Carbonate hardness (KH): between 3 and 15 (50 to 250 ppm).
- General hardness (GH): between 4 and 8 (65 to 130 ppm)
- Total dissolved solids (TDS): between 150 and 250.
Many aquarists get confused when trying to identify whether a cherry shrimp is dead or molting. The main factor that can help you tell the two apart is color.
If the cherry shrimp’s body turns light pink or cloudy white (similar to that of a cooked shrimp), then it’s most likely dying or dead.
On the other hand, the body of a molting cherry shrimp is translucent during the process and becomes ghostly white after shedding.
Other signs to look for in a dying cherry shrimp include:
- Strange swimming pattern: the shrimp is swimming sideways (in case of unsuccessful molting).
- Loss of appetite: the shrimp isn’t interested in food.
- Inactivity: the shrimp will move less and more slowly.
If a cherry shrimp is dead, you’ll notice it has completely stopped moving. As far as its appearance goes, its body will look fleshy and pink even if the exoskeleton looks normal.
No, don’t remove shrimp exoskeletons resulting from mottling.
Cherry shrimp eat them because they contain vitamins and minerals (such as calcium) that make up for the nutrients lost during molting. As such, shed exoskeletons provide cherry shrimp with an extra boost of strength for the new exoskeleton.
The nutrients in these exoskeletons can also be beneficial for other aquarium inhabitants.
One of the most common issues that can happen during molting is known as the White Ring of Death. It’s very easy to identify because it causes a solid white line to appear around the shrimp’s body right after the point where the head ends and the body starts.
When a cherry shrimp is molting, its exoskeleton is supposed to start breaking at the neck and then spread to the rest of the shell, allowing the shrimp to gradually exit.
However, if the exoskeleton starts breaking all around the body and not just at the neck point, the White Ring of Death is formed.
The shrimp basically ends up with 2 separate exoskeletons, which makes escaping them a lot harder. As a result, the affected cherry shrimp is likely to get stuck in the molt and eventually die.
During molting and right after shedding, the body of a cherry shrimp becomes very vulnerable due to the absence of a protective shell.
Because their new skin is still very soft, cherry shrimp are pretty much defenseless. As such, they go into hiding for about 2 to 3 days to give their shell some time to strengthen and harden.
There you have it, a detailed cherry shrimp molting guide to help you better understand and care for your aquatic pets.
Molting is a natural occurrence for cherry shrimp and is mostly a sign of good health. As long as you provide the proper water conditions during this process, it should go smoothly.
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.