As I do more and more research on cherry shrimp In preparation for my new tank, one thing is obvious.
There’s a lot of information out there about cherry shrimp!
Hobbyists and breeders frequently post on multiple forums asking questions, posting guides, and giving advice to those of us who are just entering the shrimp keeping world.
The people with experience love to share their knowledge on all aspects of the hobby, and sometimes even share stories of crazy things that have happened in their tanks.
Well, sometimes the amateurs in the room are the ones with the best stories, or at least the strangest ones.
I came across more than one forum post where people who had only kept shrimp for the first time we’re having an alarming issue:
I know, right?
It’s not a super common thing to run into, but there were more than one posts like this where the owners were just as shocked to write it as I was to read it.
It made me wonder: If this was happening between adult cherry shrimp, then would cherry shrimp also attack and eat their young or even their eggs under the same circumstances?
Cherry shrimp generally do not eat their own eggs while still attached to the female. If the eggs become detached for some reason, it’s not uncommon for shrimp to then eat those.
Do cherry shrimp eat their own eggs?
When it comes to whether or not cherry shrimp will eat their own eggs, there’s really a distinction to be made.
A cherry shrimp will not eat eggs that ate healthily and still attached to the mother shrimp.
Usually, eggs which are still viable – meaning they aren’t dying or rotten and are fertilized – will stay attached to the female shrimp and continue to develop into tiny little babies.
Sometimes, the eggs or berries on a female shrimp just don’t end up getting fertilized.
This could be because there are no males in the vicinity which are within the breeding age range, or it could be due to water parameters, or one of many other reasons.
These non-fertilized eggs will merely not develop into baby shrimp in their current state.
At some point, the shrimp will realize that the eggs aren’t fertilized and will choose to cut its losses and try over again.
This means she will drop her eggs clusters and that will not develop into shrimp.
These dropped eggs are then basically free game food as far as other shrimp and fish in your tank are concerned.
Other shrimp will readily eat discarded eggs just as they would eat other matter they stumble across in your tank.
The eggs are actually a very nutritious food and a great source of protein for your shrimp, so it’s no surprise they would decide to take a bite out of these.
The same kind of idea can be applied to eggs which are breaking down or not developing correctly.
A mother shrimp may decide to drop these ones as well, and then those eggs will either be eaten or broken down by the bacteria in your tank.
But what about healthy eggs?
Will cherry shrimp eat healthy shrimp eggs?
The short answer is no, cherry shrimp won’t eat healthy shrimp eggs. They also generally will not est the healthy eggs of other species, choosing instead to eat any fungus which might grow on them.
From all of the posts and articles I’ve read, the shrimp just don’t seem to have a taste for eggs which are in good shape.
This fact has led many aquarists who breed multiple species of fish and other aquatic creatures to use cherry shrimp and other dwarf shrimp breeds as a sort of caretaker for the eggs of their breeding pairs.
A few cherry shrimp can be dropped into a breeder box or a separate tank which is solely used for breeding and they will turn the eggs and eat any fungus which might grow around the egg clusters.
This fungus can become an issue later on in egg development (for some fish species, not all) and by having the shrimp as the egg nurses breeders avoid potential loss of healthy baby fish.
At the end of the day, cherry shrimp really seem to prefer eating dead or dying matter.
They’re almost like little grim reapers in that way (kind of creepy if you ask me).
So then what about shrimp on shrimp cannibalism? Why have people been claiming that their healthy shrimp are attacking other healthy (and decidedly not dead) cherry shrimp?
Do cherry shrimp eat each other?
Cherry shrimp generally speaking will not attack each other.
They are not particularly territorial, and they don’t tend to fight over mating rights like other fish species and some mammalian species do.
Why then would they attack each other?
Cherry shrimp usually don’t need to be fed very often.
It might sound unreal, but it’s not that uncommon for keepers of cherry shrimp to go weeks between feeding.
Usually, this is okay, as a well-established tank will have lots of biofilms, plant matter, and leftover waste from other tank mates which shrimp can use to sustain themselves between feedings.
However, if the shrimp are kept in a bare bottom tank – a tank with no substrate – or a tank that isn’t established enough to be able to provide backup nutrition for your shrimp, then they will begin to get very hungry and very desperate.
In their minds, there isn’t any more food coming.
As smart as we would like to believe our little buddies are, they can’t always really tell what’s going on.
With a severe lack of readily available food in their tank, they may begin to panic and assume that they need to enter starvation mode.
At this point, the normally docile shrimp will begin to look for any readily available sources of food around them.
Female shrimp most likely will stop being berried, potentially dropping their eggs to save resources (and potentially eat them if desperate enough).
Finally, when all other outlets are taken away, cherry shrimp will have no choice but to fight with each other for survival.
This is where the stories from the forums come from.
It is in desperate times that cherry shrimp can attack each other and even kill each other.
Cherry shrimp have no qualms about eating another already dead cherry, so once a loser in a fight to the death is declared, that shrimp will, unfortunately, become a life-giving meal for one or more others.
This behavior can easily be avoided by proper feeding.
You need to find the balance between feeding too much – resulting in algae, potential overpopulation, and increased bioload on your filtration system – and underfeeding.
Sometimes it isn’t actually a cherry shrimp attacking and killing another, though.
In fact usually, while it might appear that this is happening, there is a very logical and much more common explanation.
Will cherry shrimp eat their moltings?
Cherry shrimp are a variety of crustacean which goes through a process called molting.
This is very similar to a snake shedding its skin, where the outer shell layer of the shrimp is peeled away as the growing shrimp inside has become too big for this external protection.
During a molting, the cherry shrimp will shed it’s outermost skin, revealing a soft inner body, and will emerge from the leftover molt by backing it’s way out.
This leaves a husk which still looks very much like the shrimp that used to live inside it.
These molts are actually still very important, as they are packed with nutrition and are an excellent food source, not only for the freshly molted (not to mention tired and hungry) shrimp but for other shrimp nearby.
At this time, it’s very common for your family of shrimp to begin eating the molt and making it slowly disappear.
From everything I’ve read, this is the point that many people mistake for a cannibalistic frenzy.
It can look like your cherry is attacking, killing, and eating the molt, and sometimes it can be hard to distinguish that from a healthy, living shrimp.
There are a couple things you can do to try and make your shrimp more docile, and prevent attacking each other if that’s what’s really going on.
How to keep your shrimp from being aggressive
Like we discussed before, cherry shrimp are generally calm and don’t usually turn on one another unless they get very desperate.
The most important thing you can do to keep them this way or get them back to their normal temperament is to feed them.
Making sure there is plenty of food is key to keeping them happy!
At the same time, don’t overfeed, as you can cause more issues like high nitrogen and ammonia levels which can kill all of your shrimp overnight if not kept in check.
Here’s a good guide on how much to feed your clan:
The other thing you can do is to gradually turn your water temperatures down.
A lower water temperature will cause your shrimp to eat less quickly, be less mobile, and live longer lives.
It’s not going to hurt them either as long as the changes are gradual (over multiple days, quick changes can kill them) and you still stay above their minimum recommended temperatures.
Ideally, you’ll want them around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re looking for some good shrimp food to keep your tank fed and happy, check this stuff out over on Amazon.
It’s what I plan to use and it has excellent reviews while also being light on the wallet.
Plus, Spirulina can be a great food to feed all sorts of aquarium friends, not just shrimp, and baby shrimp can eat it just as easily as adults!