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What Do Freshwater Shrimp Eat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Science & Information

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By Lindsey Stanton

Amano Shrimp

Shrimp are close to the bottom of the food chain. They are also quite a popular dietary item for humans to consume. Although we might think more about what it is like to eat them, what do freshwater shrimp like to eat?

Freshwater shrimp eat a variety of food, and if you want to keep any or raise them, it is best to feed them nutritious items that help them stay healthy.

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Common Types of Freshwater Shrimp Species

First, let’s take a look at the various common kinds of freshwater shrimp that are kept as pets. The diet varies for different species, although often not by much.

The red cherry shrimp is one of the most popular species of freshwater shrimp because of their body’s bright coloration. Dwarf freshwater shrimp are a species that you can easily pair with plenty of other species, like snails and fish, if you want to add variety to your tank.

Other examples of freshwater shrimp include bamboo and vampire shrimp. These need to be fed slightly different diets because they are cleaners instead of typical scavengers. They use a set of specialized limbs filled with bristles to filter out particles floating around in the water.

You might even see bamboo shrimp fighting each other over the best current to maximize the possibility to snare passing food!

red cherry shrimp
Photo Credit: topimages, Shutterstock

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What Do Freshwater Shrimp Eat?

Shrimp are opportunistic scavengers. They are happy to eat just about anything that doesn’t eat them first. However, their size does limit them quite a bit, and they are not predators to most species. Instead, they scavenge for their food, looking for anything tasty as they swim along their native waterways.

Freshwater shrimp have a varied diet. That can make it easy to feed them because you have so many options. If you are wondering what freshwater shrimp want to eat, here is a list of the best options.

1. Meaty Food

You can give your shrimp both fresh and frozen meaty foods. Shrimp eat just about any animal-based proteins that don’t eat them first. Frozen foods can include things like bloodworm, brine shrimp, and daphnia. However, you should be careful with how much you give them because they will greedily snatch up any of it regardless of how much they need.

If you want to serve them live food, you can put in blackworm and tubifex. These can be more difficult for your shrimp to catch and eat because they can only catch one at a time. The others will quickly escape. They are also quite a large meal for your shrimp. Infusoria are among the best animal-based foods for your shrimp. They are incredibly small, easy to raise, and very nutritious.

Infusoria permanent slide plate under high magnification
Photo Credit: photowind, Shutterstock

2. Blanched Vegetables

Since most shrimp are omnivorous, it is important that shrimps get a varied diet consisting of both meats and vegetables. Unfortunately, living plants are often too bitter and tough for shrimp to take an interest in them. Instead, you should cook any of the vegetables that you give them.

It is best to take frozen or chopped vegetables and boil them for 5 to 10 minutes to soften them up. You can give them terrestrial vegetables such as okra, squash, spinach, or zucchini.

Don’t season the vegetables that you give your shrimp. Instead, you should place the vegetables in a feeding clip and attach them to the bottom of the aquarium so your shrimp can graze on them.

3. Algae

Algae is a major component of a shrimp’s diet. This is because the algae provides them with both protein and necessary vitamins.

As long as there is algae in the tank, the shrimp will gladly pick it over in the tank all day. Shrimp are like tank-wide cleaners. That is often one of the reasons people keep shrimp.

If you see your shrimp grazing on algae around the tank, you know that you can go a few days between feedings. But if you see them restlessly zipping around, then you know that they have eaten it all, and their diet needs to be supplemented.

cherry shrimp in aquarium
Photo Credit: uzilday, Pixabay

4. Herbaceous Leaf Litter

Another thing that might seem counterintuitive when trying to keep a freshwater tank clean is to put leaves in your tank. Shrimp enjoy eating leaf litter that eventually decays on the bottom of the substrate.

Bacteria and other microorganisms also thrive in the leaves. Then, as they start to break down, infusoria grows, and shrimp love all of this.

However, it is important to do this in moderation. Leftover rotting food will cause an unwanted ammonia spike in your aquarium, which can be very dangerous for your fish and shrimp.

5. Cuttlebone

Dried cuttlefish bones are sold in pet stores, typically in the bird section. You should break the dried cuttlefish bones into small pieces and place them in the tank. It is best to weigh it down with décor to sink to the bottom so the shrimp can feed on it.

Cuttlebone is almost entirely calcium carbonate, but it is soft, so shrimp will graze on it. Calcium is essential for their shell growth.

vampire shrimp
Photo Credit: JPR03, Shutterstock

6. Commercial Shrimp Food

The easiest thing that you can feed your shrimp is commercial shrimp food. Omnivorous shrimp enjoy the standard fish flakes and pellets. All these mixes are designed especially for shrimp. You should watch out for the type of shrimp food that you give your shrimp, ensuring that it is species-appropriate.

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In Summary

Figuring out the best food for your freshwater shrimp can seem like a challenge. They are so small, with even smaller mouths, that finding something to suit might seem intimidating, but once you understand the minerals and nutrients that they require, it is easier to satisfy their health and dietary needs.

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Featured Image Credit: Grigorev Mikhail, Shutterstock

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