Shrimp and aquatic snails are great for tropical community fish tanks because they will not pester the fish that you already have in your aquarium. They display fascinating behaviours and will happily live amongst other inhabitants and will even eat algae and uneaten food left behind. They are always referred to as the 'clean up crew' and there is a huge selection available for aquarists to purchase. You will either love them or hate them! For many people, snails can be really annoying as they reproduce very fast in large numbers and if left unattended, will take over the entire tank. Some people may even consider them as pets and will give them names. Here is a small guide on some of the most popular shrimps and snails in the hobby with a few you might wish to avoid.
Caridina multidentata is a species of shrimp in the family Atyidae. It is native to Japan and Taiwan. Common names include Yamato shrimp, Japanese shrimp, Amano shrimp, and algae shrimp.
These are one of the most popular freshwater shrimp around. They are pretty low maintenance and self sufficient. These shrimps are sensitive to water conditions so bear that in mind. Red Cherry Shrimp are active and interesting to watch. They are amazing algae eaters! They are very easy to breed in the freshwater aquarium and will be found in most aquatic stores. Red Cherry Shrimp live for around a year. They can sometimes live longer if tank conditions are right. They are best kept in a temperature of around 25°C with a PH of 6 - 7.5. It is important for these shrimp to live in groups. They will need lots of places to be able to climb on and explore. Live plants are a must as they will provide great hiding places and cover for these shrimp. They are an omnivore so will eat most things such as uneaten food, debris, algae and plant matter.
They were brought to popularity by Takashi Amano because of their reputation for controlling algae and keeping tanks looking clean. Takashi Amano frequently used these shrimp in his setup. They are peaceful shrimps and can grow up to around 2 inches when fully grown. They require a PH of around 7 - 7.5 and a temperature of around 22°C - 26°C. You should expect them to shed monthly if they are happy and well fed. They are omnivores and their diet consists of algae, plant matter and left over food. They are also known to enjoy algae wafers, cucumber, courgette and spinach to name a few. It is recommended that you keep them in a group of at least 6 to help reduce any dominant behaviour. Amano Shrimp require brackish water to breed so it can be hard to come by them in the aquarium trade. Because of this, Amano Shrimp are generally more expensive than other varieties of invertebrates. It is also worth noting that they are very shy shrimp and you may not see them around much in the aquarium.
Blue Velvet Shrimp
These blue shrimp are very vibrant in colour as you can see in the photo below. It appears to be one of the most popular species of shrimp due to the amazing colouring. These shrimp grow to a maximum size of 2 inches in length and are best kept in a PH of 6.8 - 7.5. These shrimp are omnivores so will eat a varied diet of algae wafers, biofilm, blanched vegetables and sinking pellets. In very good water conditions, blue velvet shrimp are reasonably easy to breed and will quickly produce a colony in the aquarium.
Blue Velvet Shrimp are a popular choice among aquarists due to the amazing blue colour as seen in this photo.
This snail can do a good job keeping a tank clean by eating all of the uneaten food, decaying plant matter and algae. They will spend a lot of time on the hard surfaces in the tank usually lurching around for something to eat. They can be found in a range of different colours which makes them even more appealing to aquarists. These snails are very active, adaptable and seem to do well in slightly harder water conditions because of their shell. They are best kept around 25 - 28°C with a PH of 7 - 7.5. You can purchase the giant variety from certain breeders in the hobby which makes them popular for a good breeding project.
Rabbit Snails are among the easiest types of snails to keep and take care of. They have a very long proboscis which reminds people of an elephant’s trunk. Although slow moving, they are absolutely beautiful to look at and seem to prefer harder water to prevent shell erosion. They prefer much warmer temperatures than most other snails. They will eat most foods such as algae wafers, sinking pellets and blanched vegetables. These snails should be kept with other non-aggressive tank mates so bear that in mind upon purchase. Most Rabbit Snails in stores will be about 1.5 - 2 inches long but can be hard to get hold of in most aquatic stores. They are difficult to breed if the water chemistry is not right.
Orange Sakura Shrimp
I'm sure you can already tell by the name that these are a bright orange shrimp for your aquarium. They are social shrimp and prefer to live in large groups. These shrimp are eager breeders, making them a great choice for beginners to freshwater shrimp breeding. Orange Sakura Shrimp are omnivores and will accept a wide variety of foods. In planted tanks, they may be able to survive off of scavenged biofilm and algae. They prefer a PH of 7 - 7.5 and a temperature of 22-25°C. It is recommended to have at least 10-12 shrimp to ensure that there are enough male and female pairs for successful breeding. These shrimp are not as common as the Red Cherry Shrimp but most good aquatic stores will have them.
A Ramshorn Snail is a common freshwater aquarium snail and is available in a wide range of different colours and sizes.
Dwarf Green Shrimp
These tiny dwarf shrimp are a great species – they are very active but are probably best suited to a smaller aquarium as they are likely to be eaten by fish and you will struggle to see them running in and out of your plants. They won't get any bigger than 2cm. These shrimp are omnivores so as well as algae, dwarf shrimp will also eat blanched vegetables such as courgette and spinach. They require a PH of around 6 - 7.4 and a temperature of 24°C - 28°C. They will breed in an aquarium once mature, but the larvae raising of this species can prove a little difficult.
Nerite Snails are quite popular and will clean algae off of the glass, plants, substrate and decorations. These snails are from the Neritadae family, which contains over 200 species. Most of these snails are from brackish, seashore waters, but a few live in rivers and streams. This is one of the reasons that some can be used in freshwater tanks and others in saltwater setups. Nerite Snails require salt water to reproduce so they will never overpopulate your aquarium like most snails which is an added bonus. Nerite Snails can come in some striking patterns such as the Zebra Nerite Snail and Onion Nerite Snail. They prefer to live in a PH of 7 - 8.5 and a temperature of 20 - 28°C.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
Hobbyists can find Malaysian Trumpet Snails for sale in many aquatic stores. They are quite popular in the hobby and you will often find many people giving them away for free. Malaysian Trumpet Snails have elongated shells that resemble a sugar cone. I find them quite pretty. The shells appear to grow in rings as they swirl up from the apex. Shells can be solid or have patterns with colours ranging from brown, grey and creamy-white. In general, Malaysian Trumpet Snails live for about one year. As long as tank conditions are right, they will thrive in aquariums without much effort. Malaysian Trumpet Snails eat almost continuously which what makes them good scavengers! They will eat pretty much anything they can find. They prefer slightly harder water with a PH of 7 - 7.5. To some hobbyists, Malaysian Trumpet Snails are an unwanted, invasive and annoying pest. This is because they are quick to reproduce and their numbers can increase in no time.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails are a species of tropical freshwater snails.
You might be surprised when you see a Bladder Snail in your freshwater tank, especially since you did not buy one! Bladder snails hitch rides on plants and any other decorative features you purchase for your tank. These are often described as pest snails. This snail is well known as invasive because of its ability to reproduce rapidly. Bladder Snails are pulmonary, or air-breathing, creatures, and swim upside down at the surface of the water to breathe air. If the snail senses danger, however, it will empty the air from their respiratory system so that they can retreat to the bottom of the tank. Bladder Snails are voracious eaters and are constantly snacking. They are not picky eaters either! They are omnivorous and will eat the parts of plants, diatoms, insects and vegetables that are dying and decaying. They will also eat fish food and shrimp food, as well as any other debris and waste in your tank. Bladder Snails are good-natured scavengers that can help keep your aquarium in fine shape, provided you do your part to keep the tank clean and feed your fish appropriate amounts. However, since they are efficient breeders, they are considered to be pest snails and you will have to put in some effort to make sure that the bladder snail population in your tank doesn’t spin out of control which it most likely will.
The Armoured Shrimp or Vampire Shrimp looks fierce but is actually a gently giant filter feeder. It means that they filter microorganisms from the water column. It is fairly hardy and adaptable and will do well at most usual pH levels. It does grow quite large and so a spacious aquarium is essential. They can be more territorial than the smaller shrimp species but, providing they have plenty of space it is possible to keep a number of specimens. If you think that these big guys will entertain you, by walking around your tank, you are wrong. Vampire shrimp are extremely shy and like to hide. For example, some aquarists recommend never do maintenance while they are out of their hiding spots. It can scare them so much that they will run for cover and hide for days. These shrimp prefer a pH of 6.6 to 7.1. They thrive in warmer temperatures and do not tolerate temperatures as low as the temperatures that most dwarf shrimp enjoy.
Rabbit Snails are very peaceful creatures. They are not aggressive by any means, and are very curious about their surroundings.
Make sure to do plenty of research before purchase. Never buy something because it looks pretty. It may not be suitable for your aquarium. As with most snails and shrimps, you will need to test your aquarium water on a regular basis as it is very important to keep the levels of ammonia and nitrite at 0ppm. Shrimp are very sensitive to changes in water chemistry. When you purchase, make sure to look for healthy specimens that appear to be moving or affixed to hard surfaces. Don't buy any snails that are lying motionless or with badly damaged shells. Thin, cracked or worn out shells can be indications that the snail is unhealthy so bear that in mind. When you bring them home, make sure to acclimate properly. As long as the shrimp are not subjected to extreme changes in temperature or acidity, they are adaptable and resilient. Avoid copper as it can be fatal for snails and shrimp. You must also be careful using some types of plant fertilisers and medications in your tank as they can also be poisonous. Make sure to always check the instructions of the product before buying it and adding it to your aquarium. If in doubt, ask your aquatic store and they should be happy to help advise.