Beginner’s guide to feeding your shrimp
An amateur shrimp-keeper’s thoughts on shrimp foods.
Biofilm, algae and enhancers
Believe or not the best thing to feed your shrimp is the thing that many people hate the look of - algae and biofilm that grows in your tank. Biofilm is that slimy white stuff that grows on everything in the tank, flat walls, filters, plants, and substrate to mention just a few things. You may have seen shrimp just picking away at apparently nothing on the gravel or a filter just grabbing “something” and moving it to their mouths – that’s biofilm. It’s a good idea to start with a mature tank that has ample amounts of this. I didn’t follow this advice and bought loads of different shrimp foods as they like a varied diet, don’t they? Well no actually they don’t, my shrimp somehow managed to find some biofilm to eat and then totally blanked the expensive stuff for the home-grown stuff with one notable exception which I will describe later.
To be fair I was only starting with 10 shrimp so biofilm along with algae was fine. If only I’d realised this before buying all those “Shrimp Foods”! The amount of biofilm can be enhanced by adding products like Glasgarten Bacter AE which can be added in small amounts 2-3 times a week. If you have a smallish shrimp tank (less than 50L) working out the dosage can be tricky as they recommend 1 spoonful (included) per 100L daily or twice that amount for a heavily stocked tank (100s of shrimp). It’s definitely a case of starting with less as too much can add to the nitrate load within the tank and cause water quality issues. I use the tiny spoon that comes with a Salifert water test kit and holds a very small amount (0.05ml), but my tanks are 30L or less. There are Bacter AE alternatives but I have not used them and for many people Bacter AE is the Gold Standard.
If you are going on holiday for a while or don’t mind the look of it anyway, allow algae to build up on the tank sides for a few weeks prior to leaving. Your shrimps will love you for it.
A good alternative to expensive shrimp foods is dried leaf litter which I appreciate does not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic taste, but it does give a natural look to the tank, provides a medium for biofilm to grow on as well as a place for baby shrimp to hide whilst feeding and offers a back-up larder for adult shrimp too as the leaf starts to disintegrate. No need to remove the leaf until it is down to the skeleton. It won’t pollute the tank like fresh leaves as all the sugars have been dried out. There are lots of different leaves to try, many are available commercially or you can even collect and dry your own leaves, but whichever you chose to use make sure that they are from a clean, reputable source and are not contaminated in any way by atmospheric pollutants or pesticides. Here is a short and by no means exhaustive list of potential leaf litter types: banana, catappa leaf or logs (Indian almond which is also renowned for its antiseptic and calming qualities), guava, peach, oak, mulberry, alder cones, cholla logs (a type of cactus) which also provide somewhere to hide and for biofilm to grow on. Scald the leaves/logs/cones and soak for a couple of days before adding to the tank to encourage the biofilm to start growing and reduce tannins. Personally I quite like some tannin in the water, but each shrimp keeper has personal preferences.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Many vegetables and some fruits can be used to supplement your shrimps’ diet. Just blanch a small amount for a few minutes first, allow it to cool and then add to the tank. Your shrimp will either swarm all over it if they are hungry or leave it to rot if they aren’t which can obviously lead to water quality problems. It must be totally removed after a few hours unless shrimp are still actively feeding on it.
Proprietary shrimp foods
If you have lots of shrimp (50+) then you may want to consider getting some of the branded shrimp foods of which there are many choices in pellet, wafer, loop and powder form, for both adults and babies. Personally I think baby shrimp get more nourishment from biofilm and any leaf litter as they can be out-manoeuvred by adult shrimp who may tend to hog the added food supply. Powdered food is also useful for shrimp babies as it tends to provide better tank coverage than pellets, loops or wafers.
My personal favourite (because my shrimp adore it and mostly ignore the rest) is snowflake shrimp food which is in pellet form. Made from soy bean shells, it provides a growth medium for mycelia which is an edible form of fungus and rapidly expands and spreads as flakes around the tank. It is fascinating to watch (don’t blink – it’s that fast!) and you can almost see the shrimp going on alert once it’s added to the tank. It doesn’t pollute the water and can safely be left in there as long as you don’t overdo it – start small until you get used to what it produces and what they can manage to eat and by that I mean start with a couple of millimetres of product as within seconds this stuff expands and expands and seems to grow exponentially. It makes an excellent holiday food along with algae and biofilm.
There are many brands of shrimp food out there and my advice would be ask in shrimp forums and groups what people like about them – I have several of them languishing in a shrimp food container. (I suspect they will still be there a long time!)
Remember when feeding shrimp it is better to under-feed than over-feed due to potential water quality issues – shrimp are much more sensitive to water quality than most fish so keep those nitrates under 10ppm – if it’s over 10 do a decent water change to bring it down and feed less!
Using a food dish makes it easier to remove left-over food – however if there’s left-over food you need to cut back on the quantity or frequency. It’s not helping your shrimp and not any good to your wallet if the food ends up in the bin.
Hope my thoughts and experience help you to decide what might be best for your shrimp.
(Note from this web-store’s owner: Here at shrimp corner we have developed our own dedicated shrimp foods which you can find it here, including a quick video of shrimps reaction to this food.