What Do Freshwater Shrimps Eat? Find Out The Best Food!

May 15, 2017

The fact that there are hundreds of species of freshwater shrimps out there may seem a daunting task for the aquarist who plans to add one or several of these aquatic crustaceans to their enclosed reefs.

Many would then rightly wonder how they’ll take care of these various invertebrates, most notably the diets will be ideal for healthy freshwater shrimps.

You might also be wondering: “what do freshwater shrimps eat?” Apparently, it’s a relatively simple question with a not-so-simple answer.

In this article, we’ll see how it can be quite simple to feed your shrimp pets but also how in depth their diets can be with the right background on their species.


What Do Freshwater Shrimps Eat?

If you’re in dire and immediate need to feed your shrimp or on your way, if not already at the fish store or supermarket to get food, then there is a quick go-to answer to the freshwater shrimp’s diet.

Quick Answer:

First of all, don’t panic. If you’ve gone, bought, and acclimated a freshwater shrimp but you’ve forgotten to get some decent shrimp food, then you can relax.

Shrimp are omnivorous scavengers that will feed on any food type that is small enough for them to eat. Hence, those fish flakes or fish pellets you may already have will be okay.

Consider breaking them down into more bite-size pieces for your shrimp. Being scavengers, your shrimp may already feed on food otherwise not eaten by your other aquarium inhabitants.

Alternatively, you can feed freshwater shrimp frozen kale or collard greens – just remember to chop and mince these vegetables before feeding your small crustaceans.

Another reason why you shouldn’t worry is that many freshwater shrimp families love to eat algae and biofilm.

So, in mature and cycled aquariums, which are usually not lacking for algae, food sources for your shrimp will be in abundance. Additionally, these algae-lovers will help keep your tank neat and clean.

Long Answer:

Although the freshwater shrimp in your aquarium will indeed survive with the bare essentials, that is, regular fish food, algae, and similar minutely-sized food, they will need specialized food for optimal health,color, and longevity.

This point is especially valid when you will be rearing larval or immature shrimp.

Specialized shrimp feed means you will take into account your shrimp’s species since this will usually dictate the type of food that will help them thrive. So, let’s take a gander at the freshwater shrimp’s background.

Family Tree

All freshwater shrimp fall under the infraorder “Caridea.” Within this infraorder are the Atyidae and Palaemonidae families, from which you’ll find the most common and most popular species of freshwater shrimp, especially in the context of aquaria.


Typically, the species you will encounter in your local or online fish and aquarium hobby stores are the shrimp species “Caridina,” “Atya,” “Halocaridina,” “Neocaridina,” “Paratya,” – all under the Atyidae family. There are, of course, many more shrimp species in the Atyidae family. The species above, though, are the most readily available.


Under the Palaemonidae family, you’ll find another favorite fish species: macrobrachium. Many identify this species of shrimp by their long and enlarged claws when compared to those on Atyid shrimp.

They are What they Eat

Now that we’re familiar with the some of the famous shrimp species, we can take a look at how their diets categorize them into three groups: substrate scrapers, filter feeders, and the meat eaters.

Substrate Scrapers

If you already have shrimp dwellers in your aquarium, chances are they’re a part of this group. Substrate scrapers include the most common shrimp species on the market such as the Cardina and Neocardina varieties.

Substrate scrapers are the easiest to feed since they are the least finicky with food. These species are very active as they roam the aquarium in search of food. Food sources will come from algae, otherwise uneaten fish food or flakes, microorganisms, and biofilm. This diet would then include the “cleaner shrimp” whose claws are suited for grazing matter on your substrate, and along aquarium walls.

Despite their tolerant nature with food, you would still want to use specialized shrimp food as well as a good supplementation of vegetables such as boiled spinach and broccoli. A healthy and balanced diet will ensure your shrimp’s color is at its most intense.

Popular substrate scrapers:

  • Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina denticulata sinensis "red")
  • Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina sp. "Crystal Red")
  • Amano Shrimp (Caridina japonica)

Filter Feeders

Filter feeders rely on water current to acquire food. With their specialized claws, filter feeders strain very fine particles of food such as uneaten food or fine plant debris,

micro-algae, and other plankton-sized material in the water. This diet is why you’ll often find filter feeders facing the water current in your aquarium.

Again, for optimal health, you can consider supplementing a filter feeder’s diet with finely ground algae wafers. If you have a filter feeder in your tank, always ensure a consistent movement of water via an airhead or other apparatus.

Popular filter feeders:

  • Bamboo/wood Shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis)
  • Vampire Shrimp (Atya gabonensis)
  • Caribbean Dwarf Filter Shrimp (Micratya poeyi)

Meat Eaters

Lastly, we have the meat eaters in the freshwater shrimp world. Despite their name, you should probably hold off on the bacon and burger bits.

The reason for the name is that these species of shrimp typically feed on bigger and meatier matter and detritus in the water.

Hence, pellets, flakes, and larger pieces of vegetables and other food supplement will be ideal for these type of shrimp. Additionally, you’ll also see this kind of shrimp feeding on string and hair algae.

You’ll quickly recognize a “meat eater” since they’re larger than other shrimp with pronounced or elongated claws that are suited for their meaty diet.

In fact, you should take care your meat eater, often from the macrobrachium species, get so large that they try to eat the small fish in your tank.

Popular meat eaters:

  • Pearl/Sand Shrimp (Arochnochium kulsiense)
  • Red Claw Macro (Macrobrachium sp.)
  • Fuzzy claw macro (Macrobrachium eriocheirum

Feeding the Crustacean

Yes, your omnivorous freshwater shrimp can typically survive on just about anything if you place it in a mature and cycled aquarium. In addition to the food particles, algae, and microorganisms already present in the tank, fish food and pellets will be adequate.

However, for the healthiest and most colorful shrimp, you’ll also want to use specialized shrimp food and vegetable supplements.

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About the Author


Hello, fishing world! My name is Bella. Yes, you got me right, I am a woman! But, I am a woman not only fond of cooking and shopping. I am a woman who shows interest in everything that covers topics regarding fishing. Don’t get me wrong! I believe that the world of fishing is not exclusively for men! In fact, I, myself enjoy fishing. That’s why I created this website.

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