How many cherry shrimp can I keep in a 5 gallon?

Quick Answers

The general rule of thumb is you can keep 1 cherry shrimp per 1 gallon of water. So in a standard 5 gallon tank, you could keep approximately 5 cherry shrimp.

However, this is just a guideline. Factors like filtration, plants, tank mates, and more can allow you to comfortably house more or less shrimp. With optimal conditions, some hobbyists have had over 50 cherry shrimp thrive in a planted 5 gallon tank.

When first starting out, we recommend sticking closer to the 1 shrimp per gallon rule until you get more experience. Slowly increase your shrimp colony from there once your tank has established.

How Many Cherry Shrimp in a 5 Gallon Tank?

Let’s take a deeper look at how to determine the ideal cherry shrimp stocking for your 5 gallon aquarium.

General Stocking Guidelines

Most experts recommend providing at least 1 gallon of water per cherry shrimp as a general rule of thumb. So in a standard 5 gallon tank, you could keep approximately 5 shrimp.

Some other common stocking guidelines include:

  • 1-2 cherry shrimp per 2 gallons of water
  • 5-10 shrimp for a 5-10 gallon aquarium
  • No more than 20-30 shrimp for a 10 gallon tank

These numbers provide a good starting point for beginners. But there are many variables that can allow you to safely house more shrimp, which we’ll discuss next.

Factors That Impact Stocking Levels

While the 1 shrimp per gallon rule is easy to follow, it’s not set in stone. The actual number of shrimp a 5 gallon can support depends on several factors:

Tank Filtration

Having a high quality filter is key to maintaining water quality with a large shrimp colony. Filters that provide mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration allow for higher stocking densities.

For a 5 gallon cherry shrimp tank, we recommend getting a filter rated for 5-15 gallons. An adjustable flow rate is also useful to provide adequate circulation without blowing the shrimp around.

Plants & Decor

Having a heavily planted tank or lots of hiding spots also supports more shrimp. The plants and decor provide more surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow.

Aim to have at least 50% of the tank covered with plants. Fast growing stem plants that uptake excess nutrients are especially great in a shrimp tank.

Tank Mates

The types of fish or other creatures living with your cherry shrimp can limit how many you can add. Shrimp are vulnerable to being eaten or outcompeted.

For a 5 gallon, it’s best to either keep cherry shrimp only or with very peaceful community fish like guppies, endler’s livebearers, or ember tetras. Avoid fish that may prey on shrimp like bettas, cichlids, or goldfish.

Supplemental Feeding

Providing a high quality diet including shrimp pellets, blanched vegetables, algae wafers, and calcium supplements can allow for larger populations. This ensures all the shrimp are well fed.

Water Changes

Frequent water changes are essential to lowering nitrate build up and replenishing minerals shrimp need to thrive and molt properly. For a heavily stocked 5 gallon shrimp tank, aim for 2-3 small (10-20%) water changes per week.

Surface Area

The more horizontal swimming space, the better for shrimp. Maximizing surface area by using a shallow, long tank (vs. tall volumes) allows for more shrimp. Plenty of rock ledges, moss beds, and other grazing spots are also beneficial.

Ideal Water Parameters

Maintaining pristine water quality is crucial when keeping large shrimp colonies. Test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, GH, KH, and TDS regularly and perform water changes to keep the following parameters stable:

Parameter Ideal Range
Temperature 65°F – 85°F
pH 6.5 – 7.5
GH (General Hardness) 5-10 dGH
KH (Carbonate Hardness) 3-5 dKH
TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) 150-300 ppm
Ammonia 0 ppm
Nitrite 0 ppm
Nitrate < 20 ppm

Starting With a Small Colony

When first getting started, introduce only a small number of shrimp (5-10) to give your tank some time to establish.

This allows the biofilter to build up beneficial bacteria to process waste and prevent spikes in ammonia or nitrite that could harm shrimp. It also gives plants and algae time to grow to provide food and grazing areas.

Slowly increase your shrimp colony from there by adding 3-5 new shrimp every few weeks. This gives the tank time to naturally adjust to the increased bio-load.

Patience is important – a thriving shrimp colony evolves over months, not days. Let your tank mature and only increase numbers gradually.

Max Shrimp Reaching Capacity

Once your tank has established, you’ll eventually reach a carrying capacity where water quality starts to decline with more shrimp added. Signs you’ve reached max capacity include:

  • Rising nitrate and phosphate levels
  • More uneaten food accumulating
  • Shrimp acting lethargic or having trouble molting
  • Algae blooms occurring

At this point, stop adding more shrimp. Harvest some adults to reduce density. Or upgrade to a larger tank size to give the colony more room.

With optimal set up and care, experienced shrimp keepers report housing 50-100+ cherry shrimp in a mature, cycled 5 gallon planted tank. But for most beginners, 10-20 shrimp is a safer limit.

Tank Setup for Cherry Shrimps

Providing the proper tank setup goes a long way towards a healthy, thriving cherry shrimp colony. Here are some key recommendations for a 5 gallon shrimp tank:

Use a Long Tank

Choose a standard 5 gallon (16″ x 8″ x 10″) instead of a tall cube style (12″ x 12″ x 12″) if possible. The extra horizontal swimming space allows for more shrimp.

Add Plenty of Plants

Plant the tank heavily with easy, fast-growing stem plants like hornwort, anacharis, guppy grass, or water wisteria. Floating plants like duckweed, salvinia, and frogbit are also great.

Aim for at least 50% planted. The plants improve water quality, provide food/grazing areas, and give cover. Plus shrimp love to explore and pick at the leaves.

Use a Fine Substrate

Use a shrimp-friendly fine gravel or sand substrate. Avoid sharp substrates or crushed coral that could injure delicate shrimp.

Some good options are ADA AquaSoil, Fluval Stratum, CaribSea Eco-Complete, or pool filter sand.

Add Driftwood & Rocks

Include plenty of rocky caves, cholla wood, and Indian almond leaves. This gives lots of surface area for biofilm growth and infuses tannins shrimp will graze on.

Dragon stone, spiderwood, alder cones, and algae scrubber pads also make great additions.

Use a Sponge Filter

Sponge filters with an air pump provide gentle filtration perfect for shrimp. They prevent baby shrimp from getting sucked into the filter.

Supplement with a hang-on-back filter rated for a 5-15 gallon tank. Add a pre-filter sponge over the intake to prevent shrimplets from being trapped.

Maintain Stable Parameters

Test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, GH, KH and temperature routinely. Perform regular water changes to maintain ideal parameters (see chart above).

Using RO water remineralized with GH/KH+ is best for sensitive shrimp. Avoid copper, which is toxic to inverts.

Provide Varied Diet

Feed a mixture of sinking shrimp pellets, blanched veggies, calcium-rich foods like spinach or kale, algae wafers, and specialty shrimp foods. Vary the diet for optimum nutrition.

Only feed as much as shrimp will eat in a few hours to prevent decaying excess food. Remove any uneaten portions.

Optimizing Care for Maximum Shrimp

Caring properly for your cherry shrimp is just as important as tank setup. Here are some best practices for keeping shrimp thriving:

Drip Acclimate Shrimp

Use drip acclimation over several hours whenever adding new shrimp. This safely adapts them to your tank’s water parameters to avoid shock.

Quarantine New Shrimp

House new shrimp in a separate 5-10 gallon quarantine tank for 2-4 weeks before adding to your display. This prevents transmitting diseases to your colony.

Cull Aggressively

Remove any dead, diseased, or low-grade shrimp to improve colony health. Isolate berried females about to hatch in a breeder box.

Do Weekly Water Changes

Change out 10-25% of the water weekly, or more often for heavy stocking. Use a gravel vacuum to remove waste without harming baby shrimp.

Clean Filter Media Monthly

Rinse mechanical filter media in old tank water once a month to remove gunk. Never replace all media at once, as this crashes the cycle.

Test Water 2-3 Times Monthly

Check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, GH, KH at least every other week. More often for new tanks. Address any parameters outside ideal ranges.

Use RO Water for Changes

Using reverse osmosis or distilled water remineralized with Salty Shrimp GH/KH+ provides the cleanest, purest water for shrimp health.

Avoid Tank Mates That Prey on Shrimp

Do not keep shrimp with aggressive fish like bettas, cichlids, loaches, goldfish, or crayfish that may eat them. Small community fish are best tank mates.

Breeding & Culling to Maintain Colony

With good conditions, cherry shrimp will readily breed to maintain your colony. But you’ll need to cull shrimp as well.

Removing Low Grade Shrimp

Culling involves removing and isolating any dead or diseased shrimp you spot. You also want to remove lower grade shrimp showing undesirable coloration or morphology.

This selective breeding results in higher grade, vibrant red-colored shrimp over generations. Only keep the healthiest, highest grade shrimp in your main tank.

Isolating Females About to Hatch

Move any berried (pregnant) females on the verge of hatching into a breeding box or separate tank. This protects the vulnerable babies from being eaten.

Once the babies are free swimming after 1-2 weeks, acclimate and return the female to the main tank. Grow the babies out separately until they reach juvenile size.

Harvesting Excess Adults

When your colony has reached its maximum capacity, you’ll need to manually thin it by harvesting adults. Trapping shrimp with nets often stresses them.

Instead, use shrimp traps baited with food. Check them frequently and move excess adults to a separate tank or sell them to your local fish store.

This helps maintain a healthy, sustainable breeding colony without overloading the bio-capacity of your tank.


Providing each cherry shrimp around 1 gallon of water is a good starting point to determine stocking levels. So a 5 gallon tank could comfortably house approximately 5 shrimp.

However, optimal filtration, plants, tank setup, water quality, food, and care allows for much higher populations – upwards of 50-100+ shrimp in a thriving 5 gallon colony tank.

When first starting out, slowly build up your shrimp numbers over several months. This gives your tank time to establish the beneficial bacteria, algae, biofilm, and plants shrimp need to thrive before increasing their density.

Test water parameters routinely and watch your shrimp behavior. Stop adding more if you see signs of stress like high nitrates, increased waste, or abnormal behaviors. Culling excess shrimp helps maintain populations within the bio-capacity of your tank.

With diligent care and maintenance, a heavily planted and filtered 5 gallon aquarium can support a large, healthy community of vibrant cherry shrimp!

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