Pumpkin Shrimp Care Guide

Scientific NameNeocaridina denticulata sinensis
Minimum Tank Size10 Gallons
Water Parameters62-82° F, KH 0-10, pH 6.6-7.2

The Pumpkin Shrimp is an extremely colorful mid sized shrimp. They make for fantastic clean up crew members in freshwater aquariums and can even create a stunning shrimp only tank. They are very easy to care for and will usually breed when kept in a well cared for aquarium.

The Pumpkin Shrimp is not aggressive and will be hunted by any larger or aggressive fish. Smaller fish like hatchets, mollies and platies will not harm them and they will not attack each other even when kept in large numbers.

They do well when kept with plenty of live plants and no dangerous equipment like powerheads or canister filters.

The Pumpkin Shrimp will live for just over a year. To keep them long term you must keep them breeding to create the next generation of shrimp.

Things To Look Out For

Copper in the water will kill the Pumpkin Shrimp. Inverts are extremely sensitive to copper and will die even if there are only trace amounts of it in the water. Just because an aquarium is able to keep fish does not mean it can house shrimp.

Testing for copper is incredibly easy. A cheap copper testing kit can be used for a long time, ensuring no water changes introduce unwanted copper. This test has 90 tests inside and only requires the water from the tank. Simply get the strip wet and watch for the color change. If the strip is anything but white then there is too much copper for the Pumpkin Shrimp to survive.

Before ordering the test you can look at your homes water system. In many homes copper pipes are used, as copper is a great piping that can kill off bacteria. The newer the pipes are the more likely they are to leech out copper. This will be the most common way that copper enters our aquarium.

To leech less copper from pipes use cold water, letting the water run for awhile before collecting any of it. The colder the pipes are the less likely they are to leech out copper into the water that passes by. This may be enough for the copper pipes to pass the test and allow for Pumpkin Shrimp to survive.

Some medicines will also introduce copper to treat fish. If you must use these remove the fish and treat them in a hospital tank.

Activated carbon cal help neutralize the copper in water but it is only a temporary solution. Unless you are willing to pretreat all incoming water with activated carbon I do not suggest using it.

Finding someone who lives near by and is willing to give you copper free water is the easiest way to get around the copper issue. As shrimp tanks are typically smaller you should not need too much water.

Nitrites are typically removed by beneficial bacteria that grows over time in the aquarium. The Pumpkin Shrimp is incredibly sensitive to nitrites compared to fish. If your tank is newer or does not have beneficial bacteria it will need frequent water changes to remove the nitrites manually.

Strong sources of suction are common shrimp killers. The Pumpkin Shrimp will wanted near high sources of suction as they draw in debris. While this is fine they can often get caught by the suction if it is too strong and will have difficulty escaping it. Powerheads will typically cut the shrimp right away as they have so many long appendages that can slip through the protective housing.

Canister filters also create this risk but are not as dangerous. If the canister filter can have its flow rate reduced enough there should be no issue in using it.

Pumpkin Shrimp Habitat

The Pumpkin Shrimp comes from the slow moving waters of Singapore. They do well when kept in well lit tanks that have plentiful growing algae and tall plants. They can do fine with short plants but will nor be able to hide in plants like moss balls.

Keeping the aquarium similar to their natural habitat will keep the Pumpkin Shrimp happy any stress free. The more comfortable they are in the aquarium the stronger coloration we can expect to see.

If they are stressed then the Pumpkin Shrimp will spend a lot of its time hiding and will not try to show off its colors. This happens as they are hiding from predators rather than seeking out mates.

There are two main ideas when we are making the aquarium for our shrimp.

  • Create a lot of surface area for the shrimp and algae
  • Make hiding places that do not obstruct our view of the shrimp

By creating a lot of surface area we give the shrimp more areas to walk around, essentially making the tank bigger for them. The increased space also promotes both algae and bacteria growth. Even if some of this surface area does not receive much light it can still grow both bacteria and algae.

To create these big areas use either long flowing plants or flat thin rocks. Plants are easy for the shrimp to climb and can obstruct fish from swimming. This makes them ideal for the shrimp as they offer high up algae feeding zones, visibility for their mates and protection from aggressive fish. Remember even if we do not have any aggressive fish in the aquarium the Pumpkin Shrimp will still be on the lookout for trouble.

Flat rocks create easy to walk on surfaces that are also much easier to build structures in the aquarium with. Stacking round rocks will not have much of an affect where as the same mass and volume of flat rocks can easily double the aquariums surface area. Keep in mind these rocks will create low flow areas that the filter will not be able to reach. In an aquarium meant to house shrimp this should not be a real concern.

Tips on hiding spaces

We want to keep the Pumpkin Shrimp in a safe environment but we also want to be able to see the shrimp. Try to keep most rocks perpendicular with the aquariums glass so that it is easy to see under and around them without much effort. If you create the perfect hiding spot in the back of the tank that’s impossible to look at you can expect your shrimp to go missing quite a bit.

Use the back of the aquarium as a third wall. This creates a lot of dens in the back of the tank where we can still see our shrimp but most things in the aquarium cannot.

Using wood in place of rocks is something else to consider. While rocks will slowly raise the pH of the water any wood will slowly lower the pH. Additionally wood will slowly leech out tannins. These will tint the water brown like a tea bag would, but much slower. This is how people create their muddy or murky looking tanks. If you want wood but a clear tank then perform frequent or large water changes to remove the tannins as they are released over time.

Never remove rocks, wood or decorations from the tank to clean them. An exception to this would be slimy oddly colored algae. By cleaning off the tanks environment we remove the beneficial bacteria. If you use any amount of cleaning solution to do so then it is likely the returned item will poison the rest of the remaining bacteria. A reduction in bacteria can easily result in an ammonia spike, killing off everything in the tank. This is hard to see coming as the fish and shrimp will not react to rising ammonia levels.

Equipment Recommendations

Filtration: Sponge filters are the ideal choice for shrimp centric aquariums. They draw water through exposed filtration medium, trapping any debris in the sponge. They will not put the Pumpkin Shrimp in any amount of danger and create a great feeding area for the shrimp. You can easily put multiple sponge filters in the aquarium to make up for their lower flow rate. Sponge filters are asy to clean as you can remove the sponge, rinse it using tank water and return it to the aquarium.

Under gravel filters work similarly. They will draw water down into the gravel, getting the debris stuck in the substrate. These can be more difficult to set up and clean, as you will need a siphon to suck out the debris in the gravel just above the filter.

Shrimp will spend a lot of their time around the filters, picking at the debris they draw in. Keeping the filters at or near the front help to keep our shrimp in sight.

Aeration: Strong filtration can often be used to agitate the waters surface, promoting gas exchange between the water and air above it. This oxygenates the water making it habitable for aquarium creatures. As we do not usually use these in shrimp tanks we will need an air stone and pump to do the job. The bubbles created by the stone do not give air to the tank but instead burst at the waters surface. This is what keeps the tank oxygenated.

Air pumps are ery loud. Much louder than any other equipment you will use. Try to hide it with long air tubes. Placing it around corners or in boxes will help cut down the noise dramatically. Sound does not travel well around objects and has a much easier time going through them.

Substrate is important. Gravel is the substrate of choice for just about any invert. The Pumpkin Shrimp will have a much easier time searching for food in gravel than it will sand. The small rocks are easy for them to turn over with their small claws, allowing them to pick the gravel clean. Consider an orange gravel to compliment your Pumpkin Shrimps natural color or something darker to create a powerful contrast.

Sand is ok but is more useful for sand sifting creatures or things that burrow. It is usually more expensive than gravel and more difficult to keep clean.

Having no substrate is known as bare bottom. Going for a bare bottom tank  makes it easy to keep the tank clean and is the cheapest option. The issue is that substrate houses beneficial bacteria and can absorb a lot of the toxic nitrates from the aquarium. Going bare bottom means water changes should never be missed and may need to be more frequent. It is also very difficult to keep plants in an aquarium with nothing to plant them in.

Feeding Pumpkin Shrimp

The two main ways to feed Pumpkin Shrimp depend on what else is in the aquarium. Either the shrimp will be in an invert only tank or they will be kept long with fish that are fed regularly.

For a shrimp only tank:

Feed them two to four times a week, removing any uneaten food three hours after you add it to the aquarium. Keep an eye on the algae in the aquarium. If the algae is growing quickly then feed the shrimp less. If the algae is receeding feed the shrimp more. You want the algae to be relatively constant. Excess waste will grow algae while feeding too little will have the shrimp out hunt the algae growth.

For tanks with fish:

These tanks can typically go without feeding their shrimp. Unless you have a large amount of shrimp the missed foods and fish waste will be enough food for the Pumpkin Shrimp. They are natural bottom dwellers and expect this kind of diet. You may supplement the shrimps diet with occasional feeding once or twice a week.

What to feed them:

Pumpkin Shrimp will eat just about anything that is fed to the tank. You can use:

  • Meaty foods | Frozen fish
  • Prepared Foods | Flakes, pellets
  • Algae wafers
  • Blanched Produce

Again most aquariums that have fish or other fed creatures in them will typically feed the Pumpkin Shrimp through their food scraps and waste. Shrimp should be keeping the algae growth in the aquarium down rather than being fed every meal.

Even without being fed and surviving on bottom feeding the Pumpkin Shrimp will often get so much to eat hat they will start breeding. Under feeding shrimp is almost  impossible when fish are present.

For large numbers of shrimp blanched produce is absolutely the way to go. They are much cheaper than prepared foods and come in gigantic sizes relative to the shrimp. A single piece of produce can easily feed a large number of shrimp for a week. A packet of prepared algae wafers would be much more expensive while not giving the shrimp as much nutrition ad fresh produce.

Over feeding shrimp can be dangerous. If the beneficial bacteria colonies cannot keep up with the food you are giving the tank then both ammonia and nitrites will accumulate in the aquarium. These are both incredibly toxic to shrimp and can easily kill them off. Best case scenario an over fed aquarium has a large algae bloom and the over fed shrimp do not eat the algae.

Pumpkin Shrimp Tankmates

The Pumpkin Shrimp cannot harm any of its tank mates. While they do have pincers that can tear apart dead creatures they will only flee from any sort of aggression and will not start fights no matter the situation.

A common misconception is that shrimp can ambush sick creatures and kill them. This is not true. When fish are sick and dying, they are often well beyond recovery. While we may see them fall to the bottom of the tank and swim back up they are basically dead already. If a shrimp is trying to eat a fish it should be considered a dead fish anyways.

Instead we need to focus on keeping the Pumpkin Shrimp safe from anything else in the aquarium. The most common threats are large fish that are not aggressive towards other fish. Shrimp are seen as prey. Even the most peaceful fish will swoop in and eat a shrimp that is small enough to fit into their mouths.

Likewise aggressive fish will have no issue attacking the shrimp, eating parts of them as they keep attacking. Keep out any aggressive fish like oscars, chiclids, loaches or tiger barbs.

Good tankmates for the Pumpkin Shrimp include:

  • Snails
  • Cory Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Mollies
  • Hatchet Fish
  • Thin Tetra fish

Pumpkin Shrimp Breeding

The key to breeding the Pumpkin Shrimp is getting both genders. While this may sound obvious it is the only real hurdle you need to jump to start a large shrimp colony.

The only way to tell the genders of these shrimp is if they are holding onto babies or eggs. These will be visible in the females underbelly. Buying a female shrimp will usually mean bringing baby shrimp into your aquarium. If you have fish in the tank they may be able to eat these babies, but it is not uncommon for Pumpkin Shrimp babies to survive when kept with fish.

When the Pumpkin Shrimp female is in a comfortable setting with consistent food and water parameters they will release a pheromone. This attracts males to come and fertilize their eggs.

To encourage breeding among the Pumpkin Shrimp:

  • Keep the water parameters stable
  • Make sure food is always available
  • Provide plenty of hiding places
  • Do not allow any predators into the tank

Again do not over feed the shrimp. When kept in aquariums with regularly fed fish, unfed shrimp will still likely have enough food to breed. If anything over feeding will reduce the quality of the water and stop the shrimp from breeding.

Once they start breeding the female will be seen with the baby shrimp in her underbelly. She will spend a lot of time standing in place, fanning the young with her swimming legs to keep them oxygenated.

Once the shrimp are born they will be release looking similarly to young Pumpkin Shrimp. They will not be as colorful right away but will skip the larval stage. This makes them much safer from other shrimp or fish predation.

This video shows a female shrimp with baby shrimp just about ready to be born.

If you want to ensure the highest survival rate possible you should set up a second aquarium. Do this by using some of the water from the existing aquarium. Water removed during water changes is a good idea, as the waste in it will start growing beneficial bacteria.

Remove the female and keep them in the second tank until they give birth to the baby shrimp. Remove the female and feed the shrimp just as you would feed the adults. Once they are big enough to not be hunted by the fish in the tank you can add them back.

While not housing any shrimp this tank can be used as a hospital tank for sick fish or an isolation tank for new, incoming fish. If you use medicine in this tank be sure it has safe levels of copper before putting shrimp back into it as many medicines will have copper in them.

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