Cherry Shrimp And Betta: Dos & Donts For Living Together

cherry shrimp and betta
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People often assume the two can’t live together but in many cases, cherry shrimp and betta make great tank mates. There are a few things that you should consider before you put cherry shrimp with betta fish.

But, what’s the catch?

Bettas are predators and in some cases will just be too aggressive to live with shrimp, but in my experience that does not happen often as long as you make sure that the needs of both the betta fish and cherry shrimp are met.

What Are Cherry Shrimp And Why Would I Want Them?

Shrimp make a great clean-up crew in any aquarium, they can eat algae, leftover food, and biofilm from all around the tank. They are also brightly colored and fun to watch.

red cherry shrimp with live plants

Cherry shrimp might be a more appealing option than other freshwater shrimp common in fish keeping.

Ghost shrimp are not brightly colored, are aggressive, and are usually sold as breeders which means that most ghost shrimp will not be healthy when you buy them.

Bamboo shrimp need fast-moving water, making them a bad match for betta fish.

Setting Up Your Tank

Even if you already have a betta tank or already have a shrimp tank, most tanks will need a little bit of setup before you combine the two.

Tank Size

I have kept cherry shrimp with a betta fish in a tank as small as 3.5 gallons, but that was not sustainable, the adults lived and bred but none of the baby shrimp survived. For a sustainable tank where the shrimp can breed, I recommend at least a 5-gallon tank but a 10-gallon is even better.

aquarium with plants and decors
You should also consider how many betta fish you want in the tank. For a sorority, the smallest tank size is 20 gallons, with a 20 long being better than a 20 tall. You could put 5 to 7 female bettas in a 20-gallon tank.

Plants And Hardscape

Both shrimp and betta fish love live plants, tannins, and places to hide so it’s easy to provide for them both. A heavily planted aquarium is the best option.

Betta fish like plants they can lay down on as well as plants they can hide in. Great plants for resting places include anubias, tiger lily, banana plants, and other betta bulbs. Some easy-to-grow plants for hiding in are hornwort, guppy grass, water sprite, java fern, sword plants, and Hygrophila.

Cherry shrimp need plants they can hide in and graze off of. Java moss, crystalwort, and subwassertang are all great options as ground cover to keep the shrimp safe from the betta fish as well as hornwort, guppy grass, and water sprite as floating plants.

aquarium with driftwood and botanical plants

Both your betta and shrimp enjoy natural wood hardscaping; cholla wood, leaf litter, and other driftwood are recommended to help the shrimp stay hidden. These also put tannins in the water, improving the water quality. Shrimp will graze off of wood and botanicals.

For a cherry shrimp colony to thrive with betta fish, the most important thing is plant coverage; you want the tank to be as packed with plants and hiding places as possible, plenty of ways to break line of sight, and plenty of places for the betta to go to be alone. If you don’t have enough live plants, silk plants can be used to help create cover.

Water Parameters

The water temperature should stay between 76 – 84f (24 – 29c). Cherry shrimps breed more readily at higher temperatures so if you can you should set your heater to 79 – 83f(26 – 28c) which is also the perfect temperature for a happy betta fish.

Although ph can be anywhere from 6 – 8 if you aren’t keeping anything else in the aquarium with them you shouldaim for a ph of 6.8 – 7.5 to keep these two species happy and healthy.

betta with shrimp in fish tank

Cherry shrimp with betta fish require a GH of 4 – 8 and the KH should be 4 – 5, this is easily maintained by keeping a balance of both tannin leaching organics and a source of calcium and minerals in your tank or filter.

Shrimp require calcium, magnesium, and trace minerals to survive molting. Essential mineral sources for cherry shrimp are usually shrimp-specific products like shrimp rocks, tourmaline balls, or wonder shells. As a cheap alternative, you can use cuttlefish bone.

There are powder and liquid water additives as well that can give you greater control over the exact amount of minerals for your shrimp.

Filtration

Shrimp are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrites so you will need proper filtration, especially if you are going to stock a lot of shrimp in a large tank (i.e. 30 gallons).

A sponge filter is amazing for both betta fish and shrimp.

The flow will stay low, it adds air to the water, and your shrimp will graze off of the sponge.

If you decide to go with any other filter, be sure that it has a sponge pre-filter so that you don’t suck baby shrimp into the filter.

Stacking The Odds For Success

So, can cherry shrimp live with bettas?

There are many reasons why keeping a betta with cherry shrimp might not succeed, sometimes it is unavoidable but you can always stick to best practices that will increase the chance of a thriving shrimp colony alongside betta fish.

Selecting Your Betta

If you are keeping just one betta fish, male bettas are worse at hunting than females are because the long pretty fins slow them down, often allowing for the shrimp to escape.

Regardless of male or female, a betta that is already kept with shrimp or small fish will likely have a better temperament around your shrimp.

How Many Shrimp Should You Add

I always stock my tanks with a maximum of 2 cherry shrimp per gallon or a minimum of 2 females and 1 male shrimp.

If you go with a smaller number of shrimp, allowing them to breed in the tank before adding the betta can help keep your population sustainable.

Add The Cherry Shrimp First

When possible you should allow the cherry shrimp to establish themselves in your aquarium before adding a betta.

The best case would be that your shrimp have a couple of weeks to establish and begin breeding so that when the betta is added to the tank there is already some baby shrimp, but that is not usually practical so you can add a betta after only a few minutes.

If you already have a betta fish and are trying to add shrimp to your tank the best way to do that is for you to put your betta into a cup, add some plants and change around the tank a little bit, introduce the shrimp, and then finally put your betta back into his tank once the shrimp have had a little while to find hiding places.

Feeding

Although cherry shrimp make great scavengers, it is unlikely that your tank can produce enough food to feed a bunch of shrimp. It is best to use shrimp food and occasional algae wafers if you don’t grow enough algae in your tank.

You can feed them at the same time as your betta while the betta is distracted with its food. It is better to slightly underfeed than overfeed and you probably won’t need to feed the shrimp every day, just 3 or 4 times a week.

You might wonder, do bettas eat cherry shrimp? Well, usually only the baby shrimp get eaten unless you have an extremely aggressive betta.

I would recommend feeding your betta slightly more than usual and providing it with live and frozen foods when possible. Keeping bettas well-fed and with other food to hunt will help keep aggression away from your shrimp.

Do not overfeed, just be sure not to underfeed your betta either, it’s better for your shrimp to clean up leftovers than for your betta to be hungry enough to eat the cherry shrimp.

Lots Of Places To Hide

I realize I already mentioned this a little bit but this is the most important part. If you keep a betta with anything else in the same tank, the betta will need places to hide if you want your betta to be happy and feel safe.

You will want small caves that your betta can’t get into for your cherry shrimps to hide in, these can be simply made by stacking rocks and botanicals, or you can even buy some actual nano caves.

You will also want caves big enough for your betta to hide in, things such as coconut hides, and floating betta logs. I would have 1 or 2 places to hide per betta.

Caves can only help so much, the best way to keep everyone happy is to have lots of live plants, I am talking more than half your tank filled with live plants.

Ground coverage is important, you want nearly the entire ground covered with plants and other things to hide in, you also want fairly good coverage through the rest of the tank with tall plants that reach the top and floating plants to ensure that your betta can feel safe at all levels of the aquarium.

Have a lot of dense plants, like mosses, in clumps to create safe grazing areas around the tank, use the same kind of plants near the entrance to your shrimp caves and around your cholla wood, giving the shrimp safe areas to retreat to if they feel threatened.

Frequent Questions

Can Cherry Shrimp And Betta Fish Live With Other Kinds Of Shrimp?

Yes. Amano shrimp are great to keep in this kind of setup. I would avoid ghost shrimp because they are predators and can be aggressive towards cherries and filter-feeding shrimp, like bamboo shrimp which need faster moving water than betta fish.

Can I Keep Other Fish With My Betta And Cherry Shrimp?

Yes, you can. Provided you have a large enough tank most fish that are good tank mates for bettas will work in this setup.

I would look up whatever specific other species you want to add and make sure they will be safe with your current fish and shrimp.

What Should I Do If My Betta Is Killing All My Cherry Shrimp?

If your betta hunts adult cherry shrimp aggressively then you might not be able to keep the two together. You can move the betta or shrimp to a different tank or you can just let the betta kill them all. Unfortunately, an aggressive betta might not be able to live with shrimp.

If your betta is only eating your shrimp in passing or killing them because he can’t get away from them, maybe less shrimp, more plants, or a larger tank size could solve the problem.

Quick Recap

Cherry shrimp and betta fish make surprisingly good tank mates, they need similar water parameters and although some shrimp fry will become betta food most bettas won’t even try to eat adult shrimp unless they are starving.

The most important thing to remember is that you need lots of plants, everywhere in the tank there should be plants and hiding places for both the shrimp and bettas. The same enrichment that protects your cherry shrimp also makes your betta happier.

Last Updated: July 28, 2022

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