Can Goldfish and Shrimp Live Together?

Shrimp can be an excellent addition to a fish tank; they are very interesting to observe and are great cleanup crew, eating algaes and uneaten fish food! 

There are a couple different types of shrimp available in the hobby, the main two are amano shrimp and neocaridina shrimp.

But, are they ideal tank mates for goldfish, is it a good idea to add them to your tank and how do you care for them?

Can goldfish and shrimp live together?

This isn’t a straightforward answer, as there are many different factors that can decide whether or not this is possible in your aquarium, but in the typical setting, we usually do not recommend that you keep shrimp with goldfish, or any large fish for that matter.

The fish mindset is that if something is small enough to fit within their mouth, then it is food.

Large goldfish will most definitely eat shrimp given the chance.

But it is not impossible to keep goldfish and shrimp together!

If you keep smaller, younger goldfish in a large heavily planted tank, with lots of foliage and cover, the shrimps will have plenty of space to hide and the chances of them surviving are much higher.

Do goldfish eat shrimp?

In short, yes; large adult goldfish will most definitely eat shrimp!

However, as mentioned, you can reduce the chances of this happening by adding cover, providing more space and feeding your goldfish well

Fancy goldfish will actually prey on shrimp much less than comets and shubunkins too. As they are smaller, slower, more clumsy swimmers, the shrimp can avoid them easily, whereas a comet is a large, powerful fish and will quickly get at the shrimplets and adult shrimp.

Can shrimp harm goldfish?

No, shrimp do not have the physical ability to harm a goldfish. Amano shrimps may eat eggs or even newly hatched fry of goldfish, or they may even pick at the skin of an adult goldfish, but they can never damage or kill a goldfish!

However, if a goldfish swallows a large shrimp and gets it stuck, they can actually choke and die! Although the likelihood of this happening is quite slim.

Shrimps can also cause ammonia if they die which could also put your goldfish at risk, but this is indirect, feeding too much or owning too many fish can also create the same issue.

In essence, a shrimp cannot intentionally harm an adult fish.

Will shrimp reproduce in a goldfish tank?

Cherry shrimp or neocaridina shrimp can be easily bred in an aquarium if kept in a stable environment and fed well. They are actually very prolific and will breed rapidly if there are no predators, but in a tank with fish, many of the babies, called shrimplets, will be eaten and only a few may survive.

With more plants and cover, a larger population of shrimp may be able to live in the tank as more babies survive. You may end up with hundreds of shrimp, but dont worry too much, as shrimp have an extremely low bioload and cause little pollution.

How do goldfish and shrimp differ?

Shrimp are an invertebrate, meaning their differences with fish are vast. They do have different care requirements, but there are some things that are the same in both species.

Shrimp and Goldfish both:

  • Need to be fed regularly
  • Need clean water to live in
  • Cannot live in water with high nitrites, nitrates or ammonia
  • Can live in cooler waters
  • Are widely adaptable to water parameters
  • Enjoy a stable environment
  • Can become stressed
  • Are social and prefer the company of their own

Calcium

Shrimp do however, have additional care requirements due to the fact they are an invertebrate. One of the main things they need is calcium, not just in their food but also in the water.

Without calcium, the shells of the invertebrates will melt and the shrimps will be vulnerable to predation, infection and death!

You can dose calcium easily by adding a KH buffer to the water; just know that this will also increase the pH, so don’t go mad with it!

If you are at home and dont have or can’t find a dedicated aquarium buffer, you can use bicarbonate of soda to increase the calcium levels.

Feeding

Shrimp are also a detrivore, meaning that they break down and consume detritus, much like snails, eating scraps of food, fish and plant waste and algae.

Shrimp are bottom feeders and must be fed off the floor. Providing algae wafers, sinking pellets and fresh boiled veg is the best way to get food to your shrimp, who do indeed also require feeding; they cannot live just on your fish’s waste.

Moulting

Shrimp also require plenty of hiding spaces, not just so they can explore, but to protect them from predation, especially when they need to moult.

Shrimp moult regularly – they do this because their exoskeleton cannot grow with them and they must shed it every so often. When they do this, they are temporarily soft bodied and highly vulnerable.

Moulting is also highly stressful for shrimp and they like to hide when they do it, in order to feel more comfortable.

Treatments

Shrimp also differ greatly from fish in their reaction to medication and elements, such as copper. As mentioned, shrimp are an invertebrate, making them vastly different from us.

Unlike us who have iron in our blood to absorb and move around oxygen, shrimp have copper in their blood to do the same thing. This however, makes copper react with their blood; this reaction is fatal and will very quickly kill shrimp.

This is why it is important to check treatments before you use them to see if they are shrimp safe. If they are not, you may need to move your fish or shrimp to another tank if you wish to treat them for an illness or infection.

Are shrimp nocturnal?

Shrimp are awake most of the time, they spend as much time as they can grazing and searching for food, however, they will be more active at night time or when it gets darker.

This is because they feel much safer at night as it is a time when they are less easily spotted, and when most fish are asleep.

Do shrimp sleep?

Technically yes, shrimps do sleep, although not in the same way you or I sleep. Shrimp and most other arthropods (insects, spiders and crustaceans) often enter a dormant resting state multiple times throughout the day, where they conserve energy.

However, it is not a deep sleep and they are almost half awake, ready to react if they are in danger. This method of resting is adopted by a lot of animals who are commonly prayed upon by other creatures.

Goldfish Temperament and Behaviour 

The temperament of a goldfish will differ from individuals, sometimes you can have a very placid, peaceful goldfish who will leave shrimp alone and may never eat them, sometimes you can have a fish that will simply not allow you to keep shrimp and will eat them with gusto!

It all depends, but typically, behaviour can be influenced by the environment. If a goldfish is kept in a warm tank, not fed as much and is kept in a smaller tank, they can become irritable and are more likely to prey on shrimp or even bully other goldfish.

A goldfish:

  • kept in cooler water
  • fed plenty
  • given lots of space and cover
  • kept in stable water 

… will generally be more placid, as they are much more comfortable, making them less likely to eat shrimp, bully other fish and tear up plants.

Shrimp Temperament and Behaviour

Shrimp are generally very peaceful animals, they don’t really bicker with each other much, they don’t harm other tank inhabitants and they tend to just get on with their own thing, which is usually grazing the environment for infusoria, algae or scraps of food.

Sometimes shrimp can bother other invertebrates and small fish over food, but this isn’t commonplace in freshwater shrimp.

Goldfish Tank Requirements

Goldfish require a large tank with plenty of water volume and plenty of space to swim, with good filtration, high oxygen, and good water chemistry.

They like a pH close to neutral, but enjoy harder water, with mineral contents such as calcium present.

Goldfish enjoy swimming in open spaces, but do need cover. Live plants are great, however, goldfish will eat soft leaf plants if they are hungry enough.

Shrimp Tank Requirements

Shrimp have the same basic requirements of any fish tank, filter, clean water, oxygen.

Although they do not require a large tank due to their small size and low bioload, they will certainly do better in a larger aquarium. 

The water parameters they are best kept at is very similar to goldfish, neutral pH with mild hardness, and they need calcium to be present in the water for their exoskeleton.

Shrimp also do exceptionally well in planted tanks; they live amongst live plants and will clean them meticulously. Shrimp enjoy plenty of cover and they live on the bottom of the tank or will crawl around the terrain/decor.

What kind of shrimp can live with goldfish?

There are many different types of freshwater shrimp, some of them are harder to keep than others, like the cardinal shrimp which is native to lake sulawesi and needs certain specific minerals in the water to survive. 

The neocaridina shrimp, originating from eastern china, for example, has actually been domesticated. It is widely available in all kinds of colours and adapts to aquarium life very easily.

Cherry Shrimp

If you keep Neocaridina or Cherry Shrimp in the tank with lots of plant cover and keep your fish well fed, chances are, they can live together. Your shrimp may even breed and you may even end up with hundreds of shrimp living with your goldfish!

However, due to the small size of the Cherry Shrimp, even the adults run a higher risk of being eaten by goldfish, and the babies will definitely be eaten if spotted as they are extremely small and have a soft exoskeleton.

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp are a little easier to keep with goldfish due to their larger size, however, they are not true freshwater shrimp, and while they can live in freshwater, they cannot reproduce in it, and will have shorter lifespans in freshwater.

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp, or Glass Shrimp, are another true freshwater shrimp, they are easy to keep alive in the aquarium and can reproduce in freshwater, unlike the similar looking amano shrimp. 

They are slightly larger than Cherry Shrimp, but may still be eaten by large goldfish, especially when they have newly moulted and have a soft shell.

Bamboo Shrimp

Bamboo Shrimp, or Wood Shrimp, are another possible option for a fish tank. They are large in size, around 3 inches, making it very hard for a goldfish to eat. They are filter feeders and require a current in the tank, where they can perch and collect passing food.

These shrimp are, however, not easy to look after. They are brackish, not true freshwater shrimp, and much like Amano Shrimp, while they can live in freshwater, they cannot breed and live shorter lives.

Nearly all Wood Shrimps are wild caught as they are difficult to breed in captivity – this means they can have an extra hard time adjusting to life in captivity, meaning they are more difficult to keep alive.

Taking them from the wild also has adverse ecological effects on the ecosystems in south east asia.

Vampire Shrimp

Vampire Shrimp are very similar to Wood Shrimp, however, they are usually white or blue in colour and are found in Africa, but they are nearly the same and do better in saltwater than in freshwater, although they can definitely be kept in a freshwater tank with your goldfish successfully.

Crayfish

Although not exactly shrimp, crayfish are another possible option to add to your tank, however, they may not be the best choice to add with your goldfish, there are a few types kept in the hobby.

One of these is the Mexican Dwarf Crayfish. These are only small, only slightly larger than a cherry shrimp, but they possess large claws and tougher skeletons, making them less likely to be eaten by goldfish. 

The only issue dwarf crayfish oppose is the fact they might nip at the eyes and mouth of your goldfish and cause injury if your fish get too close.

Other crayfish, like the American Blue, Self Cloning Crayfish and European Crayfish, we definitely do not recommend you keep with goldfish. Again, while it can be done in certain scenarios, larger crayfish are predatory animals and will catch and eat a goldfish if they are hungry enough!

Are there benefits of keeping shrimp with goldfish?

As mentioned, shrimp are an excellent clean up crew. They are pure scavengers and will eat waste left by the fish, uneaten food, dead plant matter and will pick at and break down any organic waste they come into contact with.

Shrimp will even eat dead fish!

This means shrimp can be great at reducing the risk of an ammonia spike, as they help to break down top causes of ammonia, like leftover fish food. They also break down materials to make them easier for bacteria and plants to utilise, aiding in filtration.

Shrimp faeces is also an excellent food source for baby snails, infusoria and other microfauna.

Shrimp are a great animal to add if you want a more natural ecosystem in your tank.

How to introduce shrimp to a fish tank

Shrimp are more sensitive to changes in water chemistry than fish, and so the acclimation process should be a little longer and more steady.

The best way to acclimate shrimp or any invertebrate is to drip acclimate them.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Place the shrimp in a bucket with a low level of water, then get a thin pipe (you can use airline tubing for this as it is available at nearly all aquatics stores, is malleable and can be cut to any size).
  1. Suck one end of the pipe to pull water through it from your tank, then tie a knot in the pipe and adjust it, so that the pipe drips the water slowly.
  1. Then, place the pipe end into the bucket and allow the tank water to drain into it. This will slowly acclimate the shrimp to the temperature and water chemistry of the tank, in a controlled manner. 
  1. Allow your shrimp to drip acclimate for around 40 minutes.
  1. After this time, catch your shrimp with a net and add them to your tank.
  1. Then, pour the bucket water away and refi your tank with new clean, treated water.

If you have large fish in your tank, you can try placing the shrimp near some plants or cover.

You can also turn off your lights to give the shrimp time to settle in, without the fish bothering them and stressing them out.

Selecting shrimp for your goldfish tank

Selecting the right shrimp for your tank is also key. Unfortunately a lot of local fish stores out there don’t really care for invertebrates properly, and unless the staff really care, they are often neglected.

When entering a store, health check the shrimp yourself. Make sure that:

  • Their armour has bright colours;
  • Their armour is well shaped;
  • That they have all their legs;
  • That the shrimp are actively looking for food.

If you enter a store, and you see the shrimp laying on their backs, kicking their legs, do not buy them. Come back at a later date or try a different place.

Shrimp that do this are close to death. It is often seen when the shrimp are newly brought in from abroad and struggle to adjust to the new environment.

Alternatively, you can buy them online or from a breeder, just make sure that they are shipped properly!

Invertebrates are not protected by the same laws as fish, so they have no special shipping requirements, so someone could easily get away with sending them out in a plastic bag with little water and no heat pack.

Shipping them in this way obviously increases their mortality rate, and the chances of them coming to you in the mail alive is slim if they are not treated as livestock.

If you pick your shrimp carefully, choosing healthy, strong, active specimens, you provide them with proper care and treat them like any other pet, you should have luck with them, and you may even get them to breed!

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