Since the first prawns or shrimp were introduced to aquaphilia several decades ago, interest in them has grown astonishingly. At first, gambits such as the Caridina denticulata became very popular for their fame of algae eaters, ideal for aquariums. Still, gradually, new species have been introduced to the market, some of them very beautiful.
The gambits have finally found their place among the fans, and not only as one more inhabitant of the aquarium, and we have reached the point of preparing aquariums destined for them, the so-called “gambaries”.
Contemplating an aquarium with these little invertebrates, how they interact, how they reproduce, and their easy maintenance has come to “hook” many fans to the world of these small animals.
More and more species and more varieties are on the market, some of them reach incredible prices of several thousand euros. Luckily, there are more and more shrimp species at more affordable prices, bringing them closer and closer to most fans.
Among the species of prawns that can be purchased today, there is one to which we will dedicate this article and that is having enormous success: the Neocaridine heteropoda “red” or “cherry shrimp”, also known as “red cherry shrimp”.
But it is not coincidental the interest that these gambits have aroused, mainly because their price is increasingly accessible, their small size and colour so striking, their resistance and adaptability, and mostly because they reproduce quickly in freshwater. It’s only a matter of time before the (who have affectionately come to call here) “red fever” come to our aquariums.
Meeting the “Cherry Network”
Neocaridine heteropoda is native to Taiwan, it is a variable colored gambit that combines shades of grey, brown and dark, in different intensity, some are more transparent, others more colored. Until the end of 2006, it was called Neocaridine denticulata Sinensis. Still, it has been established that this name is a synonym, with priority for the name Neocaridine heteropoda.
The red variety of this gambit was selected in Taiwan, it is the one that has become so popular, and we know it as shrimp “red cherry” or “cherry shrimp”. Its red coloration, however, is variable and depends on the genetic burden, sex (females are more intensely colored than males), age (the color is accentuated) and mood (in the face of stress pale).
The cherry net is a small prawn, as an adult, it does not usually exceed 2.5 cm, which makes it ideal for the aquarium, since it does not prey on smaller fish, unlike other prawns such as Macro brachium. Obviously, its small size can also make it vulnerable to attacks from larger fish; we will also have to take this into account.
Ideal water parameters
Cherry nets are one of the most resistant and adaptable gambits in terms of water parameters as well as temperature. Like other species, what hurts them the most are sudden changes,
They tolerate a pH between 6.5 and 7.5 and soft to semi-hard water, although ideally a KH around 4o and a GH over 10o. But they can be adapted seamlessly to slightly harder waters.
In terms of temperature, it is one of the gambits with a higher tolerance range. However, they prefer colder than warmer temperatures. Some colleagues say they have smoothly survived 8oC and at the other end, at 30oC, if they have adequate oxygenation in the water. The ideal temperature for them is between 20 and 25oC, they usually reproduce from 20oC.
But prawns, like other invertebrates, are extremely sensitive to copper. We should avoid the use of algaecides and fertilizers for plants high in copper, as well as medicines used to treat parasites, such as malachite green.
Thus we should also avoid high levels of nitrates (ideally less than 20 mg/l), as well as ammonia and nitrites, which can be fatal.
The Ideal Aquarium
As mentioned above, cherry nets can be maintained in specific aquariums (gambaries) or community aquariums, along with other fish.
In large aquariums, densely planted and with fish not too large, adult cherry plants will have no problem rising, and a lot of gambits will be able to develop until adults.
Fish such as bettas and cyclides, large and small, can see them as food; but there are smaller fish that don’t “chase” them, and that can occasionally eat some newborn offspring. For example, an option for a small-medium aquarium might be male guppies or “Endler”, Chinese neons, or the like.
Bottom fish, such as corydoras and loriccharides, do not see gambits as prey. However, their ideas and coming from the bottom may disturb them. Cherry nets, like all prawns, have a great defense mechanism and are provided by their antennae, which detect the near presence of the potential attacker both when approaching and directly by contact and their remarkably rapid reaction makes them dodge it in a few thousandths of a second, at the last moment.
A fish can only catch them if it catches them off guard or chases them, or if they have no escape.
Other invertebrates are totally harmless to them, snails. Even the largest, such as apples, are unable to catch even newborn gambits.
Of course, as mentioned above, the ideal would be a specific aquarium for them, gambas. They can be kept in small aquariums, even 4l, planted and without filtration, with water changes and well-produced, although ideally a larger aquarium.
As it is a gambit that breeds quite a bit, in a year we could have overpopulation … I would advise gambas around 15-20l, if it is older, even better.
As aquarium companions in the gambas, I would recommend a few snails. They eat crystal seaweed and also share food with prawns. If the aquarium is small, we can put Planorbis type snails, which do not exceed 2 cm.
They are one of the easiest hermaphrodite snails to control, as they do not grow as fast as others. If your number increases, just take out some adults.
Of course, you can also put other types of snails like neritina, Vittina, and depending on the size of the aquarium, apple snails.
They are compatible with other small shrimp species, which happens if their population increases, they tend to inhibit the breeding of the other less prolific species.
As for the filtration of the aquarium, you can maintain an aquarium without a filter, but at least you should have water movement to prevent it from sning, change the water partially frequently, and above all, a right amount of natural plants must be essential.
But ideal to avoid problems would be a filter, both indoors, waterfall and sponge, and that could not absorb newborn cherry. This is achieved with homemade sponge and aerator filters, or by protecting the inlet of filters with mesh or sponge.
Of course, this is to ensure the maximum number of young, but even without it, we will also manage to raise them. They are very prolific, and we will almost certainly discover one day a lot of small gambits that have survived both the fish and the siphon of the filter.
As for the substrate, we can use both gravel and sand, to everyone’s taste.
On the plants, I would definitely recommend putting a few natural plants like Java Moss and Java Ferns For gambits are much needed, as they find in them their food source, especially when they are small.
There is one plant that I consider highly recommended for prawns: Java moss. Java moss provides excellent shelter for newborn cherry, and not only that, but it also serves as food for both the little ones, who peck at each other and the adults.
The truth is that we can put any type of plant that we like and that adapts to the light conditions of our aquarium. Some whitish-leafed plants such as Heteranthera and Elodea can serve as food if it is scarce in the aquarium, ripping small pieces from the leaves.
Cherry nets, like other shrimp species, are totally omnivorous, so we’ll have no trouble feeding them.
Their diet will be based on green algae that they can find in the aquarium. We will complement them by offering them foods such as fish flakes, bottom pills, freeze-dried dry food, seaweed, porridge, cooked vegetables (peas, spinach), and frozen food (mosquito larvae, artemia, etc.).
Some foods will enhance their red colors, such as those rich in carotenes and spirulina. However, as we have said before, they influence a lot of things in color.
We must offer them the amount of food needed to be fully consumed in a short time. if we have many prawns, we can repeat the dose several times a day, also after turning off the lights. Gambits also feed at night.
This is one of the most exciting and curious sections of the maintenance of these gambits. Unlike some shrimp species, such as Caridina multidentata (formerly C. japonica) and Macrobrachium (crystal shrimp) that need passage through Salobre water from their larvae, Neocaridine heteropoda is one of the shrimp species that performs its entire reproductive cycle in freshwater.
The larvae (actually zoeas) when hatching the egg are fully formed gambits and perfect miniature replicas of their parents, who can seek their food and function on their own without any problem.
Its breeding is relatively easy in an aquarium. However, obviously, we must have at least one male and one female to achieve reproduction. If we are not sure when identifying them, it is preferable to buy a small group to make sure.
Differentiating males from females is relatively easy in this species but is only reliable when the specimens are young or adult. In smaller illustrations (1 cm or less) it is challenging because they look similar to both males and females, we should not trust the coloration. When they are small, there may be very pale females that will then be colored.
Females are generally more colorful than males, their color varies from speckled red to substantial, even intense cherry, to brownish red. Females also have a broader abdomen and longer pleopods to hold the eggs and above all a characteristic feature: a yellow or yellow-green spot behind the head (cephalothorax). This yellow spot represents unfertile eggs and is indicative of a mature female.
Males are usually smaller than females, although I have a male that is one of these exceptions. They are generally much less colorful than females, even transparent, with small red spots. However, some may have female-like coloration, but never opaque red.
Males have no yellow spot behind the head, and their abdomen is more stylized. Interestingly, the antennules (the two pairs of smaller antennae) of males are longer than those of females. It is a trait that serves to identify them safely but requires a little practice and also comparison.
Mating takes place belly to belly, so the male, without releasing it, tries to place himself under it or wrap it with his abdomen from the side. If the female rejects it, it will cause it to fall with a strong jolt of its body. However, we will notice that the female is fragile, it has not yet hardened its exoskeleton, and its movements are complicated.
When the male has managed to position himself in the correct position, he will pass his spermatophores, which the female will keep in that cavity.
The female will then use the deposited sperm to fertilize the eggs as she pulls them out of her body. Each fertilized egg will place it among its several rows of well-ordered pleopods; may depend on the size of the female, can lay between 20 and 70 yellow eggs.
It will keep them subjected thanks to a kind of “hairs” that each of their pleopods possesses, which will always move, day and night, to keep the eggs oxygenated.
Eggs will take 3 to 4 weeks to hatch, depending on the temperature, at the higher temperature, less time.
Ovate females become much shyer and more cautious than females without eggs or males. They will try to spend most of the day hiding, especially if there are fish in the aquarium, protecting their precious cargo.