Love them or hate them, there's certainly no escaping them; the exotic shrimps are an ineradicable part of modern day aquatics, says Nathan Hill.
With so many now in circulation — and no sign of a reprieve from the onslaught of new and unique varieties — it’s increasingly hard for the lay aquarist to tell good shrimps from bad. So, we asked Lucas Witte-Vermeulen of Sharnbrook Shrimp to introduce us to a handful of what’s available.
We had these guys in a Fluval Spec 19 aquarium for the purpose of photographing them. The first thing I noted was that looking through the open top of the tank, the shrimps took on a whole new sheen and vibrancy that seems to wane when viewed through glass.
If you are the kind of aquarist that likes to run open-topped systems, and aren’t averse to looking down from above, then you are in for a treat.
Across the board, these shrimps are impressive. We introduced them to the tank, set to a temperature of 18°C/64.4°F, and within seconds they had settled and started rummaging for food.
The varieties that Lucas brought were a mix ranging from entry level — such as Blue jellies (pictured below) — up to the true exotics such as the Royal blue tiger or Blue bolt strains. You can see more of them pictured further down the page.
It’s important to identify the shrimps as breeds rather than species because all of these variants are just that: tank bred colour types. That’s worth noting because if you’re ever told that, say, the Crystal red shrimps you’re hoping to buy are wild, then you should smell a rat.
These colourful strains are the direct result of breed manipulation rather than natural selection.
The one thing that I personally struggle to fathom is the brief lifespan of a shrimp given its often extraordinary price tag. I’m not alone in this, and the contention that comes up frequently is how anyone could part with sums of between fifty and a hundred pounds for a single animal that will at best last a couple of years.
As Lucas explained to me a large chunk of that market is for breeding, and it has to be said that these creatures are naturally inclined to being amorous. With a successful spawn or two and an ability to sell the young on, a profitable return can be enough encouragement for many.
Purchasing from Sharnbrook, the first thing you’ll note is that you get something of a 'Spanish Inquisition' moment with regards to water quality and chemistry. Before arranging to send anything out, Lucas goes to great lengths to ensure that you fully understand the exact requirements for his shrimp — in my case right down to conductivity and even substrate in the tank!
In fairness, it’s worth listening to and following what Lucas suggests. One of his claims is that despite the volume of shrimps that the company sends out all across the UK, he has yet to face a single Dead On Arrival (DOA) claim so far. For those concerned about the legitimacy of mail order livestock (at least of an invertebrate bent) this should come as something of a confidence booster, and I have already alluded to the point that our own test subjects, despite the nature of their travel, were happy and settled within seconds.
Water chemistry does need to be considered prior to purchase because these shrimps are acutely sensitive to not just poor, but also incorrect water.
Softness and acidity is the prime concern, and an ideal pH value should be somewhere between 6.2 and 6.8. Hardness needs to be low, with as little as 1°KH and no requirement for anything over 6°GH. Sticking these guys into hard, alkaline waters is a surefire way to kill them off.
Temperature is equally important, though some play is given. Even though many of these shrimps end up in tropical homes, their preference is for cooler, borderline tropical waters, and a temperature of below 24°C/75.2°F is wise.
Lucas highly recommends the use of Catappa leaves or similar, both as a generator of acid as well as a food source to encourage a degree of mesofauna and biofilm that the shrimps can graze on.
Some of the shrimps available
Royal blue tiger.
Crystal Black Bee S Grade shrimp.
Red Sakura SS Grade shrimp.
Black Taiwan Bee King Kong shrimp.
Black Sakura SS Grade shrimp.
Red tiger shrimp.
Snow white shrimp.
Crystal red bee shrimp.
Orange Sakura shrimp.
Hardcore fish enthusiasts may baulk at this, but I really like these shrimps. I’m also taken at just how explosive the proliferation of so many varieties has been. Are they worth the money? If you breed them, then definitely!
More info: Check out the website at sharnbrookshrimp.co.uk or call 0774 358 9999.
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