The Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp is one of the most underrated freshwater shrimp species out there. In fact, most aquarists have never even heard of them.
These little critters are a joy to own and they look absolutely stunning. We meet many owners who wonder why they didn’t take the leap sooner.
But if you’re interested in getting some for your home tank, there are a few things you need to know first.
Caring for Sulawesi shrimp requires a solid understanding of their natural environment and how to reproduce it in an aquarium. But don’t worry, by the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll be ready to buy it yourself!
Small but vibrantly colored, the Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp (scientific name: Caridina dennerli) is a highly sought after invertebrate in the fish trade.
These dwarf shrimp are very new to the hobby. They were first discovered in 2007.
Because they are still new, there are not as many active breeders as there are with other shrimp species. As a result, finding this freshwater shrimp can be difficult. If you manage to find them for sale, they often command a high price!
Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp are native to the Sulawesi region of Indonesia. They can be found living in two ancient lakes. These lakes, like other bodies of water in the Sulawesi region, are unique.
Due to the different water parameters in the area, the Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp can be difficult to care for. They require specific conditions to truly thrive. If you have a bit of experience, these creatures can be great additions to your collection.
Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp live a little longer than most dwarf shrimp species. Under the right conditions, they have a shelf life of up to two years.
That’s not much compared to the larger invertebrates in the trade. To further complicate matters, these shrimp are quite sensitive to changes in water parameters. To keep them healthy, you need to be attentive to tank maintenance and provide for all the needs of the shrimp.
One of the main reasons these shrimp are in such high demand is because of their striking appearance.
The body of the shrimp is similar to that of other dwarf shrimp. They have thin, segmented bodies, long antennae, and tiny legs.
However, the coloration is where the Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp really stands out.
The entire shrimp is covered in a vibrant red hue. The white spots break up that coloration a bit to create a striking look.
Author’s Note: You’ll notice that the antennae and front legs are also bright white. Some specimens may also have pure white tails.
When you first buy a Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp, it will likely be a small juvenile that is about a half-inch long.
As adults, these shrimp do not get much larger. When fully grown, most will be about an inch long.
Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care
Caring for Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp is no easy task.
The most difficult aspect is creating the right environment for them. These shrimp come from ancient lakes with conditions not seen as often in other bodies of water around the world.
Therefore, they do not do well in your average tropical fish tank. To help these shrimp reach their full potential, you need to create a separate environment that suits their needs. Here are some care guidelines you can follow to make that happen.
Because they are so small, you don’t need a huge tank. In fact, they are perfect for smaller nano tanks.
Many owners see success keeping these shrimp in tanks that can hold as little as five gallons!
Author’s Note: That should be fine for a small group. However, we always recommend buying something bigger if possible.
A larger aquarium will make it easier to regulate conditions. The smaller tanks are notorious for turning quickly when it comes to water parameters. With more water, you can keep things a bit more stable.
When caring for Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp, you should recreate their natural environment as much as possible. This can be difficult because the region has different water parameters.
The ancient lakes these freshwater shrimp come from are warm and slightly alkaline. They are not salty enough to be considered brackish.
However, the higher pH level is something most aquarists are not used to.
Before adding the shrimp to the tank, make sure they are fully cycled and ready to use. Triple check the pH balance and hardness to make sure the shrimp don’t go into shock.
These are the established parameters that you must follow:
- Water temperature: 77°F to 88°F (temperatures in the middle of this range are ideal)
- pH Levels: 7.0 to 8.5 (approximately 8.0 is best for true Sulawesi conditions)
- Water hardness: 3 to 10 dKH
To stay informed and accurately maintain the parameters of the water in the tank, perform regular tests with a reliable aquarium test kit. Do this about twice a week for best results (no point in overdoing it).
What to put in your tank
Take a look at any photo of the Sulawesi region and you’ll see how biologically diverse it is. The waters are full of life!
You should do your best to recreate that natural environment in your aquarium.
Start with a layer of dark sandy substrate at the bottom of the tank. This mimics the layer of plant debris at the bottom of the shrimp’s natural habitat.
On top of the substrate add some rocks and driftwood. Stick with porous surfaces instead of ultra smooth. A porous rock will easily become a home for algae. The same goes for raw driftwood.
You can also introduce some plants throughout the aquarium. The live plants will serve as a food source for the shrimp. It can also help protect you from light.
For equipment, you’ll need all the standard fees. Use a filter that is efficient for the size of the tank, but make sure the output is smooth.
Author’s Note: Sulawesi Cardinal Shrimp prefer calm waters, so you may need to use sponges to minimize water disturbance.
Lighting should be kept to a minimum. These shrimp are active at all hours of the day. But they are sensitive to intense light.
Common Potential Illnesses
Currently, there is no known disease that specifically affects this species. But that doesn’t mean your shrimp are free and clean. They can suffer from all the major diseases that other freshwater shrimp can experience.
One of the most common problems with Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp is stress. Poor water conditions can cause shrimp to become stressed, opening up the possibility of bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.
The tricky thing about dealing with those issues is that you can’t use copper-based drugs.
Like other invertebrates, these shrimp do not handle copper well. Therefore, you will have to resort to natural treatments if your shrimp contracts a disease.
The best way to deal with illnesses is to avoid them in the first place! Keep the tank clean and continually monitor the water conditions.
Avoid doing water changes too often. This may seem like surprising advice, but there’s a good reason for it. If you have a well cycled tank, your filter should be able to take care of nitrates and ammonia efficiently. Frequent water changes will only impact the shrimp.
Food and Diet
Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp are very easy to please. Their main diet in the wild consists of decaying plant matter, algae, and biofilms. In captivity, those same things should be staples!
That’s why it’s so important to incorporate things like rocks and driftwood. These shrimp are heavy algae eaters and will survive primarily on algae and biofilms that grow in the tank, so accept that natural disaster.
If your aquarium is well maintained, you may not need to provide supplemental food at all! If you do, you can use spirulina powder or other microorganisms.
behavior and temperament
At first, Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp is very shy. When they are first introduced to a tank, they will spend most of their time hiding.
You can find them hiding under rocks, on plant leaves, and anywhere else they can find shelter.
This is perfectly normal. Most shrimp of this size will show some nervousness.
Over time, your Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp should become more comfortable with the environment. When that happens, he will find them looking for food 24 hours a day. They are constantly looking for and eating different types of aquarium algae!
Temperament-wise, you shouldn’t encounter any problems at all. They do well with other shrimp and generally don’t cause any problems.
Let’s be clear, it’s not easy to find suitable tank mates for these shrimp.
The reason for this is their different needs. In most cases, standard community fish species will not tolerate high pH balance.
The best tankmates will be creatures that come from the same area. You can keep these shrimp in large groups. Other Sulawesi Dwarf Shrimp also make good tank mates. The same goes for Sulawesi snails.
There are concerted efforts to breed these shrimp in captivity and improve availability in the trade. While it is relatively easy to raise shrimp, it is time consuming!
Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp lay fewer eggs. Also, they have a lower spawn rate overall.
The good news is that you can easily start a small colony in your tank without doing a lot of extra work. As long as you have a male and a female in the same tank, chances are they will show up at some point. This is great because separating males and females is not easy!
Once they have reproduced, the female will lay about 15 eggs. She will keep them in their swimsuits, which are little leg-like finds on the lower body. She will keep those eggs there throughout the incubation process.
After about 20 days, the eggs will hatch and become free swimming. Feed them finely pulverized food as they grow.
Now you are ready to start!
Now that you know what is required if you want to provide excellent Sulawesi shrimp care, nothing is stopping you from buying some!
These creatures are absolutely beautiful and looking at them never gets old. The deep red color stands out even in the smallest tanks.
If you have any further questions about this freshwater species, we are always happy to help. Simply send us a message through our website or social media and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!