Setup A Red Cherry Shrimp Aquarium For $50

Red Cherry Shrimp, abbreviated R.C.S., are some of the most common shrimp in the home aquarium. They’re in seemingly every single fish store, and often someone’s first shrimp in their aquarium. They’re known for their striking red color and simplicity to breed.

Despite their popularity, starting to care for Red Cherry Shrimp for the first time can be both intimidating and expensive. As a result, the purpose of this article is to provide a step-by-step guide to setting up a Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium for $50.

Red Cherry Shrimp Parameters

To start to care for any new aquarium pet, the most important thing to know is the pet’s ideal parameters. Let’s start with discussing the parameters for Red Cherry Shrimp.

One thing to keep in mind during this discussion is that Red Cherry Shrimp are invertebrates. As a result, they’re more susceptible to fluctuating or incorrect water parameters than other species.

As a result, when setting up a Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium, it’s more important to make sure water parameters are stable that that they have certain values.

Here are Red Cherry Shrimp’s ideal parameters:

As you can see, Red Cherry Shrimp have a fairly wide range of acceptable parameters. Generally, I recommend keeping the temperature in the 76-78 degree range and the pH roughly neutral or slightly acidic.

I would also recommend a minimum 5 gallon aquarium size, 2 gallons is acceptable, but having 5 is much roomier. Lastly, for the majority of people, I wouldn’t worry about water hardness. While a lower hardness is nice, in general, trying to change it will cause more issues than leaving it alone.

Another important thing that we touched on some above, is that Red Cherry Shrimp desire stable water parameters. This means it’s important to only introduce them to a cycled and well established aquarium. Red Cherry Shrimp are especially susceptible to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates.

Image result for images api test kit

After you’re done cycling the new aquarium, I recommend regularly checking the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels using a test kit. If the ammonia and nitrite are never not 0, or the nitrate is ever >10, I recommend doing a water change.

Red Cherry Shrimp Shopping List

Now that we’ve discussed the ideal water parameters and Red Cherry Shrimp as a whole, it’s time to breakup our budget into what we need.

The generic list of equipment we need is:

  • 5 gallon aquarium
  • Heater
  • Filter
  • Soil or sand
  • Driftwood, plants, or other decorations

Since we have a small budget, it is important to minimize costs wherever possible. As a result, we are going for a clean, simplistic, and natural looking design. As an upside to this small design, you’ll never need to spend more than 15 minutes maintaining the aquarium weekly.

Another aspect to this design is that we will include no lighting or a roof. This can be something that you choose to add later, especially if you have live plants in the aquarium. However, for now, we are not including it to save on cost, and help maintain the cleaner look.

Now let’s look at the prices of the various aspects of the aquarium in relation to our budget .

Five Gallon Aquarium: $5

There are plenty of different scenarios you can use to purchase an aquarium. These sources vary wildly in their pricing and look. However, going for budget here, we’re going to look at Pet Co’s common $1/gallon sale.

That sale will allow us to purchase a five gallon aquarium for a mere $5.

Heater: $12

There is still some discussion in the community about whether a heater is necessary. If you have a pure Red Cherry Shrimp species tank and the water in the aquarium can stay at at least 65 year round, you can get away without one.

The next important thing that we need is a heater.

Similar to aquariums and like everything else on this list, there’s plenty of choices for picking a heater. As we discussed above, Red Cherry Shrimp need an aquarium temperature of 76-78 degrees. Unless you always keep your house at this temperature, you’ll need a heater.

For a 5 gallon aquarium, you’ll need a 25 watt heater, though often it can be easier to find a 50 watt heater online. Either way, there are plenty of good choices on Amazon. The price for reasonable quality ones seems to be roughly $12.

Image result for aqua clear 10 gallon

Power Filter: $20

For the filter, you’ll see a recurring theme, there’s plenty of choices to decide between.

I recommend a standard power filter. For a little bit extra, you can get a sponge air filter, which will help protect shrimp from being sucked into the aquarium. The market has plenty of filters available, but you’ll want to aim for one designed for a 10 gallon aquarium.

Amazon has standard power filters available for roughly $20. Getting a quality sponge and air pump combo will run more in the range of $25-30. However, for starters, especially if you’re aiming for a larger community tank, a power filter is fine.

If you are looking for a species only fish tank, for the same $20 budget, you can likely get a sponge filter and air pump. These will both do the job even better for a Red Cherry Shrimp breeding tank, while staying in line with our budget.

So far, with these three essential aspects of the filter, we have spent $37 of our budget. This leaves us with $13 to spend on decorations for the aquarium. Let’s start with the most important, soil or sand.

There’s plenty of choices here, and the most important is to decorate the aquarium to your liking. However, I’ll give a sample breakdown for what I recommend.

The first is I recommend having some soil or sand. Personally, I’m a fan of sand, and you should need roughly 5-7 pounds for a 5 gallon aquarium. That amount should cost roughly $6 for the budget.

That leaves us with $7 for the budget. Personally, I’d recommend looking for some live plants or a piece of driftwood, it depends what you’re looking for. Both are great for a shrimp habitat.

I personally pick up my driftwood on the beach. That means I could use the entire remaining budget for live plants, as my driftwood is free. However, the remaining two items are:

Sand: $6

Live Plants: $7

Red Cherry Shrimp Habitat Setup

Now that we’ve discussed all the requirements for the Red Cherry Shrimp habitat, within our budget, it’s time to go through setting up the aquarium.

If you’ve already setup an aquarium before, setting up a Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium is fairly similar to setting up most aquariums.

The first step to setting up an aquarium is to take whatever soil and sand you’ve decided to use and rinse it. Then put that soil and sand into the aquarium. After that, if you’ve chosen driftwood or any fake decorations, add them now.

However, keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to use live plants, you’ll have to wait until the aquarium is filled up.

After adding the soil, and any other fake decorations, the next step is to add the filter and the heater. However, keep in mind you won’t be able to turn either of these on until the aquarium is filled with water.

Set the filter along the back of the aquarium and put the filter vertically on the other side along the back of the aquarium. Make sure that there is some water flow across the filter, but if there isn’t you’ll need to move it close to the filter.

After you’ve done all of these things, it’s time to add some water. Grab some water from the sink, or your RO/DI filter if you have one set up, and then add some dechlorinator. Mix the water around some, and then feel free to add it to the aquarium.

Once the water is in the aquarium, you can startup the heater and the filter. There’s a chance the aquarium could be a bit cloudy at this point, however, just give it a few hours and it should settle down.

Now it’s time to put in any live plants and cycle the aquarium. Here’s an article that’ll help guide you to cycling the aquarium.

After the aquarium has been cycled, which should take a few weeks, you can now add your Red Cherry Shrimp to the aquarium. Be extra vigilant when first adding the shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp are sensitive to changing water parameters.

When adding the Red Cherry Shrimp to the aquarium, there’s a number of ways you can do it, but the most important is to take your time. The goal is to slowly change the parameters that the fish are in so that they match the parameters of your aquarium.

If you have a large measuring container with a handle that can dangle off the aquarium, pour the bag with the shrimp into that. Otherwise, simply float the bag containing the shrimp in the aquarium.

Start by waiting for 15-30 minutes for the temperatures to equalize. That equalization will help keep the habitats similar. At that point, it’s time to start moving water.

Every 15 minutes, start by removing a tablespoon of water from the bag containing the shrimp and disposing of it. Then add a tablespoon of aquarium water to the bag.

After a few hours, the water between the two containers should be mostly interchanged. At that point, feel free to turn the bag over and let your shrimp into their new home.

Red Cherry Shrimp Maintenance

Now that your Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium has been set up with the shrimp moved into it, it’s time to discuss the maintenance of your aquarium.

On a daily basis, taking care of Red Cherry Shrimp involves feeding them. If you have a Red Cherry Shrimp only aquarium, like we’ve discussed in this article, then you’ll want to get them a separate shrimp food. Most major brands have food labeled as “shrimp food” that should work just fine.

Image result for api test kit

If you have a community aquarium, Red Cherry Shrimp can likely live off of leftover food from the community fish. However, I still like to toss my community tank shrimp a separate shrimp pellet once in a while.

On a non day to day basis, taking care of Red Cherry Shrimp involves testing the water. I recommend testing the water roughly every week using an API water testing kit. The test kit will cost roughly $20-25.

When testing water levels, you want to make sure that the aquarium has been properly cycled.

The ideal levels for any aquarium with shrimp are as follows:

  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: 0-10 ppm

If nitrate levels are going above this when you do your regular water changes, then you need to be doing water changes more frequently.

For freshwater aquariums, I recommend doing a 25% weekly water change.

Red Cherry Shrimp Breeding

Taking care of Red Cherry Shrimp involves planning for Red Cherry Shrimp babies. Red Cherry Shrimp, in a comfortable environment, will consistently breed.

If you don’t want to raise Red Cherry Shrimp babies, and you have your Red Cherry Shrimp in a community aquarium, then the other fish will eat the hatchlings, if they don’t have adequate cover.

However, if you have a Red Cherry Shrimp only aquarium, then you’ll have to deal with the reality of females having dozens of babies at a time.

That means you’ll need a plan of what to do with the Red Cherry Shrimp babies. Red Cherry Shrimp babies are often in demand, and I recommend selling them through a source like AquaBid. If selling them does not work, try donating them to a local LFS.

Else you will need another strategy. Healthy happy Red Cherry Shrimp, in their own aquarium, breed like guppies. Literally.

Either way, if you want to, raising Red Cherry Shrimp babies can be fun and rewarding. You don’t need to worry about feeding them, they’ll eat biofilm off of your aquarium.

Any mosses or other live plants will also hold plenty of food that the babies like. Also keep in mind that if you do not have a sponge filter, or some sort of covering over your filter, the babies will be sucked up. So be careful, and keep that in mind.

Eventually, as the babies grow up, they’ll continue to eat the same food as adults.


Setting up an Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium is an incredibly exciting and rewarding process. Red Cherry Shrimp aquariums can be expensive, however, setting up a 5 gallon one for <$50 can be a fun process.

Let me know about your experiences with setting up a Red Cherry Shrimp aquarium. Let me know what you think, and I look forward to seeing your comments below.

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