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Rainbow Shrimp

Last Updated: 2/21/14

One of my rainbow shrimp in my 20 gallon tank on 6/3/01.

Rainbow Shrimp Information
My Rainbow Shrimp
Rainbow Shrimp Photos

Rainbow Shrimp Information

Survive in aquariums: Yes
Survive in warm ponds: Yes
Survive in cold ponds: No
Plant eating capacity: Low
Algae eating capacity: Moderate

Rainbow shrimp are similar to ghost shrimp except that they live longer. They are about an inch long but can grow to two inches. Mine never grew larger than an inch but the store claims that they grow to three inches. Whereas ghost shrimp typically do not live more than a few months in an aquarium, rainbow shrimp may live for years. They do not touch the live plants. They prefer to eat leftover fish food followed by algae. Rainbow shrimp are supposed to eat brush algae. They are great little shrimp. Similar in appearance to ghost shrimp, they have a darker gut and sold for about $2 each instead of $1 per 10 that ghost shrimp cost (circa 2000).

I tried to uncover their scientific name. The store did not know. Although some aquarists believe the rainbow shrimp to be the wood shrimp, I know this is not true, at least for the shrimp that I have. My local aquarium store, where I worked for a few months, also carried wood shrimp. Wood shrimp are big with "fans" on their fronts. Rainbow shrimp are almost identical to ghost shrimp but for their increased longevity and ability to darken in color. They do have a tan stripe down their back like wood shrimp. They also can change color and are often dark like wood shrimp. However, they are much smaller and do not have fans. Rainbow shrimp may be a relative of wood shrimp. Mine could be clear, brown, or dark red depending on the background. The tan back stripe was evident when they were in the brown or red phase but almost vanished when in the clear phase. They went clear usually when among plants. When on the large driftwood in their tank, they were completely camouflaged to match the wood. If you do not know what you are looking for, you do not see them!

A German aquarist suggested that my rainbow shrimp may have been Caridina/Neocaridina sp. "zeylanica". After seeing the photo of this species at this German site, I think that this may indeed have been the species that I had. So, they would be a relative of Amano shrimp but definitely not the same thing. I hope someone can eventually clear this up! Another person says that the so-called rainbow shrimp is "clearly" a Caridina species.

I never saw any of my rainbow shrimp carrying eggs (unlike the ghost shrimp) nor did I ever find baby rainbow shrimp. So, it is likely that they do require brackish water to breed or at least conditions that my tanks did not have.

"Mr. Cichlid" said, "Now, rainbow shrimp aren't one species. In fact, rainbow shrimp is a collective name for a large group of Asian Atyid shrimp, many of which differ in appearance. These primarily include the Malayan dwarf shrimp, Caridina babaulti var. Malaya, the striped dwarf shrimp, and two other species with no scientific name currently, known in the shrimp hobby as the Indian dwarf shrimp and the Indian whitebanded shrimp. This site has articles on the Indian dwarf, Indian whitebanded, and the Malayan: http://www.petshrimp.com/shrimpspecies. php . Your rainbow shrimp appears to be an Indian whitebanded. The clear one is most likely an Indian dwarf. Kingsley's one (below) is darker so it probably is a Malaya. All species breed in freshwater but are not prolific breeders."

My Rainbow Shrimp

I had three of them in my 20 gallon tank starting 3/98. On 1/15/99 and 1/16/99, we had a 42 hour power outage due to an ice storm. The normally 72 degree F tank dropped to about 54 degrees F for most of that time. One shrimp died but the other two survived. Another shrimp died around 5/22/99, presumably of natural causes. The last two vanished sometime in June of 1999. They must have decomposed out of sight. So rainbow shrimp can live at least 15 months. On 7/31/99, I bought three more. One died on 1/19/00. The other two were alive and still about an inch long as of 11/29/00. They became a reddish brown with a tan stripe down their backs. They ate using pincers. By early 2001, only one rainbow shrimp was still alive, and he or she was 20 months old!

On 3/16/01, I got two more "rainbow shrimp." These however looked different. Instead of being reddish brown with the tan stripe, they were clear with a dark digestive tract. The tank next to them was labeled as japonica meaning Amano shrimp but those looked the same as my "rainbow shrimp" except for more dots on their sides. Neither of these shrimp look like the photos I have seen of either Amano shrimp or japonica. So, my store and most shrimp "experts" have got this all super confused. To make it more confusing, the two best sites in the links section that have photos show a photo of the wood shrimp that looks like my rainbow shrimp. Note, there are no fans in the photo of the "wood shrimp." The real wood shrimp has fans and is much larger and does not look like my rainbow shrimp or the photo on the site. My head is spinning! To make things even more bizarre, after a few months in my 20 gallon tank, the new rainbow shrimp changed appearance to look like my one older rainbow shrimp so I guess they were the same species! One of their photos is above.

On 6/1/01, I got four more rainbow shrimp for my newly re-done 50 gallon tank. The three remaining rainbow shrimp in the 20 gallon joined them on 6/16/01 so I then had seven (if they were all still alive) rainbow shrimp in my 50 gallon tank! The 20 gallon tank was being redone from scratch and had four rainbow shrimp added. On 11/3/01, I removed the first rainbow shrimp to die in the 50 gallon tank. Unlike shed exoskeletons, the shrimp was orange and when squished, guts came out instead of just collapsing an empty shell. So, a shrimp died.

I bought four shrimp for my twenty gallon tank on 7/8/01 that were labeled as rainbow shrimp but looked nothing like my rainbow shrimp that I had in my other tank. These four were clear with brown spots along the side. There were three tanks at the store. One was marked rainbow shrimp, one was marked Amano shrimp, and one was marked Japonica shrimp. From what I have read, Amano and Japonica are the same shrimp. The prices were about $3, $9, and $7 respectively. The shrimp that looked like my old shrimp were in one of the other tanks not marked as rainbow shrimp. The other two tanks had identical looking shrimp. I think the people at the store messed up the labels. No one there knew anything about the shrimp's true identities (scientific names)! I thought the ones I got may be Amano shrimp. They used their hands to eat like the ghost and rainbow shrimp did. Later, these new shrimp changed colors at various times and then appeared to look like my other rainbow shrimp but I was still not sure! On 2/1/02, I bought two real Japonica shrimp for comparison. Shortly after, most of my shrimp vanished (died in private). So, I have not had any rainbow shrimp since 2002.

Rainbow Shrimp Photos

Photos of some of my rainbow shrimp:

Rainbow shrimp in my 20 gallon tank on 4/22/01.
Rainbow shrimp in my 20 gallon tank on 6/3/01.
Rainbow shrimp in my 20 gallon tank on 6/3/01.
Clear rainbow shrimp in my 20 gallon tank on 11/28/01. This rainbow shrimp I thought might be an Amano shrimp because it looks somewhat like one when in the clear phase. The tan back stripe nearly vanishes and a few spots can be seen on the side (not obvious in the photo)

Here is a great photo that Kingsley sent to me on 4/28/04 of a shrimp we tried to identify. We are still not sure but it looks like a rainbow shrimp.

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