• Shrimp (CRS/CBS) dying: self help guide

    Updated version thanks to input from many. All future suggestions/corrections most definitely encouraged!

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    Self-Help Guide for Crystal (Red/Black) Shrimp Killers:
    Troubleshooting and Remedy Advice


    RECOMMENDED: Always keep a stock of quality activated carbon and a chlorine neutralizer that also binds ammonia and heavy metals (eg. Prime, Water Ager ACN).

    In text below, symbols have the following meaning:
    ≤ less than or equal to
    ≥ greater than or equal to
    < less than
    > greater than



    Common Causes of Shrimp Death:

    1. Chlorine: insufficient neutralization, leaking of unneutralized water from frozen bottles being used to regulate temperature. Replacement water should be neutralized before adding to tank.

    2. Ammonia: inadequately cycled tank, excess food, decaying bodies, anaerobic activity in substrate.
    ACTION: add Prime or equivalent. Consider water change. If no test kit, add Prime anyway. If tank inadequately cycled, can also add bacterial cultures (media from other tanks, commercial cultures such as Stability, or Stress Zyme).

    3. pH/temperature shock: as for fish.
    ACTION: slowly re-adjust tank.

    4. Temperature: CRS and CBS require temperatures ≤ 25 oC. They can survive at higher temperatures for short periods of time. Mortality increases rapidly ≥ 28 oC.
    ACTION: can use frozen bottles to reduce temperature but be careful of inducing temperature shock. PC fans blowing air across water surface is a more intermediate solution, chiller recommended for hot climates.

    5. Nitrate: CRS and CBS are susceptible to nitrate poisoning. Ideally tank should run as near as possible to 0 ppm. Shrimp can tolerate 1-2 ppm.
    ACTION: water change. Nitrate adsorbing materials can be added to canister but these take a couple of days to affect levels

    6. Copper: using hot water to temperature match, copper-based snail kill, tank previously exposed to copper-based medication, some foods, water supply. Toxicity can be experienced at levels below that detectable with test kits.
    ACTION: add Prime or equivalent immediately. If have no test kit, add anyway. Cuprisorb can be added to canister, although be aware it takes time to adsorb all copper. If continued exposure to copper is a risk, ie through water supply, it is recommended Cuprisorb be added to canister as a protective measure.

    7. High GH: substrate, rocks, water supply. High GH values (> 14 dH) suggested to cause molting problems.
    ACTION: water change

    8. High pH: substrate, rocks, water supply. There are many myths surrounding pH required to maintain healthy shrimp populations. Experienced shrimp-keepers tend to favour pH values around 6.8, however there are a number of reports of successful colonies being kept at pHs as high as 7.4. pH stability may be important than the actual numerical value.
    ACTION: water change if supply has lower pH, consider using commercial substrate.

    9. Bacterial infections: poor water quality, introduction of new inmates, bacterial imbalance in tank. In addition to general indicators of shrimp illness (paleness, listlessness, poor appetite), shrimp suffering a bacterial infection can have missing body parts (legs, antenna, eyes etc).
    ACTION: if water quality is high, difficult to treat without antibiotics.


    Troubleshooting Cause of Shrimp Deaths



    NOTE: if insufficient oxygen is suspected, add an air stone.


    If cause of shrimp deaths still cannot be identified, then consider the following:

    • if adding fertilizers to tank, check trace copper levels

    • if DIY CO2, check no reside entering tank

    • use of fly sprays, deodorants, air fresheners

    • substrate health. The role of this in maintaining healthy shrimp colonies is becoming increasingly understood. Many overseas shrimp breeders are returning to undergravel filters. Be aware only a small range of commercial substrates are compatible with UG filtration (eg. Gex, Volcania D, Magic Soil)

    • external pesticide spraying (insects, plants) in vicinity of open windows

    • painted ornaments, painted gravel

    • any general plastic items not specifically for aquariums (eg. gutter guard)

    • rusting light fittings

    • something foreign dropped into tank (eg. poisoned insect, child’s toy, dust from renovations)

    • contaminated hands/arms (eg. contact with pets recently treated with Frontline etc for fleas, touching mosquito coils, detergent)

    • contamination from air pump

    • something toxic added to tank (wood, rock)


    If shrimp deaths continue, isolate a colony in a well cycled tank. If deaths stop, then problem lies with the original tank.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Shrimp (CRS/CBS) dying: self help guide started by Brushy View original post
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. SOLOMON's Avatar
      SOLOMON -
      Images don't seem to sit very well
    1. nchanted's Avatar
      nchanted -
      Hi Brushy, great article! The right hand side of images appear to be cut-off.
    1. BaoLong's Avatar
      BaoLong -
      Nice article. Thanks you shared.
    1. johno's Avatar
      johno -
      I concur, well written article
    1. DiscusEden's Avatar
      DiscusEden -
      Great work as always Brushy!
      A few suggestions, to take, leave or ignore as always...
      - Agree with Solomon, writing in RHS of images is cut off throughout
      - Are people going to understand what a heavy metal neutraliser is if they're panicking? Do you need to specify a product or alternative (as you have below)?
      - Under chlorine, should chloramine be an alternative, with the neutraliser not being adequate to deal with both?
      - Under ammonia (and I know this may seem silly, but happened last week to someone), tipping in water from bottle shrimp have been traveling in - don't even know how to explain that, might be better left as is, even though it killed them off, despite water changes... May be a seperate article I've been considering...
      - temperature, is air conditioning room another alternative?
      - high pH "pH stability may be more important than"
      - Under: If cause of shrimp deaths can't be ID'd, "if DIY CO2, check no residue entering tank"
      - same section, worth adding anything about painting house, flea bombs in own home or block of flats, power outage? I know it could go on forever...
      I know that sounds like nit-picking, and a lot of negatives, but I'm truly impressed. You've done an amazing piece of work, and if you change nothing, it's just brilliant!
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