Shrimp keeping is a wonderful hobby. It has its perks, but everything changes when you start to observe random shrimp deaths and sickness due to various diseases.
Some of the common cherry shrimp diseases include:
- Bacterial Infections
- Scutariella Japonica
- Dragonfly Nymphs
- Muscular Necrosis
- Fungal Infections
- Chitinolytic Bacterial Diseases
- Parasitic dinoflagellates & ellobiopsids
I’ll explain each of these diseases in details along with how to prevent as well as cure them. But first, let’s talk about how the cherry shrimps get infected with diseases in the first place.
How Cherry Shrimps Get Sick?
The shrimps can get sick in many ways. Here are some of the common ways the cherry shrimps get infected:
- The most common way is buying infected shrimps from the store and releasing them in the tank with other cherry shrimps. From the newly bought infected shrimps, parasites infect the old healthy shrimps and make them sick too.
- The same can happen through buying infected aquatic plants from the store. The leaves of aquatic plants can get infected with parasites and their eggs. These eggs hatch when the aquatic plant is planted into a new tank. Then the whole tank gets infected with parasites.
- The shrimp tank can also get infested with diseases if the temperature is too high, there is a lack of minerals in the tank, etc. and so many reasons.
Now that we know how the cherry shrimps get infected with diseases, it is time to know details about each of these diseases and how to combat them.
Vorticella is the name of the parasite. It is not that uncommon to cherry shrimps. Vorticella looks like whitish fungus. It grows over the shell of the cherry shrimp, typically around the nose region.
Though Vorticella looks like a fungus, it is a protozoa consisting of 16 known species. This protozoa is an aquatic parasite and mostly found in freshwater bodies. Vorticella attaches itself to a host i.e. plant, driftwood, rocks, other animals etc.
To survive, Vorticella needs to attach itself to a carrier. They reproduce through binary fission. If left untreated for a long time, Vorticella can even cause the death of the shrimp.
- White looking fungus on the shell of the shrimp, mostly around the tip of the nose.
Method 1: Salt Bath
You need to perform salt bath on the affected shrimp. Be sure to use Aquarium Salt, not table salt or any other regular salt we use.
Take 1 cup of water from the cherry shrimp tank. Dose 1 teaspoon of the aquarium salt. Mix well.
Place the infected shrimp in the pot and keep it there for about a minute. You may need to repeat the procedure for several times until the Vorticella is completely gone. So, during this time, it is recommended to keep the shrimp in a hospital or quarantine tank
Method 2: ParaGuard
The second method should only be used if the first method doesn’t bring any results. You need to dose the shrimp tank with Seachem ParaGuard. Since ParaGuard is a strong medicine, be careful with the dosage.
Don’t dump the medicine directly into the tank. First take some tank water in a container and mix the required dosage of ParaGuard there. After that, throw in the tank water into the tank.
You can also use API General Cure which is a good medicine for parasitic treatment.
- Always keep the tank water fresh and clean
- Perform regular water changes
- Use a good filtration system
2. Bacterial Infections
This one is dangerous for several reasons. Researchers don’t yet have enough information on bacterial infections in cherry shrimps. Also, there isn’t enough pictures to study these infections. Bacteria are dangerous and they never stop to pose for a good picture.
We can however guess an bacterial infections if the shrimp body is transparent and the inner organs are visible. If the inner translucent body of the cherry shrimp appears inflamed, then the shrimp might be suffering from bacteria infections.
Normally, the inner organs have a dark pinkish color in cherry shrimps. If infected with bacterial infections, the color may change.
A cherry shrimp that is infected with bacterial infection can die after 2-4 days of showing the symptoms. Unfortunately, there isn’t any proper treatment found yet for curing bacterial infections in shrimps.
However, there are some home remedies you can perform to reduce the infection.
- Sudden death of cherry shrimps
- loss of body parts in the shrimps such as legs or antenna
- flesh getting pinkish
- sudden visible holes on the carapace of the shrimps
- sudden loss of color
- The first home remedy is to perform big water changes every single day. By Big, I mean at least 80% water change on daily basis.
- The second remedy is to dose Hydrogen Peroxide (3 % solution). For every 4 liter water, dose 1 ml of Hydrogen Peroxide in the tank. You can dose 2 ml if the situation gets more severe. Continue dosing everyday for up to 5 days. Hydrogen Peroxide also helps to kill algae in the tank.
- You can also set up an UV light over the shrimp tank. UV light is beneficial against water borne bacteria.
- Some infections such as milky white or cloudiness of the cherry shrimps can be cured with Glasgarten Betaglucan.
- Bacterial infections generally occur when the temperature gets high in the summer days. In such time, you can keep the lid of the tank open to keep the water cool.
- Replace the evaporated water with new water everyday.
- Perform regular water changes and make sure you have a good filtration in the tank.
- Sometime, the disease can be parasitic in form and the infection will only appear as a secondary stage. In such cases, you need to examine the shrimps carefully for parasitic attacks too.
- When you can see symptoms in the shrimps like mentioned above, understand that the infection has already reached too far. Expect to have more shrimp deaths in the coming days. However, you can cure the less infected shrimps by performing the remedies mentioned.
3. Scutariella Japonica (Parasites)
Scutariella Japonica is one of the most common parasites for shrimps. It needs immediate actions too. Scutariella is a type of nematode parasite. Though they are classified as flatworms, they behave in a different way.
Scutariella Japonica takes the shrimp as a carrier and live on the body of the shrimp. They usually live inside the gills or mantle of the cherry shrimp. The most common infected areas are the shrimp’s rostrum or between the eyes. However, on rare occasions, you can see these bacteria on the shrimp’s leg and other body parts.
The parasite also lay eggs inside the shrimp’s gill plate. The eggs are visible in rows behind the gill chamber of the shrimps. The eggs appear as white dots. The shrimps can get rid of the parasites when they molt. With the old exoskeleton, the shrimp get rid of Scutariella Japonica. However, if the old exoskeleton is not taken out of the tank, the parasites can host on another living body or shrimp.
Scutariella Japonica is not deadly to the shrimps. Meaning, they will not kill the host or the shrimp unless they get very high in number. When severely infested, they interfere with the shrimp’s breathing and mobility.
- It is easy to identify Scutariella Japonica. You won’t even need any type of special tool. Look for 1-2 mm length white appendages around the cherry shrimp’s head and rostrum area.
- Scutariella Japonica is often confused with Vorticella. However, they both are visually distinguishable by the color. Vorticella is mostly transparent in color whereas Scutariella Japonica appear whitish.
Method 1: Salt Bath
- This is the most common method to treat Scutariella Japonica. First you need to have aquarium salt. Any other regular table salt will not be suitable for it.
- Take a glass and put one tablespoon of the freshwater aquarium salt in it. Now fill the glass with tank water and mix well. Make sure all the salt pieces are dissolved well.
- Now, take out the infected cherry shrimp from the aquarium with a net. Put the shrimp into the glass for 20 seconds. Make sure the shrimp doesn’t jump off the glass.
- After about 20 seconds, take out the shrimp from the glass and put it back into the tank.
Sometimes, most of the cherry shrimps in the tank get affected by Scutariella Japonica. In such a case, it is hard to catch the shrimps one by one and give them a salt bath.
In such a case, make a solution of 1 tablespoon of freshwater aquarium salt (for every 5 gallon water). Now pour down the solution in the shrimp tank. If the infection gets severe, you can increase the dosage. Don’t forget to perform 20-30% weekly water changes.
Though salt bath is pretty effective in removing Scutariella from the head and rostrum, it doesn’t work for the eggs inside the gill chamber. For removing those, you’ll have perform the following:
- Check if the cherry shrimps are molting. When the cherry shrimps molt, the Scutariella along with its eggs fell off with the old exoskeleton. At this stage, if you don’t take out the old exoskeleton, the parasite will again attach itself to a new host (shrimp) and infest the tank again. So, whenever you see any old exoskeleton in the tank, take it out.
- Take out the old exoskeletons for a couple of week. This way, the parasite doesn’t get any chance to spread throughout the whole tank.
Method 2: Seachem ParaGuard
- If the salt method doesn’t treat the cherry shrimps fully, then it is time to dose with Seachem ParaGuard. Seachem ParaGuard is a very strong medicine and it needs to be used only as a last resort.
- Dose as written on the label of the container. For every 10 gallon water, you’ll need to dose 5 ml ParaGuard. If there are baby shrimps in the tank, lower the dosage a bit as it can be quite strong for the babies.
- Continue dosing for about a week.
- Perform regular water changes. Cherry Shrimps also get encouraged to molt after water change. This way, you can take out the old exoskeletons quicker before they can infect any more shrimps.
- After giving a salt bath, wait for at least a couple of weeks to check if the situation improves. This waiting period is necessary as the salt bath can put a lot of pressure on the shrimp.
- You can also use API General Cure which is a good medicine for parasitic treatment.
- Some shrimp keepers have got good results by using No Planaria to treat Scutariella Japonica. However, I won’t recommend it if you have snails in the shrimp tank. Also, I think salt bath and ParaGuard is enough to treat these parasites.
4. Leeches (Parasites)
The cure for leeches is pretty much the same as Vorticella. Perform salt bath for the affected shrimp. Use ParaGuard if the situation gets too severe. Also, don’t forget to perform weekly water changes on a regular basis.
5. Dragonfly Nymphs
Dragonfly Nymphs are more of a type of bugs than diseases. However, they are not less lethal than any bacterial infection. A couple of these bugs is enough to kill your baby shrimps as well as small fishes. Even weak adult cherry shrimps are not safe from them.
Fortunately, Dragonfly Nymphs are visible in our eyes. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for them other than catching them with net and throwing out.
6. Muscular Necrosis
When infected with muscular necrosis, cherry shrimps form a whitish coloration on their back. Actually, the muscle tissue on the back part of the shrimp takes a whitish color. The white coloration starts from the tail area and eventually moves to the head till it covers the whole rump.
Necrosis is a biological term that refers to the destruction of one or several cells of a living animal. It results in a decomposition or inflammatory reaction of the surrounding cells and tissue.
Eventually, the decomposition of the cells release a protein and the whitish part is seen around the tail of the cherry shrimps. Muscular Necrosis mainly occur due to wrong water parameters, Myxosporidien or from a bacterial infection. Also lack of oxygen, sudden swing in the pH, not enough nutrition can lead to this disease.
- White coloration on the back of the shrimp. The coloration generally starts from the tail and eventually covers the whole rump including the head area.
- Muscular necrosis can be infectious. So, you need to isolate the infected cherry shrimp in a separate tank immediately.
- Perform daily water changes in the quarantine tank. It should solve the problem gradually.
- If the white coloration gets to the abdomen area, it is too late. There is nothing you can do and soon the shrimp may die.
- You need to ensure all the water parameters are in the right range for cherry shrimps. PH, GH, KH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, etc. every parameter should be in the ideal range for cherry shrimps.
For your convenience, here I am listing a chart showing the ideal water parameters for cherry shrimp:
|Temperature||70 to 75 Degrees Fahrenheit|
|pH||6.5 to 7.5|
7. Fungal Infections
Though fungal infections are more common in fishes, shrimps can get infected with it too. Fungal infections can’t be avoided as the air and water is filled with fungal spores.
Fungi is an organism that is similar to plants. However, they can’t perform photosynthesis like plants do. Fungal infections are called Mycosis in medical terms.
If the infection is internal, then chances are it is due to food. If the cherry shrimp is healthy, then its immune system should be able to fight the fungal spores. On the other hand, a weak shrimp can even die due to internal fungal infections. Internal Fungal Infections are very hard to diagnose and require a microscope.
On the other hand, external fungal infections are clearly visible to the naked eye. These infections are called external or superficial mycosis. The most common culprits for external mycosis are Saprolegnia or Achlya. The symptom can be fluffy whitish cotton growths from the head or abdomen area of the cherry shrimps.
As healthy shrimps can fight of the fungal infections, it is mostly seen in shrimps that are weak or after it has just molted. Molting is a very hard physiological process for cherry shrimps and they can get very weak after each molting. So, after every molting, cherry shrimps can get infected with fungal diseases and fail to fight it off.
The fungal spores first start attaching themselves in the weaker parts of the shrimp. Soon they start attaching to other dead tissue cells infecting more surrounding tissue.
If the fungal infection is only at the surface of the cherry shrimp’s body, a molt can get rid of it. Make sure you remove the old exoskeleton from the tank after molting. If the infection is internal, then treatment is required.
- whitish cotton like growths around the head or abdomen area.
- Take out the infected shrimp immediately and place it in a separate quarantine tank.
- You’ll need to get JBL’s Fungol. Dose the medicine in the quarantine tank following the instructions written on the label. Though JBL’s Fungol doesn’t contain copper, it is not recommended to use for shrimps. So, only use if it is absolutely necessary.
- You can look for other fungal treatment medicines but be sure that it doesn’t contain any copper.
- Keep the water clean and healthy for the shrimps
- Ensure the water parameters are ideal for cherry shrimp
- Have a good filtration system
8. Chitinolytic Bacterial Diseases
Chitinolytic Bacterial Diseases include many disease such as black spot disease, brown spot disease, shell disease, rust disease, burned spot disease, etc.
Till now I have talked about mostly internal bacterial infections. But this one is an external infection. These infections are caused by a bacteria called Chitinolytic. Various species are responsible for various types of infections such as Benekea spp, Vibrio spp, Aeromonas spp, Pseudomonas spp, Flavobacterium spp and Sprillium spp.
The infection is mostly visible on the exoskeleton as it gets melanized, eroded or pitted where the infection occurs.
Generally, Chitinolytic Bacterial Diseases occur due to improper water parameters, dirty tank water, too much nitrate, and substrate that has turned bad for using too long.
- Chitinolysis is generally marked by a black to dark brown pigmentation.
- As the bacteria starts to destroy tissue cells and muscles, lesions can form on the shrimp body
- The lesions can cause other secondary infections
- The most common affected areas are abdominal muscle, gill, tail area and the gastropods.
Method 1: Big L’s pig and poultry wormer
First, isolate the infected shrimp and place it into a quarantine tank. Also, keep in mind that these bacterial infections can be highly contagious and contaminate everything inside the tank.
You need to dose the quarantine shrimp tank with Big L’s pig and poultry wormer. For every 7 liter of aquarium water, you need to dose 1 ml. If the situation doesn’t improve, repeat the process after 48 hours.
Remove everything from the main tank including all the ornaments and accessories. Sterilize everything! The best way to sterilize them is by boiling in water for a few minutes and then drying off under the sun.
Perform regular water changes. At least 1/3rd water of the tank needs to be changed on a regular basis. If you see any dead shrimp, take it out immediately.
Increasing the oxygen flow rate also helps in this situation.
- Give the affected shrimp a salt bath for 20-30 seconds. Prepare the solution as mentioned above. Repeat the process if the situation doesn’t improve. Salt bath is effective against bacterial infection as the salinity kills most bacteria.
- As most bacteria prefer an acidic environment, you can raise the pH of the water very slowly by 1 point. High pH means the environment will get more alkaline which is not preferable by most bacteria.
- As bacteria love high temperature, slowly lower the temperature of the water. Don’t worry, shrimps love lower temperature too!
- Adding lots of plants is a good idea as plants absorb excess nitrate and oxygenate the water.
If you can start the treatment in the early stage before the bacteria starts to erode through the exoskeleton, it is possible to cure the cherry shrimp. I have seen many shrimp keepers curing this disease by simply performing regular water changes and providing better water quality.
- Replace the substrate after the expiry date
- Ensure the water quality is fine and the water parameters are in the correct range for cherry shrimps
- nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, etc. should be as low as possible
- offer a diet to the cherry shrimps that ensures nutrition
Natural Remedies For Bacterial Infections
In this section, I’ll be describing some natural remedies that have worked against bacterial infections for some shrimp keepers. These remedies are completely safe for your shrimp tank.
Crack Willow Bark
The bark of crack willow tree has antibacterial property in it. It was widely used for antibacterial treatment in the past. Get some 5 x 2 cm barks (preferably 2-3 pieces). Put the bark inside the shrimp tank and replace after every 2 weeks. Continue the treatment for up to a month.
With this method, the already infected shrimps will not be cured. However, the antibacterial property of the bark can reduce the spread of the bacterial infection.
Make sure the bark is thoroughly cleaned under running water before placing it inside the tank.
Fennel leaves work wonderful against bacterial infections. You can either feed your shrimps blanched fennel leaves or dried. This helps to treat internal bacterial infections.
I prefer to blanch the leaves first as it ensures there is no parasite on the leaves.
Tea, especially green tea is famous for its antibacterial property and fungicidal tannin. Green tea is preferred as an antibacterial treatment because it contains comparatively lower amount of caffeine and more polyphenols.
For the treatment purpose, we need to take the 2nd or 3rd infusion of the green tea. Dose 1 ml of green tea for every 1 L of shrimp tank water. Perform a 25% water change after a couple of days. Change the amount of tea in accordance with the amount of tank water changed.
There is another way!
Take a green tea bag and infuse it with hot water in a cup. Infuse for about 30 seconds. You can either drink or discard the first infusion. After that, take out the tea bag and place it inside the tank. Make sure that the inside contents of the tea bag doesn’t leech into the tank.
Dried Guava/ Banana/ Indian Almond Leaves
Indian Almond Leaves is widely famous among shrimp keepers. Almost all of the shrimp keepers have kept Indian Almond Leaves in their shrimp tank at some point of the shrimp keeping journey.
Like the Indian Almond Leaves. there are some other highly beneficial leaves for cherry shrimps such as banana leaves, guava leaves etc.
These leaves have antibacterial properties as well as suitable for fungicidal treatment. They release essential oils, tannins and humic acids which are perfect for treatment purposes.
Use 3 leaves for every 100L tank water. You can keep the leaves until they are totally dissolved or eaten by the shrimps.
We need the cinnamon sticks sold for food purposes. Place a 5 to 7 cm long cinnamon stick in the tank for every 20 L tank water. The sticks are completely safe to be left out in the tank even after the treatment is completed.
Alder Cones are rich in fulvic acid. They have a slight antibacterial as well as fungicidal property. Alder Cones are also known for buffering the pH of the tank water at around 6 to 6.5 range.
Shrimps also love to graze on Alder Cones. Don’t forget to harvest the benefits of these cones if you find them in your area.
Guava leaf is widely known for carrying active ingredients which effectively fight against bacteria like Pseudomonas, Clostridium, E. coli, Salmonella, etc.
Shrimp keepers have been using Guava leaf in their shrimp tank for treating facultative anaerobe bacteria, gram-negative bacilli, etc. These bacteria are known as opportunistic pathogens as they mainly attack the shrimps when they are stressed.
Add guava leaf to your shrimp tank just like you add Indian Almond Leaf. It is completely safe for the shrimps.
The benefits are similar to guava leaf, however not as popular as guava leaf for using in shrimp tanks.
9. Parasitic dinoflagellates & ellobiopsids
This includes thousands of species of which most are parasitic. Ellobiopsids and Dinoflagellates are very common parasites for fishes and marine invertebrates.
These parasites internally attack the host. They infest the digestive track, host’s eggs, blood stream, soft tissue, etc. These parasites propagate with their spores.
If you see any shrimp infected with these parasites, immediately take it out to reduce the spread as much as possible. Keep the infected shrimp in a separate quarantine or hospital tank until it is fully treated.
- The Ellobiopsids fungal infection appears as yellowish-green to green vegetation. The appearance is similar to a mould.
- The most common infected area is the area between the swimmerettes and the swimming legs of the cherry shrimps.
- Isolate the infected shrimp as soon as possible and keep it in a quarantine tank.
- Some shrimp keepers have reported that they got a good result from dipping the shrimp in a formalin solution. However, I won’t recommend it as I don’t have any personal experience with this disease. You can consult with a vet and see what he has to advise.
- You can also use API General Cure which is a good medicine for parasitic treatment.
So, this is my comprehensive guide on different cherry shrimp diseases and how to cure them. Remember to bookmark this page as you can come anytime when you face an emergency.
Do keep in mind that I am not a vet and you should always consult with an appropriate vet before applying anything to your pets. All I have mentioned here are the things that worked for me and many other shrimp keepers.
I hope your cherry shrimps will be happy and healthy forever!