Molting is a very natural phenomenon for cherry shrimps. It is a part of their growing process. However, if the conditions aren’t right, unsuccessful molting can occur. It poses a lot of problems for the shrimps, even death.
The most common and serious molting problem of cherry shrimp is called the ‘White Ring Of Death’. This is a very serious problem and often leads to the death of the shrimp.
In the rest of the article, I’ll discuss further the White Ring Of Death, its causes and solutions. I’ll also discuss some preventive measures against molting problems.
I have collected most of the information for this article from aquariumbreeder.com. Michael has a fantastic blog over there and if you’re interested about breeding aquarium pets, you should definitely check that out!
White Ring Of Death: What Is It?
White Ring Of Death, as deadly the name sounds, its effects are deadly as well. This is just the sign of an unsuccessful molting.
During the molting process, cherry shrimps fill their shell with water until the exoskeleton bursts open. In case of a successful molting, the exoskeleton starts to open around the neck area. To be more specific, the area between the carapace and the first abdominal segment. After the crack, the shrimp bends itself in a U position and wriggles off the old exoskeleton.
During an unsuccessful molting, the shell doesn’t crack open around the neck area at only one point. Rather, the shell cracks across the whole neck, forming a circle of white. This white ring is the flesh of the shrimp. This white ring of flesh divides the old exoskeleton into two different parts.
At this stage, the U bending of the shrimp doesn’t help it to get rid of the old exoskeleton. In fact, most of the cases, the shrimp fails to move freely. This is mainly because of the light attaching of the exoskeleton to the shrimp body.
Imagine, you’re wearing a pair of gloves. Now, you’ve partially removed the gloves. In such a case, no matter how much you move the fingers, the gloves won’t come off. Such becomes the case for the cherry shrimp.
This is mainly the White Ring Of Death. Shrimps that face this problem try to get rid of the old shell for a couple of days. After that, the shrimp often dies. However, a very small percentage of the shrimps can get rid of the old shell.
So, don’t lose hope completely.
Now that we know what is the White Ring of Death, it’s time to look at the probable reasons behind this tragic condition.
Is Too Much Protein Responsible?
Many people think that too much protein in the diet is responsible for this problem. This is because too much protein causes too frequent molting, which can lead to such problems.
However, I disagree with this. I don’t think the problem lies with protein. Yes, protein can be responsible for molting problems, but not directly.
Too much protein in the diet causes the cherry shrimps to grow fast. And we all know that molting is a part of the shrimp’s growth. So, when the growth rate is very fast, the shrimp often goes through many molting stages.
Molting itself is a very dangerous stage for any shrimp. So, if the shrimp has to go through a higher number of molting stages because of the higher growth rate, the more chances there are for failed moltings, or White Ring Of Death.
This is how protein can play in this scenario.
There are some more reasons why I think protein is not responsible for the White Ring Of Death.
Almost all the shrimp keepers around the world feed their shrimps a diet that contains about 40 to 47% protein. The same goes for shrimp researchers around the world. In fact, I follow many shrimp breeders that provide their shrimp a protein-based diet. No one has ever reported a problem. Because, protein is not the issue here.
In fact, the exoskeleton of the cherry shrimp contains mainly three elements:
- Chitin (20-30%)
- Protein (30-40%)
- Calcium Carbonate (30-50%)
So, it can be undoubtedly seen that protein is fundamental for the shrimp’s growth. There is no need to point finger to protein alone for this molting problem.
However, the problem can lie in the diet. Shrimps need minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients to grow properly. Any lack of these nutrients can result in unsuccessful molting. That’s why I always offer my shrimps a good commercial shrimp food like Bacter AE or Aquatic Arts Sinking Pellets. These ensure my cherry shrimps are getting all the nutrients they require.
Also, in such cases, blanched vegetables like blanched Kale can help a lot.
You can also try a vegetable-based diet to see if it brings any positive change to the molting problem. But, don’t continue it for too long as shrimps need protein to live. I’ve heard one shrimp keeper continued a vegetable-based diet for too long. In the end, the shrimps turned cannibalistic for the source of protein.
Too Large or Too often Water Change
Some shrimp keepers think the White Ring Of Death can result from too much or too frequent water changes. I agree with these. If you are performing too much water change, the water parameters will become unstable.
Also, too frequent water changes will keep the water parameters out of their ideal range for cherry shrimps. It can start to pose a lot of problems for the cherry shrimps. Change in the water parameters can force the cherry shrimp to go through a molting stage which can turn out to be unsuccessful.
pH and Calcium
Let me talk about a recent study that was performed by a group of researchers. A colony of shrimps was kept in a low pH environment for 21 days. After the 21 days, it was observed that the exoskeleton of the shrimps had no visible difference.
However, the calcium content of the shell spiked high. That means, the Calcium to Magnesium ratio in the shell shot up. This study proved that in a low pH environment, the calcium content of the shrimps gets high. This high calcification can change many other physiological aspects of the shrimps.
As the shell has a higher quantity of calcium, it starts to get denser. A dense shell is harder to molt than a normal shell.
Affect of GH
GH stands for General Hardness. It measures the amount of Magnesium and Calcium in the water along with some other minerals.
GH is very important for cherry shrimps because it indicates the level of Calcium Carbonate in the water. Calcium Carbonate is extremely important for shrimps to molt because the calcium is necessary for a strong exoskeleton.
Among the total calcium need for the new exoskeleton, about 25% of the calcium will be absorbed from the old exoskeleton. The rest will be absorbed from the water column.
Also, let us not forget about Magnesium. It helps the shrimps to absorb calcium carbonate and form the new exoskeleton.
If the GH gets too low, the cherry shrimps will face a harder to molt and form a new healthy exoskeleton. As a result, the shrimps keep exposed to danger for a longer amount of time. On the other hand, too much calcium carbonate in the water can also pose some other problems.
Low Calcium vs High Calcium
It is known that calcium sulfate helps to stabilize the pH in the aquarium water. That’s why many aquarium products use calcium sulfate. However, there is a downside to using calcium sulfate.
By using calcium sulfate, the amount of calcium in the water gets too high. As a result, The GH reading spiles high. In such a case, the exoskeleton of the shrimp gets too rigid and difficult to molt. So, the shrimp spends more energy to molt which can cause stress and eventually, death.
On the contrary, if there is very little calcium in the water, the shell of the shrimp won’t get firm. It will remain very flexible. As a result, the old exoskeleton might not break apart at any point in the shrimp’s body or the underneath layer of the exoskeleton can get too weak.
This causes the shrimp to stress and die shortly after a molting or any other change.
If your shrimp tank has soft water, meaning the amount of calcium is on the lower side, you can use cuttlebones instead of calcium blocks. Calcium blocks can cause too much calcium to be absorbed in the water. A more subtle and safer approach is to use cuttlebones.
Now that we know details about the White Ring Of Death problem, it is time to look for the solutions. Here are some I’ve found on the Internet:
A balanced diet is the key to get successful molting. Cherry Shrimps love to graze on Algae and Biofilm. However, they also need a specific set of nutrient which you can’t get from algae.
If your shrimps are having problems with molting, then a great natural trick will be to feed them blanched Kale. Kale is very rich in minerals, vitamin, and other nutrients. Also, shrimps love to graze on blanched kale.
I also provide blanched cucumber and zucchini to my shrimps. They love to graze on these too! Always keep the diet interesting to make sure your cherry shrimps are attracted to the food.
Crushed Egg Shells
For successful molting and proper growth of the new exoskeleton, shrimps need calcium in the water. If there is no calcium supplement nearby, you can follow this great hack.
Take some eggshell. Wash the shells thoroughly. Now take a baking tray and place the eggshells. After that, bake the eggshells for about a few minutes so that all the bacteria leave the shell.
Now, place the eggshells in a mortar and pestle and crush them until they get a powder-like consistency. Feed this crushed eggshell only about a pinch amount to your shrimps. You can store the crushed eggshells in a pot.
If you are on a tight budget or your local fish store doesn’t have any calcium supplements, this little trick will come in handy a lot.
Don’t Take Things Into Your Own Hands
When cherry shrimps suffer from molting problem, it can get very tough for the owner to bear that. So, many beginners want to help out the shrimp manually. Though helping your shrimp may sound wonderful and all, it is actually putting the shrimp’s life more at risk.
Shrimps are very delicate creatures. No matter how much careful you are, there is always a chance of you crushing the shrimp’s legs or carapace, which even makes the shrimps more miserable.
So, no matter how much experienced you are, unless you are not a doctor specialized for shrimps, I’ll not recommend to help the shrimps when they are having trouble with molting. Without doing that, you can ask for a professional vet’s help. He should be able to do something for your shrimp.
Just keep your hopes up and let nature do its job.
Preventions Against Molting Problem
- Refrain from too often and too much water changes. Both can bring a serious change in the water parameters, which can stress out the shrimps. Normally I follow a weekly water changing schedule when every week I change about 25% water.
- Each species of shrimps have their own preferable range of water parameters. For cherry shrimps, make sure the water parameters are suitable for them so that they don’t get stressed.
- If the water is too soft, you can use cuttlebones which will subtly increase the calcium in the water.
- Make sure the diet contains all the nutrients required for cherry shrimps. Shrimps need algae, biofilm, blanched vegetables as well as sa commercial shrimp food for a healthy life. If your shrimps are having molting problems, make sure the diet is providing enough nutrients to them.
So, this is my detailed guide on cherry shrimp molting problems. Though the White Ring Of Death is not that common, it can happen. And if it happens, there is very little to do to save your shrimp.
So, look out for the reasons that cause this problem in the first place. Also, follow the preventive measures mentioned in the article.
We all know, prevention is better than cure.
My Top 5 Shrimp Products To Make Your Life Easier! (And Your Shrimps Happier!)
1. API Master Test Kit
When keeping shrimps, you’ll often need to monitor the water parameters to check if everything is alright. With API Master Test Kit, you can check Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and pH right away. I think this test kit is a must have for any aquarium owner. Check the latest price here at Amazon.
2. Matten Filter
Among hundreds of filters, I think Matten Filter will be the best choice for keeping shrimps. These filters are generally a broader version of sponge filter and comes with a large square sheet of foam. This foam is perfect for growing beneficial bacterial colony as well as other microorganism for the shrimps to eat.
3. Bacter AE
Bacter AE is one of the most sought after shrimp foods among shrimp breeders. It is a powder type food especially suitable for the baby shrimps. Bacter AE helps to develop biofilm in the tank which is essential for shrimps. It also astonishingly increases the survival rate of baby shrimps.
4. Substrate for Neo Caridina shrimps
Eco Complete Planted Tank Substrate doesn’t alter the water parameters and perfect for growing live plants inside the shrimp tank. The soil is mainly rich in magnesium, calcium and iron. This is always my #1 recommendation for neocaridina shrimps like cherry shrimp.
5. Substrate for Caridina shrimps
Brightwell Rio Escuro is specifically designed for keeping caridina shrimps like Crystal Red/Black Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, etc. It lowers the pH and creates a soft water which caridina shrimps prefer. You can check out the latest price on Amazon.