If we want to get the best color out of our cherry shrimps, then we need to carefully breed them. To bring higher-quality offspring in the future generations, shrimp breeders perform a technique called selective breeding.
It has been going on for years in the shrimp keeping industry. At first, selective breeding was only done by the professional and experienced shrimp breeders. But now, average shrimp keepers like you and me can selectively breed our shrimps too!
The process is not that hard. In fact, it is extremely easy. In this guide, I am going to show you the step by step process for selectively breeding cherry shrimps.
I’ll also explain the theory behind selective breeding, culling shrimps and what to do with the cull shrimps.
So, it’s going to be a long guide. Sit tight and enjoy!
What Is Selective Breeding?
In simple terms, selective breeding is the process of selectively choosing only the best quality shrimps and breeding them. By following a selective breeding process, there is much higher change of getting better quality offspring.
In the selective breeding process, we exclude the shrimps that we don’t like or whose appearance doesn’t appeal to use. We can do that by 2 ways:
- We catch the unattractive looking shrimps or the shrimps that are physically deformed. Then we place them in a new tank, thus separating the healthy and cool looking ones from the rest.
- We can only catch the best-looking shrimps and place them in a new tank. Both processes yield the same result: separation of the good quality shrimps from the bad quality shrimps.
Why You Should Do Selective Breeding?
Here are the reasons for doing selective cherry shrimp breeding:
- With selective breeding, you’ll get much higher quality offspring in the later generations
- You’ll take the color of your cherry shrimps to a whole another level
- If you want to sell shrimps, you’ll get a much higher price selling higher quality cherry shrimps
- You can show off your cherry shrimps to other shrimp breeders
Frankly, selective breeding is not a must and I get it if you don’t feel up to doing it. This is more for those shrimp keepers who want to achieve the next level breeding their shrimps in terms of quality and color.
How To Selective Breed Cherry Shrimps?
Here are the step by step process to selectively breed cherry shrimps:
- First, you’ll need to cull the shrimps and work with only the best ones. Suppose, there are 100 shrimps in your shrimp tank. Observe closely and look for the ones that show the desired trait that you want in the offspring. Catch the selected shrimps with a net and put them in a new tank where you’ll breed them. Among the 100 shrimps, 10-20 can show the desired trait. The rest are culled shrimp.
- After you’ve selected and transferred the 20 shrimps to their new tank, wait for them to breed. Once the shrimp number in the new tank multiplies, again look for the shrimps that show the desired trait and the ones that are culled. This time, take out the culled shrimps and transfer them to the old tank. We only want the best quality shrimps in our new tank.
- Repeat the process multiple times and with time, you’ll get much higher quality offspring in the new tank.
This is the way shrimp breeders selectively breed their shrimps to achieve higher grade, quality as well as body color. Simple, right?
Mendel’s Law Of Inheritance
Now that we know how to practically selective breed cherry shrimps, it is time to learn it theoretically. How did selective breeding came into existence? Who first thought about it? Well, to know these, we’ll have to meet with a biologists: Gregor Mendel.
Gregor Mendel was born in 1822. He was an Australian monk with an unusual love to work with plants. Mendel was known as a biologists too! He often tried to breed pea plants. By doing so and quenching his curiosity, Mendel eventually formed an interesting theory which was later known as Mendel’s Law Of Inheritance.
Here’s how Mender performed his experiments:
At first, Mendel took a pure-breed yellow seeded plant. He bred it with a pure-breed green seeded plant. The offspring was yellow seeds.
After the experiment, Mendel came to this decisions:
As all the new seeds were yellow in color, he called the yellow color dominant trait.
After the initial experiment, Mendel decided to self-fertilize the hybrid yellow-seeded plant and see what happens. He successfully self-fertilized the plant and in the second generation, Mendel got both green and yellow seeds this time.
This meant that, during the first generation, the green trait was hidden by the Dominant Yellow trait. Mendel named this hidden green trait Recessive Trait.
For example, in the above picture, we can see a cross-breeding between a crystal red shrimp and crystal black shrimp. In the resultant breed, the black color is the dominant trait and the red color is the recessive trait.
At that time, the concept of Gene was unknown to Mendel. However, he guessed that there were two factors associated with each trait. Each factor came from each of the parents.
At this modern age, we call these factors Alleles. They are responsible for the variations we see in genes.
Before going further, we need to clear our concepts regarding two more terms: Phenotype and Genotype.
Phenotype is the visible expression of the gene. It mainly determines the traits that we can see. Phenotype also combines the environmental influence that can impact a being’s appearance.
Genotype is simply the information that is stored within a gene. We can’t see Genotype. It is only determined through biological tests. The information saved inside the two alleles are known as Genotype.
Selection Of Shrimps
The selection of shrimps simply refer to selecting the shrimps that show our desired trait and leaving the rest. There are basically two ways for selection: Natural & Artificial.
We’ll be taking a loot at both ways:
The natural selection occurs naturally without any human intervention. There are basically 3 types of Natural Selection: Stabilizing, Disruptive, and Directional.
Under the Stabilizing selection, shrimps with an average trait form shows the highest fitness. Suppose, one of your cherry shrimps got berried with either 5 eggs or 100 eggs. Both are not optimal and fit for the nature.
In case of only 5 eggs, the number is too small for increasing the population of the shrimp colony. On the other hand, with 100 eggs, the number of shrimps in the colony will get too high. As a result, the competition for food will spike resulting in a weaker colony.
So, what are the ideal numbers? An average of 20-50 eggs.
Under the Disruptive selection, shrimps with an extreme variation of the trait shows higher fitness that shrimps with an average form of trait. As an example, a larger female cherry shrimp will give born to a large number of shrimplets.
Among the large number of shirmplets, there will be a higher number of males. The small males are comparatively more agile and have a higher chance of fertilizing eggs.
The directional selection says that, shrimps with an extreme form of the trait has higher fitness than shrimps with an average form of the trait. Let’s look at wild neocaridinas for better understanding this theory.
If we look at the wild neocaridinas, we can see that most have a brown body with light patches. This is natural as the brown color helps the shrimps to camouflage within their surroundings and save themselves from potential prey. In the wild, the red or yellow color will easily make the shrimps stand out in the environment. So, they’ll get eaten more!
That’s why the brown color dominates here because it is the fittest in such surroundings.
Artificial Selection (Culling)
Artificial Selection is done with human intervention. It is not natural. Artificial Selection of the shrimps is also known as Culling. Basically, there are 2 types of artificial selection: Inbreeding and Crossbreeding.
In this article, we’ll take a detailed loot at both.
Inbreeding means breeding of the shrimps that are closely related in terms of genes. Inbreeding is performed for the purpose of achieving genetic uniformity among the offspring. Shrimp breeders only perform inbreeding with a small population of shrimps.
The famous and highly-praised Crystal Red Shrimp is a result of the inbreeding of 3 types of shrimps.
There is a serious drawback to this breeding technique.
With every new generation, the offsprings can start to lose their color. This phenomenon is known as Trait Depression. Along with that, too much inbreeding can result in the following:
- decrease of the survival rate
- decrease in the fertility rate of the shrimps
- increase in physical deformities
- reduced lifespan
- shrimps becoming more prone to stress and diseases
- loss of genetic diversity
Don’t get depressed see too much drawbacks. There is a solution to this problem. The solution is to introduce ‘new blood’ from time to time in the colony.
We need to refresh the genetic pool for making the offsprings more stable and stronger. For this, breeding with new batches of shrimps brings the perfect result. This process is also known as interbreeding among biologists.
Crossbreeding refers to the breeding process of two shrimps where both are distinct genetically and not the product of same line. The shrimps are not product of linebreeding too.
Linebreeding is a milder inbreeding process. In linebreeding, relatives are involved in the mating process more than once in each line. However, this breeding process is not as close as inbreeding.
Crossbreeding is generally used to refer to the breeding of two different species of shrimps.
Why Do We Need To Do Culling?
We need to cull shrimps for the following reasons:
- In order to keep a shrimp colony at its fittest and healthiest state, there is actually nothing we can do other than culling. Culling keeps the colony strong.
- Culling helps your shrimps to achieve better quality, patterns as well as coloration. Otherwise, there is a chance of the cherry shrimp going back to their wild color after a certain number of generations
- Culling is required if you want to have higher quality as well as high-grade cherry shrimps in the tank.
Tips When Performing Culling
- Culling can be done considering many aspects such as: deformity, pattern, color, etc. But, there should be a priority. The most important thing to do is to remove the deformed shrimps first. After deformity, you should consider color and pattern. Achieving a good color through selective breeding can be very hard as color isn’t easy to get by breeding.
- Don’t get impatient seeing transparent baby shrimps. At the baby stage, cherry shrimps don’t show much color. They start to show more color as they age. Around the breeding stage, the shrimps should show their true potential color. So, don’t get impatient and wait until your shrimps are at least one centimeter long. I won’t recommend culling them too early. I wait until they reach sexual maturity.
- If your shrimp has recently molted, don’t cull right away. Wait for a few days. Molting can affect the color.
- This is a very important part and you need to pay attention to it. Male shrimps generally don’t have as vibrant color as the females. As a result, if you don’t know the gender, you can accidentally cull all the male shrimps in the tank. I have seen this happen quite a few times. Here are the differences between male vs female cherry shrimps you need to know.
- The key to successful shrimp breeding is to have a good ratio of male and female in the tank. However, it is also important to get rid of the bad quality males as males have a dominant effect on the offsprings.
- If you can manage a separate tank for the selective breeding, keep only a handful of the best quality male shrimps there. The number of female shrimps or the ratio won’t matter then. The females will get berries soon and start breeding.
- Don’t think about culling until you have at least 50-60 shrimps in the tank. It is fruitless to cull when you only have 10 shrimps in the tank.
- With each generation, make your selection process stricter. This will ensure further high-quality offsprings in the later generations.
- Give at least a break of 2 weeks between each culling. This gives the shrimps the necessary time to develop color and pattern.
How To Catch Cherry Shrimps For Culling?
For a small shrimp tank with a handful of cherry shrimps, it is not hard to catch the undesirable ones with a net. But it can get problematic when you have a large planted tank with hundreds of shrimps.
Here are the steps you can follow:
- Don’t feed the shrimps for 2-3 days before the culling day. It will keep the cherry shrimps enough hungry for the next step.
- Take a shrimp feeding dish and place your cherry shrimp’s favorite food there. Place the dish inside the tank at the front side so that you can clearly see what’s happening.
- As the shrimps are not getting any food for 3 days, almost all of them will swarm over the feeding dish within a few minutes. They’ll be in the open devouring the food for at least half an hour.
- You can clearly identify the undesirable ones then and take them out to a separate tank.
- Repeat steps 1 to 4 several times until you have no undesirable cherry shrimps left in the main tank.
- It is best to catch the cherry shrimps with fishing nets that are available in the aquarium stores. When the shrimp is inside the net, press the net against the glass of the tank. This way, the cherry shrimps can’t jump out of the net.
- Some shrimp keepers also found better results using a shrimp trap. Personally I think that’s too much work and not worth the effort.
What Should You Do With The Cull Cherry Shrimps?
This is the first question that hit me when I first heard about selective breeding. Though the cull shrimps have undesirable traits, I don’t love them any less than the desirable ones. I am equally responsible for all the cherry shrimps as their keeper.
Here are the things I’ll suggest you to do with the culled shrimps:
- This is what I do. I keep the culled shrimps in a separate tank. I let them breed to their heart’s content. This is good because if you are lucky, sometimes you can get good quality offsprings from the free style breeding. This is natural too!
- You can sell them at a lower profit to other shrimp keepers who are just starting out in the hobby.
So, this is how you selectively breed cherry shrimps at home. The process is quite easy but time-consuming. At times, you may get very impatient. It’s normal and happened with me too.
Just stick with the process and after a certain period of time, you should start to get much higher-quality cherry shrimp offspring in the tank. Continuously doing the process will lead your cherry shrimps to achieve much higher grading. I have talked about cherry shrimp grading in this article.