Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina) Gender Identification: A Comprehensive Guide

saddle and eggs

If you are a new shrimp keeper or have been keeping shrimp for a long time, then at some point, you will probably want to know the gender of your shrimp. The curiosity is quite understandable. However, cherry shrimps are so small that it can be quite difficult to determine their gender. So, I decided to do some extensive research and find out the most reliable ways of sexing cherry shrimps.

If the cherry shrimp has a light color, then the saddle is the most reliable way to identify the gender. If the shrimp has a dark-colored body, size and color intensity will be the easiest way to identify the gender.

In this article, I have identified and explained 7 ways to differentiate the gender of cherry shrimp. All these ways apply to most other types of pet shrimp.

Remember that some of the ways can be quite difficult and suitable only for experienced shrimp keepers. Also, not all the ways are equally reliable. So, you should check and match at least 3-4 ways before confirming the shrimp’s gender.

Cherry Shrimp Gender Identification Infographic

how to determine cherry shrimp gender infographic

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Why Determining Shrimp Gender Is Important?

Determining the sex of cherry shrimps is quite important, especially if you want to become a serious breeder. Here are some reasons why you should know how to determine the gender of shrimps:

  • It is always recommended to start cherry shrimp keeping with a group of at least 10 shrimp. Of this group, more than 50% should be female. This ratio of males and females is important for future breeding.
  • If your tank has more male cherry shrimps than females, it can pose a problem. Though cherry shrimp are quite peaceful in nature, sometimes the males can fight with each other. This is mainly seen during mating time. In such cases, you need to separate the males from each other. This demands knowledge of sexing shrimps.
  • For serious shrimp breeders, knowing how many female shrimp are in the tank is crucial. This way, they can predict the number and quality of offspring. So, if you want to pursue shrimp breeding, you must know how to determine their gender.

I hope I’ve mentioned enough reasons to explain the importance of sexing shrimps. Now that you know why you should identify the gender of cherry shrimps, it is time to learn the differences between male and female cherry shrimps.

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Male & Female Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina) Differences

In the table below, I am mentioning the major differences between the male and female cherry shrimps in short. You can take a look at the table to understand their basic differences.

However, I urge you to read the next section for more in-depth knowledge about each of the factors.

FactorMale Cherry ShrimpFemale Cherry Shrimp
SaddleMales don’t have a saddle.Females have a clear saddle.
SizeThe belly is straight or triangular-shaped.Larger than the females. About 1.5 inches when sexually matured.
ColorNot as colorful as the females. Have lots of transparent blotches around the body. More vibrant and intense color.
Belly ShapeThe first, second, and third scales sit next to each other.The belly is rounder and larger in order to hold eggs.
Second Abdomen ScaleThe first, second as well as the third scales sit next to each other. The second scale sits on top of the first and third scale.
Third Set of AntennaThe third set of antennas (facing upward) is longer in males. The third set of antennas are shorter in females.
BehaviorMales are more hectic and agitated.Females generally behave peacefully.

7 Ways To Identify Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina) Gender

Female Cherry Shrimps Have Saddles and Eggs

To me, the saddle is by far the easiest and most reliable way to identify the gender of cherry shrimp. Female cherry shrimp have a saddle in their body, whereas males don’t.

Now, you may want to know what this saddle is.

A saddle is a small part inside a female shrimp’s body that contains undeveloped and unfertilized eggs. The saddle is generally located underneath the back of the shrimp between the head and the abdomen. If you can locate a saddle in the cherry shrimp, it is 100% female.

The color of the saddle can vary from species to species. Mostly, it is white in color with a yellowish hint. In Ghost Shrimps, the saddle has a greenish hint.

Here’s a picture to help you understand this method:

saddle and eggs
  • In the first picture, you can see the saddle quite clearly. It is circled red. This is 100% female.
  • In the second picture, there is no saddle. However, there are eggs in the belly. For this shrimp, the undeveloped eggs in the saddle have turned into developed eggs and moved to the belly. So, you can clearly see it is a female.
  • In the third picture, there is neither a saddle nor an egg in the belly. So, it is clearly a male.

Female cherry shrimps are larger

size of male vs female cherry shrimp

This is also a very reliable and easy method to determine the gender of cherry shrimps. Females are generally larger than males.

Under optimum conditions, females can reach an average size of 1.5 inches. On the other hand, males generally reach three-quarters of an inch.

One thing to note is that this method is only applicable when the shrimp are adult and sexually mature. You can’t rely on it if the shrimp are babies.

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Do you know why the female cherry shrimp grow larger than the males? They have to carry eggs inside their bodies, so nature has made them larger than the males.

I don’t support this method 100%. The size can be quite different in other shrimp species. This method is useful for making a calculated guess only.

female cherry shrimps have a brighter and more intense color

color of male vs female cherry shrimp

Color is another way to differentiate the gender of cherry shrimps. The female cherry shrimps have a brighter and more intense color than the males. The males have more transparent blotches in their bodies.

However, there are a few limitations to this approach:

  1. Under stressful conditions, females can lose color. This is quite normal. However, if the shrimp are stressed, you can’t rely on this method.
  2. This method is not applicable to all shrimp grades. If you have higher-grade cherry shrimp mixed with lower-grade shrimp, such as Painted fire red shrimp mixed with low-grade cherry shrimp, then this method will not work. A higher-grade male shrimp will definitely have a brighter color than a lower-grade female shrimp.

I recommend not relying on this method 100%. Along with this method, check with a couple of others mentioned in the article to confirm the gender of the shrimp.

Female cherry shrimps have a rounder and bigger belly

belly curve male vs female cherry shrimp

This is another reliable way to differentiate between male and female cherry shrimps. Female cherry shrimps have a rounder and bigger belly. On the other hand, males have a more straight or triangular-shaped belly. Females need extra space in their belly to store their eggs.

This area is also known as the undercarriage. The curved shape of the undercarriage also adds an extra layer of protection for the eggs.

Once the female gets berried for the first time, her belly gets rounded permanently. It is because, once the shrimp gets pregnant, the belly gets expanded and doesn’t return to its normal size after eggs are hatched.

In female cherry shrimp, the back of the body also bends a little bit. This bend helps to hold the eggs better, but it is very subtle. Only experienced eyes can see the difference.

This method is more applicable to experienced shrimp keepers. If you are new to shrimp keeping, don’t rely on it much.

female cherry shrimps have larger & rounder second scale

second scale male vs female cherry shrimp

In the case of female cherry shrimps, the second scale is larger and rounder. However, in males, the second scale has a straight shape.

Also, in the females, the second scale looks like it sits on top of the first and third scales. In the males, the three scales sit next to each other. In addition to the second scale shape, the males have a narrower tail than the females.

As you can see, this method needs trained eyes to see the exact shape of the second scale.

male cherry shrimps have a longer third set of antenna

antenna male vs female cherry shrimp

Before explaining this method, let me start by saying that it is very hard, and reliability is low. So, if you are a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend to count on this method alone.

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Cherry Shrimps have 3 sets of antennas. They are:

  • One pair of antennas is located on the side of the mouth. This pair is longer than the other two sets. Shrimps use these antennas to detect danger in the environment and, in low-light conditions, to help them feel their surroundings.
  • There is one pair at the end of the rostrum. This pair faces downwards and is shorter than the first set.
  • The third pair is also located at the end of the rostrum. They face upwards. Like the second set, this set is also shorter than the first set of antennas.

The short antennas are used to find food and sense danger around the shrimp.

After countless hours of observation, biologists discovered that male cherry shrimp have a longer third set of antennas than the females.

This means, the antennas that are located at the end of rostrum facing upwards, is longer in the males than the females.

As I said, spotting the difference in the size of the antennas can be very difficult. Even experienced shrimp keepers have trouble following this method.

This method also has some limitations, such as:

  • The male and female shrimp have to be quite similar in age. If they aren’t, this method won’t work.
  • The size of the antenna varies from shrimp species to species. So, it may not work for some species.

Behavior

Well, don’t rely on this method alone. I find it less reliable and accurate. However, many shrimp keepers believe in this method, so I am including it in the list.

Male cherry shrimps are generally very active and agitated compared to the females. The females are more peaceful and slow-moving. Also, during the mating season, the males behave restlessly around the females. They might also fight with each other in order to mate with a single female.

However, that doesn’t mean female shrimps are always peaceful and slow-moving. Under stressful conditions, the females will also jump around like crazy!

Best Age To Determine Cherry Shrimp Gender

I’ll say the cherry shrimp were born roughly after 2 months. During this stage, the females have a more developed saddle, ovary, and underbelly. Also, around this time, the shrimps start to get sexually mature.

So, you can apply most of the methods mentioned in the article after about 2 months.

Now, if you are nerdish and have special tools in your arsenal, you can identify the cherry shrimp gender much earlier. But that requires special knowledge about shrimps, their body structure and a lot more. Even I don’t know these!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all shrimps born male?

Not all shrimps are born male. Shrimp, like many other crustaceans, have a reproductive system that can exhibit sexual dimorphism, where individuals can be either male or female.

Shrimp typically undergo a process called sexual differentiation, during which they develop into either males or females based on various factors, including environmental conditions and social interactions.

Are shrimp both genders?

Some shrimp species can be both genders, which is known as sequential hermaphroditism. For example, the shrimp genus Lysmata performs protandric simultaneous hermaphroditism, where they become true hermaphrodites instead of females. 

However, not all shrimp species are hermaphrodites.

Can cherry shrimp change gender?

Cherry shrimp cannot change gender. They are born with a specific gender and remain that gender for their entire life.

Conclusion

I really hope this guide has helped you in determining the gender of your cherry shrimps. I tried to make the guide as easy as possible for beginners. Granted that some of the ways can be difficult to follow, but you can always start with the easy ones.

With enough time and practice, you’ll soon be able to identify the gender of shrimp like a pro!

Happy Shrimp Keeping!

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.

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