The Betta and the Shrimp
With just the singular betta inhabitant, sometimes the average fish tank can seem a little… empty. Many of us with small tanks often face this dilemma, to tank mate or to not tank mate?
In all reality, the greater majority of bettas do not need a companion. But let's face it, a seemingly lonely betta in one tank often makes us want to bring in another living creature to liven up the space. For a small cycled tank, say 1-5 gallons, a snail is often impractical due to it's rather significant bio load. Often times, that leaves us the only other invertebrate option - shrimps.
Let me start off by saying, if your tank isn't cycled, is a non planted tank and you are doing those 100% weekly water changes… skip this article, your tank is not made for shrimps.
If you are still with me, I am going to presume that your tank has a stable cycle and/or is well planted with good water parameters.
Let us explore some common shrimps option available to liven up our tanks.
We all think of the ghost shrimp as having an almost invisible presence in the tank. Some of us claim that they are a pain in the buttocks to keep alive. To me, they have the biggest personality amongst all my shrimps. I like to call them the "little thieves?" Why? Because they can pinpoint food from a tank's length away and missile towards the morsel. They will then proceed to snatch the food away from wherever it be located, whether it be from the substrate, another shrimp, snail or the betta's mouth, and scuttle back just as fast to whence they came to enjoy the spoils in solitary peace. Well, until another ghosty comes by… and the thieving game continues until the food is no more.
And to kill a common myth, yes, ghost shrimps do infact breed in fresh water.
Red Cherry Shrimp
One of the many variations of the NeoCaridina. The Neos consists of blue, white red and yellow variations and are one of the hardiest dwarf shrimps in the aquarium hobby. They can get quite pricy depending on where you are located, however, a good search in local aquarium clubs, or even on craigslist will get you some good deals on these guys.
I can only recommend full fledged females for the betta tank. These are the largest and have the highest chances of surviving a betta attack. I once made the terrible mistake of allowing a poor juvenile shrimplet slip from my net into the betta tank. needless to say, it barely had a second to enjoy its new found freedom in my NPT before it knew what hit it. And my betta, Kuro, certainly enjoyed a gourmet meal that night.
Probably the safest choice for your betta's tank due to their larger size. Not shy, nor aggressive, these guys are known for being the true algae eating shrimps. Got no algae? no worries, they eat just about everything else as well.Like the ghost shrimp they can smell food from a mile away and will charge in like a tank on steroids. Infact, if you keep them too well fed with other goodies, they will ignore the algae all together. So if you want to clear up those unsightly black beard algae, invest in an Amano, and do not feed until they do the the job you commissioned them for.
Oh and did I mention that these sneaky things are great escape artists? Keep those tank covers on tight! You'd be surprised how far an out of water shrimp can go (and then you will find its dry shrimpy remains in an obscure area of the house =O true story)
These are exclusively filter feeders (see those pompoms they wave around?) and can easily starve in the common betta aquarium due to the lack of current and food in the water column. Personally I think of these as rather boring creatures. They could be a stick in the aquarium for all I know, and their sheer size takes away from the betta as the focal point in the aquarium. Not to mention, a fairly large tank is prefered.
So what kind of shrimps should you avoid?
Sometimes you will have Macrobrachiums sold as ghost shrimps. How do you tell the difference? Ghost shrimps are really not as invisible as we believe. if you look really closely, you will find that ghost shrimps have subtle orange marking on their whiskers and their tails. If you cannot see this after a through inspection of the shrimp, it's probably better not to purchase the "ghosty". The Macrobrachiums are aggressive shrimps and will attack bettas and other small aquarium inhabitants.