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Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care Guide 101

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care Guide 101

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp (Caridina dennerli) are tiny shrimp native to the freshwaters of Sulawesi, one of the Greater Sunda Islands, in Indonesia. 

These small crustaceans are relatively new to scientists, as they were first discovered in 2007. They are quite popular among aquarium enthusiasts, but if you’re interested in keeping these invertebrates, you should thoroughly educate yourself about their needs.

In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know to begin caring for Sulawesi shrimp, including the recommended tank size, ideal water parameters, preferred tank accessories, and the best lighting and filtration options. You’ll also learn about feeding these invertebrates, how to care for their health, and what to expect overall. Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • These shrimp are small, and peaceful, and enjoy tanks with sandy substrates, plants, rocks, driftwood, and dim lighting to mimic their natural environment.
  • They eat mostly vegetable-based foods like zucchini or leafy greens but should not be given copper-based medicines as they can be harmful.
  • When breeding these shrimp, stable tank conditions are essential for the health of the eggs and newborns; females carry about 15 eggs for 20-28 days before they hatch.
  • It’s important to regularly test the water and maintain proper temperature, pH level, hardness, and clean substrate without pollution or toxins — especially avoiding sudden changes that can stress or harm them.

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Overview & Origin

  • Common name: Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp
  • Scientific name: Caridina dennerli
  • Family: Atyidae
  • Care level: Difficult
  • Size: ½ – 1 inch (1.5 – 2.5 cm)
  • Life Span: 1 – 2 years
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Algae/Omnivore
  • Minimum tank size: Minimum 5 gallons
  • Water temperature: 77°F – 86°F (26°C – 30°C)
  • Water pH: Between 7.8 – 8.2
  • Water hardness: 3 – 10 dKH

In the wild, Caridina dennerli live in the clear and pristine water waters of Lake Matano around the Greater Sunda Islands. These lakes are abundant with rocks, cliffs, and incredible biodiversity. The species occurs in the greatest numbers in shallow depths and waters up to 33 feet (10 meters).

They are often found in rocky areas and among aquatic plants, where they graze on biofilm and algae for sustenance. The lakes’ unique mineral composition contributes to the shrimp’s well-being, influencing their coloration and overall health.

Appearance & Size

These charming Shrimp stand out with their striking red bodies. They are vibrantly hued with a vivid red, speckled with spots of pure white. Their front legs, antennae, and, in some species, the tail is also white. Their bodies are segmented and narrow and feature lengthy antennas and small, spindly legs. 

When provided with the ideal water parameters, low-intensity lighting, and dark substrate, their color becomes more vibrant.

Young shrimp may be as small as half an inch (1.27 cm), whereas adults rarely exceed one inch (2.54 cm) in length.  Because of their size, they can hide among plants and decorations easily. This makes watching them an exciting game of seek and find in your aquarium.

Personality & Behavior

These little guys can be a bit shy at first. They like to hide and watch what’s going on in their new home. Give them some time, and they’ll start to feel more at ease. 

They typically spend the first day or so in hiding as they become acclimated to their new environment. If you see them retreating beneath rocks, plant leaves, or floating along the bottom or sides of driftwood, you needn’t worry, as this is completely normal behavior.

Once they do feel comfortable in their new home, you’ll see them moving around the tank searching for bits of food day and night.

They are peaceful creatures that get along well with others like them. You won’t see them picking fights or causing chaos in your tank. They’re happy sharing space with similar friendly tank mates, making sure everyone lives together without any trouble.

Life Span

When kept in captivity in optimal conditions, you can expect Sulawesi shrimp to survive for around two years. Unfortunately, this is a relatively short life span compared to other aquatic invertebrates.

Things become a bit more complicated when you consider how sensitive these shrimp are to their environment. This is why it’s critical to ensure the environment meets its specific needs at all times.

They need clean water and good food to stay healthy and reach their full life span. Keep the tank conditions stable because big changes can harm them.

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care & Tank Setup

Care can be intimidating, even if you’ve previously cared for other freshwater fish species. If you’re a novice at shrimp keeping I recommend avoiding these shrimp as your initial option. ***recommendations

They require very specific tank conditions to survive and thrive. As such, you must remain vigilant to ensure you’re providing them with the ideal environment to maintain their overall health and well-being.

Let’s look at how to best care for these aquatic crustaceans.

Tank Size

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp need space to swim and explore. A small tank can make them unhappy.

  • Start with a tank that holds at least 5 gallons of water. This size is good for a few shrimp.
  • Choose a larger tank if you want to have many shrimp or other friendly tank mates with them. Bigger tanks also help keep the water clean.
  • Make sure the tank has enough room for plants and decorations, which help the shrimp feel safe.
  • Think about the shape of the tank as well. Longer tanks give more space on the bottom for shrimp to walk around.
  • Keep in mind that bigger tanks need more care, but they also let you add more interesting things for your shrimp.
  • Remember that as the tank gets bigger, you might need better equipment to keep the water just right for your Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 77°F – 86°F (26°C – 30°C)
  • Water pH: Between 7.8 – 8.2
  • Water hardness: 3 – 10 dKH

As mentioned, maintaining precise water parameters is crucial for the health of shrimp. Understanding and regulating the conditions of their natural habitat will ensure your shrimp not only survive but flourish in your aquarium setup.

Before introducing Caridina dennerli to your aquarium, ensure the tank is fully prepared, cycled, and double-checked for temperature, pH, and water hardness. The last thing you want is to send your shrimp into shock as soon as they enter the aquarium.

Water Temperature

Maintaining an optimal environment for Cardinal shrimp involves keeping the water temperature within the range of 77°F to 86°F (26°C – 30°C)

Regularly check the water temperature using a thermometer to prevent abrupt fluctuations. Sudden temperature changes can be detrimental to the well-being of these shrimp. Consistency in water warmth is crucial, as stable temperatures help minimize stress on the shrimp.

Water pH Levels

Water pH levels are very important for the health of these little Shrimp. They thrive best in slightly alkaline water. Ensure stability by keeping the pH within the range of 7.8 to 8.2 to safeguard these sensitive shrimp.

Regularly test your tank’s water using a high-quality freshwater aquarium test kit such as the FUNSWTM Aquarium Test Strips to monitor the pH level. If needed, use pH buffers to adjust the water and maintain it within the ideal range. Avoid significant fluctuations in pH, as this can cause stress or harm to your shrimp.

Exercise caution when adding new water; use treated water that aligns with the tank’s current pH level. When conducting water changes, do so in small amounts to preserve stable levels, including pH, ensuring the well-being of your Cardinal shrimp.

Water Hardness

Water hardness is key for Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp health. They need a specific range to do well and keep their shells strong.

Maintain tank water hardness between 3 and 10 dKH for optimal conditions. Again, use a reliable test kit to regularly measure hardness and determine the need for adjustments.

If the water is too soft, gradually increase hardness by adding crushed coral or limestone. Perform regular water changes to prevent hardness levels from becoming excessively high, and avoid sudden fluctuations in water hardness, as the sensitivity of these shrimp makes them susceptible to harm during abrupt shifts.

What To Put In Their Tank

Creating a micro-ecosystem tailored to the specific needs of Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp is key to their well-being. Their tank should mimic the essential aspects of their native habitats for these sensitive creatures to flourish.


  • Go for dark, sandy substrate because it’s close to what they have in their native habitat. The dark color makes the shrimp feel safe and can make their colors look brighter.
  • Choose a fine-grained sand so the shrimp can dig and scavenge without getting hurt. Tiny grains are also good for baby shrimps to hide and find food.
  • Make sure the substrate is non-toxic to keep your shrimp safe from harmful chemicals.
  • Pick a substrate that has lots of calcium. This helps the shrimp build strong shells when they molt or grow new ones.
  • A high buffering capacity in your substrate keeps water hardness and alkalinity just right. These levels are important for the shrimp’s well-being.
  • The ground in the tank should be full of good bacteria. These tiny helpers break down waste and keep the water clean.
  • Your substrate needs to let air through it. This helps plant roots grow strong, which in turn cleans the water and gives shrimps places to explore.
  • Look for a substrate that doesn’t have any bad stuff in it like pollution. You want everything in your tank to be as clean as possible for these sensitive creatures.
  • Finally, choose something that lets shrimp do what they naturally do – burrow and look for food in the ground. They enjoy digging around, so give them a fun place to play!


These little guys love to hide and play among decorations in their tank. Adding the right items can make these tiny creatures feel safe and at home.

  • Place small caves in the tank where shrimp can hide when they feel scared or need a break from light.
  • Include a variety of rocks that create nooks and crannies for the shrimp to explore.
  • Provide driftwood which offers additional surfaces for algae to grow, giving them more food options.
  • Use smooth decorations to ensure the sensitive shrimp don’t hurt themselves since their bodies are delicate.

Ideal Plants

Plants are like homes and snack bars for your shrimp. They help keep the water clean and make the tank look beautiful.

  • Java moss is a great plant for these shrimp. It’s soft and easy to grow. Shrimp love to hide in it and pick off tiny bits of food.
  • Java fern is another good choice. You can tie it to rocks or wood, and it doesn’t need much light.
  • Anubias plants are strong and have big leaves. Shrimp can rest on these leaves or find food.
  • Adding plants creates a safe space for shy shrimp. They feel hidden from sight and can relax.
  • Plants take in bad stuff from the water. This makes the water safer for shrimp to live in.
  • When you put many plants in your tank, they use up things that could hurt your shrimp. This means your water stays healthy.
  • Choose plants that fit your tank size. Big tanks can have bigger plants, while small tanks need smaller ones.
  • Make sure there is still room for shrimp to swim around. Plants should not take over the whole tank.


Lighting is another crucial factor to consider. Caridina dennerli are averse to bright lights, and exposure to high-intensity lighting could stress them. Instead of opting for the traditional aquarium lighting, go for moderate lighting of lower intensity.

  • Choose LED lights. LEDs are best for Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp tanks because they don’t make much heat.
  • Use dim lighting. Too much light can stress out these shrimp, so keep it low.
  • Set a light schedule. Turn lights on for 8 to 10 hours a day to mimic natural daylight.
  • Lights should be stable. Make sure your light doesn’t flicker or change intensity, as this can bother the shrimp.
  • Use light to show off colors. Proper LED lighting can make the shrimp’s color look brighter and more beautiful.
  • Keep plants in mind. While minimal lighting is fine for the shrimp, ensure there is enough light for plant health and growth in your aquarium.

You can usually tell if the lighting is too much by observing the Sulawesi shrimp. They remain active throughout the day and night. Therefore, if they’re hiding most of the time, the light may be too bright. Try switching it off to see if their activity changes. If it does, it’s best to switch to a lower-intensity light fixture.


The lakes around the Greater Sunda Islands are relatively calm. Naturally, Sulawesi shrimp prefer tranquil waters. As such, you’ll want to prevent as much water movement as possible. That means choosing a good filtration system adequate for the aquarium size and one that utilizes sponges to reduce water disturbance.

  • Choose a canister filter for its strong mechanical and biological cleaning power.
  • Make sure the flow rate is low so your little shrimps don’t get pulled in.
  • Clean the filter often to make it work best and take care of any waste.
  • Your filtration system should match how big your tank is and how many creatures live there.
  • Filters help put more air in the water, which is very important for your shrimp to breathe well.


Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp need warm water to stay healthy. A good heater keeps their tank at the right temperature.

  • Choose a heater with a thermostat: This helps you set the exact temperature for your shrimp’s home.
  • Look for reliable brands: A good quality heater ensures the water stays around 78-82°F (25-28°C), just like the shrimp-like it.
  • Stability is key: Fluctuations in heat can make your shrimp sick, so a steady temperature is very important.
  • Heaters stop stress: When the water is too cold or too hot, shrimp get stressed. A heater prevents this problem.
  • Get one with controls: Being able to adjust the heat means you can keep the tank perfect for your Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp.
  • Avoid sudden changes: Quick temperature drops or spikes are bad for these shrimp. Use heaters that change temperatures slowly and safely.
  • Check your heater often: Make sure it works right and keeps the tank at a steady warm temperature for the well-being of your shrimps.

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Tank Mates

When it comes to enhancing your aquarium with peaceful companionship, choosing the right tank mates for these shrimp is crucial for maintaining harmony and balance in their delicate ecosystem; let’s have a look at which aquatic friends will make the best neighbors for these vibrant crustaceans..

  • Guppies: These small, colorful fish are gentle and won’t bother the shrimp. They swim near the top of the tank while the shrimp stay at the bottom.
  • Cichlids: Be sure to choose smaller, more peaceful cichlids, as larger ones might see shrimp as a snack.
  • Snails: Snails like Sulawesi snails don’t pose a threat to shrimp and help clean the tank by eating algae.
  • Small catfish: Catfish such as Otocinclus are calm and keep to themselves. They also help by cleaning up leftover food.
  • Tetras: Small tetras are good choices because they are not aggressive toward shrimp.

Tankmates To Avoid

  • Large, aggressive fish: These predators can hurt or eat the small shrimp.
  • Other shrimp species: Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp may fight with them.
  • Bottom-dwelling fish: These might take the shrimp’s food or upset their home.
  • Fish needing different water: It’s hard to keep everyone happy if they need special water conditions.
  • Territorial breeders: During breeding time, these fish could threaten the Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp.

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Food & Diet

Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp are low maintenance when it comes to feeding. They are natural scavengers and not accustomed to constant food availability. They can go without feeding for a day or two without any adverse effects. 

Proper conditions encourage the development of algae and biofilm, and plants produce decaying matter over time. Caridina dennerli feed on all these things, and they feed 24 hours a day

However, early on, as your tank establishes its natural biodiversity, you may need to provide a little supplemental sustenance. This can come in the form of powdered spirulina.

Food To Avoid

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp like to eat special foods. Some foods can be bad for them and should not be given.

  • Do not give them copper-based medicines. These can be very harmful and may even kill the shrimp.
  • Uncooked meat is not good for these shrimp. It can pollute the water and make the shrimp sick.
  • Avoid giving them fish feed. This type of food doesn’t have the right nutrients for the shrimp.
  • Keep excessive salt away from their diet. Too much salt can harm these sensitive creatures.

Feeding Cardinal Shrimp

This species tends to eat throughout the day but shows increased activity and comfort during the night, possibly due to lower light conditions. Shrimp are observed to feed more effectively when the lights are turned down or off rather than when they are on.

Optimal feeding is once a day, providing an amount that the shrimp can consume within 2-3 hours. Avoid excess food, as it can negatively impact the tank’s water values. Overfeeding is a known factor contributing to their mortality, so monitor and control the quantity of food provided.

Shrimp are natural scavengers and not accustomed to constant food availability. They can go without feeding for a day or two without any adverse effects.

Breeding Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimps

Breeding these shrimp can be a rewarding experience. Female shrimp lay around 15 eggs which they carry under their bodies using special legs called swimmerets. Protecting the eggs is key to successful breeding, so make sure the tank conditions are stable and mimic their natural habitat.

The little ones need finely powdered food when they hatch after about 20-28 days. This food helps them grow strong in an environment that feels like home.

Keep the water clean and at the right temperature. A sandy substrate with plenty of hiding spots made from rocks and driftwood will create a safe place for shrimps to breed.

Add live plants too, which offer shelter and aid in maintaining water quality essential for both adults and young shrimps’ survival.

These shrimp are in danger of becoming extinct due to climate change and water pollution. The species isn’t as abundant as other shrimp species, as they don’t reproduce as many offspring and breed less often. There are many conservation measures underway to keep Caridina dennerli alive and thriving — and if you want, you can help. Sulawesi Keepers is an organization that invites home aquarists to join in their efforts to protect the species

Sexing Cardinal Shrimp

Determining the gender of Cardinal shrimp is challenging, and currently, there is no discernible method with the naked eye.

Female shrimp possess a saddle under the carapace, indicating the presence of eggs. However, this saddle is only visible under infrared light. Due to the shrimp’s dark outer shell, identifying the saddle without specialized equipment is not possible.

Common Health Issues

These shrimp can catch infections from bad bacteria, fungi, and tiny bugs that live in the water. It’s very important to keep their tank clean to stop these problems before they start.

Treatments with copper are dangerous for them; even a little bit is harmful. So, keeping their home in good shape is the best way to help them stay well and happy.

  • Vorticella: This parasitic infection causes white growths on infected shrimp that may resemble fungus. The parasite competes for food and can easily multiply to create an infestation, ultimately killing off the captive shrimp population if left untreated.
  • Muscular necrosis: Muscular necrosis is the destruction of muscle tissue. It often manifests as white discoloration along the back or inside of the shrimp’s shells.
  • Bacterial infections: Signs of bacterial infections in shrimp include limb loss, antennae loss, random bodily wounds, sudden color loss, or unexplained death.
  • Fungal infections: Mold growths on the body or head of the shrimp indicate fungal infections. If the infection spreads to the organs, it can lead to death.

Treatments for these conditions vary, depending on the cause. The majority of shrimp diseases and conditions develop due to improper water conditions that lead to stress.

Stress greatly affects a shrimp’s ability to fight off infection, as it weakens the immune system. Therefore, it’s imperative that you maintain water parameters and optimal conditions to ensure your shrimp are living healthy so their bodies can better fight against illness.

Wrapping Up

If you’re interested in establishing an aquatic environment for Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp, you must understand their natural habitat so you can recreate their environment as best you can. 

These small creatures require particular water parameters to thrive, including warm, alkaline waters.

Creating a piece of the Sulawesi region in your home takes effort but is worth it! Provide them with live plants, proper food, and good friends to share their space with

Watch as your little shrimps thrive in an environment you made just for them.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...