Whether adding shrimp to an existing aquarium or starting a nano shrimp tank, you must ensure the shrimp you keep have the right environment.
No ideal shrimp environment would be complete without aquatic plants.
If you’re looking for the best plants for shrimp tanks, you have come to the right place.
Keep reading to learn more.
Do Shrimps Need Plants?
The question, “do shrimps need plants?” is controversial among aquarium hobby lovers.
Some shrimp can survive without plants — but only with ideal feeding and water conditions.
The vast majority of shrimp do better with a wide range of plants, as long as you choose the right ones and avoid overcrowding the tank.
Live aquatic plants help provide food for your shrimp and give them an ideal environment to play and hide.
They can also mirror your shrimp’s natural habitat.
Plants for Food
Many shrimp eat dead plants and other organisms on the bottoms of rivers, and live plants create biofilm, an excellent food source for shrimp.
Further, leftover food can fall between plants, where shrimp can easily find it and eat it.
Live aquatic plants are an important part of your shrimp’s balanced diet, and in larger fish tanks that contain shrimp, live plants have unending benefits.
For example, shrimp and live aquarium hobby plants work together to make an excellent, all-natural clean-up crew for fish tanks of all shapes and sizes.
Plants for Hiding
Most varieties of shrimp molt or shed their shells, and plants provide privacy for this delicate process.
In the wild, plants provide a safe space and protection from predators.
Shrimp love to hide and play in plants — even in captivity.
What Plants Do Freshwater Shrimp Eat?
Shrimp love snacking on moss, and they will eat any plant matter that comes loose from the live plants in their tank.
Some carpet-style plants also serve as storage containers for hungry shrimp. Leftover food will fall into the plants, creating a perfect snack for later.
Overall, shrimp will eat almost anything easily accessible in their tank. In the wild, they flow along with the current and eat whatever is around them.
Algae is one of a shrimp’s favorite foods, and it grows naturally in most tanks!
Moss is another primitive plant that shrimp love to eat.
Moss Is the Best Plant for Shrimp
Most shrimp keepers agree that moss is the best possible plant for your shrimp tank. It works for any size shrimp tank, grows easily, and is versatile.
Moss can attach to a rock, form a carpet, or float at the top of the tank.
Moss provides a great place for shrimp to hide or grow (molt), and it is easy for them to eat if they ever need a snack. It also creates biofilm.
Try Java moss (preference #1 for most shrimp keepers), Weeping moss, Peacock moss, Flame moss, Phoenix moss, Christmas moss, or a Marimo moss ball.
Are Moss Balls Good for Shrimp?
Yes! Shrimp love a good moss ball. They enjoy grazing and picking at them, and some varieties of shrimp (looking at you, Amano shrimp) will even tear them up for sport.
Even if your shrimp goes a bit too hard on moss balls, they are still a great addition to any shrimp tank. You really cannot do any harm with a well-placed moss ball.
Plus, there’s nothing cuter than all of your shrimps making a ball of their own on top of their favorite moss ball.
Stemmed aquatic plants can help you fill out your tank and provide your shrimp with plenty of places to play and hide.
Just be sure that your plants aren’t growing too quickly, as fast-growing plants can crowd your shrimp and remove vital nutrients from your tank.
Remember, aquatic plants are meant to serve your shrimpy friends, not be the focus of your tank. Your shrimp should never have to compete with aquatic plants to survive.
Some of Our Favorite Shrimp-friendly Stem Plants Include:
- Java fern
- Water wisteria
- Water sprite
- Dwarf lily
- Tiger lotus
- Cryptocorynes (Crypts)
- Vallisneria (Vals)
- Brazilian pennywort
- Hornwort (can have a faster growth rate, so stay on top of trimming)
Make sure to choose the right stemmed plant for your nano tank size. Vals, for example, cannot be trimmed without harming the plant, so they may not be appropriate for smaller tanks.
Wort-style plants are usually bigger and have a faster growth rate, so they also need larger tanks. They also need to be trimmed frequently to prevent overcrowding.
Additionally, some plants are finicky, so choose a plant with a wide range of care requirements inside your comfort level.
Of course, you will also want to ensure the plants you choose match your shrimp tank’s aesthetics or overall look and feel.
Do Shrimp Like Java Fern?
Shrimp not only like Java fern, they love it!
Crafty crustaceans hide among the large leaves, and shrimp keepers have an easy time maintaining the plant.
Plants That Form a Carpet
Shrimp love plants that form a carpet, especially because carpeting plants can catch loose food particles. With a plant carpet, you may need less substrate, as well.
Our favorite carpeting plant for shrimp is pearl weed. With a bit of nutrient-rich substrate and plenty of light, this easy-to-grow plant will quickly form a carpet for your shrimp!
As we mentioned earlier, some moss forms can also form a carpet.
Floating plants can be great for providing shade to your shrimp. They also help with tank filtration.
Be careful, though, because too many floating plants can block the light for the rest of your aquatic plants — and become a competitor for your shrimp.
Water lettuce is arguably the best floating plant for shrimp because its leaves provide shade and its roots fall into the nano tank, giving your shrimp hiding places.
Other options include:
- Red root floaters
- Salvinia natans
- Azolla filiculoides
- Water hyacinth
Moss and subwassertang can also float — or be affixed to rocks, driftwood, or tank decorations.
Do Shrimps Like Floating Plants?
Shrimp are purely aquatic creatures, so they may not get to interact with floating plants, but that doesn’t mean they don’t “like” them.
Any shrimp will like the filtration services floating plants provide, and as we’ve already discussed, shrimp love rooted plants like water lettuce because of their roots and the shade they produce.
Shrimp thrive in pristine water conditions, and floating plants can help keep your shrimp tank clean and free of harmful ammonia and nitrogen.
Is Leaf Litter a Plant?
Yes and no. Leaf litter is made of plants, but in aquariums it is used as substrate — and it is not usually a replacement for live plants.
Fortunately, leaf litter can absolutely help you create a more natural environment for your shrimp. Dwarf shrimp, for example, live in streams rich with fallen leaves.
Leaf litter can also help your aquarium plants grow, as it provides valuable nutrients and can help fragile roots take hold!
Shrimp and plants alike can eat or absorb leaf litter as it breaks down, leaf litter can help produce biofilm, and shrimp can hide among the leaves.
Baby shrimp especially love hanging out in leaf litter, and some shrimp keepers swear by leaf litter alone (although we prefer adding some live plants, too).
With the right leaves (e.g., almond leaves), you should never have to remove leaf litter from your tank.
We love a largely self-cleaning tank!
So, What Plants Should I Put in My Shrimp Tank?
The plants you put into your shrimp tank will depend on the size of your tank, the type of shrimp you have, water parameters, water quality, water column, and water temperature.
Some people prefer leaf litter and a little moss, and others prefer a pearl weed carpet with luxurious Dwarf lilies growing upwards.
If I were to set up a shrimp tank today, I would:
- start with leaf litter
- add some moss (either Java moss or one or two Marimo moss balls)
- plant some Java fern
- add soft water lettuce to the top of my tank
If I was feeling really ambitious, I might also try to grow a pearl weed carpet on the floor of my tank.
At the end of the day, it is your shrimp tank, and the plants you choose are entirely up to you. You can design your shrimp tank in countless ways, and this blog is only meant to help!
Seasoned shrimp keepers urge you to decorate your tank the way you like, then find ways to make the tank work for your shrimp.
For example, you might like colorful aquarium gravel and fake neon plants, and that’s totally fine — just make sure you keep your tank clean and feed your shrimp well.
And maybe consider adding a moss ball or floating some water lettuce, just to help yourself out.
We hope you have many great ideas, and best of luck designing the ideal shrimp aquarium.
We know your shrimp will thank you!