Do Tetras Eat Shrimp? Tank Mates or Tasty Treats?

Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton


do tetras eat shrimp

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Now there have been some reports online of tetras eating dwarf shrimp species, especially cherry shrimp. Are these stories true, and how can we protect our precious shrimp from the ravages of our hungry tetras?

The truth is that tetras can sometimes eat dwarf shrimp, but usually only when larger tetras are kept with the smallest shrimp.

Equally importantly, can freshwater shrimp ever kill or eat your tetras? I’ve thoroughly researched this topic and returned to you with the answers…

Can Neon Tetra Eat Cherry Shrimp?

When we think of tetras, there are none more iconic or more commonly kept than the neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). As for aquarium shrimp, the most popular species is probably the cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi).

So can neon tetras be kept with cherry shrimp? Many aquarists have kept these two species together successfully, but it’s not always a match made in heaven.

Cherry shrimp are one of the smallest freshwater shrimp species, and we must remember that tetras are related to piranhas, so they’re not without their carnivorous tendencies!

Neon tetras will hoover up baby cherry shrimp, and it has been known for them to gang up on an adult cherry shrimp and eat it, but thankfully it’s a relatively rare event. There are also some good ways to prevent neon tetras from harming cherry shrimp that we’ll explore in a minute.

Can Neon Tetra Eat Ghost Shrimp?

Neon Tetra

Another popular freshwater aquarium shrimp is the ghost shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus).

Ghost shrimp are slightly larger than cherry shrimp and aren’t at such risk of being attacked or eaten by neon tetra.

On the contrary, ghost shrimp have a fairly fearsome reputation. But could they really turn the tables and eat your precious tetras?!

Can Ghost Shrimp Eat Tetras?

Ghost Shrimp Turning White

There are some interesting reports on fishkeeper forums of ghost shrimp attacking and devouring their neon tetras and other small fish.

While ghost shrimp are fractionally larger than cherry shrimp, they only grow to around 1.5 inches long. This is a similar size to adult neon tetra, so it’d be surprising if they’d hunt down and kill them.

A more likely explanation is that the neon tetra was already dead or dying when the ghost shrimp found them. Most shrimp species will happily scavenge a free meal when a small fish dies.

Another possibility is a case of mistaken identity. Ghost shrimp look remarkably like their larger cousins, the whisker shrimp, and the two species are sometimes confused and mislabeled in pet stores…

Can Whisker Shrimp Eat Tetras?

The mislabelling of ghost shrimp for whisker shrimp is no small issue because, whereas ghost shrimp are a relatively peaceful shrimp, whisker shrimp are a larger, more predatory species that definitely can eat tetras, including neon tetras!

It’s important to know the difference between these two shrimp, and that’s why we’ve made this comparison guide between ghost shrimp and whisker shrimp here.

Do Larger Tetras Eat Aquarium Shrimp?

So now we know it’s unlikely that a neon tetra will eat aquarium shrimp. But what about larger tetras?

Looking through online aquarium forums, there are several plausible accounts of larger tetras, such as black skirt tetras and black phantom tetras eating cherry shrimp.

Since these larger fish species can exceed 3 inches, it’s hardly surprising that they’d chase down and kill adult cherry shrimp that are less than half their size.

How To Stop Tetras From Eating Cherry Shrimp?

Cherry Shrimp

If you’ve ever had a problem with larger tetras eating your cherry shrimp, you’ll probably want to know how you can stop it from happening.

The secret to preventing tetras from eating shrimp is to provide lots of hiding places. Shrimps love cover, and live aquarium plants are their favorite place to hide.

Small, bushy aquatic plants like Java moss and dwarf hair grass are especially good for offering shrimp some dense foliage as hiding spots in the foreground of the tank.

Fish keepers who provide enough hiding places for their shrimp often report they can survive and even breed successfully in the presence of most aquarium fish.

What Are the Best Shrimp to Keep With Tetras?

Amano Shrimp

Since the tiny cherry shrimp is in danger of being eaten by larger tetras, which types of shrimp will be safe from your tetra?

As I mentioned, ghost shrimp are slightly larger and better at defending themselves than cherry shrimp but could still become prey to larger tetra.

Growing up to 2 inches long, Amano shrimp are the next step up in size and should be able to survive most if not all, tetras. They’re also excellent at eating algae and can’t breed in freshwater, so they will never overpopulate your fish tank.

For an even larger and thoroughly robust shrimp, consider the bamboo shrimp. These monsters can reach 4 inches long and are much too big to tempt even the hungriest tetra!

What Are the Best Fish to Keep With Shrimp?

With the reports of certain tetras eating shrimp, you may be wondering if there are any smaller, more peaceful fish to keep alongside pet shrimp.

Growing to only 0.8 inches long, the ember tetra is one of the smallest of all tetras and should be perfectly safe to keep alongside even the smallest adult cherry shrimp.

Some members of the rasbora family, such as chili rasboras (aka. Mosquito rasboras) and dwarf rasboras, are of similar size and are thought by many to be among the best tank mates for a shrimp tank.

Can Tetras Eat Baby Shrimp and Shrimp Eggs?

Even if some fish are safer with adult shrimp than others, it should be noted that almost any fish, no matter how small, will make a feast of baby shrimp and shrimp eggs!

But since most shrimp breed all too readily in tropical aquariums, this carnivorous behavior will often be welcomed to prevent the shrimp population from getting out of control!


Although it’s a rare event, larger tetras can sometimes eat adult aquarium shrimp, and almost all tetras will eat baby shrimp!

To give your shrimp a better chance of escaping your tetra’s keen appetites, choose larger shrimp species and, most importantly, provide them with plentiful hiding spaces.

On rare occasions, aquarium shrimp may turn the tables and eat tetras, but that’s unlikely as long as you know you’re getting a true dwarf shrimp, such as a ghost shrimp or cherry shrimp.

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