The Ultimate Guide to the Blue Velvet Shrimp (Care, Grading, Breeding)

Have you ever seen a blue shrimp before?

The Blue Velvet Shrimp is actually a blue color morph of the Cherry Shrimp and is one of the most popular crustaceans amongst aquarium enthusiasts.

This truly unusual invertebrate makes the bottom levels of an aquarium stand out because of their blue color.

Like many other shrimp this shrimp makes an excellent tank cleaner. They are efficient little live-in janitors that clear away any algae and biofilm that forms on your plants.

Are you thinking of adding a few to your aquarium?

Read on for everything you need to know about these little blue beauties…

Blue Velvet Shrimp

Blue Velvet Shrimp
Other Common Names: Blue Dream Shrimp, Blue Cherry Shrimp, Blue Dwarf Shrimp
Scientific Name: Neocaridina davidi
Family Name: Atyidae
Distribution: Taiwan
Size: 1.5-2 inches
Color: Blue with black spot
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 1-2 years
Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Nano fish and other small shrimp

What is a Blue Velvet Shrimp?

The Blue Velvet Shrimp, or Blue Dream, is a color morph of the Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi).

They come from the Atyidae family of freshwater shrimp and are native to Taiwan. However this particular color does not occur naturally in the wild.

This critter stands out because of their deep blue color which is the result of selective breeding. The color is graded based on how much blue there is in relation to black on the shrimp’s body.

Blue Velvet Shrimp are most commonly used as an algae cleaner. They can be kept with nano fish in tanks as small as 5 gallons.

Once fully grown they will reach around 2 inches long and tend to only live for 1-2 years.

Because this blue color is fairly uncommon they are hard to find at a chain pet store. Aquarium suppliers and online dealers are more likely to carry this morph and you should expect to pay $6-$8 per shrimp.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Freshwater aquariums
  • Nicknames: Blue Dream Shrimp, Blue Dwarf Shrimp, Blue Cherry Shrimp
  • Color Forms: 4 different grades of blue
  • Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Tank Size: 5+ gallons
  • Tank Temperature: 65-85°F

Blue Velvet Shrimp Appearance

Blue Velvet Shrimp On Leaf

The first thing you notice about this spectacular shrimp is their color. In addition to blue, other unusual color morphs of the Cherry Shrimp include green, yellow, and orange.

However there is so much more to them than meets the eye.

Like all shrimp they belong to the order Decapoda.

This means that their legs come in 5 pairs.

Crustaceans have a fused head and thorax called the cephalothorax which is protected by a carapace. Their 5 pairs of walking legs are connected to this.

Their abdomen is separated into 5 different segments, each with a pair of swimming legs (or swimmerets).

The chelipeds are the first pair of legs and contain small pincers. This tiny shrimp does not do much pinching, so their chelipeds are normally used for grasping food. Next is their swimming legs (or pleopods) which are used for maneuvering through the water. The rearmost pleopods are also used in copulation to carry eggs.

Their telson (or tail) helps them to stay balanced while swimming, and their fan shaped uropod at the end allows the shrimp to swim backwards and forwards.

You will notice they have two long antennae on their head which allows the shrimp to detect movement and vibration in the substrate. Beside them are two short antennules which are used for sensing changes in salinity and pressure. Their beady black eyes are found on the end of two eyestalks. They are not blind and can see colors and patterns that other marine animals cannot see.

The hard outer shell is called the exoskeleton. As they grow and develop they will shed their old exoskeleton several times to grow in a new one.

Blue Velvet Shrimp grow to a maximum of about 2 inches, but most remain at around 1.5 inches long.

You can easily tell the difference between the males and the females. The females have more vibrant colors and they are also larger and rounder in shape.

Grades

While this particular shrimp only comes in one color, there are four different color grades. The color grading system is as follows:

  • Low Grade: These low grade shrimp have large black spots over their heads. The blue color appears translucent in some spots and with some low grade shrimp they are more black than blue.
  • Middle Grade: Middle grade shrimp have a mix of opaque and translucent shades of blue, with a large black spot over their head.
  • Medium/High Grade: This is the second highest grade and they have a faded black head spot over a completely opaque blue body.
  • High Grade: They are the most popular shrimp and have a solid blue body with no black or translucent spots.

Blue Velvet Shrimp Care Guide

Group Of Blue Velvet Shrimps

Very little experience is needed to care for these shrimp.

They are accessible to keepers of any skill level and make a great introduction to invertebrates.

However Blue Velvet Shrimp are quite sensitive to water quality and can be difficult to acclimate to a new tank.

The best way to acclimate them is to use the drip method. You should place your shrimp in a bucket and slowly drip water from your aquarium into the bucket. Once the shrimp is submerged you should check the water parameters in the bucket to make sure they match those in your tank. Then monitor the shrimp for any adverse reactions.

Once you have successfully acclimated your shrimp to your tank water the biggest challenge is copper and zinc poisoning. These metals can be found in fertilizers and in medications you give to your fish.

Even small amounts of these metals can be fatal, so all fertilizers that you use should be completely free of them.

If you need to medicate one of your fish and a metal-free option is not available you should remove all shrimp and invertebrates from the tank until the medication is finished.

A helpful care rule is that your shrimp’s brilliant blue color will turn pale and dull when the water quality in your tank is subpar.

Blue Velvet Shrimp Tank Requirements

Two Blue Velvet Shrimp

This Cherry Shrimp color morph does not naturally exist in the wild.

However original color Cherry Shrimps do, so we can look at their natural environment to consider how to setup an aquarium for Blue Velvet Shrimps.

Cherry Shrimps inhabit the heavily planted areas of freshwater streams in Taiwan. They make their home in clusters of moss that are usually shaded by wide leaved plants.

They live near the substrate where the light is low and where there is plenty of space to hide.

In these freshwater streams the flow stays low and decaying plant material causes the pH to fluctuate between basic and slightly acidic conditions.

Aquarium Set Up

You should keep this shrimp in at least a 5 gallon tank.

However if you are keeping a group of shrimp then it is better to size up to 10 gallons.

The water temperature in the tank can range from 65-85°F, but between 72-80°F is best. Lower color grade shrimp can tolerate higher or lower temperatures than those in the higher grades.

It is very important to make sure that your filter is not powerful enough to injure the shrimp – HOB or sponge filters are your safest options. If you do need something more powerful than a HOB or sponge then you can try an under gravel filter on the lowest possible power setting.

Remember that in the wild these shrimp like to be in the shade. So you can use any light intensity, so long as there is plenty of shade at the bottom levels of your tank.

Hardness should be between 4-10 dGH and the pH can range from 6.0-8.0. Heavily planted tanks can raise the pH when the plants decay so make sure that you monitor the conditions carefully.

As for substrate you can layer small smooth pebbles over fine grains.

Plants are the most important part of this tank setup.

Large leafed plants that attract a lot of algae are the best kind. Great plants include anacharis and other floating waterweeds, Java ferns, green cabombas and Indian water ferns.

A carpet of moss is a must too and Java Moss is the best kind to use. A little bit of moss can grow into a thick carpet in very little time.

Finally, you can include PVC shrimp shelters, caves, tunnels, and other places for your shrimp to hide in. You can take a few smooth boulders and place them close together to create crevices or tunnel systems.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons
Tank Type: Freshwater planted
Temperature: 65-85°F
pH: 6.0-8.0
Hardness: 4-10 dGH
Flow: Light
Substrate: Small pebbles

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

Blue Velvet Shrimp should be kept in at least a 5 gallon aquarium.

If you want to keep a group of them together then a 20 gallon tank will hold a group of about 10.

Diet and Feeding

Blue Velvet Shrimp Eating

Algae and microbes are the two main parts of this shrimp’s diet.

They eat microbes in the form of biofilm that accumulates on the leaves of plants. If you spot them grazing on your plants then do not worry. They are not eating the plants themselves but the bacterial colonies growing on them.

Just like most shrimp they will eat anything else that they find in the substrate. They are extremely good at keeping the tank clean.

Most of the time they are able to find food on their own without any help from you.

However we recommend that you should give them other foods to make sure that their diet is balanced.

You can give them shrimp flakes with a high algae content, powdered algae flakes and pellets. You can also supplement their diet with cooked and blanched vegetables. They prefer green veggies like lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and broccoli.

Here are the foods that you can let your shrimp snack on:

  • Algae
  • Detritus
  • Microbes and biofilm
  • Shrimp flakes
  • Algae flakes and pellets (powder)
  • Spirulina (powder)
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce

Just remember that it is very easy to overfeed these shrimp.

Overfeeding is just as bad as underfeeding.

You will only need to feed them about once a week, and the rest they will find on their own. Any food that you give them should be finished in under 2 hours and all leftovers should be removed from the tank.

Tank Mates For Blue Velvet Shrimps

Blue Velvet Shrimp On Moss

In the wild these shrimp mostly keep to themselves and live among other bottom dwellers. They live alongside the native fish which include small cyprinids, catfish, and loaches.

Within your aquarium they can only be kept with tank mates that do not have a taste for invertebrates. Your fish should not be large enough to fit this tiny shrimp into their mouths.

Nano fish are their best mates.

Any small fish that only eat micro-prey can be safely kept with Blue Velvet Shrimp.

Neon and Ember Tetras will look especially colorful when paired with these deep blue beauties. Flame Tetras also complement them very well. Harlequin and Chili Rasboras live in similar water conditions and make very good additions to a Blue Velvet tank.

Dwarf, Pearl, and Sparkling Gouramis are both small enough to leave the shrimp alone and showy enough to accent their colors.

You should not pair them with any large catfish, but the smaller species (Cories, Otos, and Bristlenose Plecos) that are commonly found in Nano tanks are just fine.

If you do want to include a loach, the Kuhli Loach is your safest option.

Other small shrimp can safely cohabitate with this species, including Grass Shrimp and Amano Shrimp. Bamboo Shrimp in particular can look very attractive alongside a group of Blue Velvets.

All Cichlids and Goldfish should be kept far away, as should any large catfish. If your Pleco is bigger than a Bristlenose then it is best to keep them away.

Most Loaches just love to munch on shrimp so they should generally be avoided.

Also avoid including any aggressive or predatory shrimp species.

Keeping Blue Velvet Shrimp With Red Cherry Shrimp

You can mix any colors of Cherry Shrimp you want.

There is hardly a better compliment to a blue Cherry Shrimp than a red one. The Blue Velvet Shrimp’s social behaviors extend to any other color Cherry Shrimp and their group dynamics are the same regardless of color.

Can Blue Velvet Shrimp Live With Goldfish?

You should never place a Blue Velvet or any other kind of shrimp in a Goldfish tank.

Goldfish absolutely love to snack on shrimp and snails.

Can You Keep Blue Velvet Shrimps Together?

These highly social shrimp live very well together. A group of them will engage in communal feeding and shelter in numbers.

You can spot them relaxing in groups on their favorite clusters of moss, or underneath your leaves and other structures. In a larger tank, they will form social colonies. They will follow each other to the best feeding spots and scavenge together.

Blue Velvet Shrimp Breeding and Eggs

Blue Velvet Shrimp Eating

If you have a large colony of Blue Velvet Shrimp, and your water temperature is ideal, then your shrimp will breed on their own without any help.

However a fish tank is a dangerous place for juvenile shrimp so it is better to place your mated pairs in a breeding and nursery tank.

In your breeding tank you should keep the water temperature between 72-80°F and include a sponge filter and a swatch of Java moss.

Your group should have a 1:5 female-to-male ratio.

The female’s colors will look very bright as she enters breeding condition and her body will get rounder in preparation for carrying eggs. One of the males will climb underneath the female to engage in copulation. Once she lays the eggs she will carry them around with her until they hatch.

A female can lay up to 60 eggs at a time, which she will hold in a transparent sac between her swimming legs. Eggs hatch within 20 days and emerge as miniature versions of the adults.

Once the eggs hatch you should remove the female from the nursery tank.

The juvenile shrimp will immediately start to scavenge for food.

You can crush algae flakes into a fine powder to give them a little more than what they will find in the moss and plants.

Juvenile shrimp will go through one molt every week as they grow up. After about 30 days, they will be ready to join the main tank.

Typical Behavior

Blue Velvet Shrimp Close Up

The Blue Velvet is an extremely peaceful shrimp that poses no threat to their tank mates.

They are best described as timid and will only interact with other Cherry Shrimp.

During the day time they will spend most of their time hiding in the caverns and other hidey holes at the bottom of your tank. If you have more than one shrimp then they may share the same hideout.

You are most likely to see them just after dusk.

When they are out and about you will see them scuttling around the bottom levels of the tank and grazing on moss and other plants. You can even give them Marimo Moss Ball to eat.

Then when the sun comes up your Blue Velvet Shrimp will go back into hiding.

You will notice they tend to hide even more when they are shedding their exoskeleton. Molting leaves the shrimp vulnerable to predators in the wild. Adult shrimp will molt once every month, while developing juveniles will molt about once a week. They should not be disturbed during this time.

Pros and Cons

  • Very good algae cleaners
  • Draws attention to the bottom of the tank
  • Easy to care for
  • Compatible with Nano tanks
  • Reasonably priced and budget friendly
  • Can be injured by powerful filters
  • Susceptible to copper and zinc poisoning
  • Can be difficult to acclimate
  • Higher color grades are more sensitive to shifting water parameters

Species History

The Cherry Shrimp was first described in 1918 under the scientific name Neocaridina denticulata sinensis.

At this time a blue color morph did not exist yet.

The species was studied extensively in their natural habitat throughout the 20th century, at a time when freshwater fish of Southeast Asia were a hot topic in the marine biology world.

While they were formally introduced to the aquarium trade in 2003 they first appeared outside of their native range as far back as 1991.

The Blue Velvet Shrimp is a special ornamental color morph that appeared sometime after 2003. They are the result of selective breeding and are only found in captivity.

Since it is very difficult to isolate the genes responsible for the color the blue morph is not as common as the natural red or orange color morphs.

Other Shrimp To Consider

This little shrimp is a truly delightful addition to most aquariums. But if you are having trouble finding one, these other shrimp make a great substitute.

  • Other Cherry Shrimp: Cherry Shrimp come in all the colors, not just blue or red.
  • Blue Bamboo Shrimp: This filter feeding Bamboo Shrimp can come in a bluish grey color too. Bamboo Shrimp need a slightly larger tank but are just as easy to care for.
  • Blue Vampire Shrimp: Blue is the most popular color for the Vampire Shrimp. This shrimp can live for up to 5 years but they are very skittish and sensitive.

Should You Get Blue Velvet Shrimps? (Summary)

The Blue Velvet Shrimp is a little wonder that can become the conversation piece of any freshwater aquarium.

A group of Blue Velvet Shrimp can draw even more attention than your fish.

Their deep blue color makes them stand out against even the dullest substrate. The bottom levels of the tank will really pop with the help of these blue beauties.

There is no difference in caring for this shrimp and a regular red Cherry Shrimp. If you have ever owned a red Cherry Shrimp, a blue one should be no trouble at all. They are one of the easiest invertebrates to keep, so anyone who wants one can manage one.

This critter is both beautiful and beneficial. They can help you keep the algae from taking over your tank and clear up all your plant decay too.

There are plenty of reasons why you should have a Blue Velvet Shrimp in your aquarium. Do your Blue Velvets get along with your other invertebrates?

Let us know in the comments section below…

About David Thomas

David Thomas David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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