As many hobbyists have noticed, invertebrates are making a comeback in the hobby. Many hobbyists are keeping invertebrate tanks only due to their interesting characteristics and funny behavior. The popular invertebrate on the scene are the cherry shrimps, Neocaridina heteropoda. These fun little shrimps are creating a storm around the globe along with other color morphs. This is a simple guide to highlight the care and requirements of these intriguing shrimp and to give key points on how to breed them. (photo from: http://www.smartblue.net/akvateam/card_images)
First, cherry shrimp are originally from Taiwan and have been selectively bred to obtain the red color we commonly see in stores. The adult size of a cherry shrimp is 1.6 in (4 cm) making it great for smaller aquariums. The cherry shrimp requires water with a pH of 6.5 - 8 and a large temperature range of 57–86°F (14–30°C). The other requirement is "clean water", in other words, do regular water changes, do not over feed and keep the filter media clean.
The aquarium system for these little guys would be different depending on you final goal. If you want them to survive, but not breed, a system with a filter would be fine. Breeding them works well in systems with sponge filters, or filters that are very low powered. To keep bright red colors, a black or dark sediment or gravel is optimal. I always recommend live plants in any aquarium with many hiding places (logs, decorations, etc.). Along witht the live plants, a light is a must; you are going to want to see them! (picture from: http://s512.photobucket.com/user/seaviewaquariums)
Tank mates for cherry shrimp are slightly difficult, mainly because most fish see them as tasty snacks! I usually recommend tanks mates in the variety of neon tetras, dwarf corydoras, otocinlus catfish and cardinal tetras. You might find your luck with other species, but the aforementioned fish are great to start with. Bettas, cichlids, angles, goldfish and guppies will make quick meals of your new shrimp, so be sure to avoid them.
Feeding cherry shrimp is relatively inexpensive. These interesting shrimps mainly consume algae and many hobbyists tend to feed a diet solely of algae discs. These are convenient, but should not comprise the entire diet. You can feed blanched (boiled) vegetables like broccoli, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes and other vegetables to aid in coloration and health of your cherry shrimp. If you do feed vegetables, keep in mind cherry shrimp continually scavenge throughout the day and may not completely consume their meal in one day. I recommend, to maintain water quality, to remove uneaten food after 1 - 3 hours, unless you plan on doing a 50% water change once the food has been completely consumed. (picture from:http://farm5.staticflickr.com)
Now, once you have a population of shrimp purchased and a tank setup you can try your skills at breeding them. Cherry shrimp are relatively easy to breed as long as you have a few females and a male. Identifying male or female shrimp is super easy due to the translucent exoskeleton. Females, once they have reached a mature size, will show a yellow "saddle" on their back. This is the unfertilized eggs.
Once she is fertilized, the eggs will appear on her swimmerettes and in about 3 weeks, you will have many miniature cherry shrimps zooming around the tank. Males do not display a "saddle", tend to be smaller with a thinner tail than females and are usually not as red as females. (saddle & egg photo from http://www.planetinverts.com)
Once you have tried keeping these interesting and fun invertebrates, you will find yourself with shrimp fever. Cherry shrimp also come in a variety of color morphs; I have seen black and yellow ones! After getting a "shrimp" finger try breeding some of the more exotic species like Crystal Reds (Caridina cantonensis), which require a finer touch than cherry shrimp.