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Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care Guide: Diet, Lifespan, Breeding And More

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care Guide: Diet, Lifespan, Breeding And More

Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp , also known as Caridina dennerli or White glove shrimp, are a popular freshwater shrimp species native to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. 

Even though they are very common in the wild, these shrimp are not so popular among hobbyist aquarists. They are a relatively new species in aquarium hobby and caring for them is no easy task. 

Those that have heard of these shrimp can all agree that their small size and peaceful nature is what makes everyone fall in love with them!

Moreover, the Cardinal shrimp appearance is truly amazing – their vibrant red coloration makes them stand out among all other aquarium critters!

You have probably heard that this shrimp is a bit tricky to care for. That is why we are here – to take a closer look at the biology, habitat, and care needs of this shrimp, as well as the challenges and ethical concerns that come with captive breeding and trade.

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Species Overview

Before we dive into the complete care guide, we first have to understand the water conditions in which this shrimp lives. Understanding the shrimp’s natural habitat is crucial when it comes to setting up the right conditions within the aquarium as well as matching it with suitable tank mates.

Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp species originate from two ancient lakes – lake Matano and lake Poso, both of which are a part of the five-lake Malili system in Indonesia. 

In the wild, these shrimp can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats. So, besides the ancient lakes, Sulawesi shrimps can be found in streams, rivers, and even swamps.


sulawesi cardinal shrimps

The eye-catching appearance of the Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp is one of the main reasons why aquarium hobbyists rush to get them. Well, who can blame them? 

These shrimp sport a beautiful bright red color, which ranges from dark to light shades. Unique white spots are dispersed evenly across their whole bodies. This white pigmentation is especially concentrated on their forelimbs, which is why they are often called White glove shrimp. 

But their coloration isn’t the only head-turning physical trait. These shrimp are fancy! They have a transparent body with long, thin legs. Their elongated bodies are usually up to 1 inch long when fully grown.

On top of their slim head lies a pair of long, thin antennae and small, black eyes located on the front of their head. 

An interesting fact about these fascinating shrimp is that they are able to see a wide range of colors and are especially sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light!


Wild Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp have an average lifespan of around 1-2 years. However, in an aquarium setting, their lifespan can vary depending on a number of factors. 

 Some of the most important factors influencing the shrimp’s lifespan include: 

  • Water quality 
  • Tank maturity
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Diet
  • Tank size

Just like with other aquarium-kept animals, shrimp in captivity may have a longer lifespan than those in the wild. With proper care, it is possible to keep these shrimp for 2 years or even longer. 

Common Health Issues

If their needs aren’t met and the tank setting is just off, there are a few common diseases that can affect the Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp’s health.  

Now, there is no disease that is specific for this shrimp type, but there are some that lurk on all aquatic life: 

Note that all of these infections in shrimp are triggered by stress! Treating them is pretty difficult, so your best shot is to keep the shrimp’s environment as clean and stress-free as you can!

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Care Guide 

cardinal shrimp in freshwater aquarium

When it comes to caring for this shrimp species in a home tank, it is important to provide them with a suitable habitat that mimics their natural environment as closely as possible.

There are a lot of factors that you should keep in mind, so stick around and take quick notes! 


Being omnivorous, these fellas will eat a lot of everything! Wild shrimp usually feast on algae, plants, and even small invertebrates.

As for captive Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp, they should be fed a rich diet of high-quality shrimp pellets, algae wafers, and blanched vegetables in the aquarium.

Like with any fish in the tank, there can be leftover food when these shrimp become full. So, the best way to avoid water quality issues is to avoid overfeeding these shrimp and remove any uneaten food from the tank. 

Water Requirements 

Besides maintaining a calm water flow, you will want to focus on many other factors. These shrimp are very sensitive and any fluctuations in water parameters could potentially kill them. 

In order to live a happy and healthy life, the Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp require clean, well-oxygenated water. Yes – this means that these dwarf shrimp are very sensitive and won’t make a good living in tap water!

Here are four most important water parameters you have to take quick notes of:

1. Water Temperature74 to 88°F (23-31°C)
2. Water pH6.5 to 8.2
3. Water Hardness3 to 10 dGH
4. Water QualityClean, well-oxygenated water

Keep in mind that wild individuals rarely experience drastic temperature changes and they like higher temperatures. So, any major water temperature change may be lethal for these shrimp.

The thing that makes this species really stand out is their affinity to higher pH. The best way to keep track of pH levels is to invest in a reliable pH test kit and a reliable thermometer to help you monitor and maintain these water conditions in your shrimp tank.

It is very important to maintain proper water quality in their habitat and you can easily achieve the best results by performing regular water changes and using the highest quality water conditioner you can find.

These shrimp are sensitive to high levels of ammonia and nitrite, so make sure to monitor the tank nitrogen cycle and maturity. 

A great way to deal with high ammonia and nitrite levels is by installing a specialized filter into your home tank. However, your best option to get rid of high ammonia and nitrite levels is to add beneficial tank bacteria!

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Breeding

Newsflash – breeding Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp in an aquarium is very difficult.

They are known to be difficult to breed due to their specific water and habitat requirements, as well as their relatively lower breeding rate.

Natural Breeding Vs. Breeding In Captivity

Wild Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp are known to form large colonies where they stay close to one another. This social behavior is thought to be important for their breeding, as it allows for the sharing of resources and the formation of mating pairs.

However, it can be difficult to replicate these conditions in captivity, and many aquarium hobbyists have had problems breeding them.

Factors That Affect Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp Breeding

There are several factors that can contribute to a lower reproductive breeding rate in Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp. The main three factors are:

1. Stress: Because of their sensitivity to stress, these shrimp may have a lower breeding reproductive rate if kept in conditions that are not optimal for their well-being (change in temperature, improper tank substrate, improper diet, and lack of hiding places).

2. Age: Cardinal Sulawesi shrimps breed when they are between 6-12 months old. Older shrimps usually have a lower reproductive rate.

3. Health issues: Shrimp that are suffering from health issues usually have a lower reproductive rate. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor the health of your colony and address any issues that may arise.

Breeding And Ethical Concerns

Of course, with proper care and attention, it is possible to successfully breed Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp in an aquarium setting. But, here’s the catch – captive breeding and trade of these shrimp can raise ethical concerns for a good reason.

You see, the removal of this shrimp species from their natural habitats can potentially have negative impacts on local ecosystems. As an added bonus, they are categorized as endangered species. 

Nowadays, there are active breeders who successfully breed this shrimp species in small numbers, but such breeders are very difficult to find.  

Tank Requirements And Tank Mates For Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp

cardinal sulawesi shrimp on dried guava leaf

Cardinal Sulawesi Shrimp are dwarf shrimp which means that they are relatively small and are suitable for smaller tanks and aquascapes. 

The average size of an adult individual is one inch in length. Depending on the gender, some individuals grow between 0.5 to 0.7 inches long. Now, let’s talk about the tank size that is just perfect for this little shrimp!

Tank Parameters 

You can start with a tank that is at least 5 gallons in size, and limit the number of shrimp in the tank to around 10-15 individuals. 

However, if you plan to breed these shrimp, then you may want a more spacious tank to make room for their eggs and hatchlings!

Tank Plants

Tank decoration is one of my favorite things especially when I am choosing live plants that make my aquarium a paradise for all critters in it. When it comes to these dwarf shrimp, I might as well say that they are far from being picky eaters.

They eat everything in front of them, from live plants to decaying plant matter, so it is important to choose non-toxic tank plants for shrimp tanks. 

Some plants that are great for Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp habitat include:

  • Java fern
  • Anubias
  • Java moss
  • Christmas moss.  

These tank plants have so many benefits, as they provide the shrimp with hiding places, maintain water oxygen levels, and help to maintain proper water chemistry.  

Tank Substrate 

Tank substrate can be tricky for Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp because they are very sensitive to sharp sand. You will want to choose a soft, sandy, and dark substrate while providing plenty of hiding places.

They are by no means a predator species – as prey animals, these shrimp thrive in places where they can hide and forage. 

Tank Mates 

Remember when we mentioned the high pH that our little Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp like so much? Well, it turns out that not many tank fish thrive in such high pH levels. This makes it difficult to find proper tank mates for our beloved shrimp.

That being said, one of the most important factors to consider when selecting tank mates is the size of the tank and the size of the potential tank mates. It is important to choose tank mates that are similarly sized to the shrimp to avoid any accidental injuries or aggression. It is also important to consider the feeding habits of the potential tank mates.

If you add young shrimp into a tank full of other fish, chances are that they will be seen as food! So, it is best to have a separate shrimp tank if you plan to keep young shrimp!

Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp are peaceful and do not do well with aggressive or territorial species. So, choose tank mates that are similarly peaceful and will not harass or attack the shrimp. 

Some suitable tank mates for Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp include:

  • Small and peaceful species of freshwater shrimp
  • Sulawesi snails
  • Small and peaceful fish such as Otocinclus catfish or Corydoras catfish.
  • Neocaridina and Caridina shrimp 

Finally, it is important to consider the water and habitat requirements of the potential tank mates. For example, these shrimp get along pretty well with shrimp from the Neocaridina family and the good news is that Neocaridina species adapt well to their climate and habitat.

Other Sulawesi Shrimp Types

cardinal sulawesi shrimp

If you are fascinated with the beauty of this small shrimp, you have to see the other Sulawesi shrimp types I have in store for you! Not only are they beautiful, but their peaceful nature makes them a thrill to look at!

  • Blue Dream Sulawesi shrimp: Named after their bright blue coloration, these shrimp are popular among hobby aquarists.
  • White Orchid Sulawesi shrimp: These shrimp are known for their beautiful white spots and pink coloration. 
  • Chocolate Sulawesi shrimp: These shrimp are colored in beautiful brownish-black tones, hence the chocolate in their name!
  • Matano tiger shrimp (Caridina holthuisi): Say hello to a tiger-like shrimp with a distinctive striped pattern that grabs all of the attention! 
  • Black Galaxy Sulawesi shrimp: This shrimp is a variation of the Galaxy Sulawesi shrimp that are known for their mesmerizing black coloration. 
  • Electric Blue Sulawesi shrimp: These shrimp are known for their unique bright blue shades that make them real tank superstars!
  • Red Cherry Sulawesi shrimp: Their bright red color is vivid and simply gorgeous! 

Final Thoughts

Cardinal Sulawesi shrimp are some of the most beautiful shrimp species in the world! Even though caring for them might take up a lot of time and effort, the end result makes it all worth it! 

Keeping these unique shrimp in your aquarium is very beneficial for water quality and tank cleanliness. The beautiful Cardinal shrimp appearance makes the tank vivid and a thrill to look at. 

Do you think you have what it takes to keep or breed these unique critters? There’s one way to find out!