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Ninja Shrimp Care Guide: Diet, Breeding & Tank Specs

Ninja Shrimp Care Guide: Diet, Breeding & Tank Specs

People who are novices in the aquarium hobby are probably not familiar with ninja shrimps. This is a fairly rare type of shrimp that can usually be found as a part of a private collection.

Despite them not being common, ninja shrimps are fairly easy to take care of. In fact, they require more or less the same care as any other shrimp species – with a few quirks that we’ll talk about.

This makes them an excellent choice for beginners – if they can get their hands on a few of these colorful creatures.

As they are so rare, there are many things yet to be discovered about this unique shrimp specie. However, I’ve composed a guide with known information so you can get prepared for your newest tank addition.

Here’s everything you need to know about ninja shrimps:

Quick Notes about Ninja Shrimps 

Ninja shrimp (caridina serratirostris) is a dwarf species of shrimp also known as chameleon shrimp, Christmas shrimp, and honey shrimp. 

Their most prominent feature is their ability to change color so fast that you might think they’ve disappeared instead of blending in with their surrounding – just like a ninja. As you might’ve guessed, this is also how they got their name.

The pattern variations of this small shrimp, combined with its rapid color changes, are also a reason why this species is often compared to a chameleon. 

Ninja Shrimp Appearance

ninja shrimp dark brown stripes

This is a dwarf shrimp specie that stays small throughout its lifespan. In fact, males will rarely grow to be larger than 0.6 inches, while females are usually bigger, reaching up to 1 inch in length. This is a bit smaller than the cherry shrimp you might be more familiar with.

While some sellers might advertise these shrimps in a single color, such as red, green, blue, or purple, this is considered false information. Ninja shrimps will constantly change color and patterns, making it difficult to consider them a single-colored species.

Still, most of these tiny animals will have some form of stripes on them, whether that be a single stripe on their back or even a brindled pattern or white stripes. A red tail is another common feature, although this will largely depend on the color the shrimp is taking. 

Scientists are still trying to figure out how is ninja shrimp able to change its appearance so fast. One theory claims it’s due to the presence of chromatophores, organs typically found on cephalopods.

Ninja shrimps have an average lifespan of up to 1.5 years in captivity. 

The Behavior of Ninja Shrimp  

While you might not consider a color change a behavior, it’s important to understand that this feature can be a huge indication of a shrimp’s temperament and condition.

A ninja shrimp doesn’t randomly change patterns. In fact, the color change is usually due to stress. It is a protective mechanism that helps them stay hidden from predators. 

It is believed the change of color is also a shrimp’s way of communicating with other shrimps, especially during the mating season. 

Ninja shrimps are peaceful animals that live in large groups. They are very shy when alone, and they might even die without their colony.

This is a nocturnal shrimp species. It will spend most of the day time fairly calm, becoming active during night time. Once again, this is a behavior associated with staying away from predators

Taxonomy Problems of Ninja Shrimp 

There is still confusion regarding many caridina species. The main reason behind this is their tiny size.

Most shrimps that belong to the caridina family are so tiny it’s impossible to differentiate them without the use of a microscope. This also means that the differences between species might seem trivial. 

For example, the only difference between caridina serratirostris and caridina celebensis is in the presence (or absence) of a tiny arthrobranch at the base of the third maxilliped.

Unfortunately, this also means that many sellers might, unknowingly, offer you the wrong breed. 

Natural Habitat 

In nature, ninja shrimp can be found in the Indo-Pacific ocean. This includes areas such as Fiji, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Tahiti. 

Ninja shrimp is a freshwater shrimp, meaning it lives in rivers and not in the ocean itself. However, as it breeds in salt water, it usually remains close to the sea, especially as it can survive in slightly brackish water.

Care Guideline

ninja shrimp gold stripes

While ninja shrimp is a fairly common pet in Japan, you cannot find it in most stores in Europe and United States. This can make researching their care fairly tricky.

Understanding the core needs of such a small species might be a bit more challenging than learning about the needs of an animal of a larger diameter. You cannot easily see if there is something wrong with a shrimp that’s less than an inch in size!

The best method is to do all you can to provide your shrimp with the best environment possible. This includes giving them a varied diet, proper water quality, and making sure your tank gives them a similar environment to their natural habitat.

Feeding Ninja Shrimp

If you’ve ever owned any type of dwarf shrimp, you probably won’t have any issues feeding ninja shrimp. Its diet is similar to most other shrimp you might own.

This is an omnivorous species. It requires both plants and organic matter other animals have produced in order to survive and stay healthy. 

As such, ninja shrimps can help you keep your aquarium clean. They will eat algae, fish waste, and biofilm. This will help 

How Often Should You Feed Ninja Shrimp 

One of the most common mistakes people make is feeding their shrimp too often. This won’t help their development; It will only make the water dirty.

Instead, you should feed them once every 2 or 3 days. Don’t worry – this isn’t too seldom, and the shrimp won’t get hungry as quickly as you think.

Even if they did – it is always better to underfeed than to overfeed. 

Think about feeding shrimps as watering plants. If you know anything about the needs of plants, you’ll know that too much water can suffocate them. 

Similarly, too much food will cause harm to your shrimp. Be moderate and don’t be afraid. Your shrimp won’t suffer if you don’t feed them daily.


Calcium plays an important role in shrimps. However, it isn’t necessary to provide supplements to your ninja shrimp if you’re providing them with calcium-rich food. This includes certain veggies, such as most greens, or invert foods. 

Shrimps need plenty of calcium to ensure their exoskeleton is healthy and strong enough. Otherwise, they can become weak and even die. 

If you suspect your shrimp isn’t getting enough minerals, you can buy them some calcium supplements. Make sure you’re following the instruction. 

While you might find some original shrimp recipes that claim to provide your shrimp with the best nutrition possible, I wouldn’t advise following most of them. Shrimp are sensitive creatures. Stick to tested store-bought products to minimize the chance of hurting your pets. 

Tank Size

Despite their small size, ninja shrimp won’t thrive in small tanks. The reason behind this might surprise you. 

This specie doesn’t require lots of space. However, when you have a larger tank with a large water volume, water parameters won’t be as sensitive nor easy to disrupt.

This means most mistakes you might make with your care won’t cause as much harm in larger tanks as they would in smaller aquariums.

In general, a colony of 40 to 50 shrimps will do amazing in a 10-gallon tank.

Of course, there is no need to go overboard and buy a 20-gallon tank for a colony of the same size. This will make it harder to maintain proper living conditions. Not to mention it will cost you more!

Water Type and Parameters

ninja shrimp white stripes
Photo: @buffy.h.t

Before I start talking about the water type you’ll need, I need to remind you of something that should be common knowledge: Always cycle your tank before putting your shrimp into it!

Cycling is essential to ensure your aquatic animals get all the beneficial bacteria in their environment. 

Ninja shrimps are freshwater shrimps. They prefer warm water (ideally between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit), but they can survive in water as cold as 68F. 

While some people keep their shrimp in tap water, I prefer using RO/DI water – just make sure you’ve remineralized it beforehand.

If you find this to be a hassle and want to use tap water, your shrimp should be fine. However, don’t use water straight from the tap. Instead, let it age for a day or even more before using it. This will get rid of chlorine.

Chlorine can be very harmful to all tank inhabitants, especially in large quantities.

They prefer soft water, and you should make sure the GH levels are between 2 and 17. KH levels also shouldn’t be too high – ideally between 1 and 8.

You won’t have too many issues with pH levels. Ninja shrimps require the same pH levels as most freshwater fish, which is between 6.5 and 8.


There isn’t really a hassle about this one: Ninja shrimp can live in any substrate type!

From soil to gravel, you cannot go wrong. Choose the one to your liking (or to the liking of other tank residents), and your shrimp will thrive in it.


While filters are absolutely necessary not just for shrimps but for other tank residents, there are no special requirements when it comes to ninja shrimp. Any type of filter will work – as long as it is suitable for your tank size.

From my experience, if you keep your shrimp in a fairly small setup, you can really benefit from using a sponge filter. Not only are they effortless to maintain, but they can serve as an enrichment.


Ninja shrimp love decorated tanks!

Shrimp can feel stressed if they are left in an open space. This leaves them vulnerable to predators, which is why they prefer having lots of places to hide.

Decoration can also help with the molting and breeding processes – but more about that in a bit.

Give your ninja shrimp lots of darkened hiding spots. This can include items such as:

  • Rocks,
  • Plants,
  • Driftwood,
  • PVC pipes,
  • Decorative items,
  • Tunnels. 

The decoration is especially important if you plan on having a community tank. Larger fish might stress dwarf shrimp species out, so give them lots of areas they can feel safe in. 

As ninja shrimp are nocturnal, you don’t need to worry about decorations covering the lighting. Feel free to decorate as much as you want!

Are Ninja Shrimp Compatible with Live Plants? 

ninja shrimp white stripes

If you love keeping live plants in your aquarium, ninja shrimp is the perfect species for you. They won’t eat any healthy plants, so you can keep them in nicely planted tanks.

There was (probable) false information about people claiming they’d seen their ninja shrimps eating plants. According to their descriptions, though, it seems like the shrimp was simply grazing over the plants.

Not just that, but if you plan on keeping plants in your aquarium, keeping shrimp, such as ninja shrimp, can be really beneficial for you.

Shrimps will eat dead plant matter. Many species, including chameleon shrimps, will even love munching on rotting plants! 

By doing this, they’ll help you keep your aquarium clean.

Suitable Tankmates 

Ninja shrimp will do their best if you keep them in a species tank. However, due to their peaceful nature, you can keep them with many other species, if you’d like.

They are suitable companions to most shrimp types. This includes most of the more popular species, such as vampire shrimp, cherry shrimp, ghost shrimp, and so on.

Also, you can keep them with most freshwater snails. They’ll do really well with black devil snails, rabbit snails, chopstick snails, and nerite snails.

I don’t think it is a good idea to keep ninja shrimp with fish. As I’ve mentioned before, keeping them with large animals might stress them out and keep them from thriving. However, they can live with peaceful freshwater fish species, such as otocinclus catfish.

Ninja Shrimp Breeding

It is nearly impossible to have ninja shrimp breed in captivity. This is why 99.9% of ninja shrimp found in stores is wild-caught

These tiny shrimp require brackish water for breeding. Still, things aren’t as simple as this might sound.

It is possible to have ninja shrimp breed in freshwater. However, their larvae cannot survive in freshwater. Instead, they require salt water to develop properly.

In nature, ninja shrimps would breed in freshwater. Once the eggs hatch, adults will drag them to the sea, where the larvae will feed and develop. 

After several molts, when they reach their adult stage, ninja shrimp will return to freshwater. In fact, adults cannot survive in water that is too salty, which is why you won’t find larvae far from the estuary.

Despite the attempts to have ninja shrimp larvae molt in tanks, no breeder has managed to get the best results yet. This is why it’s almost impossible to find ninja shrimp born in captivity – even if you keep them in a proper aquarium, with the best conditions possible.

Final Word

If you are familiar with keeping shrimp in tanks, you shouldn’t have any issues keeping ninja shrimp. This is a laid-back species that can thrive with minimal care, and there are no special requirements you need to meet.

While keeping ninja shrimp is fairly easy, breeding them is a whole different story. If you don’t like having wild-caught animals in your tank, then, unfortunately, ninja shrimp isn’t for you.

If you don’t mind this, then ninja shrimp can be a colorful and prized addition to your collection.

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