What do shrimp eat? Plants and proteins that they need for their nutrition

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Sea and freshwater shrimp are becoming extremely popular additions to many home aquariums. Not only are these peaceful little creatures fascinating to watch scurrying around the tank on their endless search for food, but they also make a great cleaning crew that will help keep your tank clean.

Shrimp are known to eat certain types of algae, fish scraps, and general garbage. However, do you need to feed your shrimp something else to keep them healthy?

Read this comprehensive guide to find out!

What do shrimp eat?

All types of shrimp will eat a variety of things depending on where they live and what is available to them in their environment and at their stage of growth. To keep your shrimp healthy and successful, you need to feed them a diet similar to their natural one.

Shrimp are primarily scavengers that graze on organic foods small enough to eat. In essence, tank-grown shrimp and their wild relatives both have the same diet and nutritional needs.

Sea prawns

If you have a saltwater ocean or reef tank, you can add some types of shrimp. Sea prawns come in many colors and patterns that make a nice addition to your community, are hardworking cleaners, and work for you too.

Juvenile shrimp

In the wild, shrimp spawn a few miles offshore. The fertilized eggs sink to the bottom of the ocean and hatch into tiny larvae that swim and drift with the current on the surface of the water. Several larval stages appear within a few weeks, after which the shrimp appear as tiny adults.

The juvenile shrimp return to the seabed or tidal estuaries, where they become scavengers, crawl along the substrate, and eat whatever organic matter they can find, including algae and plankton.

Adult shrimp

Adult sea shrimp will eat whatever they can find around them. Sea shrimp feed on dead fish, worms, plant matter, clams, crabs, snails, and other corrosive organics that they encounter while patrolling the substrate. Shrimp are also cannibals that hunt smaller, weaker shrimp that appear on their way.

You can watch your shrimp rub off the substrate as if they were burrowing. In fact, the shrimp hunt for prey, eating the tiny creatures they stir up, and discovering likely foods by “smelling” them with the tiny feelers on their heads.

What to feed sea prawns

So sea shrimp are omnivores that require a plant-based diet that is high in meaty protein.

Feed your prawns Mysis prawns, brine prawns, pellets and tablets, commercially available shrimp food and also frozen food.

Freshwater prawns

Like their marine relatives, species of freshwater shrimp are scavengers, searching the substrate for bacteria, algae, rotting plant matter, and other microorganisms on which they spend much of their time. Freshwater shrimp also eat dead fish and other deceased creatures, including shrimp.

Basically, all aquarium shrimp need a plant-based diet with some animal protein in order to ensure a balanced diet.


All shrimp periodically shed their outer shell and hide for a few days while their new shell hardens. Do not throw away the discarded bowl! The shell is filled with calcium, and the shrimp eat it to replenish their mineral supply and keep their outer shell strong and healthy.

What are you feeding your freshwater shrimp?

Here is an overview of what to feed your shrimp to keep them healthy and successful.


The majority of your shrimp’s diet should consist of seaweed. So you should only put shrimp in a full-grown tank that has plenty of green algae for the shrimp to graze on. The shrimp nibble on the algae almost 24/7, which is why these bustling little invertebrates are as popular as pets in a community fish tank.

If there is a lot of algae in the tank and you can see the shrimp eating them, then most likely you don’t have to worry too much about giving them something else. However, when all the algae are gone, it is time to supplement the shrimp’s diet. If you find that your shrimp aren’t eating the seaweed, you’re probably giving them too many, more appetizing alternatives!

If so, just stop feeding the shrimp for a day or two, and they should start eating seaweed again.

Fresh vegetables

When the seaweed levels decrease, you can add vegetables to your shrimp to supplement their diet. Try offering kale, sweet potato, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots.

You need to peel the vegetables, cut them into thin slices and blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes. Remove the vegetables from the water and place them in a bowl over a bowl of ice to stop cooking. This cooking method will help break down the fibrous vegetables so they’re soft enough for the shrimp to eat and will keep the vegetables from floating out of reach of the shrimp.

You can leave a piece of vegetable in the tank overnight and remove the remains from it in the morning.


Freshwater shrimp live in an environment where the substrate is often covered with a layer of fallen leaves. These leaves harbor colonies of infusoria, microorganisms and harmless bacteria that gradually decompose the leaves. Shrimp live on the decomposition substance and the organisms that live on it. Therefore, adding a layer of dried leaves to your tank is ideal for the shrimp.

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Instead of collecting leaves from your garden or park that might be contaminated with pesticides or carry pests that you don’t want in your aquarium, buy almond (catappa) leaves from your local fish shop or online. These leaves are perfect for use in the aquarium, as large leaves provide a large surface area for the shrimp to graze on. The leaves also trigger flavonoids and tannins, which have excellent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and promote a healthy environment for your fish.

Commercial shrimp food

Although commercial shrimp foods are convenient and easy to use, be sure to purchase quality foods that contain a healthy balance of diet.

Some cheaper food brands are made mostly from animal protein rather than seaweed or spirulina. So watch out for plant-based shrimp food and add fresh meat protein to the shrimp’s diet several times a week.

In summary

When it comes to feeding your shrimp, it is important to provide your pets with a varied diet, consisting mainly of plant-based foods that are supplemented with meaty proteins. Essentially, you want to recreate what the shrimp would eat in their natural environment. That’s pretty much all they can find that is small enough to fit in their mouth!

Your aquarium should be mature enough to hold a good supply of algae and biofilm, which provide the shrimp with the basis of their diet. Add a layer of fallen leaves to provide plenty of surfaces for bacteria, microbes, and infusoria to develop and settle on, adding another layer to the buffet of shrimp. Add in some blanched, fresh vegetables every week and the shrimp will have all of the plant material they need to meet their nutritional needs.

Supplement the shrimp diet with meaty proteins, including thawed frozen foods. You can also include commercial shrimp food, just make sure it is high quality and has plenty of algae or some other form of plant material.

Lastly, remember to leave the shells of your shrimp in the tank after the shed. The shrimp need the calcium that the shell contains in order to promote a strong and healthy new shell.

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