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Freshwater Crustacean Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

freshwater crustacean care sheet

Includes a variety of crustacean species, including:

  • Bamboo shrimp
  • Amano shrimp
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Blueberry shrimp
  • Crystal shrimp
  • Blue lobster
  • Vanilla lobster
  • Tangerine lobster
  • Red swamp crayfish
  • Dwarf orange crayfish



Scientific species: Atyopsis mollucensis, Caridina japonica, Palaemonetes paludosus, Neocaridina denticulata, Caridina sp., Cherax quadricarinatus, Procabrarus clarkii, Cambarellus patzcuarensis.

The unique characteristics and wide variety of freshwater crustaceans provide an appealing addition to your aquarium. Freshwater crustaceans come in a variety of colors and patterns, bringing the lower level of the aquarium to life.


Typical appearance and behavior

  • Crustaceans are characterized by their hard, jointed exoskeleton, which they molt during growth periods; they may burrow or hide during molting stages
  • Scavengers who will help keep the aquarium clean by consuming excess food
  • Some shrimp feed exclusively on algae and are great for algae control
  • Some crustacean species are known to readily breed in the aquarium
  • Many species of shrimp are highly social, living in large groups
  • Lobster and crayfish species can be territorial



Care Difficulty Beginner to advanced, depending on species.
Average Life Span Up to 2-6 years with proper care, depending on species
Average Adult Size 1 ¼-6 inches depending on species
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Habitat Size 5+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 72-82°F




Habitat size

Keeping in an appropriately sized aquarium of at least 5 gallons is recommended for smaller crustaceans. A minimum of 10 gallons is recommended for larger crustacean species.


Building your habitat

  • Water health - Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Moderate water circulation, based on species, should be provided to mimic water currents and high oxygen levels found in most freshwater crustaceans’ natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. Ensure water temperature does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees direction in a 24-hour period
  • Décor- Providingrocks, plants and other décor to create hiding places is beneficial




What to feed your freshwater crustacean:

  • A well-balanced freshwater crustacean diet consists of:
  • Flakes, freeze-dried, sinking pellets and wafers or frozen food
  • Plant (algae) or animal matter


Things to remember when feeding

  • Feed a small amount once daily
  • Ensure food reaches the bottom of the aquarium; if unsure, drop sinking pellets into the aquarium at night; alternate protein and algae-based pellets
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding
  • Feed a variety of food to ensure complete nutrition


Freshwater crustacean care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your crustacean healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10 to 25% of the total volume of water every two to four weeks, or as needed. Change filter media monthly
  • Crustaceans need calcium to grow their shells and some species prefer soft water
  • Copper-based medications can be toxic to crustaceans

Avoid overcrowded conditions; they are a major cause of stress and disease


Where to buy

Various freshwater crustaceans are available for purchase at your local Petco location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability.




Aquarium mates


Some species can be aggressive toward fish and other crustaceans, may be compatible with:

  • Small tetras
  • Rasbora
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Small corydoras catfish
  • Killifish
  • Hatchets
  • Guppies
  • Swordtails
  • Platies
  • Small danios
  • Rainbow fish



Signs of a healthy crustacean:

  • Even coloring
  • Healthy appetite
  • Active movement
  • No missing appendages
  • Free of parasites or disease


Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or veterinarian.)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body
  • Listlessness
  • Missing appendages
  • White discoloration along tail


Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueBody or surface erosion Symptoms or CausesPoor water quality; nutrient deficiency. Suggested ActionTest and treat water immediately; maintain a proper diet.
Health IssueLoss of appendage or antennae Symptoms or CausesFighting between crustaceans or due to an aggressive fish. Suggested ActionWill usually regenerate. An iodine supplement can help with the molting process.
Health IssueFungal infection Symptoms or CausesWhite cloud-like growth on body. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueParasite infections Symptoms or CausesWhite rice-like growth on head. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add aquarium salt. Consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.


Additional care sheets


Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to for more information about aquatic life and disease.


The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.