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Paul Minett

Keeping Macrobrachium in Aquariums

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Paul Minett    91
Paul Minett

The macrobrachium group of shrimp are characterised by the extreme enlargement of the second pair of pereiopods especially prominent in the males.

They will tolerate a wide range of conditions as they are found in water from salty to full fresh but the variants I currently have seem to prefer a more neutral environment ph around 7, Gh 2-3, tds around 100 for fresh water variants temperature can vary greatly as well. Over summer they survived in tanks above 28 degrees for 2 weeks straight. The first Australinese were caught in water that was about 10 degrees, but they seem to prefer it from 20 to 28 degrees. Their natural environment should be considered, as the tropical guys will like warmer water than guys from the south. There are also brackish and salt water variants to be explored at a later date.

They will eat most foods from peas, oats to commercial shrimp foods, algae wafers etc. Their natural diet varies depending on species from veg based to meatier diets, so keep this in mind when choosing foods for them. They are an intelligent and very inquisitive shrimp that is generally aggressive by nature, so housing them with other tank mates is risky at best. They will happily catch and eat snails, fish, other shrimp etc. They will regrow claws and limbs fairly quickly if they fight and lose a limb. I have the Australinese up to 5 generations tank bred without too many issues. Occasionally one will get in a bad mood and can easily wipe out everyone else in the tank in a few hours. This happened to me with a colony of Bullatum when a female went off and killed a big male and 2 other females overnight. Pay attention to how you setup the tank, and where possible a backup colony is helpful if you want to breed these guys.

tolmerum.jpg

This guy was toppled as Alpha and lost his long arms; they are starting to regrow after a couple of days.

The best setup will give them plenty of personal space with caves to hide in and plants to perch on. Try to break up the line of sight so they can keep away from each other to reduce fights and death, especially after moulting. They like to dig to look for food, so some sandy areas as well as finer gravel will keep them happy. Shrimp soil probably wouldn’t be great with them because of the digging.

20247858_840573926100356_739477457162684

When selecting a tank keep in mind the size of the adults as they can vary from the very small, like Latidactylus where the adults reach about 5cm total length, to the Rosenbergi & Spinipes that can reach 45cm. They will become stressed if another shrimp comes within claw reach so a minimum of 2-3 body lengths separation per shrimp of floor space is essential to reduce aggression. Some variants are more nocturnal and only come out when the tank isn’t lit. The Bullatum are a good example of this, if they have plenty of cover they will only come out at night. Others, like the Australinese, are more outgoing and rarely hide. Each variant seems to have different sized and shaped claws depending on their preferred food source, from a smaller delicate claw in the Tolmerum:

tolmerum claw.jpg

To the larger crushing claws of the Australinese:

5985b70744e61_Ausclaw.jpg.ada671c74c1f30

Or the ridiculously oversized claw of the Jardini:

18449388_800900700067679_770429790343846

Or a long set of tweezers on the Bullatum:

bullatum claw.jpg

As long as you can keep the adults happy, breeding isn’t difficult. In the ones that have live young, mating occurs the same as other shrimp around the time of moulting. Gestation varies, but usually takes around 35-40 days. The live born young grow very fast if they have a good supply of food. The parents generally leave the bubs alone but can be removed if you want to ensure maximum survival. The young are generally clear with some patterning to allow them to hide from predators. The babies will eat a varied diet, the same as adults. They will require finer foods for a few weeks until they can tackle more normal foods.

Australinese bub:

aus bub2.jpg

Australinese bub:

aus bub.jpg

Berried Tolmerum (larval eggs):

berried tolmerum.jpg

Berried Australinese (normal eggs):

berrried aus.jpg

Berried Jardini (normal eggs):

jardini berried.jpg

Jardini Bub:

jardini bub.jpg

Jardini Bub:

jardini bub2.jpg

Baby Spinipes one of the more interesting bubs I have:

spinipes bub.jpg

A few of the variants, like the Spinipes, are larval breeders, so require more specialist care to raise the young through the stages from larvae to actual shrimp. This can be done similar to raising our other larval breeding natives like riffle shrimp (Australataya Striolata), if you want a challenge.

Overall they are a very rewarding shrimp to keep if you have the space for them. They reward you with their antics, and being able to observe all the things you wish you could see the little guys doing is very educational. I have kept these guys now for nearly 3 years and gone from 1 variant to 5; and looking for more to study, as each type is similar in the way they look, but they all are very different in behaviour. Some hide, some are very outgoing, and others are constantly cranky while their mate is very laidback. They are almost human in the way that each has its own personality, but each is a closet serial killer just waiting for the right time to go off.

Document Link: Keeping Macrobrachium in Aquariums.docx


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    • revolutionhope
      Good solid advice@jayc :-)


      will

    • jayc
      The shrimp seem to not mind it at all, in fact they seem to be thinking ... "Ooo, look! New foraging areas" whenever I disturb the substrate. But of course, I match the new water parameters to the old as much as I can except for TDS (generally the new water is lower in TDS). Every other parameter, like pH, GH, and temperature will be a very close match. So the shrimp don't notice it much. I catch as many as visibly possible into a bucket temporarily while I clean the tank. And they are returned to the tank after acclimating them slowly. I filter the water I drain into a net first to catch any baby shrimplets.  If you want to add substrate without removing the old substrate, it can be done easily ... one scoop at a time. Use those plastic takeaway containers. The shrimp will scatter.  Don't be too worried, they are faster than you think when the need arises. I aim to never loose any 😉 🤘  
    • jayc
      Where is @Foxpuppet and @lodo when you need them?
    • Baccus
      I think to a degree volume of water and stocking levels relevant to that volume assists in shrimp size. A couple of years ago I chucked a heap of cull cherry shrimp into my 1000L pond and months later when doing some maintenance on the tank found freakishly large cherry shrimp. This pond didn't get lots of special foods like the tanks did, instead might have only had commercial fish food put in once a week. However did/ does have a large lily plant, other weeds, leaves and fruit (mostly icecream bean fruit and leaves) falling into the pond and plenty of bloodworms naturally colonised, along with dragonfly nymphs which predate on the shrimp. I have never seen such large cherry shrimp again and certainly have never produced any of that size in any of my tanks even the 4ft tanks. So even though shrimp maybe able to do quite well in nano and small tanks I often wonder if we do them a disservice by having them in small tanks, in effect stunting them to some degree. revolutionhope I had also heard about dark substrate bringing out the best colour, however I once had some of the darkest glossy red cherry shrimp on pure white sand, with live plants natural timber and fish. Other shrimp have been just as well coloured on natural coloured creek gravel. Less well coloured or have taken longer to show good colour potential have been on a gravel blend of natural and fluro coloured gravels like what most kids will buy for their first tank because they like the pretty colours. In my black cherry tank I am actually getting to the point of trying to decide in which direction do I want to go with the black breeding program. Since I am now getting blue black shrimp. Some of the shrimp are still a nice solid glossy black but have a distinct dark blue undertone. I wish I could get a photo to show the variation between these blue blacks and true blacks. In this same tank I am still having to remove the odd chocolate, very occasional faint yellow and green, recently pale blue and thankfully even less often now wild type. Oh and if possible with your divided breeding programs try to keep the separate tanks a good distance apart since shrimp are good climbers and sneaky escape artists. Where I have my tanks ( all open topped) one of the tanks has higher sides than its neighbouring tank which is lower. So even though the there is a gap between the tanks I am almost certain that shrimp from the higher tank have managed to flip over the side and by more good luck than planning end up in the lower tank. Some have not been so lucky and then I find crispy dried shrimp on the bench. So if tanks where the same height and butted up side  by side or even one tank divided there is the potential for shrimp to make escape bids and climb into neighbouring tanks. I have even seen photos of shrimp climbing against the flow of a HOB filter return to get into the yummy gunk inside the filter.
    • EBC
      How do your shrimp fare when you do a big tear down like that? Do you generally expect to lose a couple? Or do you put them in another tank while you do it? I am currently renting one bedroom apartments so I only have the one small tank. With such a small tank I would be worried I would crush some shrimp in the process. 
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