Shrimp and aquatic botanicals...a great match?

The hobby of keeping dwarf shrimp is really taking off, and it seems like new and exciting varieties of these cool crustaceans are popping up every month! And, with the hobby starting to really explode, the number of dwarf shrimp enthusiasts  who have been turning to Tannin for some of their natural materials is growing, too!


{Caridina dennerle image by Dirk Blankenhaus (CC-BY SA 3.0)}

As someone who loves aquatic botanicals, I'm thrilled to see that shrimp take to them so easily. It makes sense, because most of the shrimp that are kept in the hobby come from streams in Southeast Asia, an environment that has significant tree growth and overhead foliage. 

Naturally, leaves, seed pods, and fruits fall into these streams and begin to decompose, creating blackwater conditions, with humic and tannic acids building in the water, reducing the pH and hardness in the process.

Decomposing leaf litter and other natural materials recruit biofilms, consisting of microorganisms, bacteria, etc. These biofilms serve as a food source for the shrimp, which spend a lot of time grazing on them. The nice thing about leaves in aquariums is that they do the exact same thing that they do in the wild- decompose!  Of course, that assumes that the shrimp don’t consume them first. And the chemical effects on the water are quite beneficial!

What would be the best botanicals to use with shrimp?

Well, there are a few that come to mind:


Catappa leaves create both a tannin-enriched environment as well as their well-studied antimicrobial properties. And of course, they look great, too! They tend  to break down rather quickly in the aquarium, as compared to some of the other leaves commonly used in the hobby.

Guava Leaves are also quite commonly used with ornamental shrimps, as they offer a full compliment of vitamins, sugars, and anti-bacterial properties. Shrimp seem to really love Guava leaves, and flock to them immediately! They tend to last a bit longer and tint the water less than the more widely used Catappa leaves, and are a beautiful compliment to the shrimp aquarium.

Loquat leaves are one of the more recently utilized botanicals for ornamental shrimp. These leaves are wonderful for creating unique aesthetics. They are know to contain significant polysaccharides (complex sugars), vitamins, and offer some anti-inflammatory properties for humans. It's not confirmed if these properties extend to shrimp, but we do know that they take to these large, attractive, and longer-lasting leaves readily in the aquarium!

Amaranth leaves are more frequently used as a supplemental food source for shrimp than ever before. They are known to be high in carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These are all thought to be useful in supporting shrimp health during the molting process. They are used as food, as opposed to a substrate enhancement.

Rounding out the selection of most commonly used leaves for shrimp is Mulberry. These leaves are known to be high in carbohydrates, and are thought to aid in the health and maintenance of the exoskeleton and support the molting process. Like Amaranth, they're used mainly for food as opposed to aesthetic or substrate enhancement purposes.



While leaves have been used for quite a few years with ornamental shrimp, there are many other botanicals, such as branches, seed pods, and bark, which also fit the bill. We encourage responsible experimentation with a number of aquatic botanicals. Here are a few that we've used with great results:

"Capsula Pods" have a soft interior which tends to decompose quickly, attracting a biofilm that shrimp can't seem to resist. We've seen shrimp literally "gallop" into these pods when added to the aquarium. Like many plant materials used for shrimp nutrition, it's though that they contain vitamins, sugars, and minerals that are beneficial of the long-term health of ornamental shrimp.

Our "Teardrop Pods" are somewhat similar in composition to the "Capsula", with a hard, nut-like exterior and a softer interior that tends to break down after being submerged. Again, an excellent substrate for biofilm "recruitment", these botanicals also contain a reserve of sugars, vitamins, and other nutritious substances which the fish tend to feed on directly. And, they look really cool! 

"Flor Rio", or "River Flower", is another lightweight, almost leaf-like botanical which shrimp seem to enjoy picking at. They are attractive, sink easy, and soften and decompose fairly rapidly in the aquarium, adding some organics as well as another "recruitment" substrate for biofilms. Since they do tend to decompose rather quickly, use these botanicals sparingly until you gauge for themselves how long they last in your aquarium.

Banana leaves are another commonly used botanical, and we include them in the "botanical" section because they have more interesting aesthetics and possible "medicinal" uses for aquatic organisms. They are known to offer anti-fungal and anti-bacterial affects, and release potassium, polyphenols, and other chemicals thought to have medicinal qualities. They will also serve as a great "foraging area" for shrimp of all ages.

Cholla Wood is beloved by shrimp and catfish keepers because it's a softer wood, with a unique "honeycomb-like" structure, offering numerous areas for biofilms and other microorganism communities to inhabit and multiply. The wood itself is quite palatable to Plecos and ornamental shrimp as well, and they will graze on an among these lightweight branches until they gradually decompose over a very long period of time. They're also perfect for attaching ferns, mosses, and other epiphytic plants to, to enhance the beauty of the shrimp aquarium.

So there you have the most brief, superficial roundup of some of the more commonly used botanicals for ornamental shrimp. There are many, many others that may be utilized for this purpose, and we offer this quick summary as a "launching point" for your further explanation of this topic.

Stay open to new ideas...keep experimenting carefully and responsibly; follow our preparation guidelines carefully...

And stay wet!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 







Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response

David Waters-Deir
David Waters-Deir

November 12, 2019

November 11, 2019

Greetings and Salutations!!

My name is David Waters-Deir, I belong to a local Phoenix group called, Southwest Aquatic Society. We are a group of people that enjoy and share the Aquarium Community, Education and Promotion. We are just starting out and have around 100 members now, and every month it grows!! It is very exciting to have fellow hobbyists to interact with.

On December 8, 2019 we are organizing and having our Second Annual Holiday Celebration! We are having raffles and contests, snacks and dinner. I am writing this letter to ask you if you would to be a part of our Holiday Celebration by giving a donation, it can be monetary, goods for our raffle and door prizes, and or services and even a discount code so our members can get discounts on your website throughout the year.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and your help in making our group and Annual Holiday Celebration a success in advance.


David L Waters-Deir

David L Water-Deir
Southwest Aquatic Society
1717 W Missouri Ave Apt 7
Phoenix AZ 85015

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