Can Saltwater Shrimp Live In Freshwater? You Might Regret This!

Jul 22, 2021

Sexy Anemone Shrimp

“Sexy Shrimp” by Brian Low is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Not all shrimps can live in saltwater or freshwater. But is there a possibility to keep these two types of shrimps together in the same tank?

It would have been a remarkable sight, but one can seldom go against nature and biology. Here we will discuss keeping the saltwater shrimps in freshwater. Has this feat been achieved? Let’s venture.

Can Saltwater Shrimp Live in Freshwater?

Saltwater shrimp’s body isn’t suited to low salinity in water. They only thrive in seas and oceans where the salinity is above 35 gm/kg. So, a saltwater shrimp cannot live in freshwater. Putting these shrimps in freshwater will disrupt their natural osmosis process – causing them to bloat and die.

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Why Can Saltwater Shrimps Not Live In Freshwater?

  • Due to Osmosis
  • Different water parameters
  • Different dietary needs
  • Different breeding needs

Due To Osmosis

Osmosis is the flow of water across membranes from areas of lower concentration of dissolved things (higher amount of solutes) to areas of high concentration (lower amount of solutes). This process involves the flowing of water, helping in equalizing the concentrations in both areas.

In a saltwater shrimp’s natural habitat, the seawater has high salinity. Therefore, the water they intake needs to be dispelled with the help of diffusion through passive energy use of the cell. This dispelling helps them to be in a constant state of osmosis.

So, the saltwater shrimp’s environment has a higher amount of salt than it has in its body. Therefore, to fulfill the amount of salt, they will constantly lose water and build up salt. And they also have to frequently drink water to rehydrate their bodies. So, this is how saltwater shrimps survive in saltwater.

However, they won’t function in such a way in freshwater as their body will be consuming water only and no salt to help in excreting water from its body. Then their body will swell , and they will die due to bloating.

Different Water Parameters

Saltwater shrimps require at least 35 grams per kg salinity in their water to thrive. A lesser amount of salt in their water will deteriorate their health and will cause them to die.

Different Diets

Although most marine shrimps eat the same food as freshwater shrimps, some have specialized diets. For example, saltwater shrimps like Harlequin Shrimps will only feed on sea stars. This is because they are highly dependent on these echinoderms. A medium sea star will last a week for a pair of these shrimps.

The Bumblebee Shrimps also have a peculiar diet. Their primary diet consists of the tube feet of echinoderms. However, they aren’t as picky as Harlequin shrimps. They will feed on frozen foods, brines, pellets. The thing about these shrimps is that they are bad at searching for food independently in captivity. So unlike freshwater shrimps, you will have to feed them daily.

Cannot Breed In Freshwater

Saltwater shrimps cannot breed in freshwater. They will need a higher level of salinity in water for their shrimplets to thrive. Unlike freshwater species like Amano shrimps, saltwater shrimps do not change their habitat for the larvae to grow.

And What Happens If You Keep Freshwater Shrimps In A Saltwater Aquarium?

In this case, too, osmosis occurs. This is because a freshwater shrimp’s body already has higher high levels of salt. Thus, when kept in saltwater, the shrimp’s body will have to absorb saltwater, thus increasing the amount of salt in its body. And this excess salt takes out the water from the shrimp’s body, causing it to dehydrate and eventually die. 

Are There Any Shrimps That Can Live In Both Saltwater And Freshwater?

As of today, there aren’t any shrimps that can live both on saltwater and freshwater. However, some shrimps have shown incredible ability to adapt to salty water. These brackish waters have higher salinity than freshwater but are not considered saltwater.

It is found that the shrimps are highly sensitive to acclimating in new tanks that fishes. There are many successful acclimating conducted by aquarists on freshwater shrimps to brackish water. Many dwarf shrimps (freshwater shrimps) can be accommodated by anyone who knows the drip method for acclimating shrimps in a brackish water aquarium. However, there have been no reports of saltwater shrimps that are kept in a freshwater aquarium.

Amano Shrimps (Cardidina Multidentata) is the closest to a success story among shrimps as they require brackish water to breed. However, I highly doubt that they will be able to survive in a saltwater tank.

The female Amano Shrimps will carry their eggs to the brackish water and leave their larvae to grow. These larvae will stay and feed on algae till they are near the adult stage. Then, these shrimplets will again make their journey towards freshwater to spend the rest of their lives.

What Are Some Of The Saltwater Shrimps That You Can Keep In Your Tank?

Here I have listed some of the saltwater shrimps that you can keep and maintain in your home.

  • Cleaner Shrimp
  • Banded Coral Shrimp
  • Peppermint Shrimp
  • Camelback Shrimp
  • Fire Shrimp
  • Harlequin Shrimp
  • Mantis Shrimp
  • Marble Shrimp
  • Pistol Shrimp
  • Bumblebee Shrimp
  • Peacock Mantis Shrimp
  • Pederson’s Cleaner Shrimp

What Are Some Of The Freshwater Shrimps That You Can Keep In Your Tank?

  • Amano Shrimp
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Bamboo Shrimp
  • Panda Shrimp
  • Blue Tiger Shrimp
  • Crystal Red Shrimp
  • Babaulti Shrimp
  • Blue Bolt Shrimp
  • Pinto Shrimp
  • Pinokio Shrimp
  • Indian Whisker Shrimp
  • Vampire Shrimp

So, Which Is Best? Saltwater Shrimp Or Freshwater Shrimp?

There is no such thing as the best shrimp. It all depends upon personal preference. If you do not have much time to dwell on the maintenance of shrimps and tanks, then it will be better if you chose freshwater shrimps. However, if you want to aquascape and put corals and reefs in your tank for better ambiance, then saltwater shrimps will be the better choice.

Also, the tank mates play an essential role in choosing the type of shrimp.

Each of these two shrimps has different tank mates.

Here I have made a list of tank mates suitable for both types of shrimps.

Tankmates For Saltwater Shrimps

  • Blenny
  • Butterfly Fish
  • Damsel Fish
  • Wrasses
  • Dragonet
  • Surgeonfish
  • Rabbitfish
  • Other saltwater shrimps

Tankmates For Freshwater Shrimps

  • Small Guppies
  • Corydoras
  • Neon Tetra
  • Ember Tetra
  • Snails
  • Freshwater Shrimps
  • Gourami
  • Pleco

Finals Words On Can Saltwater Shrimp Live In Fresh Water

Evolution occurs for improving a creature’s survival chances on earth. So just like every other creature, the saltwater shrimps have evolved to adapt to high saline water. These saltwater shrimps can easily thrive in high saline water but will die when kept in a freshwater. You cannot keep them in a freshwater tank and expect them to thrive in there. So, it will be better if you make a separate saltwater shrimp tank to keep them alive.

Relevant Readings:

Can Ghost Shrimp Live With Cherry Shrimp?

Whisker Shrimp vs. Ghost Shrimp | Which Is Easy To Keep?

Grass Shrimp Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.