How To Easily Setup A Shrimp Jar Aquarium That Thrives!

A shrimp jar aquarium is an innovative and low-maintenance way to keep small freshwater shrimp as pets.

One of the many advantages of creating a shrimp jar is its versatility; they can be designed to fit personal aesthetic tastes and require minimal equipment. Shrimp jar aquariums are not only visually captivating but also serve as a functional ecosystem, making them an ideal choice for hobbyists and experienced aquarists alike.

When setting up a shrimp jar aquarium, many factors come into play, such as determining the appropriate size of the jar, choosing suitable decorations, selecting the right substrate and plants, and maintaining the correct water parameters.

Additionally, it is crucial to cycle the shrimp jar and select the appropriate type of shrimp for the setup. Proper ongoing maintenance is essential to ensure the health and well-being of your shrimp jar aquarium inhabitants.

After the surge in popularity of shrimp keeping, we have noticed a large number of people asking questions about keeping shrimp jars. We decided to publish this article to try and help as many of our readers setup a thriving shrimp jar as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Shrimp jar aquariums offer a low-maintenance and visually appealing pet habitat.
  • Factors like jar size, decorations, substrate, plants, and water parameters contribute to a successful setup.
  • Proper cycling, shrimp selection, and ongoing maintenance are vital for a healthy shrimp jar aquarium.

Advantages Of A Shrimp Jar Aquarium

How to setup a shrimp jar aquarium

Shrimp jar aquariums offer numerous benefits for both beginner and experienced aquarists. They are an attractive and affordable option to consider when deciding to start a small aquarium for shrimp.

One of the main advantages of a shrimp jar aquarium are there affordability. Compared to traditional aquarium setups, shrimp jars are relatively cheap and require minimal investment. You can repurpose an old jar or purchase a new one at a low cost, and the materials needed to set it up are generally inexpensive.

Another benefit is that shrimp jar aquariums are easy to make. With just a few materials and some creativity, you can quickly create a beautiful aquatic environment for your shrimp. Basic components include an old cookie jar, substrate, decorative rocks or wood, and live plants. While some aquarists opt for additional equipment like filters and heaters, these are not always necessary for a shrimp jar, making the setup process even more accessible.

Cookie Jars Shrimp Jars are great options for beginners

Shrimp jar aquariums are also easy to maintain. As these are small, self-sustaining ecosystems, they can require minimal maintenance once established. With the right balance of plants, substrate, and a small shrimp population, your shrimp jar can become a low-maintenance home for your aquatic pets. Regular water changes and occasional feeding are usually enough to maintain a healthy environment for the shrimp.

In addition to being cheap, easy to make, and easy to maintain, shrimp jar aquariums are also space-saving. The compact size of a shrimp jar makes it an ideal choice for those with limited space or those looking to add a small, decorative aquatic feature to their living area.

In summary, a shrimp jar aquarium is an affordable, straightforward, and low-maintenance option for aquarists looking to start a small shrimp habitat. The process of creating and maintaining a shrimp jar allows for flexibility and creativity while providing a unique and charming addition to any living space.

Do I Need Any Aquarium Accessories?

How A Walstad Shrimp Bowl Works.

Setting up a shrimp jar aquarium can be a simple and enjoyable process, especially when using the Walstad method. This approach usually eliminates the need for a filter, as the natural balance within the ecosystem handles filtration effectively. However, there are still a few accessories that you may want to consider to ensure the health and well-being of your shrimp.

A heater may not be necessary for your shrimp jar aquarium, depending on your location and the ambient temperature of your surroundings. Most shrimp species thrive in temperatures between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit (18-27 degrees Celsius). Keep an eye on the temperature within your jar and, if it remains stable within this range, there is no need to add a heater.

A Rili Shrimp thriving in a shrimp jar
A Rili Shrimp

Lighting is another consideration for a shrimp jar aquarium. While sunlight has the potential to meet the lighting requirements of your aquarium, there are some variables to keep in mind. First, avoid placing the jar in direct sunlight, as this can cause temperature fluctuations and algae overgrowth. Instead, opt for indirect sunlight or consider using a small lighting unit designed for aquariums. This ensures proper light exposure while minimizing risks associated with sunlight.

In summary, with the Walstad method, you do not need a filter, and you may not require a heater, depending on your location. Additionally, while sunlight can be used for lighting, be sure to monitor your jar’s environment for temperature fluctuations and algae growth to maintain the health of your shrimp.

Deciding The Size Of The Jar

An empty 1 gallon cookie jar is the perfect option for a shrimp jar

When setting up a shrimp jar aquarium, it’s crucial to consider the right jar size for your shrimp population. A 1 gallon shrimp tank is a popular choice and a normal cookie jar is usually 1 gallon making an old cookie jar the perfect option for your shrimp jar.

However, if you prefer a smaller setup, you can opt for a half-gallon jar as these are common for things like coffee, sugar, and salt making them easy to find. A 2-gallon jar can be a good option too but they tend to be more difficult to find while also taking up more space and costing more too.

Keep in mind that the smaller the jar, the more diligent you’ll need to be in monitoring and maintaining the water quality, as fluctuations can have a significant impact on your shrimp’s health.

Different sized jar options for making a shrimp jar

We would highly recommend the 1 gallon jar for anyone who is brand new to keeping shrimp tanks as it will usually be the best option. The half gallon jars are too complicated to manage for beginners due to their smaller water volume requiring higher levels of maintenance to make the jar work well.

In some cases, a standard 2-gallon cookie jar works best due to its wider footprint, allowing ample space for hiding spots and shrimp exploration. This can be especially beneficial for creating a visually appealing aquascape, as it offers room for plants and decorations that contribute to the overall health and happiness of your shrimp.

No matter which size you choose, remember to prioritize your shrimp’s comfort and safety by providing the necessary conditions for them to thrive. Maintaining proper water quality, ensuring sufficient hiding spots, and choosing the appropriate type of shrimp for your chosen jar size are all essential factors to consider.

Tank Decorations For A Shrimp Jar

Rocks can be a great tank decoration for shrimp jars

When designing a shrimp jar, incorporating appropriate tank decorations is crucial for creating a thriving environment for your shrimp. One of the main factors to consider is the inclusion of live plants. Live plants are essential as they contribute to the overall health of the jar by providing oxygen, shelter, and filtering the water.

In addition to plants, visual interest and hiding spaces can be achieved by adding small rocks. Small rocks can work well, as they do not take up too much space and can be arranged to provide natural-looking shelter for shrimp. Experiment with different shapes and arrangements to create a unique look that’s both functional and appealing.

Rocks and driftwood can work well in shrimp jars

Small driftwood can work in shrimp jars as well. Similar to rocks, driftwood adds visual interest and provides shelter. When selecting driftwood, make sure it’s appropriate for the size of your jar. You can also attach various plants, such as moss, to the driftwood. This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but provides additional space for shrimp to graze on.

If your jar is large enough, you can consider using a very small amount of leaf litter in the setup. Leaf litter, such as Indian almond leaves, can provide additional hiding spots and a source of food as they break down. Be cautious not to overuse leaf litter, as it may cause water quality issues in smaller jars.

Remember to choose tank decorations that suit the size of your jar and the needs of your shrimp. By incorporating live plants, small rocks, driftwood, and, if appropriate, leaf litter, you can create a visually appealing and healthy environment for your shrimp to thrive.

Substrate For A Shrimp Jar

Soil can be a great substrate option for a shrimp tank

When setting up a shrimp jar aquarium, one of the key factors to consider is the type of substrate to use. The substrate not only affects the appearance of the aquarium but also plays a vital role in the health and well-being of the shrimp.

There are several types of substrates suitable for shrimp jar aquariums, such as sand, soil, and gravel.


Sand is a popular choice among hobbyists because it creates a smooth and natural-looking base for the shrimp jar. Fine-grained sand allows shrimp to easily search for food while also helping to maintain a stable pH level.

However, sand can compact over time, which may result in a lack of oxygen and the formation of dangerous gas pockets. To combat this issue, it is important to regularly stir the sand or add live plants that can penetrate the sand layers and promote oxygen exchange.


Soil is another substrate option that provides an environment similar to the natural habitats of shrimp. Specifically designed for aquarium use, so-called “active soils” have the additional benefit of buffering the water’s pH to slightly acidic levels, which is ideal for bee shrimp species.

These soils also release essential nutrients into the water column, supporting plant growth and helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem. However, soil substrates may cause water to become cloudy if not properly rinsed or prepped before use.


Gravel, particularly small-sized variations, can also be a suitable substrate for a shrimp jar. Gravel allows for easy cleaning and promotes water flow due to its larger particle size when compared to sand or soil.

This can help prevent the buildup of debris and uneaten food, reducing the risk of water quality issues. However, it’s crucial to choose shrimp-safe gravel that has no sharp edges or toxic materials.

In conclusion, when selecting a substrate for your shrimp jar aquarium, consider factors such as the shrimp species, ease of cleaning, and water quality requirements. Sand, soil, and gravel each have their unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to carefully evaluate each option and choose the type that best suits your shrimp jar aquarium’s specific needs.

Which Plants Are Best For A Shrimp Jar Aquarium?

Anubias can be a great live plant to keep in a shrimp jar

When setting up a shrimp jar aquarium using the Walstad method, it’s crucial to select suitable plants that can thrive in limited space while providing shelter and food for the shrimp. Here are some of the best plant choices for a shrimp jar aquarium:

Dwarf Hairgrass is a low-growing carpeting plant. It’s ideal for small spaces and creates a lush, grass-like appearance at the bottom of the jar. Shrimp love to graze on the biofilm and algae that grow on Dwarf Hairgrass, and it also offers them a hiding place.

Cryptocoryne wendtii
“Cryptocoryne wendtii 74 Sunbury St Geebung P1070960” by John Robert McPherson is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Cryptocoryne wendtii is another excellent choice for shrimp jar aquariums. This plant is easy to maintain, adapts well to various water conditions, and its broad leaves provide ample surface for shrimp to forage on biofilm or algae.


Smaller types of Marsilea are perfect for a shrimp jar aquarium due to their compact size. These slow-growing aquatic ferns offer additional hiding spots and grazing surfaces for shrimp.

Anubias nana
Anubias nana

Anubias nana is a compact plant that can be attached to rocks or driftwood. It’s hardy and low-maintenance, making it an ideal selection for a shrimp jar aquarium. The leaves of Anubias nana are favorite spots for shrimp to hide and feed on biofilm.

Java fern is another versatile plant that can be easily added to a shrimp jar aquarium, as it can be attached to rocks and driftwood or left floating. Java fern is adaptable to various water parameters and provides shelter for shrimp with its large sprawling leaves.

Cherry shrimp on a Marimo Moss
A Marimo Moss Ball

Marimo Moss balls are a unique addition to shrimp jar aquariums. These round-shaped mosses are not only visually appealing but also serve as a foraging surface for shrimp. Marimo Moss balls contribute to maintaining water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and providing oxygen.

By including a variety of these plants in your shrimp jar aquarium, you ensure a healthy, sustainable environment for your shrimp, while also creating an attractive aquatic display.

Food Sources For A Shrimp Jar

Cherry shrimp in a shrimp jar eating kale

The majority of Walstad style shrimp jars don’t need you to supplement any food due to the algae and detritus from the live plants in the jar providing all the food you need.

That said, some people do like to to add additional source of food to their shrimp jar to act as a sort of treat for their shrimp. Here is a list of some of our favourite shrimp treat foods that can work well in a shrimp jar:

  1. Shrimp Pellets: Specially formulated pellets or granules for shrimp available in pet stores.
  2. Algae Wafers: These are also commonly found in pet stores and are a good source of nutrition.
  3. Blanched Vegetables: Small amounts of blanched spinach, zucchini, cucumber, or peas can be given occasionally.
  4. Frozen Foods: Small portions of frozen bloodworms, daphnia, or brine shrimp can be offered occasionally.
  5. Decaying Plant Matter: Small amounts of decaying leaves or plant material can provide sustenance.
  6. Commercial Shrimp Food: Many brands manufacture specialized shrimp food that covers all their nutritional needs.
  7. Spirulina Powder: A supplement that can be occasionally added for additional nutrients.
  8. Homemade Shrimp Food: Recipes can be found online for making your food blend from ingredients like spinach, carrots, fish meal, etc.
  9. Indian Almond Leaves: These leaves break down slowly and provide both food and shelter for shrimp.

Make sure to provide a balanced diet and not overfeed the shrimp, as excess food can lead to poor water quality. It’s also essential to monitor the water parameters like pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, especially in such a small environment, to ensure the shrimp are healthy and happy. A 1-gallon jar is a delicate ecosystem, and regular monitoring and maintenance are crucial for success.

An infographic going over Treat Food Options For Shrimp Jars

Water Parameters For A Shrimp Jar

Water parameters in a shrimp jar are very important

Setting up a shrimp jar involves understanding and monitoring the water parameters to ensure the health and well-being of the shrimp. Although a filter is not necessary for smaller jar setups, it can provide a stable environment for the shrimp and help maintain water quality, especially for beginners.

The water used in the shrimp jar should be conditioned with a dechlorinator or water conditioner, as chlorine and chloramine can harm the shrimp. Additionally, a regular water test kit should be used to monitor the parameters such as pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

We recommend beginner keep cherry shrimp in their shrimp jars so the recommended water parameters are designed for keeping cherry shrimp, always check the requirements of the specific shrimp you want to keep in your jar if you go with a different species.

Shrimp thrive in a pH range between 6.5 and 8.0, depending on the species. Regularly testing the pH is crucial to ensure an ideal environment for the shrimp. Maintaining a stable water temperature is also essential, as sudden fluctuations can stress the shrimp. The ideal temperature for most shrimp species is between 57°F – 86°F.

Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should be checked regularly with a water test kit, as high levels of these substances can be toxic to the shrimp. Ammonia and nitrites should ideally be at zero, while nitrates should be kept below 20 ppm. A nitrogen cycle should be established in the jar before introducing the shrimp to optimize water quality. This cycle involves the transformation of harmful ammonia to nitrites, and then to less harmful nitrates.

In summary, maintaining proper water parameters in a shrimp jar is crucial to ensure a healthy environment for the shrimp. Monitoring and adjusting parameters such as pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates will contribute to a thriving shrimp jar, even without a filter.

How Do I Cycle A Shrimp Jar Aquarium?

How to cycle a shrimp jar

Cycling a shrimp jar aquarium is crucial for establishing a stable and healthy environment for the shrimp to thrive. It generally takes around two weeks for the cycle to complete before adding shrimp.

The goal of cycling your shrimp jar is to push the ammonia and nitrites through their cycle into nitrates that are far easier for your shrimp to live in.

There are a number of different ways that you can cycle a shrimp jar and most of them work well.

Here is a quick and easy way to cycle a shrimp jar that is perfect for beginners:

  1. Choose the Right Location: Place the jar in a location with stable temperature and some indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can cause algae blooms.
  2. Add Substrate: Consider adding a substrate that’s suitable for shrimp, like sand or fine gravel. This can provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow.
  3. Planting: Adding live aquatic plants will help with the cycling process by absorbing some of the waste products. Java moss is a popular choice for shrimp.
  4. Filling the Jar: Fill the jar with dechlorinated water or use a water conditioner to remove chlorine/chloramine, as they can kill beneficial bacteria.
  5. Cycle Without Shrimp: You’ll want to establish the nitrogen cycle before adding shrimp. This can be done by adding small amounts of fish food or a specialized bacteria starter product.
  6. Testing: Purchase a water testing kit to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Initially, ammonia will rise, followed by nitrites. As the bacteria establish, both will drop, and nitrates will begin to appear. This process usually takes two weeks.
  7. Add Shrimp: Once the ammonia and nitrite levels have dropped to zero, and there are some nitrates present, you can add your shrimp.

Remember to be patient during the cycling process and do not introduce shrimp into the jar aquarium until the water conditions are stable and safe. By following these guidelines, you can create a thriving shrimp jar aquarium that provides a healthy and enjoyable habitat for your shrimp.

What Type Of Shrimp Are Suitable For Shrimp Jar Aquariums?

An infographic of a cherry shrimp care sheet

When selecting the best shrimp species for your jar, it’s essential to choose the hardy and adaptable ones that can thrive within space constraints and potential fluctuations in water parameters.

The following shrimp species are known to be suitable for shrimp jar aquariums:

Red Cherry Shrimp
Red Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi): Cherry shrimp, also known as Red Cherry Shrimp, are a popular choice for shrimp jar aquariums due to their hardy nature, attractive red color, and compatibility with a variety of water conditions. They are also easy to breed and can coexist with other peaceful tank mates.

We would highly recommend that beginners opt to keep cherry shrimp in their first shrimp jar due to their low price, ease of availability, and hardy nature.

Yellow shrimp
Yellow Shrimp

Yellow Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Yellow): These eye-catching shrimp exhibit vibrant yellow hues, making them a striking addition to any shrimp jar. Like the cherry shrimp, they are also hardy, adaptable, and beginner-friendly.

Blue Dream Shrimp
Blue Dream Shrimp

Blue Dream Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Blue Dream): Known for their stunning blue coloration, Blue Dream Shrimp are another beginner-friendly species that can do well in shrimp jar aquariums. They share the same hardiness and ease of care as the cherry and yellow shrimp.

Snowball Shrimp
Snowball Shrimp

Snowball Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Snowball): As their name suggests, Snowball Shrimp have a unique white color that stands out against plants and decorations in a shrimp jar aquarium. They are also an excellent option for beginners, given their adaptability and easy breeding.

Green Jade Shrimp
Green Jade Shrimp

Green Jade Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Green Jade): Sporting a beautiful green hue, these shrimp can create a lively and attractive environment in shrimp jar aquariums. Like the other Neocaridina species, they are hardy, adaptable, and ideal for beginners and experienced shrimp keepers.

Chocolate Shrimp
Chocolate Shrimp

Chocolate Shrimp: Also known as Black Cherry Shrimp, Chocolate Shrimp have a distinct dark brown coloration. They share similar care requirements with other Neocaridina species, making them suitable for shrimp jar environments.

A Black Rose Shrimp In A walstad shrimp bowl
A Black Rose Shrimp

Black Rose Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. Black Rose): With a striking deep black color, Black Rose Shrimp offer a more dramatic presence in a shrimp jar aquarium. Like other members of the Neocaridina genus, their hardiness and adaptability make them a suitable choice for such setups.

A ghost shrimp in a shrimp tank
A Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.): Ghost Shrimp, also called Glass Shrimp, are an easy-to-raise breed of shrimp suitable for shrimp jar aquariums. They are translucent and highly active, adding a dynamic element to the jar. Ghost Shrimp are more susceptible to water quality issues, and thus proper water management is crucial.

In summary, various shrimp species can flourish in shrimp jar aquariums. Among these, Neocaridina variants such as cherry, yellow, blue dream, snowball, green jade, chocolate, and black rose shrimp are generally hardy and beginner-friendly. Ghost shrimp provide another intriguing option, given their translucency and activity level.

6 Types Of Shrimp For A One Gallon Shrimp Tank

On Going Maintenance For A Shrimp Jar Aquarium

On Going Maintenance For A Shrimp Jar Aquarium

Maintaining a shrimp jar aquarium requires consistent attention to ensure the health of the shrimp and plants, as well as stable water parameters. Monitoring the shrimp and plants is crucial to detect any abnormal behavior or signs of disease promptly.

Water parameters play an essential role in the wellbeing of the shrimp. Test the water regularly for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH levels. Shrimp thrive in an environment with a stable pH of around 6.5 to 8.0, no detectable levels of ammonia or nitrites, and low levels of nitrates. You should aim to maintain these conditions for your shrimp jar aquarium.

Additionally, the health of the plants in the jar is of utmost importance. Proper lighting and regular observation can help ensure the growth and success of the aquatic plants. If you notice discoloration, wilting, or unhealthy appearances, you may need to adjust the lighting, provide additional nutrients, or remove unhealthy plants from the jar.

Beneficial bacteria levels should be monitored and maintained to promote a healthy environment for shrimp. These bacteria help process ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, thus contributing to the overall water quality. Biofilm, a result of beneficial bacteria growth, is a valuable food source for the shrimp.

In terms of water changes, it is recommended to perform weekly 10% water changes with fresh, dechlorinated water. This will help maintain stable water parameters and prevent the buildup of harmful substances.

Alternatively, you can perform a 100% water change using tank water from another established aquarium. This method can help maintain crucial beneficial bacteria levels, as well as introduce established tank water parameters to the jar. Remember that any water changes should be done gently to avoid stressing the shrimp.

By following these guidelines, you can maintain a healthy and thriving shrimp jar aquarium, fostering a suitable environment for both the shrimp and the plants.

Shrimp Jar Setup Guide

A cherry shrimp living in a shrimp jar

To set up a shrimp jar aquarium, follow these steps for a successful and stable environment for your shrimp:

  1. Choose jar size: Select a jar with a suitable size for your shrimp. We recommend a 1 gallon old cookie jar if possible.
  2. Add substrate: Begin by placing a layer of suitable aquarium soil or substrate at the bottom of the jar. This will provide a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize and assist with water quality.
  3. Add plants: Introduce live plants to the jar, which will provide shelter for the shrimp, maintain water quality, and contribute to the overall appearance of the jar. Choose plants that are compatible with your shrimp, such as Java moss, Anubias, and other low-light plants.
  4. Add rocks and driftwood: Incorporate aquarium-safe rocks and driftwood to create hiding spaces for the shrimp and enhance the overall aesthetic of the jar.
  5. Add water and let the tank cycle: Once everything is in place, fill the jar with dechlorinated water. Let the jar sit and cycle for a few weeks, allowing beneficial bacteria to establish themselves before adding shrimp. Regularly test the water parameters during this time.
  6. Choose and add shrimp: For beginners, it is recommended to opt for cherry shrimp, as they are relatively hardy and easy to care for. Introduce the shrimp to the jar only after the water parameters are stable and within an acceptable range.
  7. Stick to a tank maintenance schedule: Regular maintenance is essential for keeping your shrimp jar healthy. Conduct partial water changes weekly or bi-weekly, monitor water parameters, and remove debris as needed.

By following these steps and maintaining a consistent maintenance schedule, your shrimp jar should provide a thriving environment for your aquatic pets while showcasing an attractive aquatic display.

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