Feeding Vegetables to Your Shrimp Tank

Red Cherry shrimp eating kale on a wooden stick

Feeding fresh vegetables to your shrimp tank is a brilliant way to give them all the nutrition they need.

A balanced diet will help to promote healthy shell growth, making sure they can molt safely.

It's a good idea to try and feed veggies a few times a month, but don't do it too often. The bulk of their daily food intake should still come from grazing on biofilm.

Vegetables will break down in the water and can lead to ammonia or nitrate spikes if left in too long, or added in too frequently. These parameters can be reduced with consistent water changes.

Organic veggies

Be careful when choosing vegetables for your tank, you'll want to make sure you only use organic.

Organic vegetables should be completely free of pesticides, making them safe for shrimp.

Pesticides used on non-organic veg can get trapped inside as the plant grows, so even with a thorough wash, they could be deadly to shrimp.

Avoid fruits

Can you feed fruit to your shrimp tank as well as veg? Unfortunately, adding fruit into your tank can be quite risky.

Fruits generally have a much higher sugar content than vegetables, and this can lead to a rapid growth of bacteria in the water.

Stick with only feeding safe vegetables for now, to reduce the risk of this happening to you.

Which vegetables are safe for shrimp?

The list of vegetables below isn't a complete list of safe foods, there may be other less common items that are just as safe.

These veggies, in alphabetical order, are the most popular choices for feeding to shrimp:

Broccoli

Broccoli is incredibly nutritious and one of the best choices of veg to feed your shrimp.

You can feed your tank broccoli frequently, as long as you remove it before it begins polluting the water. This time varies depending on the amount of broccoli, but it’s normally fine to leave in the water for a few hours.

Preparation

Broccoli should be blanched, as it’s too hard for the shrimp to eat when it’s raw.

Benefits

  • Rich in protein, promoting healthy shell growth
  • Provides carotenoids, which can enhance your shrimp’s colour
  • Good source of fibre, aiding digestion

Carrot

Sliced carrot is an incredibly tasty treat for your shrimp, and provides a lot of benefits, like shell colour enhancement.

It’s okay to feed your tank carrots quite often, just remove it before it breaks down too much. Two or three hours in the water should be plenty of time for all your shrimp to enjoy their carrot slice.

Preparation

Carrot should be peeled, sliced into fairly thin sections, and then blanched.

Raw carrots are hard and can be difficult for the shrimp to eat, and fully cooked carrots can break down too quickly in the water.

You can skewer the carrot slice with a wooden stick to give the shrimp more room to eat.

Benefits

  • Very rich in carotenoids, which can enhance your shrimp’s colour
  • Source of fibre, improving digestive health
  • Provides protein, for healthy shell growth

Cucumber

Cucumber is mostly made up of water, making it soft and easy for shrimp to eat.

Being soft means it also breaks down in the water fairly quickly. If left in for more than a few hours, it can turn into a mush that's hard to arrive without using a feeding dish.

Preparation

It's a good idea to peel the cucumber first, even though the skin contains a fair bit of nutrition.

Removing the outer skin makes it easier for the shrimp to get at the soft flesh. There's also a small risk of pesticides remaining on the outside skin, so removing it entirely massively reduces this risk.

Once peeled, cut the cucumber into slices and then blanch it. Blanching makes it even softer and helps prevent any accidental infection.

Benefits

  • Easy for shrimp to eat
  • Provides a source of fiber, to help digestion
  • Gives protein, required for molting safely

Kale

Kale is a brilliant source of various nutrients for your shrimp. Its large leaf size also gives plenty of room for lots of shrimp to eat it together.

Preparation

Preparing kale for your tank is as simple as washing, and then blanching it.

You can freeze the blanched kale for later if you'd prefer to do it in one big batch.

The blanched leaf should sink to the substrate, like other leaf litter.

Alternatively, you could skewer the leaf on a stick into the substrate, so that the shrimp can get at all sides.

Benefits

  • Provides Lutein, a carotenoid which can enhance shell colour
  • Great source of protein, richer than broccoli, helpful for building strong shells
  • Offers plenty of calcium, slightly more than Kale, which is also useful for shell growth

Lettuce

Lettuce doesn't offer a huge amount of nutrition compared to some other vegetables, but can make up part of a balanced diet.

Preparation

Lettuce leaves should be washed to remove any dirt, and blanched to make it soft enough for the shrimp to eat.

Snails might be able to take small bites out of a raw lettuce leaf, but it'll be too tough for shrimp.

Benefits

  • Gives some amount of protein, aiding the molting process
  • Offers some fiber, helpful for digestion of foods

Peas

Green peas, or garden peas, may be tiny, but they pack a big nutritious punch.

Preparation

You should boil or blanch the peas, as you would normally.

Even after boiling, the outer shell on the pea can be quite tough for the shrimp to get through. If you have the patience, it’s helpful to try and peel off this skin for them.

Due to their small size, you will be able to feed more shrimp at once by slightly squeezing the peas a little, similar to mushy peas. However, you should definitely use a feeding dish if you go this route, or else you will find it quite hard to remove what doesn’t get eaten.

Benefits

  • Great source of protein, to help build a strong and healthy outer shell
  • Good source of fiber, for improving digestive health

Spinach

Spinach, like kale, is a leafy vegetable that contains a lot of nutrition for your shrimp.

Preparation

Wash your spinach leaves under your tap, to remove any dirt and debris. Blanch the leaves to soften them and make it easier for your shrimp to pull apart and eat.

Blanching the leaf will help make sure it sinks, if it floats to the surface then it might need to be cooked a little longer. Using a wooden stick to skewer the leaf, and then burying an end in your substrate, is another way to keep the leaf underwater.

It’s possible to freeze your blanched spinach leaves if you’d rather prepare lots of meals for your tank in one go.

Benefits

  • Good source of protein, used for growing healthy and strong exoskeletons
  • Lots of fiber, slightly more per gram than kale, to improve digestion

Sweet potato

Sweet potato is quite a popular choice for feeding to shrimp tanks, partially because they can help strengthen the red colour in your shrimp’s shell. See this thread on the SKF Aquatics forum for example.

Preparation

Wash and peel your sweet potato, and then cut it into small chunks. Boil these chunks for a few minutes until they’re soft.

Once they’ve cooled down, you can freeze these chunks and feed your tank again in the future.

Benefits

  • Contains lots of fiber, beneficial for general digestive health
  • Plenty of protein, required for healthy molting and shell growth
  • Contains Astaxanthin, a carotenoid that help increase the red colour of your shrimp’s shell

Zucchini / Courgette

Zucchini, like cucumber, is quite soft and easy for your shrimp to eat quickly. This is useful as it means your shrimp can eat lots of it quickly, before it starts to rot and affect your water too much.

Zucchini contains more protein than cucumber, but still only about half as much as the same weight in broccoli.

Preparation

Wash and peel your zucchini, to reduce the risk of any pesticides and also just make it easier for your shrimp to get to the nutritious flesh.

You can then either cut into slices, or chunks, depending on how you’d like to put it into the tank. Slices are easy to skewer with a wooden stick in the substrate, and chunks might work better in a feeding dish.

Benefits

  • Provides a source of protein, promoting healthy molting and shell forming
  • Contains fiber, for improving digestive health
  • Includes lots of other vitamins, helpful for your shrimp’s general health and growth

Conclusion

Feeding vegetables to your shrimp colony has lots of benefits, and it’s an easy way to make sure they get a well-balanced diet. Adding different veggies to your tank every so often will give you confidence they’re getting all the nutrition and vitamins they need to thrive.

Broccoli is an excellent choice to get started with feeding veggies to your shrimp, as it’s just so nutritious.

Experiment with different foods to see what your colony prefers.