Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp Diseases, Parasites & Remedies


Shrimp Diseases, Parasites & Remedies

Raising freshwater shrimp is not a problem as long as you have the right knowledge, experience and passion. But the issue comes when you suddenly start seeing deaths of your shrimp in large numbers.

Also, you may notice some usual body changes on your shrimp and this can be frustrating, to say the least.

Random deaths and sudden body changes could be as a result of freshwater shrimp diseases or parasite infestation. Perhaps for a newcomer, such occurrences could be quite traumatizing and discouraging.

But the question is how do freshwater shrimp get all these diseases and parasites? Read on and find out more about these health-related problems that affect freshwater aquarium shrimp.

In most cases, diseases and parasites get their way into your aquarium through the already infected freshwater shrimp, tank plants, high temperatures and lack of minerals among others.

Freshwater Shrimp Diseases, Parasites and Treatment

Below are the common diseases that affect shrimp in a freshwater tank environment, their diagnosis, and possible remedies.




Vorticella is a parasite that affects freshwater aquarium shrimp. This uncommon parasite is characterized by white molds or fungus-like growth on the body of the infected shrimp.

Mostly, you will see whitish substances growing on the shell of the affected shrimp, especially on the nose. These are sure signs that your shrimp has been infested with Vorticella.

This parasite is a protozoan, comprising of 16 different known species. Many people have mistaken it for a fungus but that is not the case.

Vorticella are mainly aquatic organisms that thrive best in a freshwater environment. These parasites attach themselves to rocks, plant detritus, algae or aquatic animals such as crustaceans.

Naturally, Vorticella are heterotrophic, meaning that they only consume other organisms to survive. No wonder they always prey on bacteria and other microorganisms in an aquatic setup.

This is made possible by simply using their cilia to create a vortex (a current of water) to direct its food towards the mouth.

When it comes to reproduction, Vorticella employs the binary fission. This means a new organism is reproduced by splitting from the parent and becoming independent. The new organism swims around until it finds something to anchor itself.

So, if you realize that your shrimp is under attack by Vorticella parasite, you need to take drastic measures as soon as possible. If left untreated, this parasite can multiply and cause death to your affected shrimp.

Obviously, you won’t let that happen if you know which steps to take. So, what preventive or curative measures should you take once you realize that your shrimp is infested with Vorticella parasite?

Possible Cure

You may use salt bath containing salts. Keep in mind that table salt with iodine is not recommended.

  • The right dosage: 1 teaspoon to a cup of clean tank water (Never use tap water at all).
  • Duration: half minute to 1 minute

It is important that you repeat this process a couple of times for better results. In this regard, keep the infected freshwater shrimp in a hospital or breeder tank. Doing so will ensure that Vorticella is eliminated completely, leaving your shrimp as healthy as it was previously.

Possible Causes

Poor tank water conditions have been found to be the main cause of Vorticella infestation. As a result, your shrimp may become the main hosts of these parasites. You are advised to increase water changes as frequently as you can in order to contain the situation.

Why should you use a salt bath in low doses in the first place? This dose is known to act first when it comes to controlling Vorticella parasites. On the other hand, medications used in curing Ich (pronounced “ick”) and fungus cannot work on Vorticella. So, it will be needless to try them on this parasite.

In some situations, the Seachem Paraguard can be effective especially when it is administered at the recommended dosage. This is because it’s a parasitic medication.

However, Seachem has come forward and admitted that Paragard is not meant for invertebrates, thus it can have adverse effects on your shrimp. For that reason, go for Paragard as your last resort after exhausting all other possible curative practices.

You can take Paragard and drip into your tank after premixing it in a bucket of tank water. Even though this treatment can help eliminate vorticella, just know that it’s not a replacement for good aquarium husbandry. In other words, maintain the water change routines as well as the removal of debris or food waste to keep the tank environment conducive for your shrimp and other aquatic creatures.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial Infection is one of those diseases that affect your shrimp and are difficult to diagnose. This should tell you that there is very scanty information about this health condition.

Also, there are very few pictures or illustrations that can clearly show you the exact behavior or appearance of this disease.

Luckily, you can easily identify bacterial infection in the species of shrimp that look almost “transparent”. This is due to the fact that these shrimp have organs that you can see from outside.

In this case, you may observe and detect an internal bacterial infection just in case.

When healthy, the inner translucent bodies of these shrimps appear dark while those infected with bacteria look pink. A close look will reveal some sort of inflammation, especially in the affected regions.

According to numerous studies on bacterial infection affecting freshwater aquarium shrimp, it is evident that the main type of bacteria that affect these invertebrates the most is none other than micrococcus bacteria.

However, the infected shrimp with visible symptoms perish within 2 to 4 days later. Sadly, no effective treatment is known so far.

The first sign to know that your shrimp are infected with bacteria is the unexplained death of these little invertebrates.

Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Pinkish flesh
  • Loss of limbs or antennae
  • Presence of holes in the carapace of your shrimp
  • Sudden loss of color

First Treatment

For you to control the bacterial infection in freshwater shrimp, you are required to do about 80 % of the water change in your aquarium. It should be done on a daily basis to eliminate these harmful bacteria completely.

Second Treatment

Besides routine water change, you may as well turn to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) for further treatment. Ensure that the concentration of your hydrogen peroxide is 3% for effective treatment of this infection.

You are advised to take 1ml per 4 liters or 2ml per 4 liters as your dosage if you truly want to get rid of the bacterial infection in your shrimp. Carry out this exercise each day for a period of 5 days.

Third Treatment

Ultraviolet light is also effective in controlling bacterial infection among freshwater shrimp. You can use this UV light for five consecutive days to bring down bacterial infection in your shrimp. This treatment is only effective where the bacteria responsible for the infections are waterborne.

Fourth Treatment

You may use Genchem Beta G or Glasgarten Beta Glucan to treat and prevent the cloudiness or milky white appearance on your shrimp.

Take Note

Sometimes these symptoms could be as a result of the infection that is parasitic in nature. If that is the case, then the bacterial infection may turn out to be secondary. Don’t confuse the two incidences instead, you need to be keen enough to differentiate the two. That’s why you should be careful when looking for any sign of external parasites on your shrimp.

One thing remains clear when it comes to symptoms of bacterial infection among freshwater shrimp. By the time you realize that your shrimp are showing signs of infection as explained above, it’s likely that the infection is in its advanced stages. Sooner or later you may start seeing deaths from the most affected shrimp and this should give you a reason to act promptly.

Don’t wait until the whole tank is overrun by a bacterial infection. Instead, you can take action as soon as you notice some symptoms related to this type of infection. This way, you may end up saving the rest of your freshwater aquarium shrimp.

Actually, this is the time to weigh the options as to whether to watch your lovely invertebrates die gradually or break down the aquarium. If you opt for the latter, you can start by sterilizing it to eliminate all harmful bacteria and begin afresh. Maybe the second option would be better given that acquiring and raising shrimp in the tank is not an easy venture.

The use of hydrogen peroxide is a good idea because it will serve two major functions. Besides controlling a bacterial infection, hydrogen peroxide will also help eliminate any algae present in the tank at the time of treatment.

Note that the soaring temperatures in the summer can also lead to the increase of harmful bacterial growth in the tank. So, it’s a good idea to open your fish tank lids so to enhance air circulation and regulation of tank water temperature. At the same time, you may top up your tank water to replace the lost one during evaporation.

At this point, you need to know that all these treatment practices are not the ultimate solution to the good tank husbandry. Therefore, keep up with the usual water change routines as well as the removal of uneaten food and debris to keep the tank conditions better for your shrimp.


Bugs may not pose any serious threat to your freshwater shrimp, but the fact remains that they are parasites. Most of these bugs coexist with the shrimp in what can be said to be a symbiotic relationship.

And you can always spot them among the wild shrimp. As an aquarium hobbyist, nothing should be taken for granted as far as your aquarium animals are concerned. So, it’s important that you find effective ways of freeing your shrimp from the infestation of bugs.

Examples of common bugs found on most shrimp include the scutariella and leeches. Their treatment is more or less the same as that for Vorticella.

Known Cures

You may use salt bathe and aquarium salts but you should be on the watch out not to accidentally use table salt with iodine while treating your shrimp.

Dosage:1 cup of clean aquarium water ( remember not to use tap water) to 1 teaspoon.

Duration: You are hereby supposed to administer this treatment for a duration ranging between half a minute and one minute. Repeat the whole process severally to ensure that all parasites are gone. Then transfer the infected shrimp to the breeder tank or hospital tank to let them recover and be free of parasites.

Genchem or No Planaria Treatment

This is an alternative form of treatment that you can use to control bugs in your shrimp. It is suggested that you make use of half the dosage as indicated in the instructions given on the packaging of Genchem No Planaria.

You can carry out this type of treatment for a duration of 3 days. If you are lucky enough, you will see the parasites disappear in the first day of treatment. But you must continue with the treatment until all the bugs are gone.

At the end of Genchem No Planaria treatment, carry out the usual water change while watching out for the ammonia spike. In case you discover any, make sure that you treat it if necessary.

Alternatively, you can use another effective product to get rid of these stubborn pests. This product is known as “Internal Parasite Clear”, manufactured by Guangzhou-British Aquarium Corp.

Dragonfly Nymphs


Dragonfly Nymph

Dragonfly nymphs are not part of the diseases that affect freshwater shrimp but their presence in your aquarium can spell doom to your little lovely invertebrates or even fish.

These parasites are detrimental to the existence of your shrimp because their nymphs feast on any shrimplets or weak shrimps they come across.

You can control these dragonfly nymphs by removing them manually from your tank. Just locate them and use a specially designed net to manually get them out of your aquarium.

Muscular Necrosis

When you notice your shrimp developing milky or white discoloration on their back part or muscle tissue located within their shells, then you should know they have muscular necrosis. Actually, muscular necrosis is a symptom rather than a real disease.

Biologically, necrosis refers to the destruction of one or several cells within a living organism. Once the cells have been destroyed the next thing in line is the inflammatory reaction or to some extent, the decomposition of the affected cells.

Eventually, these cells are released and that is what you see as milky white color along the tail part of the affected shrimp.

The symptoms associated with muscular necrosis are caused by:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Myxosporidien
  • Wrong tank water parameters

Stress caused by changes in the pH, insufficient oxygen and lack of nutrients can result in the death of cells under certain circumstances. More often than not, the milky discoloration starts from the tail region and gradually spreads to the rest of the body in a few days.


The first step to take is to isolate all infected shrimp as soon as possible to avoid the spread of muscular necrosis. Alternatively, you can make a habit of changing tank water on a regular basis to contain the situation. But if you discover that the infection has spread to the entire abdomen region, then there’s nothing you can do to save your shrimp. It will definitely die in a few days to come.

Ensure that your tank conditions are within the recommended ranges for your shrimp to thrive well. These conditions may include tank water acidity levels (pH), water hardness and temperature, levels of nitrates, nitrites, and oxygen.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are not strange to the aquarium hobby and this is where shrimp get affected. It is inevitable for the shrimp in a freshwater tank setup to escape from this menace. This is attributed to the fact that fungal spores are almost everywhere and in one way or the other, they will get into contact with your shrimp.

Fungal diseases are collectively known as Mycosis and your shrimp will get infected with these organisms by ingesting their spores through food. If this happens and your shrimp happens to be having a weak immune system, chances of it getting infected are high.

In most cases, fungal infections can cause death to the freshwater shrimp when their internal organs get infected with the fungal spores. Without a powerful microscope, it is extremely difficult to carry out an internal diagnosis of this infection.

On the other hand, the external or superficial mycosis infection is always visible and easy to diagnose without the assistance of a microscope. You can easily identify the symptoms of superficial infection caused by fungal spores (especially Saprolegnia and Achlya) because they appear as little white fluffy growths around the abdomen area or on the head.

These symptoms are only visible on infected shrimp that have a weak immune system, injured ones or immediately after a molt. Often times, the molting process draws a lot of energy from shrimps and this could affect their immune system.

During such moments, your shrimp are usually at their weakest points and that’s when the fungal infection takes place. This happens when spores get hold onto the weakened areas on the body of a shrimp and then break out into milky white growth.

Late treatment can lead to the infection of the dead tissues and subsequently spread to other tissues in the body. But should you notice that the infection is only available on the surface of the shrimp’s body, a molt is just enough to get rid of them. Otherwise, treatment is the best option in this regard.


Isolate the affected shrimp and treat them using JBL’s Fungol.

Dosage: Read and understand the instructions written on the package before administering any dosage. The instructions on the package will guide you accordingly and you will be able to contain the infection in a matter of days.

If not treated, your shrimp will die and that is not what you are looking forward to. So, using Fungol will be out of the question if you truly want to save your shrimp from the imminent danger posed by a fungal infection.

Chitinolytic Bacterial Disease (Shell-Disease, Black Spot Disease, Brown Spot Disease, Rust Disease or Burned Spot Disease)

This disease is caused by a bacterial infection known as Chitinolytic bacteria or Gram-negative rods including Benekea spp., Vibrio spp., Pseudomonas spp., Spirillum spp., Aeromonas spp., and Flavobacterium spp.

The infected shrimp can be identified easily by looking at their exoskeletons which become pitted, melanized and eroded at the infected regions.


The chitin erosion is changes from dark brown to black coloration as a way of demonstrating chitinolytic. Also, these marks change from rusty to brown and eventually black pigmentation.

There’s a formation of ulcers on the lessons as an indication of the destructive nature of bacteria to the muscle tissues underneath the shell. If not treated in time, it can expose your shrimp to secondary infections.

The most affected regions on the shrimp’s body include the abdominal muscles, gills, gastropods, and tail section. You may find those seriously infected shrimp lying on their sides while those with gills and gastropods infections moving around.

What are the causes? There are several causes of Chitinolytic Bacterial Disease, key among them being the hygiene of your tank and water quality.

Others include:

  • Unhealthy or injured shrimp
  • Excess nitrates
  • Chemical imbalance
  • The poor condition of the substrate


You may use a Levamisole, a product of Big L’s pig & Poultry Wormer to clear your shrimp of this condition. The right dose should be 1ml for every 7 liters of tank water. You may also repeat the dose after two days to eliminate the disease completely.

Or you can resort to pre-treatment by performing the following activities:

  • Strict quarantine
  • Disinfecting all the tools and equipment used in your aquarium
  • Change of tank water routinely
  • Disinfecting all items in the aquarium
  • Increase oxygen in the tank and flow rate
  • Add a few beneficial bacteria supplements
  • Raise the pH of the tank water
  • Add a small amount of aquarium salt to the isolated shrimp
  • Lower tank water temperature gradually
  • Add some aquatic plants to help eliminate excess nitrates and other nutrients
  • Maintain the quality of tank water.

All the above-named pre-treatment practices can greatly reduce bacterial infections among your shrimp. After all, prevention is better than cure.


Raising freshwater shrimp might not be a problem to you when you know exactly what you are supposed to do. But the main issues come about as a result of diseases and parasite infestation. If these two conditions are left unchecked, you are likely to lose most of your shrimp.

Therefore, you need to be on the lookout for the symptoms, strange behavior and physical changes taking place on your shrimp’s bodies. With the right diagnosis, you can use the recommended curative practices to save your shrimp from diseases and parasites infestation.

Questions and Answers

I currently have a shrimp-only 20 gallon tank. Do I need to quarantine fish if I decide to add them to the tank?

    As far as I know, fish don’t carry diseases that can affect shrimp, so in your case it is not absolute necessary to quarantine your fish. However, make sure you choose fish species that are compatible with shrimp.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *