Should a Freshwater Shrimp Tank Have a Filter: Primary Factors
This post may have affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
One of the primary considerations in setting up a freshwater shrimp tank is determining exactly what type of filtration that you need to keep your shrimp healthy and happy. Proper nutrient control and filtration is a key component in any successful freshwater aquarium.
So, should a freshwater shrimp tank have a filter? A freshwater shrimp tank should have a filter. It will provide biological and mechanical filtration, while also producing surface agitation that helps keep oxygen levels in your tank at an optimal level. While it is technically possible to keep a filterless shrimp tank, filter options these days are so cheap and easy that there’s no good reason to not invest in a budget filter.
Many people decide whether or not to install a filter on their freshwater shrimp bank simply based upon the size of the tank and what type of shrimp and fish they have in the tank. There are actually a number of different factors to consider when deciding what filter, if any, to install on your tank.
Primary Reasons to Install a Filter on Your Freshwater Shrimp Tank
While a filter is not technically “necessary” to keep your freshwater shrimp alive in an aquarium, there are three primary reasons for why you should use a filter on your tank: biological filtration, mechanical filtration, and keeping oxygen in the water through the use of a bubbles and surface agitation.
Biological filtration is far and away the most important reason to install a filter on your shrimp tank. The lack of adequate biological filtration is by far and away the most common reason for fish and shrimp deaths in a home aquarium. Shrimp, both through the act of breathing and through the decomposition of waste and uneaten food, will produce ammonia in the water. Ammonia is toxic to freshwater shrimp at fairly low doses.
The nitrogen cycle is the process in which bacteria, nitrifying bacteria, to be exact, turns ammonia into nitrite, and nitrite into nitrate, which is fairly harmless to shrimp even at somewhat higher doses. Nitrate is also used by many freshwater plants as food, which is one of the reasons you should have live plants in a shrimp tank, to consume nitrate out of the water.
The nitrifying bacteria mostly clings and sticks to hard surfaces, and does not float around in the water. Filters have a very large surface area for the bacteria to stick to. The process of running water through the filter, usually by pushing air through the filter to create a current, will in turn channel the dirty water through the high concentration of nitrifying bacteria, thereby feeding the bacteria and removing the harmful ammonia from the water.
Without a filter, you are relying on a lower water flow inside your tank and less surface area to keep your water clear of ammonia and nitrite. This will in turn risk the health of your shimp if the bacteria is unable to keep up with the ammonia in the water.
While not as important in a freshwater shrimp tank as biological filtration, proper mechanical filtration can also help improve the health and happiness of your tank inhabitants.
This is actually easier to explain than biological filtration: mechanical filtration is just the simple process of using a material that catches particulates out of the water column, and holds them in place until you clean out the filter. Once the filter is full of gunk, you tank the porus material out the tank, rinse it out inside a small bucket of aquarium water, get all the solids and slime out of the material, and place it back out of the tank.
Not only does this keep the water from becoming cloudy and full of debris, but it also will remove some food that hasn’t decomposed yet, thereby reducing some of the nutrient load out of the water and helping prevent excess algae growth.
Maintaining Oxygen in the Water
Finally, a filter will help keep the water moving, and will help keep adequate oxygen in the water. Shrimp breathe dissolved oxygen, which they remove from the water. Oxygen is dissolved into the water by exposure to the air above the surface of the water, and through the photosynthesis process in plants.
If your shrimp and fish consume oxygen faster than your plants produce it, or you don’t have plants, you will need to introduce oxygen directly into the system. Without surface agitation or air bubbles being put into the system through a filter, the air has no way to become dissolved in the water. A filter with a bubbler, which both directly pushes air through the tank water and breaks the surface of the water, will help alleviate any concerns of lack of oxygen in your system.
Which Filter Is Best for a Freshwater Shrimp Tank?
Now that you’ve determined that you’re going to put a filter in your freshwater shrimp aquarium, which type of filter is best for your tank? There are four primary types of filters worth considering, but I will list them from what I consider to be the best for a freshwater shrimp tank, to the least effective option.
Yes, the diminutive and simple bubble filter is my top choice for a shrimp tank. It really is as simple as that! Not only is it one of the most effective methods of filtration, it’s almost nearly impossible to beat the price on a bubble filter–it will be the cheapest option on this list.
A bubble filter is a very simple piece of equipment. You run an airline down the top of the filter, which is attached to a small electric air pump. The air pump pushes air down the airline, which will then bubble back out of the top of the filter. As the air escapes the top of the filter it will leave a vacuum side the bottom of the filter, which will be filled in by water coming through the outside of the filter, thereby creating water flow through the filter.
While the bubble filter does not have the highest surface area for biological filtration (that honor goes to the next filter on the list), it is more than sufficient to fill the needs of any shrimp dominated aquarium. Biological filtration is the most important factor in a shrimp tank, and this moves more than enough water to take care of that need. It also injects air into the system, and the bubbles escaping the water create surface agitation.
Perhaps the biggest “pro” of a bubble filter is the “shrimp-proof” design. There are no blades or mechanical traps that could injure your adult or baby shrimp. This safe design is perhaps the biggest benefit it has over the last two filters I will discuss today.
The biggest con to the bubble filter is that it’s, quite frankly, rather ugly. If the design bothers you, you can camouflage it with some plants, so long as you aren’t blocking the water flow.
The bubble filter is the cheapest option, gets the job done, and requires a minimum amount of fuss. It is therefore my top option for a filter for a freshwater shrimp tank.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people haven’t heard of the Matten Filter. Before we go any further, here’s a diagram of how it works:
A Matten Filter is, at its core, just an overgrown bubble filter. However, instead of being in a little round shape around a tube, the tube is placed behind the filter material, usually in a corner of the tank or along the back wall of the tank, with the material cut to the size of the bank wall of the aquarium.
This is my second favorite choice, just behind the traditional bubble filter. The biggest pro in favor of the matten filter over a bubble filter is it has a much higher filtration area, which will give more surface area for biological filtration.
However, I think this is largely unimportant in a standard shrimp aquarium. A simple bubble filter will produce enough space to accomplish the nitrogen cycle.
There are a few cons to the matten filter. First: it is, if it’s even possible, even uglier than a bubble filter, and much larger to boot. Unless you expend a decent amount of effort to try to blend it into the corner or back wall of the tank, it will be very distracting. It also leaves an ugly gap behind the mat that can be seen from the side.
Plus, they are a bigger pain to clean and do other maintenance. Unless you are a hardcore freshwater shrimp breeder, I don’t think a matten filter is necessary for a successful freshwater shrimp tank.
I do not recommend a canister filter for a traditional freshwater shrimp tank. A canister filter has a line running to the canister, and then pumps the water back into the tank. Shrimp can be sucked into the intake, and will not fare well when they reach the motorized pump inside the canister. For this reason alone you should skip out on the canister, not to mention they are more expensive than either of the previous two options.
Hook on Back (HOB) Filter
I would not recommend a HOB filter for the same reason I don’t recommend a Canister Filter: the mechanical pump tends to suck in shrimp, which will likely result in the death of the shrimp. Baby shrimp are particularly susceptible to injury and death in this manner. Since bubble filters have no risk of injury or death to your pets, there’s no reason to even consider these options in a shrimp tank.
I hope you’ve found this article to answer your question as to whether you should get a filter for your freshwater shrimp aquarium. With so many inexpensive options these days, you really can’t go wrong with picking up a cheap bubble filter. Your peace of mind is worth the extra couple of bucks.