Why Do Cherry Shrimp Molt: Facts You Need to Know!

Last Updated on October 29, 2020 by Anne Thynne

Cherry shrimp, with its vibrant red color, is the star of your aquarium, even with other fishes on it. Besides, it works as a natural sweeper by eating up the debris and also the other fishes’ poop. But have you wondered how do your red cherry shrimp grow into a big one (almost one & half inches) from a tiny larva?

They do grow through the process called molting. Yet, a lot of people keep asking us, “Do cherry shrimp molt?”

So, here’s our answer- All cherry shrimps molt and through a continuous molting (almost throughout life until it grows old), they grow bigger.

And today, we are going to profoundly discuss everything related to a red cherry shrimp molting procedure. It will include but not excluded to –

  • What are molting and exoskeleton?
  • Cherry shrimp molting stages.
  • Factors affecting shrimp molting procedure.
  • Whether or not you can control and boost the molting, and
  • Problems to tackle during shrimp molt for its health.

So, are you ready?

Read more about freshwater aquarium shrimps from this article.

Definition of Molting

In simple words molting refers to the process of any creature losing a part of its body to grow bigger. Most times, the animals shed the part of their body that hinders their growth. Hence, sometimes molting is also popularly known as shedding or sloughing.

So, what does the cherry shrimp molting mean?

For this, you need to understand the shrimp’s biological structure at the beginning.

Shrimps are invertebrates, and likewise, most invertebrates, these creatures have an exoskeleton too. It protects the inner softness of the shrimp from external affairs and hard opponents. However, the same exoskeleton (In the next segment, we will describe details about it) also cramps the shrimp body and prevents its growth.

During the molting period, a red cherry shrimp slowly leaves its older exoskeleton. Then it starts growing, and once it completes a grow cycle, it takes to another bigger exoskeleton.

An interesting fact: Molting & Breeding

Many of us already know that molting is essential for the proper growth of any shrimps, but little do you know that it boosts the breeding also?

Yes, molting is beneficial if you are targeting to breed your red cherry shrimp. The red cherry shrimp releases a pheromone during the hard case leaving procedure. The pheromone then attracts the male shrimps and encourages for successful mating.

But to understand the whole of the molting procedure, a good knowledge of the exoskeleton is also necessary. So, here we go.

What Is an Exoskeleton?

A shrimp’s external shell mainly consists of three elements. Also, it has several minor elements in the overall composition. These are-

  1. Chitin consists of 20%-30% of the total shell body. In scientific terms, amigo sugars form a linear polymer bond to make chitin.
  2. 30%-40% of the shrimp shell is made of protein.
  3. 30%-50% shrimp shell consists of calcium carbonate. If you don’t know what calcium carbonate is, it is the element that forms the bones of any creature.
  4. You will also find pigment elements in a meager amount within the shell body. The presence of the pigment controls the shrimp color.

However, not all of these elements form the skeleton despite being arranged in a spiral formation. Only the protein and calcified chitin join to form the outer frame of a shrimp and any other invertebrates.

Four Stages of Cherry Shrimp Molting Cycle

When you know the details of shrimp molt cycle, it helps you with two things-

  • What happens during and after the shrimp molt cycle takes place.
  • Shrimps behavior during the molting process.

Also, you will better realize the shrimp behavior during the different molting cycles. So, let’s see the four stages of shrimp molting.

Pre-molt stage:

The shrimp starts preparing for the next molting session. Firstly, new and fresh skin starts developing underneath the existing old exoskeleton. As the pre-molting continues, almost 20%-25% of the calcium carbonate of the shrimp body and the existing exoskeleton is consumed by the newly growing soft-shell.

This way, once the new exoskeleton comes forward with the removal of the older one, the shell growth becomes faster.

During the preparation stage, red cherry shrimp will start eating less, and it will only intensify as the molting session comes closer.

So, the next time you see the shrimp eating less, don’t get panicked. It is probably preparing for the next molt to grow bigger and better.

At the advanced pre-molt stage, aquarists will see a visible shell in the red cherry shrimp body.

The molting stage:

As the shrimp enters the main molt stage, you will see the distinctive behavioral change in it. Firstly, it starts pumping off the water. It does so that the old exoskeleton attains the breaking point and, finally, burst off its own.

You should find the breaking point right where the head and shrimp abdomen armor meet, aka, the nasal end.

As the old exoskeleton starts cracking, the red cherry shrimp makes a big jump

Inter-molting stage:

During the inter-molting stage, the shrimp neither leaves the older exoskeleton totally nor does the new shell if firm enough to stay stable. So, the red cherry shrimp remains vulnerable at this stage to external attacks and diseases.

Post-molting stage:

This is the shortest period of the entire molting cycle and usually last around 24 hours to 36 hours. At this stage, the new exoskeleton takes its full formation, and the shrimp is ready to leave the older exoskeleton and grow bigger.

As they curl their tail underneath and start forming a U-shape, the post-molting stage intensifies. The U-shape puts the exoskeleton into the breaking point and allows the shrimp to leave it with the least stress and strength expense.

Since, at this stage, the newly formed exoskeleton remains softer, the red cherry shrimp remains extremely vulnerable against external attacks and diseases.

Also, the newly formed shell limits the movement of the red cherry shrimp. So, for safety and limited actions, shrimp at this stage starts using its internal calcium and protein to get its needed energy for survival. Also, the calcium carbonate slowly starts hardening the shrimp exoskeleton.

You will also see reduce in their color vibrancy and look dull. So, they become unattractive at this stage.

However, once the exoskeleton is hardened, the shrimp will start moving faster. It uses the pleopods for the movement. You should also see an increased appetite for the red cherry shrimp, and so, you need to supply more than average food at this stage.

Molting stage Pre-molt Molting Post-molting Inter-molting
Cycle 55% Undefined 5%-10% 20%-30%
Shell state Normal and hard New exoskeleton forms Old ones leave, and the new softshell starts forming The shell is hardened
Feeding Regular less Minimal Maximum

How often a red cherry shrimp molts?

The red cherry shrimp molting frequency is directly linked with the growth rate of it. So, you should know how frequently the shrimp molts. It will help you estimate its growth for the entire lifespan and make changes in the terrarium accordingly.

Shrimp State Larva Post-larva Juvenile Adult shrimp
Total percentage in lifespan 50%- 60% 20%-25% 7%-10% 15%-20%
Molting frequency Almost everyday Once in 3-4 days Once in 7-10 days Once in every 3 to 5 weeks

An Interesting Fact:

During the pre-molt and molting stage, a red cherry shrimp gains weight despite eating less. You may be ardently wondering how on earth it happens?

Well, during the pre-molt stage, a red cherry shrimp will gallop as much water as possible that it uses in the post and inter-molting state. So, the extra water causes weight gain. Experts say a red cherry shrimp might be 5% more weighty during this stage compared to natural conditions.

Problems Linked With Shrimp Molting

Proper and timely molting is essential to red cherry shrimp growth.

However, the bad news is that during molting, a red cherry shrimp is the most vulnerable and often faces significant health issues. At the worst, it might even cause the shrimp death if not taken care of early.

But don’t worry.

Once you read the following segments describing shrimp’s molting issues, causes, and remedy, your favorite shrimp should be safe and sound.

Improper water for molting:

If the water parameter isn’t appropriate, the shrimp will most likely fail in the molting process.  Many factors affect the water parameter.  Nonetheless, the three most common reasons that make the water less suitable for molting are described below.

  • General Hardness: Presence of magnesium and calcium. It is measured by the presence of the elements of milligrams in each liter water
  • Carbonate Hardness: Carbonate hardness measures the presence of calcium carbonate in the shrimp tank water. It is crucial since calcium carbonate will harden the exoskeleton during the molting stages.
  • Total Dissolved Solids: TDS refers to the presence of all dissolved elements in the tank water for shrimps.

The following table shows the ideal amount of DH, KH, and TDS, along with the other influential elements that play a part in the water parameter.

Factors Optimal State
Temperature 65°F-75°F
Chlorine Zero PPM ( its presence is lethal for shrimps)
Ammonia or nitrite Zero
Nitrate Less than 20PPM
General Hardness (GH) 65-130 ppm
Carbonate Hardness (KH) 50-260PPM

Ideally, you should check the water parameters at least once a month. So, your shrimp will always get the best water condition. The best thing to maintain the water condition is to use a proper filter that can accomplish mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. (Link it with the “Do Shrimp Need Filtration Article”).

Incorrect diet for shrimps:

Another common cause of shrimp’s molt failure is an improper diet chart. We understand that most shrimp owners focus on providing the most protein and calcium in the shrimp food menu. While it is absolutely valid since shrimp needs both for proper growth and breeding, you should choose the food items with varied alternatives.

The best red cherry shrimp food times are:

  • Kale
  • Algae wafers
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Bio-film
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Commercial shrimp protein

Another great source of natural protein and calcium for shrimp is snowflake food. It is typically made of soybean seeds, which has a high amount of protein and also, calcium. So, it boosts the shrimp growth through molting.

Snowflake is easy to use since it can be underneath the tank water for the endless time until shrimp eats it. So, you remain tension free of cleaning the residues.

Shrimp stuck within the molt:

Did you ever notice your red cherry shrimp twitching or lying motionless in sideways?

If so, it’s not a happy sight.

In fact, be cautious.

Be cautious and get ready to help your shrimp, since the twitching or being motionless is the sign of shrimp stuck during the molt within its older exoskeleton.

The molt stuck happens mainly because the exoskeleton braking in the right spot and limiting the shrimp from breaking free. You can wait and see how the shrimp behaves, but we recommend you to be proactive in this case.

Held tweezers with care and attentively remove the old exoskeleton from the shrimp body with the tweezers. However, it is increasingly risky since shrimps have a fragile structure, especially when it molts.

White Ring of Death:

As the name suggests, the issues come in a ring shape and possibly bring the shrimp death sentence also with the problem.

Sadly, there isn’t much that you could do if it takes place.

The white ring of death occurs if the exoskeleton breaks into two various parts instead of the right point on the tip of the head and body connection (the same thing that causes shrimp to get stuck within the molt).

As the shrimp can’t escape the old exoskeleton, it feels stressed and might die eventually. So, when the molting starts, observe the shrimp if the death ring forms. Early identification of the lethal problem might help you treat it.

How to Promote Red Cherry Shrimp Molting:

Since molting induces the shrimp growth rate, owners might be interested in promoting the molting. Alternatively, if you don’t want your shrimp to grow faster, you can control these factors affecting the shrimp molt. It will reduce the molting frequency.

The factors that you can control to boost or reduce the molting frequency are described in the below points.

  1. Always maintain a proper water quality or parameter to help shrimp molting. Ideally, if you want more frequent molting in the shrimp, you can place it in a quarantine tank with less GH and KH. Similarly, increasing the GH and KH level will reduce the molting frequency.
  2. The nutrition or diet chart will have a profound effect on the molting frequency. Just ask yourself, if a shrimp isn’t growing, why should it molt? Thus, with the proper nutritional diet, you can boost the shrimp growth and molt eventually.
  3. Changes in water temperature also control the molting cycle. The warm temperature will increase metabolism and result in faster molting. On the contrary, cold tank temperature reduces the molting procedure. However, changing one, two, or three degrees of heat won’t affect the molting. Hence, you need a sudden and colossal drop or increase in the water temperature for the preferred molting cycle. Check out this article about requiring a heater for cherry shrimp.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Will red cherry shrimp eat its molt?

Yes, shrimps eat their molt. The old exoskeleton contains a high amount of calcium and protein. So, shrimps will feed them to regain the lost energy quickly.

2. Do I need to remove the old exoskeleton from the shrimp tank?

No, you need not waste energy in cleaning the molt or recently left exoskeleton of the shrimp. In fact, removing it from the fish tank is like depriving the shrimp of its well-fought nutritional ingredients. It is because the molt contains calcium and protein.

3. Will cherry shrimp molt when stressed?

Yes, if cherry shrimp feel stress due to sudden change in water temperature and parameters. But it’s not a positive sign. So, make sure the shrimp molt happens naturally.

The Bottom Line

So, here we conclude- cherry shrimps molt.

The molting is faster and more frequent during the early stage of the shrimp life, such as when it is larva and juvenile. However, once it attains adulthood, the molting will slowly decrease and come near to zero, when fully grown.

You can boost or reduce the molting by controlling the water temperature, water parameter, and diet. However, when the molting starts, you should observe the shrimp regularly to avoid the problematic issues related to the process.

Finally, if you see the shrimp stuck in molt or formation of the White Ring of Death, then the chances of the shrimp survival are bleak. So, prepare for the worst!

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