One of the most awesome and rewarding parts of keeping dwarf shrimp is being able to see generation after generation grow and mature in a short time. For the most part, breeding dwarf shrimp is an easy process. It requires keeping shrimp in the proper parameters for their breed and also a little attention to detail for success.
In order for the entire breeding process to be safe and successful it is important to ensure that several things are in place. First of all you need to be certain your water parameters are correctly calibrated for the type of shrimp you are intending to breed. The primary reason for getting the water chemistry just right, is that if the balance of different chemicals isn't correct it generates stress for the shrimp. When stressed the females will never send out the pheremones into the water stream to lure the males to them. It is also important to think about what will allow the berried females to feel safe and comfortable while carrying their eggs. If conditions are not right and a female doesn't feel like the environment is safe for her eggs she may release them prematurely causing the eggs to die off in the water column. So it is very important to have places with low water current and an out of the way place to hide from any other tank inhabitants. Berried females will often only come out from their safe hiding places to feed, prefering to stay out of the hubbub of the rest of the colony. If you watch closely, you will notice that she is constantly fanning her back legs and will often adjust the eggs under her tail. This serves to help oxygenate the growing eggs and keep them from suffocating.
Care for Young
The baby shrimp are extremely small when they hatch. They are slightly larger than a grain of sand. When they initially hatch they can be seen jumping away from their mother and shooting off to a plant or surface to rest on. The shrimp are fully capable of surviving in their new environment when they hatch, as long as there are places without strong water current and plenty of small spaces to hide in and feel safe from their gargantuan uncles and aunts. Plants such as java moss or similar mosses with lots of little crevices are ideal for the shrimp to grow up in. Adult shrimp are not normally dangerous to the youngsters, however when they swarm during feeding time the baby shrimp can have difficulty getting in to feed. I recommend being certain to spread the food rather than dropping one large clump, and also being sure that there is enough food for all the shrimp to get some. Baby shrimp will grow rapidly, within a few weeks they will be a quarter inch in size. Shrimp continue to grow throughout their life cycle. The largest shrimp being old adult females nearing 2 years of age. These females can reach nearly 2 inches in size at their largest. Baby shrimp will reach breeding age between 1-2 months.
Maintaining the Cycle
Assuming all conditions are maintained at their optimal levels, generation after generation of shrimp should constantly be breeding and producing more offspring. There are a few things to consider as the shrimp continue this cycle. Inbreeding is a real concern when you have a small colony especially. It is the greatest difficulty that many shrimp keepers face when they start with a small number of shrimp (such as 10) and allow the shrimp to breed and grow through several generations. It is important to continue to diversify the gene pool every so often to maintain healthy and vibrant shrimp. There are several ways to achieve this, from keeping multiple tanks and mixing the shrimp every so often to purchasing new shrimp at regular intervals. Another thing to keep in mind is that depending on your tank size, there will be a point where the shrimp overpopulate the tank. The actual number of shrimp necessary to overpopulate depends on the size of the tank, the quality of your filtration and the consistency of your water changes. Eventually, no matter what kind of tank you have the shrimp will reach a wall where they will, for the most part, completely stop breeding. This occurs primarily because the waste buildup from the shrimp in the tank reaches a level to pollute the water with too high nitrates. When this point is reached, the shrimp will normally stop breeding altogether to prevent nitrates from reaching dangerous levels. This can also serve as a warning sign that you may need to do some maintenance or replacement on your filter media, to ensure everything is working in tip top shape.