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Zoo Med’s Canned Freshwater Shrimp – an important new food reptile, amphibian, fish and invertebrate pets

Can o ShrimpAs I noted in an earlier article (Canned Insects and Other Invertebrates, July 1, 2008), several companies are now marketing canned grasshoppers, snails, silkworms and other invertebrates.  I believe these to be an important means of providing dietary variety to a wide range of captive reptiles and amphibians.

I have recently been experimenting with the canned shrimp offered by Zoo Med.  What caught my interest was the fact that the shrimp used, Macrobrachium nipponense, are a freshwater species.  Freshwater shrimp are an important and often dominant part of the diets of a great many aquatic animals, and their nutritional value varies greatly from that of both insects and fish – yet they are difficult for the average pet owner to procure.

Of course, it is great fun to collect and breed freshwater shrimp, but how many of us actually have the chance to do this?  Generally, we are left to use pieces of marine shrimp (usually pre-cleaned and thus missing nutritionally valuable internal organs) purchased at food markets, or frozen/freeze dried marine species marketed for the tropical fish trade.  While such are useful, they are far from ideal, as there are a number of health issues involved in the long term feeding of marine species to freshwater pets.

The shrimp used by Zoo Med are small, whole animals.  Feeding them to a large turtle would be impractical, but they are ideal for innumerable smaller creatures.  I have found them to be readily accepted by a wide variety of creatures, including aquatic frogs (African clawed, dwarf African clawed), newts (eastern, marbled, ribbed), aquatic salamanders (sirens, axolotls) and turtles (spotted, painted, snapping, musk, mud).

Tropical fish of all kinds also relish these shrimp, as do US natives such as Banded Sunfish and Tadpole Madtoms.  I have also fed them to other freshwater invertebrates, such as Bamboo Shrimp, African Filter-feeding Shrimp, Crayfish and Caddisfly Larvae.

I am excited by the possibilities offered by this product – perhaps the nutrition contained in them holds the key to maintaining delicate aquatic amphibians and other creatures that now fare poorly in captivity.


Product Review – Nutrafin Cycle

Nutrafin Cycle is used to help establish high populations of nitrifying bacteria (the species that convert ammonia to nitrites and nitrates) in aquariums.  At a recent seminar sponsored by Hagen, the manufacturer, I learned that the product has been modified in several important ways. 


Cycle contains 5 strains of bacteria, in correct proportion of lithotrophic to heterotrophic types, and these activate almost immediately upon exposure to salt or fresh water.  This ability results from a unique fermentation process that, by joining the bacteria into naturally occurring units, or “flocs”, prepares them for immediate action.  So Cycle effective is the process that fish can now be added to an aquarium on the day it is set up – the nitrogen cycle is in full swing that quickly!


Nitrifying bacteria are also necessary in amphibian aquariums, as aquatic species in particular absorb toxins over an even greater surface area than do fish, and so succumb to ammonia poisoning quickly.  Some years ago I learned that the country’s largest African Clawed Frog laboratory (breeders for research) was suggesting that the bacteria might even be useful in amphibian water bowls, as a safety measure.  While I have no direct evidence of such, I have had very good results using bacteria in this way.


The main drawback concerning water bowls is the fact that oxygen levels are low (nitrifying bacteria require a high oxygen environment) and the bacteria used in products other than Cycle take 3-4 days to activate.   Given Cycle’s immediate activation and the fact that the bacteria used have fairly low oxygen requirements, I am recommending the product’s use in amphibian water bowls (and aquariums). 


Even a single day’s delay in cleaning a water bowl can result in an amphibian’s death – in fact, such is a common occurrence among otherwise long-lived frogs that produce a large volume of waste, such a Horned and African Bullfrogs.  Cycle should prove a very effective form of insurance (not, of course, a replacement for water changes) and, happily enough, it is not possible to overdose the animal.


In amphibian aquariums, Cycle used on a weekly basis will also inhibit, via competition, undesirable species of bacteria.  Furthermore, the bacteria in Cycle utilize phosphates as a food source, thereby eliminating a nutrient required by algae and limiting its growth.


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