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What is Shrimp Keeping?

A Brief History

The story goes that the “father” of our hobby, chef Hisayasu Suzuki (right), in 1991 discovered a strikingly red specimen among the thousands of duller-coloured dwarf shrimp he had been breeding in his home in Japan. While this original “bee” died, three similarly coloured shrimp appeared in his colony just a few generations later.

Suzuki had... an epiphany!

Could he isolate the trait through selective breeding? Could he refine the colours — enlarging the white patches, intensifying the red — over time? Through careful, patient effort, he realized he could!

Five years after his initial discovery, Suzuki had multiplied the lone Red Bee into thousands. In 1996, he named the shrimp the "Crystal Red” and was awarded a patent for this recessive red mutation he had guided into existence.

Inspired by Suzuki’s achievement, shrimp breeders, too, began to multiply around the world — a hobby had been born.

(Curious to see what a wild bee shrimp looks like? See our tribute poster to the Black Bee Shrimp here, under Did you know?)

So.. you mean keeping shrimp as pets is a thing?

Yes! We shrimp keepers breed and raise — in our homes — “ornamental” (don’t eat me!), fresh water (low sodium!), dwarf (about an inch, but we have strength in numbers) shrimp, as part of a growing community that spans the globe.

But, why?

... Because the shrimp are beautiful. And cute, no? (Check out the photos at the end of this article!)

... Because the hobby has a dynamic DNA, derived from the joy of discovery and transformation. New patterns and colours emerge all the time, as shrimp are skillfully bred and cross-bred over many generations to display specific traits, e.g., more intensified colour, thicker shells, or a specific pattern. A classic example of this is the Hinomaru pattern on the Red Bee Shrimp. Early Japanese breeders managed to breed their national flag on the back of these shrimps! Click on the video below to take a look:  



Hmm…, tell me more.

...We do this because the processes of both breeding and keeping are challenging, but, as a result, rewarding. The temperature of the water has to be just right; so, too, the chemistry. There is a delicate line between failure and success — death and life — and the significant investment of money (thousands of dollars!) and time raises the stakes even higher. These may seem like deterrents to some, but instead they are precisely what makes success for breeders and keepers so uniquely fulfilling.

...And we press on, because of a supportive, thriving community. Shrimp breeders communicate and collaborate across oceans to compare and combine desirable traits. The internet has greatly facilitated these efforts, expediting the evolution of the phenotypes such that shrimp now exhibit fascinating colours and astonishing patterns rarely seen in freshwater aquatic animals.

Online forums and social media groups also act as lively marketplaces, with rare or unique phenotypes being valued in the thousands of dollars. The buying, selling, and trading of these precious specimens add to the allure of the hobby for many. How much would you give for a beautiful jewel that walks and swims — and produces more jewels?


Above photos by Tony Kwan, Toronto, Canada.

Above photos by Sathish Kumar, Toronto, Canada.




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