How To Easily Build A 1 Gallon Shrimp Tank! (Beginner-Friendly)

Shrimp keeping is more popular than ever and a simple 1 gallon shrimp tank is a great way to get into the hobby without spending much money.

This method is also easy to set up with the tank being low-maintenance keeping things as simple as possible.

Choosing The Right Tank Or Jar

My 1 Gallon Shrink Tank Jar

There are some 1-gallon aquariums on the market but they tend to be expensive so most people opt to use a 1-gallon jar for their new shrimp tank.

People’s attitude toward shrimp jars has changed over the last couple of years as people realize thriving shrimp colonies can easily be kept in a jar when set up correctly.

Cookie jars or large, old pickle jars work well but make sure your jar is clean. if you have recently washed your jar, check for any soap residue and remove it before moving on to the setup stage.

Most of these jars will be 1 to 2 gallons in volume making them perfect for a small shrimp tank. My jar is 1.7 gallons (6.5 liters) but the general concept is the same for all jars within this volume range.

You can technically use this method with jars under 1 gallon but I don’t recommend it. Water parameters become difficult to maintain in smaller jars putting your shrimp at risk.

Choosing The Right Accessories

Shrimp Tank Accessories
Shrimp Tank Accessories

1-gallon shrimp tanks and shrimp jars are highly customizable and the requirements of your jar will change depending on what you are doing.

Heres a quick breakdown of popular accessories and decorations:

  • Filter – Optional
  • Heater – Optional
  • Lighting – $10 USB light.
  • Substrate – Dirt capped with sand or gravel.
  • Driftwood – Optional
  • Rocks – Optional

This tank will use the Walstad method which uses live plants for filtration. The plants maintain safe and stable water parameters for your shrimp while providing grazing areas for feeding removing the need for a filter.

The Walstad method uses cheap topsoil capped with sand or gravel as substrate helping to lower costs further. This method is very beginner-friendly making it perfect for your new shrimp jar.

Heaters are also optional when keeping Neocaridina shrimp as their temperature tolerance is well within the ambient temperature ranges of the average home.

This removes the need for a heater and lets you keep your shrimp jar on a table in your home without issue. Other species of shrimp may require a heater but I highly recommend keeping Neocaridina shrimp but more on that later.

Lights are technically optional but I highly recommend one as it helps your plants thrive. I ran my old 1-gallon shrimp tank on a cheap USB light that cost $10 but I will use a cheap Hygger light for this setup.

Adding Substrate

Adding Dirt To The Shrimp Jar
Adding Dirt To The Shrimp Jar

Seiving your soil helps to remove any rocks, wood, or other objects that may take up space in your new shrimp tank.

This step is optional but recommended as debris doesn’t provide any nutrients to your plants yet takes up space soil could use. Even a small amount of debris in a 1-gallon tank can take up a surprisingly large amount of space.

Adding a 1-inch layer of topsoil offers plenty of nutrition for your plants while offering plenty of space for everything else we need to add.

Soil is extremely nutrient-dense and will cause problems if it can leak into your water column so we have to use a capping layer to keep our shrimp safe.

Sand or gravel are the most common capping options for this type of aquarium. I have used both but gravel tends to be easier to use and cheaper in my area.

Adding A Capping Layer
Adding A Capping Layer

Add a one-inch layer of sand or gravel to cap your soil. The capping layer should cover all areas of the soil to prevent excess nutrients from leaking into your tank’s water column.

Some people like to add a slightly thicker capping layer but in my experience, one-inch is perfect, especially in a small container like a 1-gallon shrimp tank.

Adding Water

Adding Water To The Shrimp Jar
Adding Water To The Shrimp Jar

Adding a small amount of water helps remove any trapped air from your substrate layer and prevents potential issues later in the process.

Take care when adding your water as you don’t want to disturb the capping layer of substrate. Folding a paper towel and placing it on your capping layer can be enough to prevent the substrate layer from being disturbed when adding water.

I usually add water until the surface is around one inch higher than the substrate. You will usually see air bubbles escaping from the substrate letting you know the air is escaping.

These air bubbles are normal and nothing to worry about so just let the jar sit until the air bubbles stop. It usually takes less than an hour when using a 1-inch layer of each substrate.

It’s usually easier to add plants to wet substrates too so this simple step helps make the planting stage easier.

Planning Your Aquascape

Planning Your Aquascape
Planning Your Aquascape

Aquascaping your 1 gallon shrimp jar is optional but it doesn’t take long and spending a few minutes planning the layout of your tank can drastically improve its final look.

As you can see in my photograph at the start of this section, I have added a rock and a stainless steel grid to my jar to play around with different placements.

You can add driftwood, more rock, aquarium decorations, or any other aquarium-safe item you like. Avoid anything that contains copper as it can cause potentially fatal problems with your shrimp.

Some people skip this step and go for the natural, jungle-style look. This option leaves your plants to grow out in random directions and can look good in certain setups.

If you want to aquascape your shrimp tank, play with a couple of different layouts until you find one you like.

Choosing The Right Plants

Plants For A Shrimp Jar
Plants For A Shrimp Jar

Choosing the right plants for a Walstad shrimp tank is far more important than most people initially realize.

Your plants act as your tank filter and naturally purify your water helping to keep your shrimp safe. Some plants are better at this than others with fast-growing stem plants and floating plants being my favorites.

You can add other plants to your shrimp jar but they should be secondary additions rather than your primary filters.

Here are my favorite stem plants for this type of shrimp tank:

  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Pealweed

I have used all four of these in my Walstad setups and they all perform well. For this shrimp tank, I will be using Rotala Rotundifolia as I have plenty of it in my other tanks and can use the trimmings to keep costs low.

Here are my favorite floating plants for this type of shrimp tank:

  • Savinia
  • Red Root Floaters
  • Duckweed

I have kept all three of these in my tanks but I recommend salvinia or red root floaters over duckweed if possible. I will use salvinia for this shrimp tank as I can easily move some over from my current tanks to keep costs low.

My article on the best plants for shrimp tanks goes into far more detail on suitable plants and offers a couple of other options.

Adding Your Plants

Adding Plants To The Shrimp Tank
Adding Plants To The Shrimp Tank

It’s easier to add plants to smaller tanks with a set of cheap aquascaping tweezers. Mine cost around $10 on Amazon and they work perfectly but you can use your fingers if needed.

We only add stem plants at this stage so place the base of the stem into your aquascaping tweezers and push it deep into your substrate.

Aquascaping tweezers make this step quick and easy while reducing the risk of pulling any topsoil into the capping layer of the substrate.

If you are planting your stem plants with your fingers then take extra care to avoid mixing your substrate layers. Push your stem plants into the capping layer rather than topsoil when using your fingers to reduce risk with your topsoil.

Over time, the plants will sprout roots that will make their way down to the nutrients in the topsoil. Both methods work but some cheap aquascaping tweezers make this step far easier.

Making Your Moss Mat

Making A Moss Mat
Making A Moss Mat

Moss mats are optional but worth the time and effort as shrimp love having moss in their tanks. It provides grazing areas for feeding and hiding spots for baby shrimp keeping them calm and relaxed.

You can buy packs of stainless steel grids on Amazon for a few dollars. Hold some moss against the grid and then wrap thread around it to hold the moss in place.

Over the coming months, the moss will grow in and hide the grid providing your shrimp with a practical feature in their tank that looks great.

You can add moss to rocks or driftwood if you don’t have stainless steel grids. Just get some moss into the tank as it offers plenty of benefits to your shrimp with no downside.

Here are my favorite types of moss to use in shrimp tanks:

  • Christmas Moss
  • Java Moss
  • Taiwan Moss

Other types of moss can work well but those are the core three that tend to be cheap and easy to find.

Java moss gets most of the attention in the hobby but I prefer the look of Christmas moss. Some sites say it’s more difficult to keep than Java moss or Taiwan moss but I have never had issues with it in my tanks.

The Moss Mat In The Tank
The Moss Mat In The Tank

You can see the moss mat in my shrimp jar in my photograph above. I know it doesn’t look like much at this stage but within three months, that moss will cover the front area of the shrimp jar.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance 1-gallon shrimp jar then I consider moss essential. Algae and biofilm will passively grow on the moss that your shrimp will eat helping to reduce the amount of food your shrimp require.

Adding Your Accessories

Adding Accessories To The Shrimp Tank
Adding Accessories To The Shrimp Tank

It’s better to add your accessories at this stage while the water levels are still low. As I mentioned earlier in the article, many accessories are optional for shrimp jars so you may only have a light to add at this stage.

Depending on the clip or arm mechanism on your light, it may be a little challenging to mount it to your jar but with a little creative thinking, you should be able to make things work.

1 Gallon Shrimp Tank Light
The Light On My Shrimp Tank

My photograph above shows how I had to mount the light to this shrimp jar. As you can see, the lip of the jar is too wide for the bracket to attach correctly so I had to rest the light across the top of the jar.

It may look a little strange but it does the job. The plants need light to thrive and filter your water so ensure the light is safely in place.

I chose to add a heater to the jar during the initial build but this is optional and I may remove the heater in the future.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, there’s no need to add a filter to this type of shrimp tank as the plants will naturally filter the water and keep the shrimp safe.

Fill The Jar With Water

Fill The Jar With Water
Fill The Jar With Water

Now that the initial setup of the jar is complete, it’s time to top it up with water. Avoid disturbing the substrate layers when adding the water as exposed topsoil can cause problems.

I gently poured my water onto the rock in the tank so the rock took the initial force of the water but you can add folded paper towels if needed.

Tap water can contain chlorine, chloramines, and various heavy metals that may cause problems with your shrimp. I recommend dosing your tank with a tap water conditioner at this stage to neutralize these risks.

Tap Water Conditioners
Tap Water Conditioners

I have used API Tap Water Conditioner and Seachem Prime (you only need one) for this, both work well but there are plenty of products on the market that can make your tap water safe.

Seachem Prime usually costs more as it will neutralize ammonia rendering it safe for fish and shrimp but we won’t be adding any shrimp to the tank for at least a month so this feature is useless to us. Go with the cheapest option in your area that has a good reputation.

Shrimp Salt
Shrimp Salt

If you have soft water adding a shrimp salt product helps increase GH and KH keeping your tank safe for shrimp.

This step is usually not required if you have hard water with a suitable GH and KH level!

Beginners often overlook this crucial step but maintaining a suitable GH is essential. If your GH is too low then the carapace of your shrimp will be too elastic, if it’s too high then their carapace will be too tough causing molt issues.

There are various shrimp salt products on the market, get one designed for the specific type of shrimp you plan to keep.

I will keep Neocaridina shrimp in this tank so I use a shrimp salt for Neocaridina that increases GH and KH. Sulawesi and most Caridina shrimp need their own shrimp salt products designed for the needs of each species.

Now that we have water in our 1-gallon shrimp tank it’s time to add the floating plants. Place them on the water surface and leave them to do their thing.

Let The Jar Age In

Let The Jar Age In
Let The Jar Age In

If this is your first shrimp tank then you will be eager to add your shrimp but this is a mistake and it’s likely your shrimp will die if you add them right away.

I recommend beginners who don’t have a water parameter test kit leave their shrimp jar to cycle for 6-8 weeks before adding their shrimp.

This will let the relevant bacteria colonies grow to help deal with ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate to keep your tank safe for your shrimp.

I know that I said your live plants will act as your tank’s natural filter but they primarily feed on ammonium and nitrate. You need bacteria colonies to form to convert any leftover ammonia and the majority of your nitrite into things your plants will feed on.

This wait time also lets algae and biofilm develop in your tank providing your shrimp with an instant food source.

Water Test Kits
Water Test Kits

If you have a liquid test kit, I recommend you check your pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, GH, and KH levels before you add your shrimp to your tank.

The cheaper paper test strips are far less accurate than the liquid test kits and give false positives for their readings.

Don’t be lured into buying the paper test strips due to their lower price, if you plan to invest in a test kit, always get the liquid version.

Dr Tims Ammonia Solution
Dr Tims Ammonia Solution

Some people like to use products like Dr Tim’s Ammonia Solution at this stage as it simulates an ammonia bioload to help your bacteria colonies grow.

I consider this an essential step for fishkeeping but it’s optional for shrimp, especially with a Walstad tank setup.

The soil will leak some ammonia into your water column to help cycle the tank and the live plants help to manage any potential spikes.

Shrimp have a very small bioload compared to fish so you don’t need large bacteria colonies in the tank, especially with fast-growing stem and floating plants.

If you want peace of mind, you can add Dr Tim’s to your 1-gallon shrimp tank but it is optional.

Adding Your Shrimp

Adding Your Shrimp
Adding Your Shrimp

Once your shrimp tank’s water parameters are suitable, it’s time to add your shrimp to your new shrimp tank.

This type of shrimp tank setup can safely hold 5-10 neocaridina shrimp. I usually aim for the lower ranges to leave room for any baby shrimp that appear over the coming months.

If you are new to shrimp keeping, I highly recommend you start with neocaridina shrimp. Not only are they cheap, easy to find in stores, and easy to keep but they also come in a wide range of colors.

My article on different types of neocaridina goes into this in more detail but my graphic below shows some of the more popular colors.

Types Of Neocaridina
Types Of Neocaridina

Although all of those shrimp are neocaridina, in my experience, some colors are far easier to keep than others.

The regular red cherry shrimp seem to be the hardiest option and they are usually the cheapest making them perfect for beginners.

My yellow neocaridina shrimp colony has been very easy to keep too so that’s another color that I would consider beginner friendly.

I have tried setting up orange neocaridina shrimp colonies three times and consistently have issues so I would not recommend them for beginners.


Taking some time to acclimatize your shrimp to your water parameters is well worth it as it is unlikely that the shrimp breeder has the same water parameters as you.

This is easier to do than most people think and here’s the method I recommend.

Place your shrimp into a container with the water they came in. A simple drinking glass can be used if needed provided it is clean.

Slowly add water from your shrimp tank to the container with your shrimp in to match the pH, GH, and KH of the two water sources.

There’s a few ways to do this with drip tubes being the most common but they are inconsistent so I tend to use a pipet.

Fill a pipet with water from your shrimp tank and squirt it into the container with your shrimp in. Repete this every 10-30 minutes for 12-24 hours to get your shrimp used to the water in your shrimp tank.

If you don’t have pipets handy you can use a large tablespoon to move the water between the containers.

Some people add the shrimp with the water they are currently in to their tank but I like to pour the water through a net to catch the shrimp and then add the shrimp to my tank.

This removes any potential risks in the breeder’s water without adding any risk to your shrimp.

It’s normal for most species of shrimp to swim around their tank for 6-48 hours until they get used to their new water parameters. Your shrimp should calm down within a week and focus on feeding.

On Going Maintenance

Shrimp On The Moss Mat
Shrimp On The Moss Mat

This type of 1-gallon shrimp tank is low maintenance but still requires some upkeep.

As you can see in my photograph, shrimp will feed on the algae and biofilm on their moss mat but I still like to feed them. I add a small amount of fish food three times per week.

Water top-ups are required as water will evaporate from your shrimp tank. I recommend using decorators and shrimp salts in the new water you add to your tank during the water change process.

If you don’t have a GH test kit a 10-20% partial water change every other month can be worth the effort too. This will help remove excess minerals that may cause your shrimp’s carapace to become too tough to molt.

You can use a GH test kit to check that your water is within expected ranges to avoid this step though.

Removing excess plant growth is also important and I usually remove two fish fulls of the salvinia floating plant from my shrimp tank each week. My Rotala Rotundifolia usually needs trimming once or twice per month too.

Neocaridina shrimp are very easy to breed and it’s likely you will end up with baby shrimp in your tank. Some people like to start other shrimp tanks for their baby shrimp to prevent overpopulation issues but the upper population of most species of shrimp will be dictated by the available food in your tank.

For example, female Neocaridina shrimp won’t produce eggs in an environment with minimal food or a lack of protein reducing the chances of overpopulation in such a small jar.

Keep this in mind when feeding your shrimp though as it is very easy to overfeed your shrimp and trigger their breeding. I usually add one Bug Bites Bottom Feeder pellet to my shrimp jar three times per week but any more than this may be enough to trigger breeding in the shrimp.

Other than that, you are good to go and your shrimp jar is ready to enjoy.