SB 109.2: Shrimp Diseases - Treating With Hydrogen Peroxide


At least once in everyone’s shrimp keeping career, we are going to have to deal with some sort of disease, whether bacterial, parasitic, or fungal. The problem with many resources online is that they teach hobbyists to treat the symptoms of a disease instead of the cause of the disease. Yes, you can salt dip your shrimp to remove an organism like Scutariella japonica, but why is it a problem in the first place? Scutariella needs food to grow and breed. They eat debris and other microorganisms from the water and the surface of your shrimps. If you’re seeing a bunch of them on one or more shrimps, then bad water conditions are making excess food available for Scutariella. You can remove Scutariella with salt dips, but then you’ve just removed the indicator of a problem, not the real problem threatening your shrimp. Nearly every common dwarf shrimp (neocaridina and caridina) disease is caused by poor water quality, whether that’s excess nutrients, low oxygen levels, or an incomplete ecosystem. Poor conditions encourage the proliferation of harmful bacteria and microorganisms and even turn normally harmless microorganisms into aggressive vectors of disease. For example, rust disease – a condition where the shell gets eaten away – is caused by a normally harmless bacteria that can overpopulate in tanks with bad water quality and start producing compounds that eat away at the chitin in shrimp shells. In addition, your shrimp experience stress that lowers their immune function, so they have trouble fighting off these diseases. This combination of higher microorganism load and lowered immune function acts as a one-two punch, potentially knocking out your shrimp colony entirely if not solved. So, how do we deal with this as responsible shrimp keepers? Well, the best way is to understand how to create and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Once you have an unhealthy ecosystem though, the next best thing is to treat your tank with hydrogen peroxide.

You and your shrimp deserve the best and Shrimply ExplainedTM is here to provide that.  This lesson is part of our Shrimp Basics (SB) Series, which covers important information needed to raise healthy and happy shrimp.    Check out SB101: Are Shrimp Right for You? if you want to start from the beginning.

Please reach out to us via social media or email for any help with your tank, feedback on our content, or just to talk about shrimp!  


Rick and Shrimply

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How Hydrogen Peroxide Works

One of the best ways to improve water quality and kill off unwanted microorganisms is by adding the correct dosage of hydrogen peroxide to a tank. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a very unstable chemical that reacts with many different compounds to destroy cell walls. It’s actually made by some immune cells in our bodies to kill harmful bacteria. Hydrogen peroxide accomplishes this by breaking down into water (H2O) and an extremely reactive hydroxyl (OH•) group that alters the shape of compounds to destroy their structure. This is why it burns and bubbles when we put hydrogen peroxide on an open wound.

Treatments often can stress the patient, but with the goal of inflicting much greater harm to the target disease. Larger animals, like humans or shrimp, can be harmed by hydrogen peroxide but smaller, more exposed cells of microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi are extremely vulnerable. This is why, when dosed correctly, hydrogen peroxide is very effective for purifying the water. It likely causes minor stress to your shrimp but breaks down into water and oxygen after an hour or two in your tank, which increases dissolved oxygen and is very good for your shrimp and your ecosystem as a whole.

Hydrogen peroxide is still only a temporary band-aid for whatever disease you are fighting though, since the ultimate cause of the poor water quality still needs to be dealt with. For example, are you overfeeding? Is the filter clogged? Is fertilizer building up in the water? If you want to learn more about water quality, causes of bad water quality, and how to improve it, then check out this article.

Here's how you dose hydrogen peroxide correctly:

Hydrogen Peroxide Dosing In Shrimp Tanks

Credit: Mark’s Shrimp Tank

  1. Calculate the tank’s water volume by measuring the length and width of the tank, along with the height of the water from the top of the substrate to the waterline. Multiply those three measurements together to get the water volume, then convert to gallons or liters.
  2. Multiply the water volume by 0.6-0.9 (depending on amount of décor) to get a conservative estimate, considering additional volume may be displaced by décor and plants.
  3. Turn off filtration and lights.
  4. Measure out 1.5mL of 3% hydrogen peroxide per 4.5L (1g) of water volume.
  5. Add the measured hydrogen peroxide to a cup of tank water to dilute it, then pour it into the tank. Try to pour it all over the tank instead of in just one spot to disperse it better.
  6. Briefly mix the tank water with a net or a spoon. Try to avoid kicking up too much debris.
  7. Wait 1 hour. (Setting a timer may help here)
  8. Turn the filter and lights back on.

Again, this treatment is not a cure-all for water quality issues. You will still need to figure out what caused the problem to prevent future issues. For bad cases of infection on individual shrimp, a salt dip or quarantine tank may also be recommended. Be sure to do your research on specific diseases to fully understand the risks and treatment options.

Thanks for taking the time to learn how to care for your shrimp. If you are dealing with disease right now, don't give up hope! Nearly all shrimp diseases are treatable. Please reach out if you have any questions.

Best of luck,

Rick and Shrimply


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