The most basic and important element to shrimp-keeping is what kind of water you will be using for your tank.
You can use Tap, Distilled, Rain Water, and Reverse Osmosis water. Which water you choose or what mix of water you choose to use will drastically determine your outcome and success. This means the types of water that are available to you will affect your budget and time.
If you already have a Reverse Osmosis system implemented in your home then you are already ahead of the game. It is preferred to use RO water because it is a blank canvas on which we can control which elements to put into it and alter it to suit whichever shrimp we need. It is highly recommended to use RO water for higher end strains of shrimp as they are more sensitive to what is in the water. Another reason to use RO water would be to prolong the lifespan of the substrate. How this works, is that the lack of kH in RO water makes the substrate’s buffering agents not work as hard to buffer the pH to a desired level for shrimps. But because RO lacks of all minerals you have to add minerals back into it to make it suitable for shrimps. Micro and Macro minerals both should be present to be able to simulate nature as close as possible. That being said, It is very important to point out that it is very hard to cycle a tank properly with PURE RO water. Due to its lack of any elements, bacteria will not grow effectively causing the lack of a proper cycle. So minerals must be added right from the beginning of starting the tank. A RO system generally ranges from $150 – $400 a system. For shrimps we recommend a 4-5 stage w/o DI.
If you are using tap water then it is important to know whether your tap water is hard, or soft and to test your water to know what the parameters are. Then a dechlorinator is needed to take away the harmful chlorine and or chloramine in the water in order for bacteria and living organisms to survive. Ammonia and chlorine is highly toxic and can burn the gills of aquatic animals. Once you determine your parameters, pH, gH, kH, TDS, you would need to determine how to adjust them to desirable levels in order for your shrimp to survive, which can be time consuming. It is much easier to start with a blank canvas and add things to it then to take something like hard tap water and attempt to take elements away. We only recommend tap water for the hardier and less sensitive shrimp such as Yamatos, red noses, and the Neocaridina family. These shrimp are able to take fluctuations in water quality a lot better than the Crystal Shrimp Family can.
Bottled Distilled water is made from collecting water evaporation and turning it back into pure water, since only water can evaporate leaving all minerals and elements behind. Hence, it is just fancy reformed steam. It is just as good as RO for shrimp however in the long run more wasteful and expensive then having an RO unit installed into your home – which also can be used for us to drink as well as your aquarium hobby. In this is a feasible option if you have a nano tank (10 gallons or less) and are not planning to live in your home in the long run (planning to move out in 5 years or less).
Bottled Distilled water and Spring water (not distilled) are two different things. Spring water comes from springs of underground water and contains minerals and elements in them unlike distilled, which do not. You cannot control spring water as well due to the natural presence of minerals and may even have unwanted minerals and can contribute to high TDS in your tank. But it is good for us to drink! So please make sure you read the label of which bottle you are going to buy.
Rainwater is in fact ideal because it is the most naturally purified with little to no minerals and elements in it, and it’s FREE. It is just the matter of collecting it. Having some extra large garbage tubs in the backyard to collect rainwater is unsightly but works beautifully. Or installed a rain barrel to your eves trough of the house. You then need to purify any other unwanted things in this water by filtering it with carbon just incase the rain has come across contaminants on the way (roof, metals, etc.) Carbon can easily be found at any local fish store. Unfortunately we cannot control when it rains or how often it rains, so unless you have a huge storage space where you can horde your collected rainwater (especially in winter) then this can actually be the most difficult way to obtain water.
If you live somewhere cold, clean snow works too! Just the effort of collecting it is much more work then all the other methods spoken above, and the way to treat snow would be the same as rain water, filter it with carbon to get rid of pollutants.
Most shrimp keepers in order to be cost effective use all of these different kinds of water. They use less expensive tap water for the hardier Shrimp and fish and a mix of rainwater when available and RO water for their more fragile shrimp. It is very important to consider the water available to you and your budget even before thinking about the type of shrimp you want to keep.
How that you understand how important your water is to your tank and know what types of water you have access to – Your ready to make a shopping list!