Can I keep mollies with shrimp?

You’ve just set up a beautiful aquarium, a lush underwater Eden. Your shrimp are happily exploring their new home, and you’re considering adding some mollies to the mix. You wonder, “Can these two aquatic species coexist peacefully?

The Answer is a Categorical No

Mollies and shrimp are like oil and water; they don’t mix. If you’re contemplating this combination, it’s time to rethink your aquarium strategy.

I’ve had my fair share of challenges in my 40 years of shrimp and fish keeping. One of those has been understanding the dynamics between different species in a tank. I’ve kept various types of mollies, like sailfin and balloon mollies, and let me tell you, they’re not the peace-loving fish you might think they are.

A beautiful male sailfin
A beautiful male sailfin

Male mollies can be downright aggressive, not just with each other but also with females. I’ve seen males harass females to the point of death.

Now, if mollies can be aggressive with their own kind, imagine what they could do to shrimp. I’ve never dared to keep the two together, but I’ve read horror stories of sailfin mollies wiping out entire tanks of cherry shrimp. It’s not a pretty picture.

So, if you’re thinking of mixing mollies with shrimp, let this be your cautionary tale. Stick around as we delve deeper into why this combination is a recipe for disaster.


What Makes Mollies Aggressive Toward Shrimp?

Mollies are naturally curious and territorial creatures. Their aggressive tendencies are not just a random act but rather an innate behavior deeply rooted in their biology.

Mollies have to fend for themselves in the wild, often competing for food and territory. This survival instinct doesn’t just switch off when they are in a controlled environment like an aquarium.

Male mollies, in particular, are notorious for their aggressive behavior, especially when it comes to establishing dominance. They will often nip at each other and even go as far as killing another male to assert their territory.

When you introduce shrimp into this equation, you’re essentially putting a defenseless creature in the line of fire. Shrimp are scavengers and lack the means to defend themselves against the aggressive advances of mollies.

The mollies see the shrimp as an easy target, something to nip at or even consume. This isn’t just a one-off event but a continuous cycle of harassment that can lead to the shrimp’s stress and eventual death.

Can Shrimp Defend Themselves Against Mollies?

The simple answer is no, shrimp are not equipped to defend themselves against mollies or most other fish with aggressive tendencies.

Shrimp are natural scavengers, designed to forage and explore rather than engage in combat. Their exoskeletons provide some level of protection, but it’s not enough to withstand the persistent nipping and chasing from a molly.

Unlike other aquatic creatures with defense mechanisms like spines or venom, shrimp have none of these assets.

A silver sailfin molly male
A silver sailfin molly male

Moreover, shrimp are stress-prone creatures. Continuous harassment from mollies can lead to elevated stress levels, making them more susceptible to disease and reducing their lifespan.

Stress in shrimp manifests in various ways, such as erratic swimming, hiding, or even molting issues. And let’s not forget, stress is a silent killer in the aquatic world.

It weakens the shrimp’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections they would otherwise fend off.

So, while it might seem like a good idea to hope that your shrimp can hold their own in a tank with mollies, the reality is far from it. The shrimp are outmatched in every way, and their inability to defend themselves makes them easy targets for mollies looking to assert their dominance.

A female Balloon Molly
A female Balloon Molly

Are There Any Alternatives to Keeping Mollies and Shrimp Together?

If you’re enamored with both mollies and shrimp but have come to the realization that they can’t cohabit peacefully, don’t lose heart.

Some alternatives allow you to enjoy both species, just not in the same tank. One option is to set up separate tanks, dedicating one to your mollies and another to your shrimp. This way, each species can thrive without the stress of potential conflict.

Another alternative is to consider different tank mates for your shrimp that are less aggressive and more compatible. Fish like neon tetrasOpens in a new tab., guppies, and certain types of rasboras are known to be more shrimp-friendly.

A very pretty male molly strutting his stuff
A very pretty male molly strutting his stuff

These fish are generally smaller and less aggressive, allowing your shrimp to go about their scavenging without the constant threat of harassment.

Lastly, if you’re an experienced aquarist, you could explore more advanced setups that involve heavily planted tanks or intricate landscapes that provide ample hiding spots for shrimp. But even then, the risk is always there.

The bottom line is, while there are alternatives to keeping mollies and shrimp together, each comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. Choose wisely, shrimpfam.

A male sailfin molly trying to impress a female
A male sailfin molly trying to impress a female

Conclusion: Mollies and Shrimp, A Risky Combination

In summary, mollies and shrimp are a match made in aquatic hell. The aggressive nature of mollies, especially the males, poses a significant risk to the vulnerable shrimp.

Separate tanks or more compatible tank mates are the safer routes to go. If you need any help navigating this tricky terrain, don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you can’t find me here, check out Aquarium Shrimp Keeping on Facebook.

Happy Shrimp Keeping, shrimpfam!

An A typical Black Molly
A typical Black Molly

FAQ Section

Q. Can mollies be with shrimp?

A. No, mollies and shrimp should not be kept together in the same tank due to the aggressive nature of mollies and the vulnerability of shrimp.

Q. Can mollies go with cherry shrimp?

A. Keeping mollies with cherry shrimp is not advisable. Mollies have been known to harass and even consume cherry shrimp, leading to stress and potential death for the shrimp.

Q. What fish can go with shrimp?

A. Fish that are generally considered safeOpens in a new tab. to keep with shrimp include neon tetras, guppies, and certain types of rasboras. These fish are less aggressive and are less likely to harass or harm shrimp.

Q. Do molly fish like brine shrimp?

A. Yes, mollies do enjoy eating brine shrimp. Brine shrimp can be a nutritious addition to a molly’s diet but should be offered in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

That wraps up our FAQ section, shrimpfam. Choose your tank mates wisely!


Mark has been passionate about aquariums for over 40 years.

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