Shrimps in Schools
Introduction to the Project

Shrimps in Schools forms the second step in our Creatures in the Classroom project.

Freshwater shrimps (Gammarus pulex) are found in the slower moving ‘backwaters’ of the River Wandle. You may be familiar with their darting movements through the water.


These small shrimps (around 5-10 mm long) live in and on rotting leaves and living plants. They will eat this material.

If living conditions are good with a plentiful supply of dead leaves then the shrimps will breed. The female shrimps will carry their young as they swim along.

Please note that these freshwater shrimps are not shrimps at all – but they are very closely related!

Resources supplied by the Wandle Trust

The Trust will supply:

  • A simple teacher’s handbook detailing the tank set up and ideas on how the shrimps might be incorporated in to the Key Stage 1 curriculum
  • Fish tank with hood
  • Air pump, plastic tubing and air stone – shrimps like lots of oxygen going through the water
  • Water collected from the River Wandle
  • Gravel and stones collected from the River Wandle
  • Freshwater shrimps collected from the River Wandle
  • A small net
  • On-going help and advice

The Shrimps in Schools project can be set up at any time of the year although it is best to be set up at the very beginning of the Spring term when the shrimps will be more active and may start to breed.

It is suggested that the tank be set up about a week before the shrimps are introduced. This will allow time for the tank set up to be checked, the river water to ‘settle’ and micro-organisms (too small to see!) to start to work in the tank.

The Trust also offers:

  • FREE introductory presentation to classes – with images, music and video or an interactive session using our large interpretation board (that focuses on matching river animals and plants with habitats).

You may chose to the release the shrimps to the River Wandle at a convenient time – say at the end of term. The Trust would be happy to help organise this event (advise on a suitable site which is safe and accessible to young children) but will not be responsible for transporting children to and from the release site.

Resources NOT supplied by the Wandle Trust

  • A bucket to fill with rotting leaves should be left outside and best away from the children in a safe place – this is the main food source for the shrimps. The bucket can be filled with tap water.
  • Leaves collected from nearby trees – the older the leaves the better! The leaves should be cut in to small squares (about one centimetre by one centimetre) to help with the rotting process. The children could help with this task.
  • A tank stand – a firm table, desk or bench will be required to hold a weight of water!
  • A source of electricity and an adequate extension cable to get from the wall socket to the tank. Ideally a four socket extension
  • The old decayed leaves will carefully need removing once a week before a new handful of leaves from the bucket can be added to the tank. Rubber gloves should be worn for this task, which should also be done by an adult
  • If you choose to ‘release’ the shrimps back to the River Wandle, transport to and from the release site for the children will need to be organised. Extra adult supervision may also need to be supplied.

Expertise and Commitment

If you can cope with a pet goldfish then the shrimps should not be a problem. A handful of chopped rotting leaves should be placed in to the tank once or twice a week, so you may need to talk to the caretaker if you wish to accommodate the shrimps during school holidays. (Please agree this before embarking on keeping the shrimps over the holiday period!) The old leaves at the bottom of the tank will need to be removed (slowly and carefully) once a week before new leaves enter the tank.

Freshwater ShrimpYou may need to clean the fish tank as it can turn green – we will advise you how to do this and notes will be provided in the teacher’s handbook. A simple clean cloth will do this adequately. No detergents, soaps or chemicals are required.

You may have to top up the tank with tap water now and again to maintain the water level – if you can take about a quarter of the water out from the tank and topping it up with tap water once a week that would be ideal but this is not essential.


The cost of the hire of the tank and accessories is UK £20.00. There is also a returnable deposit of UK £20.00 which will need to be paid upfront to ‘The Wandle Trust’ before the programme begins. This deposit will be returned to your school on completion of the project.

More Information

If you have any further questions then do email

If you would like your school to take part in the Shrimps in Schools project then email Please indicate in your email:

  1. The easiest way to get back in touch with you – telephone number (call or text?) or email?
  2. An indication of when you would like to set up the project – a 4 week run in will be fine.

We will get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks.

Useful background websites about Freshwater shrimps:

Richard Torrens Aquatic Life

Pond Life