Freshwater Crabs – 15 Great Selections (With Pictures)

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When most people think crabs, they’re thinking of crab at a crab shack or the massive Alaskan King Crab you can see on the Nature Channel. And while yes, they are really yummy, who has a tank large enough to keep King Crab other than an upscale restaurant. And why would you even want to!

In this article I’m talking about freshwater crab, crabs that are thousands of times smaller than any salt water crab you’ve seen, or eaten. And while some people in various parts of the world do actually eat these freshwater crabs as well, more and more they’re finding their way into the aquarium hobby trade.

And for good reason! Keeping freshwater crab is a really fun way to keep something entirely different than the normal fish in most tanks. And just because they’re called fish tanks doesn’t mean we can’t keep a few cooler things in them like these amazing crustaceans.

Key Takeaways

  • Most freshwater crab are two inches or less fully grown
  • Many species are easy to keep and even breed
  • There is a huge variety of colors and sizes with almost 2000 species

Top 15 Freshwater Crabs

Let’s start off our list with a video from our YouTube channel. We will break down both aquatic and territerisal crabs that you can keep in an aquarium. We will include important states like tank size, scientific name, average size, and lifespan for each crab species. If you enjoy our content, be sure to subscribe as we have new videos that we release each week. Let’s get started!

1. Vampire (Geosesarma dennerle)

Vampire Crab On Rock
  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Origin: Indonesian island of Java
  • Scientific Name: Geosesarma dennerle
  • Common Name: Vampire Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years in captivity
  • Tank Size: 10-gallons
  • Temperature: 75-82 °F (24-28 °C)
  • Tank pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Tank kH: 10-25 dKH

The vampire crab is a semi terrestrial species meaning your tank will need to include a dry spot for them to roam and forage on since these type of crab can actually drown if they don’t have a dry area. A 2/3 land to 1/3 water is a good ratio and they only require freshwater. Sand or fine non-sharp pebbles makes the best substrate with a few mossy areas for them to poke around in.

Their carapace (shell width) is only about an inch wide and with their legs they rarely grow to to two inches fully grown. These beautiful crabs boast striking coloration that includes deep reds, purples and blues and are a recent addition to the aquarium trade. Most of the 50 plus species also have bright yellow eyes and paired with their coloration so it’s easy to see why they’re called vampire crabs.

But don’t let their name fool you, vampire crabs are a delight to keep and form social groups if you include a few of them, although they are not very active. A 10 gallon tank is adequate for 5 to 6 of them and they’re opportunistic feeders, so they’ll eat about anything including any plants you have.

For a different colored variation of the Vampire crab, check out the closely related bright orange Red devil crab (Geosesarma Hagen).

2. Thai Micro (Limnopilos naiyanetri)

Thai Micro Crabs
  • Family: Hymenosomatidae
  • Origin: Thailand – only one river is known to have these, Tha Chin River
  • Scientific Name: Limnopilos naiyanetri
  • Common Name: Thai Micro Crab, Limnopilos naiyanetri, Pill-box crab, False Spider crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: About 1 centimeter (0.4 inches)
  • Lifespan Captivity: Up to 2 years
  • Tank Size: 5-gallon tank or larger
  • Temperature: 75-82 °F (24-28 °C)
  • Tank pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Tank kH: 3-8 dKH

Thai Micro crabs is just that, Micro! These tiny crab only get up to a half inch wide and have a subdued transparent grey-silver color and long ‘spider’ like legs giving them the nickname False Spider Crabs.

Thai Micro Crabs live in the roots of the water plant hyacinth so try to replicate this environment as much as possible. Unlike most crab species, you want a lot of plants in your tank as they like to hide and rummage through the plants looking for bits of food and won’t dig them up or cause major damage to them.

These micro crabs are better left in a single community tank as these tiny crabs are so small almost anything else you would keep with them would end up eating them! They’re pretty defenseless and they mostly like to just leisurely hang around on driftwood and plants catching small food particles with the tiny hairs that cover their carapace and legs.

3. Red Claw (Perisesarma bidens)

Red Claw Crab
  • Family: Grapsidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region
  • Scientific Name: Perisesarma bidens
  • Common Name: Red Claw Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) carapace width, 4 inches (about 10 cm) overall
  • Lifespan: Up to 2-3 years
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or 20 gallons for a pair
  • Temperature: 75-85 °F (24-29 °C)
  • Tank pH: 7.5 to 8.5
  • Tank kH: 3-8 dKH

The first thing to know about these crabs is they are brackish water crabs and not freshwater crabs. Left with only freshwater, they’ll die in less than 6 months since they have gills that are accustomed to breathing in brackish water, so pay attention to your water quality if you want a healthy red claw crab!

Their defining feature is their brightly colored red claws, hence their name. The Red Claw Crab has two protruding black eyes positioned at the front of its head and range in color from dark green to brownish-red.

They will do well in a properly aquascaped paludarium with at least 70% brackish water and 30% land area. Sand is the best substrate as these crabs love to dig and burrow and are adept to sandy conditions. Hardscaping is important in order to give red claws a place to hide and molt. Driftwood and rocks are best as they can’t readily destroy them as they can your plants.

4. Panther (Parathelphusa pantherina)

  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific island of Sulawesi
  • Scientific Name: Parathelphusa pantherina
  • Common Name: Panther Crab, Leopard Crabs
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 2-3 inches (5-8 cm)
  • Lifespan Captivity: 5 to 10
  • Tank Size: Minimum 10 gallons
  • Temperature: 75-85 °F (24-29 °C)
  • Tank pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Tank kH: 3-8 dKH

Panther Crabs are freshwater aquarium crabs that get their name from their unique black spotting on their light yellow and orange bodies. These fully aquatic crab can grow up to three inches and are easy crabs to take care of, but are semi-aggressive and may not do well with other tank mates.

In fact, it’s best to keep just one crab in a 20 gallon tank or larger. Line your tank with sand and give your crab plenty of rocks, driftwood and other hardscapes so there are plenty of place for one to search and hide when it needs to. But be weary of plants as Panther’s will dig them up and eat them.

Like most crabs, they are omnivores and appreciate a variety of foods like larvae, small shrimp and even decaying plant matter or blanched vegetables. They primarily feed and roam at night scavenging for food and eating anything they can grab. Lancetfish and unshelled shrimp are particularly great foods as they contain a lot of the calcium needed for Panther crabs to molt successfully.

5. Pom Pom (Ptychognathus barbatus)

  • Family: Pinnotheridae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region
  • Scientific Name: Lybia tessellata
  • Common Name: Pom Pom Crab
  • Diet: Carnivorous
  • Size: About 1 inch (2.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 1 year
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 72-78 °F (22-26 °C)
  • Tank pH: 7.0 – 7.2
  • Tank kH: 2-6 dKH

The Pom Pom crab (video source) is a newer addition to the hobby and gets it’s name from the hairy tufts on its pincers that really do resemble little pom poms. These freshwater pom crabs are small and rarely get larger than an inch. They have a lightish tan or brown body with speckles or patches of darker browns with some oranges mixed in.

Pom crabs are very peaceful and are true aquatic freshwater aquarium crabs and can easily live in a community fish tank with similarly sized fish or small non-aggressive fish that won’t eat them. Be sure to use sand as a substrate with plenty of small stones and some driftwood for them to hide in and search for food.

The freshwater pom is an active scavenger and will eat almost anything including algae and detritus in your tank. They should be fed a varied diet that leans more towards plant materials like leafy greens as well as some protein like bloodworms and brine shrimp.

And be sure to keep a lid on any tank you have these in as they’re expert climbers and can make their way out of even the smallest holes. Sadly the pom pom crab has one of the shortest lifespans of any of the crabs on our list, lasting no more than a year in captivity.

6. Towuti (Parathelphusa ferruginea)

  • Family: Parathelphusidae
  • Origin: Lake Towuti, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia
  • Scientific Name: Sundathelphusa towutensis
  • Common Name: Towuti Crab, Rusty Brown Sulawesi Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous – prefer live food
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Unknown, but estimated to be 2-3 years in captivity
  • Tank Size: 5 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 75-82 °F (24-28 °C)
  • Tank pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Tank kH: 8-12 dKH

Towuti crabs are small 2 inch (5 cm) crabs that hail from one island in Indonesia, Sulawesi, and live in lakes and tributaries making them true fully aquatic species fit for any aquarium. Just make sure it has a lid as they’re active even in the day and expert escape artists.

The Towuti are aggressive and highly skilled hunters, so no community tanks for these guys. They will eat small fish, shrimp and anything they can get their claws on. They prefer live fish and shrimp over plant material, but adding fall leaves (dying or dead organic matter) or algae wafers gives them a feeling of home and the extra plant material these omnivores need.

7. Red Devil (Geosesarma hagen)

  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Scientific Name: Geosesarma hagen
  • Common Name: Red Devil Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in carapace width
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Tank Size: At least 5 gallons for a pair or trio, with plenty of hiding places and climbing structures.
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-26°C)
  • Tank pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Tank kH: 2-5 dKH

The Red Devil Crab (video source) has to be the meanest looking crab out of all of them. I mean, it just looks like a devil with its dark legs, bright red body and pincers and piercing yellow eyes starring at you. It’s definitely colorful.

They’re semi-terrestrial and do best in freshwater paludariums and share the same home as the Geosesarma Dennerle (Vampire crabs) in Indonesia. And although they may look really mean, they actually are not aggressive and like having the company of a few of their own species.

These smaller crabs measure around 2-3 inches (5 – 7 cm) full grown and only live to about a year and a half. They are nocturnal and like to hide from light in the day time under rocks, wood and vegetation. And they’re really skillful hunters.

Red Devils enjoy hunting live foods like small slow fish, brine shrimp and anything it can get it’s claws on, but still need some detritus and dying plant matter as they’re omnivores.

8. Thai Devil (Cardisoma carnifex)

  • Family: Cardisomidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region
  • Scientific Name: Cardisoma carnifex
  • Common Name: Thai Devil Crab, Black Land Crab, Giant Land Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: Up to 18 cm (7 inches) carapace width
  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years
  • Tank Size: Not suitable for aquariums
  • Temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C)

The Thai Red Devil crab (video source), not to be confused with the Red Devil Crab (Geosesarma hagen), is one of the largest terrestrial crabs growing up to 6 – 8 inches (about 15 – 20 cm) including its legs and is definitely not for the inexperienced hobbyist.

Not the most colorful crab with its maroon to brownish-grey or greyish-blue body and legs, Thai Devil Crabs do live up to 8 years although most of the time will be spent in their deep burrows, some of which can be as deep as seven feet.

Due to the way a Thai Devil Crab breathes, they need a lot of humidity as their lungs pull oxen from the water vapor, not the air. They are also aggressive and like to live on their own so you’ll need to keep them in a single species tank.

9. Matano (Syntripsa Matannensis)

  • Family: Gecarcinucidae
  • Origin: Lake Matano, Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Scientific Name: Geosesarma notophorum
  • Common Name: Matano Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 72-82 °F (22-28 °C)
  • Tank pH: 6.5-7.5

Matano Crabs (video source) are aquatic creatures that can also come onto dry land if available. They’re a beautiful deep purple color including their purple carapace and have white pigmented joints.

The Matano crab is aggressive with same species crabs and it’s best not to keep more than one male in a tank. Male crabs will definitely fight, sometimes to the death.

These nocturnal crabs grow to between 3 – 5 inches (7 – 12 cm) and live around 3 years in captivity. Due to their larger size it’s best to keep a male and one or two females in a 20 gallon tank or larger. They’ll also eat slow swimming fish so don’t keep them in a community set up.

They actually come from the same lake in Indonesia as the Panther crab (parathelpusaa pantherina), although you shouldn’t keep them in the same tank. Like Panthers, a sand substrate is best with some gravel plus nooks and crannies to keep them occupied.

Matano Crabs are omnivorous scavengers and will eat practically anything but like many freshwater crabs, a variety of different foods is best.

10. Fiddler (Ocypodidae)

Fiddler Crab
  • Family: Ocypodidae
  • Origin: Coastal regions worldwide
  • Scientific Name: Uca spp.
  • Common Name: Fiddler Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 1.5 inches (4 cm)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 75-85 °F (24-29 °C)
  • Tank pH: 7.2-8.2
  • Tank kH: 8-12 dKH

There are more than 100 of these semi-terrestrial crab species and each has it’s own color variation and unique attributes which makes these little crabs ideal for beginner crab owners.

The best environment to house them is a slightly brackish paludarium with at least 10 – 20 cm (4 – 8 inches) of sand for substrate so they can create little tunnels and burrow.

Fiddler Crabs will return to their burrows often and males will fight for the best burrow spots in your tank, so make sure there is plenty of room if you plan to keep more than one male.

These fascinating invertebrates come in a variety of colors and the options are endless. The most striking feature is of course the large claw or pincer that they’re named for, which is only on the males and is used for fighting and during mating.

Fiddler crabs are relatively small, barely growing to two inches including their leg span making them ideal for smaller aquarium set ups. A fiddler crab can live up to 3 years and are easy to care for and feed.

11. Hermit (Coenobita variabilis)

Hermit Crab in Hand
  • Family: Coenobitidae
  • Origin: Coastal regions of the Indo-Pacific
  • Scientific Name: Coenobita variabilis
  • Common Name: Hermit Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: Average species is 2.5 inches (6.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5-30 years
  • Tank Size: Minimum 5 gallons
  • Temperature: 26-30°C  (~80°F-85°F)
  • Tank pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Tank kH: 8-12 dKH

Hermit Crabs are terrestrial and most likely the first pet crabs crab owners get as they are so easy to find and inexpensive compared to most other pets. And there are hundreds of sub-species that range from an inch or less in size to the coconut hermit that gets a whopping 40 inches from leg tip to tip.

Their colors and life spans are just as varied and some can live up to 30 years!

What makes Hermits very different is they don’t have a hard exoskeleton like other crabs which is why they must find a shell to protect themselves, or they’re easily prayed upon. As they get bigger they must find a new shell discarding the old.

Hermits are also different in that they have modified lungs and breath from water vapor rather than water or air. This means to keep them you must have a tank humidity of 75% or more. No an easy thing for a beginner, so these are not really an easy crab to keep.

You should also use sand as a substrate that is always moist with brackish water and has a depth of at least four inches for a happy crab to burrow. And plenty of different sized shells for them to grow into!

12. Tanganyika (Parathelphusidae sp.)

  • Family: Parathelphusidae
  • Origin: East Africa, specifically Lake Tanganyika
  • Scientific Name: Neolamprologus multifasciatus
  • Common Name: Tanganyika crabs
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 inches)
  • Lifespan: Up to 4 years
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
  • Tank pH: 7.0-8.5
  • Tank kH: 6-10 dKH

Tanganyika Crabs include nine known species all deriving from Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. These are one of the rarest species and little research has been done on them. So if you are able to secure one of these, consider yourself lucky.

The species ranges from one to two inches in size and all are some sort of light brown and tan in color. Honestly a bit unremarkable.

They are true aquatic crabs and don’t need any dry land to thrive. They prefer a sand substrate and pebbles and don’t borrow like other crabs. They do, however need places to hide so include some rocks and driftwood in your tank.

And forget about plants as these little aquarium crabs will shred and eat anything and are opportunistic scavengers in their natural habitat.

13. Marble Batik (Metasesarma obesum)

  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Scientific Name: Metasesarma obesum
  • Common Name: Marble Batik Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 inches)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or larger
  • Temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
  • Tank pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Tank kH: 2-8 dKH

The Marble Batik Crab is another land or terrestrial crab that is actually quite rare in the aquarium hobby world. They’re small and only grow to less than two inches and live for up to 3 years.

They’re easy to keep and don’t require much water, although if you have the space a freshwater and a saltwater bowl with marine salt are optimal. But you can just keep them in a 5 gallon tank with a freshwater bowl if necessary.

Like most land crab, Marble Batiks like to burrow and require a minimum 2 inch substrate of sand and small pebbles. They love to explore and you should provide them with plenty of places to do so using rocks and driftwood. Plants are also good.

Like most land crabs, they are easy enough to keep provided you’re able to keep the humidity at 75% or more as they breath through water vapor and not through water or air.

14. Red Apple (Metasesarma aubryi) aka Chameleon

  • Family: Grapsidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region
  • Scientific Name: Pugettia producta
  • Common Name: Red Apple Crab, Chameleon Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3-6 years
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Temperature: 68-78°F (20-26°C)
  • Tank pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Tank kH: 4-10 dKH

Red Apple crabs as a species are terrestrial crabs that grow to be about 7 – 10 cm (3 – 4 inches) in total size and live to anywhere between 3 to 6 years old. Since they are terrestrial, all they really need is a freshwater bowl in a landscaped aquarium, although a paludarium setup works best.

These are really hardy and easy to care for making them very beginner friendly pets. They’re colorful with dark legs and bodies that have red and orange claws and bright yellow eyes making them attractive pets to keep. They are also called Chameleon crabs because their colors can change according to their moods.

Red Apples are social and you should include a minimum of 2 to 3 crabs in your tank.

15. Rainbow (Cardisoma armatum)

  • Family: Grapsidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region
  • Scientific Name: Cardisoma armatum
  • Common Name: Rainbow Crab, African Rainbow Crab, Nigerian Moon Crab, Patriot Crab, Rainbow Land Crab
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Size: up to 5 inches (12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: up to 3-5 years
  • Tank Size: Minimum 20-30 gallons for one crab
  • Temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
  • Tank pH: 7.5-8.5.
  • Tank kH: 8-15 dKH

Rainbow Crabs (video source) are a semi-aquatic and aren’t the easiest crab to keep as they need a relatively high humidity level in their tank, up to 80%, as they have special gills that breath from humidity and not the water or air like most other crabs. They also need a place to completely dry off and need 5-10% brackish water to do their best.

These brightly colored brackish crabs prefer to spend most of their time buried in burrows they make in the sand substrate of your tank. So make sure you have at least 6 inches of sand on the bottom so they can dig away. Also include things to keep them busy like driftwood and rocks that create little caves and crevices for them to explore.

These are very aggressive crabs with sharp pincers and should be kept alone as they will literally fight with their own species to the death. They can grow from 6 to 8 inches which makes them one of the largest crab on our list, and one requiring a large tank of at least 20 gallons for a single rainbow land crab, 40 or more for more than one rainbow land crab.

These brackish crabs omnivorous and love to scavenge at night for foods like crab pellets and algae wafers when they’re most active. During the day they are usually sleeping in the burrows they’ll make in your substrate.

Tank Mates For Freshwater Aquarium Crabs – And Which to Avoid!

When it comes to what makes good tank mates for crabs, it really depends on the species of crab and their preferences. As a general rule, most land crabs do not do well with other crabs, especially male to male. Some will fight to the death. And others will fight with other species of crab. You really need to research each individual species to know.

Another general guideline is never include small slow moving fish as most crabs are hunters as well as scavengers and will eat whatever they can catch. And similarly, larger aggressive fish will usually make a meal of your crabs. So again, it’s really important to look at each individual species’ requirements.

Some other bad tank mates are shrimp, crayfish and any small slow creature that can easily become a meal. Most crab are predators, and all of them are omnivores which means they eat meat. So expect them to dine on whatever is in the tank and they can catch and you should be safe.

One note, just because your crab can’t catch the fish in your community tank doesn’t mean it is okay. Fish know a predator is around and this can really stress them out. So usually it’s best to just keep crab by themselves.

What crabs live in freshwater?

There are many species of crabs that can live in freshwater. Here are a few:

Red Claw Crab (Perisesarma bidens)
Panther Crab (Parathelphusa pantherina)
Thai Micro Crab (Limnopilos naiyanetri)
Vampire Crabs (Geosesarma sp.)
Fiddler Crab (Uca sp.)
Marble Batik Crab (Metasesarma obesum)
Tanganyika Crab (Neolamprologus multifasciatus)
Orange Crab (Sesarma bidens)

Are there any fully aquatic freshwater crabs?

Yes, there are some fully aquatic freshwater crab species with the largest family being “Potamidae,” which includes the Mexican Dwarf Crab (Cambarellus patzcuarensis), the Red Clawed Crab (Perisesarma bidens), and the Thai Micro Crab (Limnopilos naiyanetri). All of these crabs live in freshwater streams, rivers and lakes and are ‘true’ freshwater crab. Panther Crabs (Parathelphusa pantherina) are another fully aquatic crab.

Are there any edible freshwater crabs?

Yes, freshwater crab is eaten just like any other crustacean. Although many species of these crab are very small and don’t really make a meal themselves, when added to soups and stir fries these crab provide protein and flavor to a number of dishes around the world. Matano Crab are commercially harvested for food.

What do freshwater crabs eat?

Freshwater aquarium crab are omnivores that usually feed on dead plants and animals they find when foraging for food. They eat anything from algae and detritus to small fish and other invertebrates.

Can you have crabs in a freshwater tank?

Yes, you can keep these crabs in a freshwater tank. But make sure the crab species you plan to keep is compatible with your tank setup as many species are aquatic and terrestrial and need a dry place as well as fresh water.

Can I put a crab in my fish tank?

Yes, you can put a crab in your fish tank if it is an aquatic crab. Most freshwater crabs are terrestrial and need to be able to walk on drier surfaces. You’ll need to research which species of crab you want and find out if they are truly aquatic freshwater crabs.

Are hermit crabs good for freshwater aquariums?

Overall a hermit crab is not a good fit for a freshwater aquarium set up. Most hermit crab need salt water, although they can live in fresh water as well. Also, hermits need to be able to walk around on dry ground, so an aquarium with no dry areas is not a good set up for them.

Can you put crabs in freshwater fish tank?

You can add crabs to a freshwater fish tank provided they are the correct species. There are many species that do well in freshwater fish tanks. Take a look at our list above to find the right crabs to keep.

In Closing

Keeping freshwater crabs is just one more exciting way to diversify your aquarium with something new and super interesting. And no matter what type of aquarium set up you have, there’s a species that matches, from terrestrial, semi-terrestrial and even completely aquatic species, these crabs offers something for everyone.

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