How to Care For A Pom Pom Crab (Complete Guide)

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Many aquarium lovers have been mesmerized by the bright personality and unique looks of pom crabs. Discover all there is to know about these little creatures, from where they come from to how you can give them a quality tank environment – let’s explore together! We’ll look at both their behavior as well as what it takes for them to live happily under your care.

Key Takeaways

  • Pom Pom crabs are new to the hobby and known for their attractive appearance and active behavior.
  • They are one of the more peaceful aquatic crabs you can buy
  • Create an environment that mimics their natural habitat, including water parameters & decorations with hiding spots.
  • Choose tankmates that are fast and who won’t try to eat them

Species Overview

Scientific NamePtychognathus barbatus
Common NamesPom Pom Crab, Cheerleading Crab, Boxing Crab, Freshwater Pom Pom Crab
OriginAsia, Africa, Australia
Care LevelModerate
ActivityMostly active during the night (nocturnal)
Life Span1 year
Tank LevelBottom and on plants and decor
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons (38 liters)
Temperature Range72-82°F (22-27°C)
Water Hardness6-12 dKH
pH Range6.8 – 7.2
Filtration/Water FlowSlow to Moderate
Water TypeFreshwater Tanks
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedDifficult
CompatibilityCommunity Tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes (Better with tough texture plants)

Understanding Them

Pom Pom crabs have become increasingly popular in the aquarium hobby due to their attractive appearance and energetic disposition. Native to many regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia. These freshwater crab species tend to inhabit clean freshwater streams or rivers, unlike most other freshwater crab varieties. The presence of a lively little pom pom carrying creature inside an aquarium makes it all the more entertaining! With its active behavior making them so much fun for aquarists, this particular type of crab continues to be highly sought after amongst owners alike.

Origins And Habitat

Pom Pom crabs, are commonly found in freshwater springs and narrow streams across Africa, Asia and Australia near rocks and pebbles foraging around their environment. They are newer to the aquarium industry and are not the same as the saltwater pom pom crab ((lybia sp. also known as hawaiian boxer crab). These freshwater crabs are highly valued due to their more mellow nature. In the wild they live in sandy substrates and around roots of trees. A replicable natural habitat is key for them to be content at home!


Pom Pom crabs stand out from other crab species due to their uniquely fluffy pom-poms adorning their claws. Males typically have bigger and more noticeable hair tufts, while females will only exhibit barely visible bristles. This makes it rather simple to tell them apart by sight. They are generally dull in color but are less reclusive than other aquatic crabs.

Average Size

Pom Pom crabs, a species of freshwater animal ranging from 0.6 to 1 inch in size, make great tank mates for nano tanks or community aquariums due to their small stature and adaptation level found when living near freshwater rivers. Due to their small size, they are better suited to smaller tanks so you can actually enjoy seeing them interact. They will get lost in the background in larger tanks.


Pom Pom crabs, when given adequate care and maintenance, have the potential to live up to one year. This is a short lived species compared to their saltwater counterpart which an live up to 3 years. To extend their lifespan, their habitat needs to be suitable for them as well providing a balanced diet and keeping water conditions appropriate at all times. While they can live longer than a year, most will live in your tank under a year.

Caring For Your Pom Pom Crab

Pom Pom crabs must have a freshwater aquarium to match their natural habitat for them to flourish. It is essential that the size of the tank, water parameters and decorations meet proper requirements in order for this fully aquatic crab species to thrive. All these points are pertinent when looking after your pom crab correctly as they are not able to survive outside an environment like what is found naturally with other fully-aquatic creatures.

Tank Size And Setup

For a Pom Crab tank, it is advised to get one that holds at least 5 gallons of water and 10 if housing more or adding peaceful mates. A fine sand substrate must be added so the small crabs can burrow as they do in their habitat. Making sure the lid on top fits tightly with no gaps around outlets or wires will prevent any unexpected escapes since these creatures are known for being very creative when looking for an escape route. If you want to add an additional safety measure, you can lower the water level so there’s 4 inches of distance between the surface of the water and its lid.

Water Parameters And Maintenance

Maintaining the right water parameters for your Pom Pom crab is essential to their health and well-being. The desired temperature range should be between 22-28°C (72 – 82°F), with pH levels of 6.8-7.2, total dissolved solids at 150 – 200, a hardness from GH of 6– 8, and KH reading 2–6 . It’s important that you also avoid brackish waters as they can harm them over time by creating unfavorable conditions (brackish only comes into play if you are breeding them).

Using an appropriate testing kit will help ensure these key factors are maintained in the aquatic environment ensuring it remains clean free from pollutants which might compromise good living standards for your pet crabs. Always need Ammonia and nitrites at 0PPM. Keep your nitrates below 40 PPM as inverts in general are sensitive to higher nitrates.

It’s recommended to perform water changes on a regular basis since stability in this area would provide ideal circumstances. Do water changes whenever your parameters are off.

Decorations And Hiding Spots

The natural environment of Pom Crab must be reproduced for them to thrive. This can achieved by adding driftwood, rocks, and aquatic plants into the tank, They will provide an interesting appearance while also offering spots for your crabs to hide away in or explore through digging. Having live plants inside the aquarium helps keep the water clean whilst providing a supplementary source of food. For plants, consider a tough plant like Anubias as more delicate plants may get torn up by the crab’s weight and claws.

If you get plants, be aware that copper is toxic to them. Consider a fertilizer designed for shrimp as they will not have copper and will be generally safe for your crabs.

Feeding Your Pom Pom Crab

Pom Pom crabs are scavenging opportunistic omnivores who feed on a variety of microorganisms, algae, plant detritus, and commercial dry food. Contrary to belief, they are not filter feeders. While it looks like the pom poms will serve that function, and they do catch food within the water column with them, it its not their primary source of feeding in an aquarium environment.

To ensure they live a healthy life full of necessary nutrition it is important to provide them with a balanced diet supplemented by occasional protein-rich treats. Try to feed foods like the following:

  • Brine Shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Sinking pellets designed for bottom feeders

Adding calcium supplements helps maintain the exoskeleton while also supporting the molting process. For this reason, providing these crustaceans with both regular meals that consist primarily of dried food and snacks like those mentioned before enables optimal health for all pom crab species.

Understanding Their Behavior

Pom Pom crabs (video source) are energetic and entertaining creatures that demonstrate a range of captivating behaviors. They can be seen climbing, excavating, and feeding in the aquarium. Commonly docile, they have the ability to coexist with fish as well as other non-aggressive freshwater species without causing any issues.

During molting times, they might become more reclusive.

Molting Process

For Pom Pom crabs, molting is an essential part of their life cycle. This activity involves the shedding of old shells so they can form a new one and expand in size. To protect themselves during this process, these creatures often hide inside burrows beneath sand until their exoskeleton has hardened properly again.

It’s important to be mindful that for your crab’s health, the moulting phase should not be overlooked or underestimated as it plays such an integral role in its growth and development! Molting is also a time when they may be vulnerable to getting bullied or eaten by other tankmates.

Choosing Tank Mates

When selecting companions for your Pom Pom crab, their docile temperament and small size must be kept in mind. Selecting the right tank mates is key to a peaceful living situation. Enabling your crab’s success without having to battle with its peers over food or resources.

Good Tankmates

Glowlight Danio Near Gravel

Finding a suitable tank mate for your Pom Crab is essential. We are looking for peaceful freshwater fish that will not try to eat them and fast and active fish that won’t get eaten by the crab. While generally peaceful, these crabs are opportunistic eaters and will not hesitate to eat slow moving or sick fish. Knowing this, here are several good options:

It’s important to ensure that any species you choose will not cause stress or harm – opt only for gentle and non-aggressive choices to keep everyone safe. Together with these beneficial buddies, your crab can live happily in their shared environment without worry!

Bad Tankmates

Green Tiger Barb School

For a harmonious and serene aquatic space, your Pom Pom crab needs to be kept away from large or aggressive fish that may consider them prey. Look out for the following fish:

You should aim towards peaceful tank companions as opposed to potentially hazardous ones who are more likely to feed aggressively or be territorial. Also, if you keep bottom feeders – keep an eye on food competition as you crab can be outcompeted for food.

Common Health Issues

Pom Pom crabs are mostly quite resilient when it comes to disease, yet can still be affected by issues like fungal infections, parasites and shell rot. To prevent any such occurrences from happening in an established aquarium environment, the water needs to remain of high quality.

Bacterial or fungal problems may occur where you’ll see discoloration. This occurs when a tank does not have the ideal tank parameters and calcium is low in their diets. Usually, however, you will not see visible signs of illness of these crabs, they may just pass away before any signs are shown. Given they are inverts, they do not get any of the common fish diseases you will see in aquariums, but can pass on diseases like Ich if the parasite attaches to their exoskeleton.

Breeding Challenges

Successful breeding of Pom Pom crabs in a home aquarium has yet to be accomplished, as the larvae need brackish water for their development. The task is arduous due to its intricate and multi-stage larval cycle, making it difficult for hobbyists who aim to raise planktonic juveniles into adulthood because these require precise care along with ideal environmental conditions.

You can check out a documented case on the Planted Tank forum here. However, breeding is something left to experts to attempt.

Other Species To Check Out

Not sure if this crab is for you? Check out our other crab guides below:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are pom pom crabs good pets?

Pom pom crabs are an ideal choice for first-time fish keepers due to the fact that they don’t need a lot of room and their care is straightforward. These tiny crustaceans make wonderful pets, particularly when it comes to nano tanks. With these creatures being so easy to look after, aquarists can focus on making sure every other aspect in the tank stays up kept, perfect for any beginner!

How big does a pom-pom crab get?

Pom-pom crabs Have a leg span of approximately 1 inch, though some may reach up to almost 2 inches.

Are pom pom crabs fully aquatic?

Pom pom crabs are completely aquatic and should be kept in an aquarium with a secure lid or at low water levels. This will assist them to remain safe, as these types of crustaceans have been known to attempt escapes from time to time. It is also necessary that the tank environment suits their needs. Thus, providing enough space for movement around the area and cleanliness can go a long way when caring for one of these fascinating creatures.

Can pom pom crabs live in freshwater?

Pom pom crabs can be an excellent addition to any size of freshwater aquarium, as they have a peaceful and outgoing nature. These little crustaceans are found in Africa, Asia, and Australia, specifically around narrow streams or springs filled with freshwater. They make good tank mates due to their sociable yet non-aggressive temperaments!

What is the ideal tank size for a Pom Pom crab?

For a Pom Pom crab, an ideal tank size is 5 gallons at a minimum and 10 gallons for larger colonies or other peaceful tank mates. Anything larger than 20 gallons will make it difficult to see see them in the tank as they can get lost in all the decor.

Closing Thoughts

Caring for Pom Pom crabs in a freshwater aquarium can bring delightful rewards. It is important to provide them with the right habitat, quality water conditions, and suitable tank mates so that they thrive happily. Having knowledge about their origin, behavior, and needs will help create an environment where these interesting crustaceans flourish. With adequate preparation and attention to detail, you can witness this captivating world of pom crab life first-hand!

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