Looking for something a bit unusual to keep in your freshwater aquarium? Look no further than the vampire crab! These tiny crabs were originally discovered in the rivers of South-East Asia, but have quickly become available in the aquarium trade throughout much of the world.
Setting up a vampire crab habitat
Vampire crabs are semi-terrestrial, which means that they like to spend some of their time in water and some of it on land. Their aquarium should therefore have a place where they can emerge from the water for some of the time. Rocks, plants, driftwood, and floating turtle docks all make excellent “land” options.
The tank should be large enough to hold at least 40 litres of water. You can house about six crabs in an aquarium of this size. The water should also be heated to between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius and have a pH of 7.5-8.
The aquarium should have a substrate of sand that’s a few inches deep. When it’s time for your crabs to undergo their annual moult, they will burrow into this sand for a couple of weeks.
Diet & Feeding
Vampire crabs are omnivorous and will happily eat almost any commercially-bought aquarium food. They’ll eat fish flakes, greens and veggies, small live insects like crickets and mealworms, brine shrimp, hermit crab pellets, and even meat mixes designed for cichlids or turtles.
Mix up their food options as much as possible to make sure they’re getting all the vitamins and minerals they require.
One feeding per day should be enough. If they get hungry between feedings, they’ll scavenge for edible organic matter in the aquarium, or nibble on palatable aquarium plants.
Caring for your vampire crabs
Vampire crabs aren’t particularly difficult to look after. They’ll be fine so long as they’re kept fed (but not overfed), warm, and housed in a clean environment.
The tank should have good filtration, but it’s still important to clean the substrate every few weeks to remove any uneaten food or vampire crab poo. Replacing about a third of the tank’s water every month is also important to control nutrient buildup in the water.
Breeding vampire crabs
Vampire crabs reach sexual maturity at six months of age and will continue to reproduce for the entirety of their 3-year lifespan.
The female carries the eggs for several weeks until they hatch, so you may not have any indication that’re breeding until you notice baby crabs appearing. The babies are essentially miniature versions of their parents and are fully independent immediately after hatching. They can be difficult to spot, as young will generally keep a low profile and hide among rocks and plants.