The Vampire Crab is a unique tank pet that is different from the rest. Although they do not drink blood as their name suggests, Vampire Crabs are creatures of the night with nocturnal habits. What makes this crustacean unique is they are a semi-terrestrial species, living on the land as well as in the water.
The Vampire Crab is a freshwater crustacean that is typically found in rivers and lakes on small islands in the Indian Ocean, particularly Java, Indonesia. They have also been discovered in Sulawesi, Riau and, Krakatau.
Despite being in the aquarium trade for decades, Vampire Crabs were only officially discovered in 2006. This means there is very little research available on their biology and habitat. Vampire Crabs are quite hardy but only if they are cared for properly and they have some unique care requirements. This guide will help you understand how to properly care for Vampire Crabs.
Vampire Crab Facts
These colourful crabs are known for their deep purple bodies with creamy white spotting, lighter pink claws and, glowing yellow, bright orange, or red eyes on their head. The Vampire Crab has an average body size of 1-2” (2.5 – 5cm) and can grow to a maximum body span of 2.5”(_cm). They have a shorter life span of up 2 to 3 years, but this can be shortened if they are not cared for properly.
Vampire Crab Care
The key difference in keeping a Vampire Crab compared to keeping fish is they require a paludarium setup. A paludarium is a tank that has terrestrial, or land, elements, and aquatic elements. Vampire Crabs cannot stay in water for too long or they will drown. As they spend majority of their time on land, it is recommended the Vampire Crab’s paludarium is 80% land and 20% water but at minimum, it must be 50% of each element.
As a general rule, a 10-gallon (38 litre) tank is the minimum size required for a group of 6 Vampire Crabs. They will only require enough water to cover their entire body. Ideally, this will be a water tray that is approximately 4 – 6” (10 – 15cm) deep. These crabs are also known to escape their paludarium’s so the tank must have a tight-fitting lid.
Vampire Crab’s require a tropical environment with warm temperatures. The optimal water temperature for a Vampire Crab is between 75°F – 82°F (24°C – 28°C). Another unique element to keeping them is they require an environment with a humidity level of 75% or higher. Their water requires a hardness level of 0 to 10 dKH and a nitrate level of less than 20ppm. The recommended pH level for the Vampire Crab is between 7.5 – 8.0. These crabs require clean water for molting and breeding. They are extremely sensitive to poor water conditions which can cause sickness and disease resulting in reduced life span. It is important to maintain a high quality of water, best achieved by changing 40% of the water monthly.
When creating a biotope paludarium for your Vampire Crab, start with a fine, sandy substrate such as gravel, earth, sand or, sand-earth mixture. These crabs love to burrow, and a fine substrate will ensure their shell and claws are not damaged. As they are found in dense vegetation in the wild, both the land and water portions of the paludarium must be heavily planted. They will also appreciate hiding spots made from rocks, driftwood, and PVC pipes in the water portion of their tank.
Vampire Crab Food & Diet
These crabs are omnivores and will readily accept most foods that they are offered. The Vampire Crab can be fed meat-based foods such as bloodworms, earthworms, and brine shrimp as well as plant-based foods such as dried flakes and pellets, algae, and dry plants or leaves. They should also eat high-calcium foods such as cuttlebones, spinach, and broccoli to support their exoskeleton production.
Vampire Crabs only need to be fed once per day as they typically graze on organic matter in the paludarium when hungry. As they are a nocturnal species that is active from dusk to dawn, it is best to feed them in the evening.
Vampire Crab Tank Mates
The ideal tankmates for a Vampire Crab is other Vampire Crabs. They are peaceful amongst their species, and it is recommended to keep a single male for every two females to prevent aggressive behaviour. If kept in a large enough tank, a Vampire Crab can be kept with slightly larger shrimp and snails as well as peaceful fish such as Dither Fish, Neon Tetra and, Zebra Danios’ however they should be kept under close observation as the Vampire Crab may still try to attack or eat them.
Vampire Crabs should not be tank mates with different species of crabs such as the Red Apple Crabs, Marble Crabs, Red Devil Crabs or, Tangerine-head Crabs. Vampire Crabs are extremely territorial with different species which would lead to them becoming aggressive and attacking the other crabs.
Breeding Vampire Crab
Due to the limited information available, there is no established breeding method for Vampire Crabs. It is likely breeding will occur on its own with your mature crabs. A female Vampire Crab will carry up to 80 eggs and after 1 month, they will give birth to live, fully formed baby crabs into freshwater. Female Vampire Crabs can be distinguished from males by their slightly smaller size and smaller claws that are duller in colour. Males will also have a more pointed appearance compared to the wider, oval appearance of the female’s shell.
As the Vampire Crab is known to eat their own, it is recommended that the adults are kept separate from the baby crabs to ensure their survival.
Vampire Crabs found in pet stores are typically wild-bred specimens as there are no established captive-bred enterprises. If you are looking to purchase your Vampire Crab in a pet store you can expect to pay between $15 – $25USD.
These crabs are an interesting specimen to keep and observe. From their distinct appearance with vivid purple colouring and bright eyes to their activities in a unique captive habitat, the Vampire Crab is sure to be unlike any other animal you currently have.
Due to the Vampire Crab’s extreme sensitivity to changes in conditions, it is recommended that they are kept by aquarists and crab keepers with intermediate knowledge and experience. But if you are up to maintaining their environment, the Vampire Crab might just be the vibrant pet that you have been looking for.