Vampire Crab: Guide to Care, Diet, Habitat, Tank Mates, and Everything

vampire crab care, diet, habitat and tank mates

Are you tempted to add a vampire crab to your aquarium? Actually, who wouldn’t? Their unique colors are something that makes everybody wonder.

Vampire crabs are one of the most beautiful critters you can keep in captivity. However, you should know a few things before buying one for yourself. These species require special care set for which you must be prepared.

So, if you want to learn more about vampire crab care, diet, habitat, tank mates, and be a responsible owner, keep scrolling till the end. 

Quick Overview and Facts

ClassificationSemi terrestrial
Sexual DimorphismFemales have a wide and oval flap, whereas male crabs have a narrow, ponty flap. Males typically are larger.
Color Vibrant purple-colored body with yellow eyes
Size2 inches (including leg span)
LifespanUp to 2 years
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Tank Setup Freshwater with plants and caves
Temperature75 to 82°F (24 to 28°C)
pH7.5 – 8
Aquarium TypePaludarium (aquarium that has both water and sand)
Community BehaviorPeaceful

Vampire Crab Origin

Vampire crabs, scientifically referred to as Geosesarma Dennerle, are a very rare crab species.

You can find these crabs on small islands in the Indian Ocean. They mostly live in Java, Riau, Krakatau, and Sulawesi. However, they have also been found throughout Asia.

Vampire crabs mainly live in freshwater rivers on that island. And do you know these crabs are semi-terrestrial? Meaning that they need both land and water to live!

Vampire Crab Appearance

purple vampire crab on wall
Image credit: Pepew Fegley, Shutterstock

The most intriguing aspect of vampire crabs is their appearance. 

They have eight legs and two big pinchers. Unlike other crabs, their claws aren’t damaging. Instead, their claws are pretty small and don’t open up much. So chances of getting pinched while handling them are low. However, they can harm smaller creatures.

Vampire crabs are the most fascinating due to their coloration. Looking at a purple vampire crab will make you wonder and be tempted to have one.

Their bodies are dark purple. The color is more radiant on their legs and claws. You may see some specimens with light pink or orange colored claws.

After color, the next captivating thing is their eyes. They have large, bright yellow eyes on top of their skulls. Their features do justify their name.

Male Vampire Crab vs Female Vampire Crab

The physical appearance of males and females is extremely similar. However, there are some distinctions that you can spot.

Males tend to be slightly larger than females and usually have lighter-colored claws.

If you can still not determine the gender, flip the crab over and check its abdominal flap. Males have abdominal flaps that are thin and pointy, but females’ flaps are wide and oval-shaped.

Vampire Crab Size

Vampire crabs have an average size of about 2 inches wide, including their legs. Their main body, the carapace, is only about an inch wide. They are really small, so don’t get misled by seeing them big in pictures.

However, their small size makes them perfect for nano aquariums with water and land!

Vampire Crab’s Lifespan

Typically, vampire crabs can live up to 2 years, whether kept in captivity or wild. However, if you keep them in a  poorly maintained environment where they can become sick, their life expectancy may shorten quite a bit.

You may also like: Black Moor Goldfish: Care, Tank Setup

What Do Vampire Crabs Eat?

Vampire crabs are omnivores, so they aren’t picky eaters at all. In the wild, they eat anything they can get. In their natural habitat, their main choices for food are insects and plant residues.

The same is true for aquariums as well. You can easily give them bloodworms, earthworms, brine shrimp, and larvae. They can even eat dry commercial foods also. These critters have no problems eating algae wafers, dry flakes, and other foods.

However, you should provide them with a varied diet and calcium-rich foods to ensure optimum health. You can give them peas, spinach, and broccoli to strengthen their shells!

One interesting Fact! Vampire crabs prefer to eat at dawn and dusk.

Tips: You should provide them with food just once daily. They will feed throughout the day.Every time, try to place their food in different spots to make things more interesting for them. That way, they will search for food and enrichments and learn problem-solving.

Behavior & Temperament of Vampire Crabs

These crabs are very true to their name. They are nocturnal and spend most of their day hiding from the light. They get truly active as soon as the sun sets.

A typical key behavior of vampire crabs is molting. Normally they molt monthly in the soft sand. And after discarding their shells, they hide until a new shell grows.

They will move around the tank, spending time on both lands and in the water. They tend to spend hours lying still in a favorite location. Do not panic; this is very natural.

When it comes to temperament, vampire crabs have a reputation for being aggressive towards other creatures.

However, they get along perfectly fine with other vampire crabs. But if they feel that another species or anything else is encroaching on their territory, they will fight and try to consume it.

Vampire Crab Care

Caring for vampire crabs is relatively easy. But due to the lack of information, many owners tend to make many mistakes. These critters can be quite healthy only if you care for them properly. 

To survive peacefully and healthily, vampire crabs require a well-crafted environment. They can’t live healthy in substandard water conditions and with basic decor. 

Here are some guidelines for you to take care of your crabs properly, providing them with the right environment.

Tank Size

The ideal tank size for your vampire crabs is 10 gallons at least so they can roam freely. This size tank will also allow you to keep a group of six together without any problem.

Many owners tend to keep their crabs in 5-gallon small tanks and many vampire crab care guides also recommend this tank size. However, if you want to be a responsible owner, buy a 10-gallon tank.

Even though these crustacea are tiny and don’t require much space, even a small amount of extra space can go a long way.

Water Parameters

Because of their particular tank setup requirements, there probably won’t be much water for you to manage. Regardless, maintaining water quality is still vital, no matter how much water you use. These crabs need warm, slightly alkaline, tropical freshwater.

However, note that vampire crabs are vulnerable to drastic changes in water quality, just as many other invertebrates. So,  every month, you must only change partial water. It’s better to change up to 40% of the water each time to maintain low levels of ammonia and nitrate.

Follow the below guidelines to maintain the health of your crabs:

Water Temperature: between 75°F and 82°F 

Water hardness range: 0-10 dKH

pH range: 7.5-8

Tank Setup

The secret to maintaining vampire crabs’ health is mimicking their environment in the wild. An important fact about these species is that they are not purely aquatic creatures but rather semi-terrestrial. So they need a paludarium setup instead of a typical aquarium.

  • As they spend about half the time on land, you must provide a perch in the tank. In the tank, you can maintain a land-to-water ratio of 80/20, so you don’t have to maintain a lot of water.
  • Before adding anything else, create a base of fine sand because, in fine sand, vampire crabs can easily burrow whenever they want. You can use the sand, floating perch, or large platforms to build the land. 
  • Make sure both the water and land have a lot of plants.
  • Make sure you are using good filtration for the water in the tank. Standard hang-on-back canister filters will do the trick, or you may use Under-gravel systems.

Vampire Crabs’ Mate

group of vampire crabs
Image credit: Farits Alhadi, Shutterstock

As vampire crabs do best in groups and rarely fight with others of the same species, the best tank mates for them are other vampire crabs.

It’s best to keep one male and two females in one tank to prevent aggressive behavior during mating season.

However, you can keep them with other creatures too. Shrimp (especially Cherry) and large freshwater aquarium snails are suitable to keep with vampire crabs. But you have to be careful because it will likely be just fine; there is no guarantee that these critters will be completely safe.

If you want to create a small community tank, place similarly-sized fish or invertebrates in the tank to keep things peaceful. If the other creatures are big, they can eat your crab; if they are small, your crab may eat them.


Due to a lack of information about Vampire Crabs, there aren’t any well-known breeding methods. But they belong to the egg layers group.

However, don’t worry. When it is time, they will breed on their own. To breed and fertilize the eggs, the male will get on top of the female. Then the female will carry around 20 to 80 eggs for a month, and after about a month, the eggs will hatch, and you will see fully-formed vampire crab babies roaming around.

After the babies hatch from the eggs, it is safe to shift them to a different tank that has lots of hiding spots. This is because the parents may try to eat the babies, and the baby vampire crabs may try to eat each other.

Final Thoughts

Unlike other aquarium species, caring for vampire crabs is a bit different but not difficult if you know how. Also, their beauty makes all of your efforts worthwhile.

So if you want to make your aquarium look exquisite by adding new, unique, and beautiful species, vampire crab is the perfect choice for you.  

However, before buying it, do enough research and put in enough thought, then make the decision.

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