Vampire crab: Complete care, tank mates, size and setup

Vampire Crab are one of the most stunning creatures in captivity that you can hold. Their unique colors are something you need to trust! 

But there are a few things you should know first if you want one for yourself. You see, this species has a unique set of care needs not being prepared for by many potential owners. 

We’ve got you covered, don’t worry. 

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about taking care of Vampire Crab. You’ll learn about the special tank setup they need, plus a few facts you’ll definitely find useful for ownership!

Geosesarma is a genus of tiny freshwater or terrestrial crabs, typically less than 10 mm (0.4 in) across the shell. With larval stages inside the egg, they live and reproduce on land.

They are to be found in the Solomon Islands and Hawaii from India, through Southeast Asia. 

These are sometimes referred to as vampire crabs in the pet trade. This has nothing to do with their feeding habits but with the bright and contrastingly yellow eyes of some species of Geosesarma

If you’re looking for a unique aquarium freshwater pet, then the Vampire Crab is a great choice. Vampire Crabs, an undescribed species of the genus Geosarma aristocratensis, are semi-terrestrial invertebrates, native to Southeast Asian regions.

They derive their name from their glowing yellow, bright orange or red eyes and their nocturnal feeding habit, from dusk to dawn.

The beautiful, purple crustaceans grow to be approximately two and a half inches wide with spreading legs.

Also called panther crabs and carnival crabs, when properly cared for, Vampire Crabs will have an average life span of 2-3 years.

Here are some key indicators regarding the proper care of your new pet Vampire Crab.


Here is the scientific classification of vampire crab

Scientific classification
De Man, 1892
Type species
Sesarma noduliferum 

If you are looking for a standout crustacean for your tank, there is no better choice than the Geosesarma dennerle (Vampire Crab). These creatures, properly named, are incredibly mysterious and have a somewhat hazy history. 

They ‘re believed to have been around the aquarium trade for decades. The only issue was that nobody really knew where they had come from! That everything changed when they were officially “discovered” in 2006. 

Scientifically referred to as Geosesarma Dennerle, these crabs originate in the Indian Ocean from small islands.

They were found residing in Java, Sulawesi, Riau, and Cracow. They’ve also been distributed across Asia and the Western Pacific, however.

These are unique creatures, relatively new to the world of aquariums. There is a lot of misinformation, therefore, floating around (primarily because of their semi-terrestrial nature).

These crabs have some unique needs for care that you have to follow to a tee if you want them to stay healthy.

Here are a few articles you might like:

Bala shark: Care, lifespan, food and tank mates

Convict cichlid fish: Complete care, lifespan and breeding

Vampire crab Lifespan

The typical lifespan of Vampire Crab is at most about 2 years. This is the same if it’s kept in captivity or wild. 

As you would expect, there are several factors that determine their lifespan. A poorly maintained environment can cause disease, and somewhat shorten their life expectancy.

Vampire crab Appearance 

vampire crab
Image by DIAC images from Commons Wikimedia

Of course, the most interesting thing about Vampire Crab is their appearance! Similar to other small crabs, their profile is similar. They’ve got 10 legs altogether! That includes two of their big pinchers. 

Although most crabs have powerful claws that can do a lot of damage, those criteria are not the case. Their claws are pretty small and do not open very broadly.

As a result, you can handle these without worrying about pinching. That said, other smaller creatures can still be harmed. 

Vampire crabs are one of the most fascinating creatures to observe when it comes to coloring.

Their bodies are shrouded in dark purple. The color on their legs and grips is brightest. The grips take on a lighter pink hue with some specimens. 

The body is typically slightly darker. It may be black or brownish-purple. Creamy white spots also frequently litter their carapace, creating a very stunning look. 

Those crabs are not the only interesting thing about that! 

You will notice large bright, yellow eyes on top of their heads! These crabs are believed to have their name because their eyes look foreboding and dark purple bodies create. 

At first glance, the males and females look very similar. Yet you can identify some distinct differences.

Males are usually slightly taller than females. They also often have claws that are lighter in color. 

If you are still unsure, you can take a look at their abdominal flap and flip the crab over. Males’ abdominal flaps are thin and somewhat pointed. Meanwhile, there is a wide oval-shaped flap in females.

A Vampire Crab’s average size is some 2 inches wide. If you want to see all their beauty you need to get in close! 

That measurement includes the span of their legs. The carapace, their principal body, is only about one inch wide.

How to Care vampire crab?

The care of vampire crab need not be challenging. Unfortunately, owners have made a lot of mistakes due to a lack of information about these criteria. 

This species could be quite rugged. But, that’s only true if you give them the proper care. 

Vampire crabs need an environment perfectly crafted to really thrive. You can’t expect crabs to live healthy lives with basic decoration and under standard conditions of the water.

You’ll need to follow some strict care guidelines to really help them thrive.

Size of tank

Vampire Crabs has an ideal tank size of around 10 gallons. This will provide plenty of room for roaming and will allow you to keep half a dozen without any problems together. 

You’ll see a lot of owners keeping them as small as 5 gallons in tanks (and care guides also recommending this tank size).

We disagree with them. Though these crustaceans are very small and don’t need much space, it goes a long way to give them little extra space.

Parameters of water 

Because of their unique requirements for setting up tanks, you probably won’t have a lot of water to maintain (more on that in the section below). 

But no matter how much water you ‘re using, staying on top of quality is still important. These crabs require slightly alkaline tropical freshwater and pretty warm water. 

As with many other invertebrates, Vampire Crabs are sensitive to extreme water quality changes. 

You’ll need to make partial changes to the water each month. We recommend changing up to 40 per cent of the water every time to keep low levels of ammonia and nitrate.

Stick to those parameters to keep your crabs healthy: 

  • Water temperature: 70 ° F to 82 ° F (which is best somewhere in the middle)
  • pH level: 7.5 to 8.0
  • Water Durability: 0 to 10 dKH

Vampire crab tank setup

Wondering how to set up your tank setup for your vampire crab? Their home is a key factor in caring for your Vampire crabs. Their natural habitat lies in forests near freshwater rivers, so it requires a freshwater aquarium.

Water temperature should be maintained between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the PH level should be 7.5 to 7.8. 

Because Vampire Crabs are semi-terrestrial, they spend only about 50 percent of their time in the water, so it is important for them to have a variety of surfaces to access from the water.

Big Al’s pets have the Aquarium’s rocks, plants, driftwood and other decorative features to ensure your Vampire crabs have plenty of room to crawl, climb, and sit.

For molting and reproduction, a sandy substratum and supply of java moss are also required. Vampire crabs burrow into the substratum once a year to molt which takes several weeks.

Females will burrow into the moss to give birth to adult Vampire Crab’s living, fully formed miniatures. Both molting and breeding take place in freshwater which is unique to this crab type.

Let’s set up your tank!

The key to keeping Vampire Crabs healthy is imitating their wild nature. This is true of all creatures in the aquarium. It is pivotal for this species though. 

As we suggested earlier, Vampire Crabs has something very different from it. They are not just creatures of aquatic nature! 

Actually they are considered semi-terrestrial. For this reason, these crabs need a paludarium setup instead of your typical aquarium. 

These creatures spend half their time on earth. So, a perch will have to be provided. 

Land to water ratio of 80/20 is recommended by many seasoned Vampire Crab owners. Luckily, that’s not much water to keep in the tank!

In the wild, these crabs can be found living in dense rivers and lakes of the forest. Both the portion of land and water requires a lot of plants. 

These crabs are in fact an excellent addition to project terrascaping. They will not eat live plants but feed on dead plants! 

Begin with a base of fine sand, before you do anything. Vampire crabs love to burrow every now and then. Fine sand is easier to move around and will cause no damage. 

You can use the sand to create a dry portion of a natural elevation. Alternatively, you can build the land using a floating perch or a large platform.

To make that easier, many paludariums have integrated shelves. In both areas live plants are planted. Find yourself free to experiment with plant varieties as the crabs are not especially fussy about cultivars.

Driftwood, rocks, and other forms of shelter should also be introduced into the water portion. 

Fine filtration is a must for the tank’s water part. A standard hang-on-back canister filter allows you to get by. Under-gravel systems, however, do also just fine.

Feed your Vampire crab

One reason Vampire Crabs are making such good pets is their feeding habits. These omnivores will eat virtually anything including algae and organic matter that helps clean the tank.

Because they’re not particularly active, they ‘re going to eat pretty much whatever is nearby, so it’s important to put food in various locations to encourage movement. 

A varied diet of live baby crickets, pieces of earthworm, fish flakes, brine shrimp and even fresh vegetables ensures that your pet Vampire Crab remains healthy.

Remember these little guys are scavengers so it should be enough to feed them once a day.

Possible Diseases

Not much is known about the diseases that can come from Vampire Crabs. They ‘re not suffering from the common problems fish do.

These are not affected, for example, by Ich (which is quite common). They can carry it and have an impact on your fish, though. 

Vampire crabs are believed to be susceptible to the same general ailments as other crabs in freshwater are.

This includes infections with the bacteria, fungal problems and parasites. Fortunately, no specific conditions for the species have yet been identified. 

The good news is that you can easily avoid all these issues by simply maintaining your tank. In most cases, the main culprit for illness is stress from poor water and quality.

Food and Dieting

Vampire crabs are absolutely no picky eater. They are natural omnivores, who usually take in the wild what they can get. Insects and plant detritus are the main food choices within their natural habitat. 

You can do the same in your aquarium too. Like blood worms, brine shrimp, larvae, and earthworms, they do well with live food.

They may also take dry commercial foods though. These criterters are going to chow down on dry flakes, algae wafers and more without any problems. 

We also recommend providing some foods rich in calcium. Things like spinach, broccoli and peas are all good choices. These foods will help their shells grow stronger!

Behavior and Temperament

These crabs have a name that fits in very well. They ‘re largely nocturnal and will hide away from the light for most of their days. It’s when the sun is going down they ‘re really active. 

They ‘re going to roam the tank and spend time in water and on land. They will usually lay down motionless for hours on end in a preferred spot. That is quite normal, so don’t be alarmed. 

The crabs will molt several times throughout their lives, too. They shed their old shells, making space for new ones. This very often happens over the first six months of life. It’s more of a monthly occurrence after that.

During the molting phase, hiding places are essential to them. After molting their new shells aren’t firm. So they are highly vulnerable. 

Make sure they have plants to hide in. The sandy substratum will be handy too. Some crabs like burrowing to stay out of sight, when they mold. 

Vampire Crabs can show quite a bit of aggression towards other creatures as regards temperament. 

With other Vampire Crabs, they just do well. They will fight, however, and try to eat other species, or whatever else they feel is invading their territory.

Tank Mates For Your Vampire crab

Other Vampire Crabs will be the best tank mates to Vampire Crabs. 

They do best in groups, actually. As we mentioned earlier, it isn’t too common to fight others of the same species. 

We recommend that you keep a single male and two females. This will prevent any aggressive behavior in the season around mating. 

Other suitable tank mates include large snails in the freshwater aquarium as well as shrimp (the Cherry is a good option). Be aware that for these criteria there is no guarantee of complete safety, but it will probably work just fine. 

If you’re planning to create a small community tank, the aim is to keep things peaceful. Stick to fish or invertebrates of a similar size.

The other creatures shouldn’t be big enough for your crab to eat. Neither can they be small enough for your Vampire Crabs to eat. 

Small dither fish are good options if you’ve got plenty of tank space. These fish are supposed to stick towards the water column bottom. Their aim is to leave the crab no that there are no predators around. 

You can try Neon Tetras, Zebra Danios and other quiet species of fish. Just exercise caution and remove the fish when the Vampire Crabs notice any aggressive behavior.

Vampire crabs are well done social creatures in a community. A ten-gallon tank can house a half-dozen of these beautiful creatures in comfort. 

For your pet Vampire Crab, suitable tank mates include large snails and shrimps. Larger pet fish should be avoided as they can eat your crab while smaller pet fish should be avoided as your crab may eat them.

Most active at night, your pet Vampire Crab will spend most of his day just sitting in their favorite spot. Your pet crab tends to be more active in warmer water though.

Vampire crab Breeding

Because much information about Vampire Crabs is not known, there are no established breeding methods around it. Most of the time the creatures will only raise on their own. 

When that happens, the male gets to fertilize the eggs on top of the female. The female will carry about a month to carry between 20 and 80 eggs.

You’ll notice full-formed Vampire Crab babies running around after they have hatched. They ‘re very independent following birth. Even so, some will stick a little bit around the mother.

We recommend that the babies be removed from the eggs after they hatch. Vampire crabs can exhibit certain cannibalistic behavior.

This is true even for babies. So, you’ll need to make sure that there are plenty of hiding spots for the little crabs to stay safe in the tank you move them to.

We recommend that the babies be removed from the eggs after they hatch. Vampire crabs can exhibit certain cannibalistic behavior.

This is true even for babies. So, you’ll need to make sure that there are plenty of hiding spots for the little crabs to stay safe in the tank you move them to.


Vampire crabs are vividly-colored creatures of unique beauty. Their colored blue or reddish legs and carapace are a striking complement to their purple forehead and pincers, and they’re just fascinating to look at.

These creatures are non-aggressive, easy to care for and are a great way to get your aquarium hobby started.

As you can see, care for Vampire Crab is slightly different. Unlike many other animals you see in the aquarium scene, they have their own set of rules for these semi-terrestrial criteria. 

Yet their beauty makes everything worthwhile. If you have any stories, tips, or photos added to this guide that you would like to see, just let us know! These creatures fascinate us and we want to deliver the best resource possible.

You may contact us here. We at Planet fish value your feedback and suggestions.


Leave a Comment