Top 15 Most Popular Freshwater Crabs For Beginners

Most people forget about crabs when it comes to keeping aquariums.

However, crabs are a fun and unique addition to any aquarium. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors which means that aquarists can choose the species that they are drawn to most. Crabs are also relatively easy to take care of.

Freshwater and saltwater species exist but for this article we will focus on freshwater species and how to keep them in an aquarium setting.

Are you interested in adding a crab to your aquarium but do not know which one would be the best option?

Below we share the 15 best freshwater crabs that are sure to liven up your tank…

Freshwater Crabs

What Makes The Best Freshwater Crab?

Freshwater Crabs are a great addition to aquariums because they are unique, full of character and pretty easy to care for.

There is so much variation in color and size that there is a crab for just about everyone.

Crabs are great for freshwater aquariums because of their small size. If space is a concern then there are crabs out there such as Fiddler Crabs or Micro Crabs that do not need lots of space. These species will do fine with a 5-10 gallon tank.

In addition, many of these freshwater species have distinct colorations or patterns on them. Species such as the Vampire Crab and the Pom Pom Crab really attract attention!

For those that do not have space constraints then there are larger freshwater species out there such as the Matano Crab and the Rainbow Land Crab. Although these species need more space, they are not really any more difficult to take care of.

Some species of freshwater crab can even help to keep your tank clean. The Gold Claw Fiddler Crab and the Marble Batik Crab are both scavengers which means they will feed on dead matter and keep their tank clean.

There are so many freshwater crab species out there and all of them are unique in their own ways.

Best Freshwater Crabs

15. Marble Batik Crab

Marble Batik Crab

The Marble Batik Crab is very rare in the aquarium hobby.

Marble Crabs have smooth square bodies and come in a lot of different shades that look like the marble we use for countertops.

What makes them a great addition to aquariums is that they are scavengers. They will eat dead matter which can help to keep the tank clean. They are also easy to care for which means they can be kept by beginner aquarists. They love sand and dry areas so make sure your tank has these things.

They spend about half of their lives on land so creating that space in your aquarium is very important.

14. Orange Arm Borneo Crab

This Borneo Crab gets its name from its bright orange claws.

Male claws contain hair while female claws are hairless.

The majority of these Crabs come from Indonesia and they eat everything from worms to fruits and veggies. They live up to 3 years and are very social organisms, so keeping them in groups is a good idea. Do not pair this species with larger tank mates because they will get eaten.

They are well known for their interesting personality and they often enjoy sunbathing on land.

13. Red Apple Crab

Red Apple Crab

The Red Apple Crab is a new addition to the aquarium hobby and remains relatively uncommon.

They will thrive in a paludarium and are easy to care for.

What is really fascinating about these crabs is that they change colors based on how they are feeling. Expect them to change from bright red to brown and back again.

Because of their aggression it is best to keep them alone and to provide them with places to burrow. Red Apple Crabs enjoy lots of veggies compared to other crab species so make sure that they have access to those.

12. Gold Claw Fiddler Crab

Gold Claw Fiddler Crabs are commonly kept because they help to clean your tank.

Because they are omnivorous they will eat a wide range of food. Just like other species, calcium is an important part of their diet.

These individuals are actually a type of Fiddler Crab which means that the males have one large claw. This claw is mostly used for mating purposes but also for escaping predators. Females, however, do not have the same claw. Both their claws are small.

Just remember that these crabs like to climb so you will need a secure lid for your tank.

11. Rainbow Crab

Rainbow Land Crab

The Rainbow Land Crab is also known as the African Rainbow Crab, Nigerian Moon Crab, and the Patriot Crab.

They are not fully aquatic and they need both land and water space in an aquarium. In order to keep them healthy you should keep them in a paludarium just like the Vampire Crab.

Rainbow Land Crabs are large just like the Matano Crab and can range from 3-4 inches. They need more space to thrive compared to smaller crabs.

Unfortunately they are well known for their aggression and even attack members of their own species.

You should keep them on their own.

10. Matano Crab

The Matano Crab is full of personality and color.

They are the perfect addition to any freshwater aquarium!

Matanos are larger than most freshwater crabs and range in size from 3-5 inches.

Although they are quite new to the hobby, they are quickly becoming more and more popular because of their vibrant lavender color.

These crabs are originally from Lake Matano in Indonesia and are used to very specific water conditions. They require a higher pH and water temperature than most other crabs. If they have enough space and food then they will be happy.

Just remember they can be quite territorial though, so plan on keeping them by themselves.

9. Pom Pom Crab

Pom Pom Crab

The Pom Pom Crab is one of the smallest and most interesting crabs around.

They look like tiny little cheerleaders.

Pom Poms only grow to about an inch in length and they look like they are holding pom poms in their claws. Their fascinating look is the result of little patches of hair growing on the tips of their claws. This hair helps them to collect food floating in the water.

They have pairs of claws which are used for digging and catching food and as tools. Their yellow and brown speckled pattern allows them to blend in quite well with the environment too.

You will notice that their eyes extend above their head which allows them to have a 360-degree view of their environment.

Although they do not live for very long in an aquarium, they are certainly a fun and interesting addition to any freshwater tank.

They are also easy to take care of and tend to be peaceful.

8. Panther Crab

Panther Crabs are not a popular choice for aquariums because of their tendency to be aggressive.

However, with the right environment, they can be managed.

Panther Crabs mimic the color and pattern of panthers and leopards. Their whole body is covered with dark spots which makes them really interesting to look at. Individuals can differ slightly in body color but generally the legs are darker than the body.

Natural populations only exist on an Indonesian island called Sulawesi which has very specific conditions. These conditions must be replicated as much as possible in a tank setting.

They are a great species providing that proper research is done beforehand.

7. Porcelain Crab

Porcelain Crab

These aquarium crabs are very interesting.

What is very interesting about Porcelain Crabs is that when threatened, they can drop their claw or leg to distract a predator. This gives them time to escape and any detached legs or claws will eventually grow back.

They are related to other shore crabs, including Hermit Crabs and they spend their time in tide pools on the Pacific Coast of North America.

To eat Porcelain Crabs will filter the water at high tide using their mouth. Their large claws tend not to be used for feeding but instead for territorial disputes.

6. Red Claw Crab

Red Claw Crab

The Red Claw Crab is a very popular choice for aquariums.

They are named after their reddish orange claw.

Although they make a great addition to aquariums, they do require specific habitat conditions which may not be the easiest for beginners to maintain.

Red Claw Crabs live in the brackish waters of Asia and they need this specific water in order to thrive in aquariums. They can live in a purely freshwater aquarium but creating a slightly salty environment will help them live longer. Adding sand to the tank is important as well as creating land space.

They can be a little aggressive at times and will destroy any plants in the tank as well as harm smaller species so it is best to keep them by themselves.

5. Thai Micro Crab

Thai Micro Crab

If you have a small tank then look no further than this mini crab.

The Thai Micro Crab is one of the smallest crabs around and they are also very low maintenance. Aquarists of all experience levels can care for these crabs.

Micro Crabs can only be found in a single river (Tha Chin River) in Thailand. They live amongst the Water Hyacinth.

Their appearance is very similar to spiders which is the reason why they often get confused for Spider Crabs.

Thai Micro Crabs are silvery-white, and they have hair on their legs to help collect food particles.

Although, they are much smaller than the other Crabs mentioned here, they still molt and should be left alone during the process.

4. Fiddler Crab

Fiddler Crab

Fiddler Crabs are very small (1-3 inches) and you can find them in a variety of colors including red and brown.

What makes them unique is that the males have one large claw (1.5-2 inches long) which is used for mating and as a tool to intimidate predators.

These crabs are normally found in marshes, on beaches and in muddy areas.

They are not fully aquatic which means they live in the water and on land. This has resulted in them evolving both lungs and gills. You can expect them to be very active during the day but retreat to homemade burrows at night, at high tide, in the winter and for mating.

Because of their small size and their interesting appearance, Fiddler Crabs make the perfect addition to any freshwater aquarium.

3. Thai Devil Crab

These crabs come from the coast of Africa and Japan and contrary to popular belief, these little guys are anything but devilish.

They can be found near water but they do not live in the water.

Although they do not live in water, Devil Crabs enjoy burrowing deep in the soil and sand to maintain a specific moisture level. It is best to add sand or soil to their tank.

They are popular because of their bright coloration.

You can find them in a variety of colors ranging from red to purple.

2. Vampire Crab

Vampire Crab

Vampire Crabs might sound scary but this crab is anything but.

These freshwater aquarium crabs are actually very unique and are known for their distinct color.

Their eyes tend to be bright orange or yellow and their bodies a deep purple. This helps them to stand out against any backdrop in an aquarium.

In the wild they tend to shy away from plants and instead eat other small organisms.

To keep these crabs you will need a paludarium.

They can be kept with tank mates but to make things easier, we recommend keeping the Vampire Crab by itself.

1. Hermit Crab

Hermit Crab

Hermit Crabs are often overlooked as freshwater crabs because they spend their lives on land instead.

However they do actually need small amounts of freshwater to survive.

These little crabs like to use empty snail shells as shelter and protection. However as they grow, they will change their shell for a larger one.

Hermit Crabs like sand as well and can live long lives if properly cared for. They should be kept in pairs and also kept away from direct sunlight.

How To Keep Freshwater Crabs Healthy

Freshwater Aquarium Crab

Creating the perfect environment and keeping your new freshwater crab healthy can seem like a daunting task.

However, they do not need anything that a fish would not need.

The biggest thing to consider is their habitat.

Remember that each type of crab lives in a different wild habitat. Habitats range from swamps to rivers and even tropical regions. Some crabs are also not fully aquatic. Land space can be created easily but it does need to be maintained in addition to the water quality.

Although habitats differ between species, there are some constants.

Every crab needs:

  • Enough space
  • Adequate water quality (temperature, salinity, etc)
  • Places to hide

The amount of space depends upon the type of crab as well as how many are being kept together. Most crabs will do well in a 25 gallon tank but make sure to research your specific species.

Water quality is crucial in any aquarium setting.

You will need to maintain the pH, temperature, and salinity. Any sudden changes can be shocking and harmful for your crab.

Freshwater crabs will also need places to hide and explore so adding driftwood, plants, or other similar decorations is necessary.

When it comes to feeding your freshwater crabs, they will eat anything and everything. Crabs are omnivores which means they eat meat as well as plants.

One major dietary need is calcium.

Crabs need calcium for their shells and for molting. Calcium can be provided through supplements or other animals such as shellfish.

Which Freshwater Crab Should You Keep In Your Aquarium?

Our list of freshwater crabs only scratches at the surface of the diversity of these animals.

Freshwater crabs differ greatly in size, shape, color and needs but all of the species listed here will brighten up and liven up any aquarium.

Hopefully this list sparks your curiosity or provides inspiration for future aquariums. Which crab are you thinking about getting?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.