Vampire Crabs – Complete Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size, and Disease

Vampire crabs are undeniably one of the most enchanting aquatic creatures you’ll ever come across. A popular species known in the aquarium trade, vampire crabs, have become the latest sensation as house pets. If you’re a sea creature enthusiast but would like something different than conventional fish, you can choose to buy these magnificent beings or even breed them if you like. In the paragraphs below, you’ll find all you want to know about vampire crabs, how to care for them, what kind of tank to choose, etc.

Vampire Crabs Overview

It is a fascinating and mysterious creature, the vampire crab. Colored in brilliant dark hues, its great yellow eyes are the highlight of its appearance. In fact, its colorful and striking appearance is why most people have wanted to house them. It is said that their place of origin is around Southeast Asia, but it’s something that is still debatable. These beautiful crustaceans thrive in freshwater only and have the reputation of being classic scavengers. Thus, they are also called Carnival crabs, red Devil crabs, and Devil crabs.

The following table enlists some basic information about the vampire crab.

Information ChartVampire Crabs
Scientific Name:Geosesarma dennerle
Care Level:Easy
Temperament:Mildly aggressive
Color:Deep red or purple, interspersed with many shades
Lifespan:Up to 2 years
Size:1.5 – 2 inches
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Temperature:21 – 28 °C (70 – 82 °F)
WaterConditions:Warm freshwater with slightly above neutral pH
Tank Mate CompatibilityCherry barbs and guppies

Vampire Crabs Appearance

Vampire crabs are stunning creatures. Most of them have ten legs, two of which are their pincers. Out of the two inches that they measure as a whole, the carapace (the main body) alone occupies an inch of space. 

Usually, these crabs are a deep purple color, including their legs. Their body is darker though, somewhat brownish-purple, at times black, laced with white or cream spots. Their eyes are unique and bold – they are bright yellow and stand out amazingly against the dark body. Sometimes, their grips take on a pinkish hue. Stalks help them stand in a raised position above the body.

Their pincers are quite small; they won’t really hurt you, although they can hurt smaller animals. 

Types / Varieties Of Vampire Crabs

Vampire crabs are a recently discovered species, and although it is known that many of their sub-specimens exist, not substantially enough information is available about them. However, around the beginning of last year, the origins of two mesmerizing, colorful new vampire crab species had been discovered on the island of Java, Indonesia. 

Aquarists, of course, have known about them for years. However, nothing much was known about where they originated from, which is now clear. Some basic information about the two is enlisted below:

Geosesarma dennerle

It derives the name from the scientific nomenclature of the vampire crab – this one is bright purple and is popular in the aquarium trade. Sometimes, it is also called ” Geosesarma sp. “Blue” Blaue Vampirkrabbe” or “Geosesarma “Vampir” Vampirkrabbe”.  

The Geosesarma dennerle is a nocturnal land crab and prefers to live on the damp banks of water bodies. It does not burrow much; it prefers to live more on land than in water.

Geosesarma Hagen

Geosesarma Hagen is a land-living crab and is found in Java, Indonesia. They are usually a bright orange or dark brown. Like its counterpart discovered at the same time, this crab is also very popular in the aquarium trade and is sometimes known as “Geosesarma sp “rot” or “Geosesarma red devil”.

Lifespan Of Vampire Crabs

The typical lifespan of a vampire crab is around two years.

The surprising thing here is that the vampire crab has the same lifespan, whether in the wild or bred in captivity. A poorly maintained ecosystem or disease threats, however, may reduce its lifespan.

In very rare cases, you can prolong their life even beyond two years if you feed them well and take extremely good care.

Vampire Crabs Size

The typical vampire crab grows up to 1.5 inches on the lower end and 2 inches for larger specimens.

They are very tiny creatures, which is why they are so famous in the aquarium trade. These crabs grow out to a maximum of 2 inches, out of which their carapace occupies almost one inch.

They have a hard exoskeleton that protects them from enemies. However, they undergo the molting process periodically as the exoskeleton does not grow with the rest of the crab.

Natural Habitat And Origin

The natural habitat of vampire crabs is freshwater lakes. They are semi-aquatic, though; they prefer to live more on land than in water. This is because they cannot survive in saltwater.

Their exact location of origin is unknown, although some say, Southeast Asia. However, these crabs can usually be found in freshwater regions ranging from India, Southeast Asia to Hawaii and the Solomon Islands.

They belong to the Animalia Kingdom and Arthropoda Phylum. The Subphylum is Crustacea, while these creatures belong to the Malacostraca Class.

Vampire Crabs Care & Tank Set-up

Vampire Crabs Tank Size And Specifications

Optimum Tank Size for Vampire Crabs

The recommended tank size for vampire crabs is 10 gallons.

These crabs are quite small; therefore, they can be kept in smaller tanks. A 10-gallon tank is a minimum you must consider; this will ensure they have plenty of space.

If you want to keep a lot of these crabs, you will, of course, require a larger aquarium.

Tank Shape for Vampire Crabs

The recommended shape for a 10-gallon tank is 20 X 10 X 12 inches.

Tank shape and dimensions vary as per the aquarium brand. However, most of them have a standardized shape that can house these crabs.

Filter Type

Using a fine filtration system is vital, or the waterfalls prey on ammonia and nitrate waste. Preferably, use a standard hang-on-back canister filter. You can also use an under-gravel system.

In the event that you use an outside canister filter, ensure to re-mineralize the water with GH+ or Salty Shrimp GH/KH+.


The substrate you use in the crab tank should be composed of sand, earth, and gravel – proportioned properly so that the crabs can nibble and excavate in the same. Pebbles will do as well, and you can also use some crushed coral. 

How many Vampire Crabs are in a 10-gallon tank?

A 10-gallon tank can have at most size vampire crabs. However, if you want more, you may need a larger tank to ensure enough space for everyone.

Water Parameters For Vampire Crabs

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for vampire crabs is 70 ° F to 82 ° F.

Something between the aforementioned range will work best for vampire crabs. A figure between 21 – 28 °C ensures a proper balance that works best for these creatures. Anything extreme may cause them to get sick, though.

pH Level

The perfect water pH level for vampire crabs is 7.5 – 8.

These creatures, from their natural habitat, prefer a slightly acidic pH level. The freshwaters in India and the Southeast Asian zone display an average pH level between 7.5 and 8. A pH level slightly above neutral works very well for these creatures.

Water Hardness

The water hardness in the aquarium should be maintained between 0 to 10 dKH. This range is decent enough and allows you enough leeway to experiment a bit.

However, maintaining a steady hardness level will work out best for your crabs and any other creature in the aquarium. Water hardness also affects pH levels, so ensure that it is maintained at an appropriate level. 

Vampire Crabs Tank Landscape

Vampire crabs are semi-terrestrial; they require both dry and damp areas as they spend only about 50 percent of their time in the water. Therefore, the tank must have a variety of surfaces for them to rest on. 

Choose a well-proportioned 10-gallon tank and work on making it a habitat that the crab will be comfortable in. For starters, ensure that the floor space is wide. The floor space is more important than the height. At the same time, ensure that the tank comes with a lid, as these crabs can easily climb out and escape.

These crabs need more land than water, so ensure that a land-water ratio of 80:20 is maintained in the tank. To that end, add enough substrates in the tank alongside plenty of green plants, in addition to add-ons such as caves and rocks, for the crabs to hide or rest. Add enough sand as they love to burrow, especially when they are molting. 

Vampire crabs are an excellent addition to project terrascaping, as they eat dead plants instead of living ones. 

Best Plants for Vampire Crab Tanks

Any edible plant will suffice well for these tanks, as these crabs are not fussy about the greenery around them. You can use floating plants too. The following make excellent choices, however:

Best Plants for Vampire Crab Tanks
  • Leafy green plants
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Anubias

Worst Plants for Vampire Crab Tanks

No plant, in particular, is classified as ‘not allowed’ for these tanks. Since these crabs feed only on dead plants, it doesn’t matter what kind of plant you keep in the tanks. What’s important, though, is that the plants you choose are non-toxic.

Decorations for Vampire Crab Tanks

Decorations for Vampire Crab Tanks

Vampire crabs will appreciate any sort of natural greenery resembling their habitat. Add in some plants, leaves, rocks, and wood. They love to hide sometimes, so ensure to add artificial caves or a PVC pipe. Add enough rocks so that they can rest on them when needed. Little bits of driftwood, shells, gravel, etc., will also do.

Lighting for Vampire Crab Tanks

Lighting is not a compulsion. However, you can use waterproof aquarium LED lights. Make sure they are not too bright or too disturbing. A simple string will add enough oomph to the aquarium and make the entire setup look brilliant as the lights bounce off the colored bodies of the crabs.

Nitrogen/Other Nutrient Requirements For Vampire Crab Tank

These crabs cannot thrive in an atmosphere filled with ammonia and nitrates, so ensure to change the water periodically. Use a filter to keep the water clean. Make sure the pH level, water durability, and water temperature are adequately maintained. 

We recommend that you change at least up to 40 percent of the water every month to help maintain low ammonia and nitrate levels. Clean up any debris and waste, such as uneaten food.

While taking care of the water-related parameters, remember that vampire crabs need 75% or more stable humidity. It’s different in the wild; even if they are outside the water, they remain in humid conditions. In captivity, though, you’ll need to go the extra mile. Consider investing in a humidifier that’ll help you maintain the humidity level of 75% or higher.

Feeding Vampire Crabs

Best Diet For Vampire Crabs

Vampire crabs are hardcore omnivores; they’ll eat anything they can lay their eyes on. Usually, in the wild, they make do with insects and plant detritus. 

Unfortunately, they are scavengers, and you’ll often find them digging through the ground to find something to eat. When in captivity, though, you can plan a proper diet rich in nutrients so that your crab stays healthy and fit. The following foods will do very well for these creatures:

Pieces of earthworm
  • Blood worms
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Live baby crickets
  • Brine shrimp
  • Larvae
  • Pieces of earthworm
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae wafers
  • Dry flakes
  • Pellets
  • Live fish

Consider supplementing them with calcium-rich foods such as peas, spinach, and broccoli, once in a while. It’ll help strengthen their shells.

A well-rounded diet of live and commercial food will work very well to keep them healthy.

How Often Should You Feed Vampire Crabs?

Vampire Crabs should typically be fed once every day.

These creatures are scavengers, so it would be advisable to feed them not more than once a day.

Vampire Crabs Behavior and Temperament

Are Vampire Crabs Lone Or Societal By Nature?

Surprisingly, vampire crabs are known to be social by nature. Not the friendly kind of socializing, but more aggressive. They are likely to attack other aquatic creatures they feel are on their turf, including other crab species. However, among their own, they are quite comfortable and are likely to socialize.

Vampire Crabs Tank Mates

Ideal Vampire Crab Tank Mates

Some suitable mates for your vampire crab include:

Bad Tank Mates For Vampire Crabs

Any other breed of crab will pose a territorial issue for your vampire crab, so avoid adding them to the tank.

Breeding Vampire Crabs

Not much is known about the breeding process of vampire crabs; there is still so much to research and observe in that direction. To that end, what we know is a very basic frame of information.

Vampire crabs are sexually mature and ready for breeding at around six months of age. Here, it is the male that climbs on top of the female and helps fertilize the eggs. After that, the female carries between 20 to 80 eggs for about 30 days. Once the eggs are hatched, you’ll see minuscule, fully-formed vampire crab babies running around. You’ll also be surprised to know that they are quite independent, right from their birth; although, some may stick around with the mother. 

From what we know, it is advisable to remove the babies from the eggs after they hatch. That’s because these creatures can be cannibalistic sometimes. Another pointer – ensure that the kids and the parents are in two separate tanks. Vampire crabs are likely to eat their kids! If you want to keep them in the same tank, we recommend that you add plenty of hiding spots so that the kids can feel protected.

Vampire Crab Breeding Level

The breeding level for vampire crabs can be classified as intermediate.

These creatures are egg layers, and although we have basic knowledge about the breeding process, there’s so much more to be known and discovered. In fact, if you’re looking only to breed them, you may have a slightly tough time, as many factors about these creatures still remain a mystery.

Vampire Crabs Sexual Dimorphism

To distinguish between male and female vampire crabs, we suggest you take a look at their abdominal flaps.

The abdominal flaps for males are a little pointed and thin – quite narrow, in a pyramid shape. By contrast, in females, the abdominal flap is larger, wide, and oval-shaped.

The males are usually a little taller than the females. 

Male vampire crabs have claws, which are lighter in color. Sometimes, they may have orange or red claws as opposed to the usual black like most females. Also, they have larger claws than the females.

Vampire Crabs Common Diseases and their Treatment

As a rule, vampire crabs are sturdy creatures and don’t fall ill very often. However, they are afflicted with parasites, fungal problems, and bacterial infections when they do fall ill.

Shell Damage

If you observe that your crabs’ shells are damaged, it is possible that their diet may need a change. First, ensure to add calcium in their food. Feed them with veggies such as spinach and peas. You can also feed them calcium supplements. 

Pathogen-Induced Disease

As per experts, crabs aren’t even vulnerable to common fish diseases, such as Ich. At most, they may be carriers of this pathogen. Varied pathogens may also be introduced in the event that you introduce new fish to the tank.

The problem of pathogens from Ich can be resolved when you quarantine your crabs as soon as you get them from the store. And, to prevent new pathogens from infecting them, ensure that you maintain a clean tank.

Bacterial/Fungal Infections

Bacterial and fungal issues can crop up due to pathogen build-up, or more often than not, due to unhygienic water conditions. Bad water may cause a build-up of algae or other harmful bacteria that is likely to stress the crabs, which may lead to them losing their immunity. 

Not cleaning the tank or refraining from maintaining the required water temperature, hardness, and pH level may also cause an increase in the ammonia levels, further causing infections.

To avoid these, always keep the tank clean. Replace the water, change the filter, clean out the debris; do what you can to ensure that the tank is maintained hygienically. This alone will ensure that your crab remains free of diseases.

Copper Poisoning

Crabs are highly susceptible to copper poisoning; copper has proven toxic to invertebrates and may kill them. In fact, crabs are vulnerable to copper poisoning both on land and in water. 

To ensure this doesn’t happen, never use any chemicals that contain copper. Also, avoid using toxic plants; they may kill your crabs too.

Facts about Vampire Crabs

  • Vampire crabs are social and friendly with other vampire crabs.
  • These creatures are scavengers and omnivorous and can chew their way through anything they lay their hands on.
  • Vampire crabs molt for several weeks, once a year.
  • These animals breed and molt in freshwater.
  • Vampire crabs can eat both in and out of water.
  • They are most active in warm water.
  • They are said to have originated first in Southeast Asia.

Are Vampire Crabs Right For You?

Author’s Note:

The vampire crab is an irresistibly stunning species that is growing in popularity by the day. Not only is it affordable, but is also easy enough to maintain. All you need is a good 10-gallon tank with water and a few plants and rocks, and you’ll find that your crab is incredibly independent and happy to spend time all by itself, foraging in the sand. 

If you feel you have the ability to provide a good home for them, with thriving conditions and healthy food, think no more! Go out and get this magnificent creature in your home. You’ll be amazed to know how much beauty the vampire crab can bring in your life!

What Do Vampire Crabs Eat?

Vampire crabs are omnivores and can ideally eat anything they lay their claws on. They like to eat earthworms, blood worms, larvae, dead plants, fish, pellets, and crickets in captivity.

What Kind Of Aquarium Do Vampire Crabs Need?

These creatures need an aquarium that has a capacity of 10 gallons. However, the land to water ratio here needs to be 80:20. These crabs spend a lot of time on dry surfaces as opposed to damp ones.

How Long Does It Take For A Vampire Crab To Molt?

Vampire crabs usually burrow into the substrate once a year for the molting process, seemingly taking several weeks. 

Where Are Vampire Crabs Found?

These creatures are found in freshwater lakes across humid regions like India, Southeast Asia, Solomon Islands, Hawaii, and the Riau, Java, or Krakatau Islands.


The vampire crab, no doubt, is one of the most wanted pets in the aquarium trade. They are incredibly attractive and easy to maintain. You will, however, need to evaluate whether you’re ready for this commitment. Owning a pet is a full-time responsibility, although these crabs are fairly independent and will not take up much of your time. Go through the care process minutely, evaluate the requirements, and make a well-thought-out decision. We’ll say this, a though – if you’re a fan of sea creatures, you will not regret getting this beauty home!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.