Vampire Crabs Paludarium Care Guide: Essential Tips for a Thriving Habitat

Vampire crabs have fascinating colors and interesting behaviors, making them an ideal addition to a well-maintained paludarium.

A paludarium, designed as a combination of an aquarium and a terrarium, is the perfect habitat for these semi-terrestrial crabs that require both land and water sections within their living space.

by AverageWalrus (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Let’s explore the key aspects of setting up a thriving paludarium for these creatures, covering vital elements like water parameters, tank setup, and overall care requirements.

Key takeaways

  • Vampire crabs are small, colorful crabs native to Southeast Asia.
  • These crabs require both land and water, making a paludarium the perfect habitat for them.
  • Vampire crabs are omnivores and should be fed a variety of foods.
  • They can coexist with various tank mates, but not all vampire crabs are equally tolerant of companions.
  • They go through a molting process to shed their old exoskeleton and grow a new one.
  • Vampire crabs can breed easily and frequently in captivity.
  • Hobbyists should consider buying captive-bred vampire crabs to protect wild populations from excessive harvesting for the pet trade.

What Are Vampire Crabs?


Vampire crabs belong to the genus Geosesarma, which includes semi-terrestrial crabs distributed widely across the eastern Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific. The scientific taxonomy of vampire crabs is as follows:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Crustacea
  • Class: Malacostraca
  • Order: Decapoda
  • Suborder: Pleocyemata
  • Infraorder: Brachyura
  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Genus: Geosesarma

There are currently 56 recognized species in the genus Geosesarma, though other species may still be assigned to it later.


The most notable feature of vampire crabs is their coloration, which varies greatly among the different species. They can exhibit a range of colors, from blues and purples to oranges and reds. Additionally, some species are adorned with white spots, further enhancing their visual appeal.

All species share one distinctive characteristic: their bright yellow eyes, which stand out against their contrasting body colors. 

by tjeales (CC BY-SA 4.0)

According to one theory, they are named after their glowing yellow eye.

Their carapace (shell width) measures approximately 1 inch, and they have a leg span of about 2 inches.

Natural Habitat

Vampire crabs are native to the freshwater streams and caves of Southeast Asia, where they thrive in dense vegetation and rocky environments. They are well-adapted to life in aquatic and terrestrial habitats, making them perfect for paludarium setups.

Life Span

Their life span in captivity typically ranges between two to three years with proper care. Creating a suitable environment that closely resembles their natural habitat and providing a balanced diet will contribute to their health and longevity.

Creating A Suitable Paludarium

Tank Size

When setting up a paludarium for Vampire Crabs, choosing an appropriate tank size is essential. These crabs are small creatures with a leg span of barely 2 inches (5 cm) and a carapace width of approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm).

Because of their size, they can be comfortably housed in small to medium-sized tanks. We recommend a tank sizeof at least 10 to 20 gallons to provide the crabs with ample space to move about and establish their territories.

Land and Water Ratio

The ideal paludarium for Vampire Crabs should follow an 80:20 ratio of land to water. The majority of the tank should be composed of land, with a smaller section dedicated to water. 

There are various ways to create the land portion, including using rocks or driftwood to create platforms or constructing a sloped substrate.

Humidity Level

These crabs thrive in humid environments, so carefully monitoring the humidity levels and providing a consistent source of moisture inside the tank is essential. 

Regular misting, coupled with live plants that help retain humidity, can contribute to creating an environment that closely mimics the natural habitat of the Vampire Crabs.

by Stefan Chessa (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you find that the humidity is consistently low, it may also be due to inadequate heating in the paludarium.

Essential Elements And Decoration


We recommend using a mix of coconut fiber and sand, creating a damp and loose base for the crabs to dig and burrow. 

Additionally, this combination aids in retaining moisture, thereby maintaining an optimal humidity level of 75% or higher, essential for Vampire crabs’ health.


Live plants play a significant role in providing a natural environment and mimicking the crabs’ wild habitat.

Choose plants that thrive in humid environments and can withstand semi-submerged conditions.

Some ideal options include Java moss, Java fern, and Anubias. These plants not only offer shelter for the crabs but also help maintain water quality and pH levels.

Hiding Places

Vampire crabs are fond of hiding in caves, crevices, and among plants. Incorporate various decorations such as rocks, driftwood, and artificial caves to provide them with a comfortable refuge. These crabs also appreciate natural landforms, so consider adding slopes and other elevation changes to the paludarium layout.

By combining an appropriate substrate, suitable plants, and ample hiding spots, a Vampire crab paludarium will resemble their natural habitat and help them thrive in captivity.

by AverageWalrus (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Water Conditions And Temperature

Temperature Requirements

Vampire crabs thrive in a specific range of temperature conditions. The ideal water temperature for these fascinating creatures is between 75°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C).

Water Parameters

To provide optimal living conditions for vampire crabs, its essential to maintain appropriate water parameters.

  • pH: Maintaining a slightly alkaline pH level is crucial for the crabs’ wellbeing. A pH in the range of 7.5 to 8.0 is suitable for their habitat.
  • Hardness: The recommended water hardness for these crabs lies between 0 and 10 dKH, ensuring the water is neither too soft nor too hard for them.
  • Humidity: Vampire crabs require a high level of humidity in their environment. A humidity level of 75% or higher is necessary for their comfort and survival.

Regular water changes and a reliable filter are integral to keeping the water clean and maintaining proper water quality for vampire crabs.

Feeding and Diet

Types of Food

Vampire crabs are omnivores, which means they eat both plant-based and meat-based foods. Their diet should include a variety of options to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Foods such as bloodworms, earthworms, and brine shrimp can provide them with protein, while veggies like spinach and broccoli offer beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Algae wafers are another great addition to a Vampire crab’s diet, as they are rich in essential nutrients and fiber.

To maintain a healthy exoskeleton, it’s essential to include high-calcium foods such as cuttlebones, spinach, and broccoli.

Some ideal food items to include in a Vampire crab’s diet are:

  • Bloodworms
  • Earthworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Algae wafers
  • Cuttlebones
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Feeding Schedule

In captivity, Vampire crabs should be fed regularly. Most experts recommend offering food two to three times per week, depending on the size and age of the crab.

Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues, so it’s best to observe the crabs and ensure they finish their meals during each feeding session. Remove any uneaten food to maintain proper water quality in the paludarium.

A balanced diet and consistent feeding schedule is crucial for the overall health of Vampire crabs. If you provide a mix of meaty foods, vegetables, algae wafers, and calcium-rich sources, these unique creatures will thrive in captivity.

Tank Mates And Social Behavior


Vampire crabs are calm and reclusive, often hiding in their preferred land area. They are not known for being aggressive or territorial towards other tank inhabitants.

However, aggression may occur if the crabs are kept in overcrowded conditions, which can lead to stress and territorial disputes.

To ensure harmonious coexistence in a paludarium, provide ample space and hiding spots for each crab.

Additionally, maintaining a diverse environment with a combination of aquatic and terrestrial sections can help avoid conflicts among the crabs and other species.


Vampire crabs are generally peaceful creatures that can coexist with varoius tank mates.

Suitable tank mates for these crabs include small and non-aggressive fish species, such as guppies and tetras.

Invertebrates, like shrimp, snails, and smaller crabs, can also be compatible as long as they pose no threat to the vampire crabs.

However, it is important to avoid large or aggressive species that may injure or consume the crabs. Such species may include predatory fish, larger crayfish, or aggressive insects like water bugs or mantises.

It’s important to consider that vampire crabs undergo ecdysis, or molting, when they grow. During this process, they shed their current shell to reveal the new one beneath it. However, when they first shed the new shell is still very soft and vulnerable to predation. During this stage, fish can easily nibble at your crab.

Taxon Expeditions (CC BY-SA)

For this reason, it’s important to provide many safe spaces where the crab can molt safely. It’s also essential not to keep the crabs with larger fish species, even if they’re typically peaceful. Most fish, and even crabs, won’t pass up an easy meal.

Breeding And Reproduction

Males and females will naturally engage in mating behaviors, and successful reproduction is possible with a few basic conditions met in their paludarium.

During the mating process, the male crab will lay on top of the female and fertilize her eggs. Keep an eye out for the typical courtship behavior of the male vampire crab, which involves approaching the female cautiously and displaying its claws to show off its size to the potential mate.

Female vampire crabs will carry between 20 and 80 eggs for about a month before they hatch. These eggs are attached to the female’s pleopods, located underneath her abdomen. During this period, the female becomes more secretive and can be observed hiding most of the time.

A key aspect of breeding success is maintaining appropriate water quality. Perform partial water changes every month, replacing up to 40% of the water to keep ammonia and nitrate levels low.

In terms of reproduction, vampire crabs exhibit direct development, which means their offspring do not go through any larval stages. Upon hatching, the young crabs already resemble miniature versions of the adult crabs, just smaller in size and less colorful.

To support the breeding process and encourage the growth of the offspring, it is essential to provide a balanced diet including live and frozen food like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and vegetables.

Maintaining a stable environment with hiding spots, such as rocks and wood, can also ensure the young crabs have a safe place to grow and acclimate to their surroundings.

Molting And Health

Molting Process

Vampire crabs go through a molting process to shed their old exoskeleton and grow a new one. During molting, the crab will become less active and may even hide for several days. Provide a clean environment during this time, as poor water conditions can lead to complications.

Keep the water temperature between 70 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain a pH level between 7.5 and 8.0. Providing a healthy diet, including calcium-rich foods, is also essential to help build strong new shells.


Vampire crabs, like all invertebrates, can be susceptible to various diseases in suboptimal living conditions. Some common health issues include:

  • Shell Rot: A fungal or bacterial infection that causes the exoskeleton to decay. Prevent it  by maintaining proper water quality and performing regular water changes. Clean the paludarium often, removing any decaying matter and debris to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Mites or Parasites: If you notice mites or parasites on your crab, respond quickly. Isolate the affected crab and clean the paludarium thoroughly and treat the water with an appropriate medication.

Conservation And Availability

Vampire crabs have become increasingly popular in the aquarium trade.

While they’re not currently listed as vulnerable or endangered, increased demand for the pet trade could increase pressure to collect these animals from their native habitats in unsustainable numbers.

Due to their rising popularity as pets, some Vampire crab species are now bred in captivity, providing a more sustainable option for enthusiasts, which we strongly encourage,


Vampire Crabs are excellent invertebrates to keep in a paludarium setting. They have fascinating behaviors and breathtaking coloration. They also make excellent companions, if you choose tankmates well.

From breeding to feeding, and even tank maintenance, vampire crabs are a dream as long as you meet their basic needs.


How much land do vampire crabs need?

Vampire crabs require a balance between terrestrial and aquatic areas in their paludarium, with at least 50% land area available for them to thrive.

Do vampire crabs need a heat lamp?

While a heat lamp is not absolutely necessary, maintaining a water temperature between 75°F – 82°F (24°C – 28°C) is important for their well-being. You can also accomplish this with an undertank heater or submersible aquarium heater, which most aquarists consider safer than heat lamps.

Can Vampire Crabs live with shrimp?

Yes, vampire crabs can coexist with shrimps, as they prefer the company of small and peaceful creatures. However, in some cases, the crabs may eat the shrimp. It depends largely on the crabs’ temperament.

Will Vampire Crabs eat snails?

Vampire crabs may occasionally eat small snails, but their diet consists mainly of flakes, pellets, algae wafers, and frozen/live foods.

How deep should water be for Vampire Crabs?

These crabs don’t have a strict depth requirement, but it’s essential to provide enough water to submerge part of the aquarium (and the crabs). You also need enough moisture to maintain a humidity level of 75% or higher is essential.

What kind of plants do vampire crabs like?

Vampire crabs enjoy plants that create a dense and forest-like environment while offering hiding spots and climbing opportunities. Excellent options include mosses, ferns, and climbing plants, which offer.

What substrate is best for Vampire Crabs?

A mixture of coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, and sand is the best substrate for them, as it allows for easy burrowing and helps maintain humidity levels.

If you liked this article, you might find intersting our articles about Panther crabs , Thai micro crabs, Fiddler crabs and Red claw crabs.

About the author

Hi, I am Alex.
My passion is aquariums. I am especially drawn to betta fish. I love experimenting, learning, researching, and writing about them.

You can find the articles I wrote here

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