Vampire crab is a name given to a large group of species from the Geosesarma genus. There are about 67 known species of which G. Dennerle is being recently recognized.

These crustaceans look pretty unique in large extended golden yellow eyes over brightly colored carapace with a small bat-shaped design in light yellow on the back. This ghostly appearance is probably the reason why they are called Vampire crabs.

With a miniature looks and deep shades embellishing its shell, the crab appears gorgeous, and their low-cost maintenance makes them popular at home aquariums.

The article below discusses the characteristics, preferences, breeding abilities, and tank requirements of this exclusive crab.

Species Overviews

General Attributes
Scientific Name GeosesarmaDennerle
Common Name BlaueVampirekrabbe, Geosesarma Vampire
Area of Habitat Indonesia
Family Sesarmidae
Compatibility Paludarium
Size 1.5 – 2 inches
Type Freshwater

Place of Origin and Environment

The vampire crab species has a long history and has encountered a lot of debate regarding its place of origin. Many scientists have tried to locate their original habitat but could not suggest a particular region.

The Geosesarma species are usually located across the east of Indian sub-continent from Andamans, Thailand, Papua, Malaysia, and Philippines.

In 2006, a biologist from Singapore university, Peter Ng, was the first to witness them in an aquarium at a Singapore pet shop. But after a long research work, it was the German carcinologist Christian Lukhaup to infer the natural habitat of these crabs.

He challenged the old theories that claim their primary existence to be in Java, Borneo, New Guinea, Sumatra, Krakatoa, or Sulawesi.

Now the new findings prove the local habitat of these purple pet crabs to be the semi-terrestrial, low-land region on the Java Island of Indonesia.

Native homes of these vampire crabs comprise stone-covered crevices and tiny holes carved in the ground of a steep elevation, close to the shallow freshwater area.

Fact: They prefer typically humid spaces over a paludarium or a water surface flooded with lots of greenery so that they can bask over it.


Vampire crabs are pretty similar to other critters with ten limbs that include a pair of claws, but they look unique and fascinating with extruded eye structures and vibrant body colors.

The most prominent come in base colors of purple or orange with a mix of the same pattern of shades such as pink, yellow, or reddish. The eyes are mainly yellow.

The limbs are generally long and thin shades darker than the carapace and have tiny spikes or hairs over them. The shell is often smooth with some light-yellow nodules.

The claws, unlike other crabs, are small in size with little grasping power, but still, they can hunt other small animals.

As mentioned on, these crabs are embellished with a primarily purple or orange exoskeleton with a blotch of beige or yellow on the back surface.


The sad side of the story is that these fantastic creatures have a very short lifespan.

If they get fruitful conditions, the vampire crabs in the wild may survive for a maximum of 24 months.

Their average life is about 12 – 15 months in the captive environment. As they get old, the body becomes vulnerable to unsuitable food or water conditions and catches fatal diseases.

Maximum Size

These crabs are tiny and look like cute devils crawling on the sand. The total length of the vampire crabs, including the far stretched legs, is just 5 cm.

However, if you only talk about the central shell, it is less than one inch. Aquariums may not provide them with enough mobility or other favorable conditions to gain their maximum size, and thus, they only reach about 4 cm.

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How to Find the Gender

It isn’t complicated to inspect the Vampire crabs to clarify the difference between the males & females. Although they look similar in appearance, some distinct features and attributes help establish gender specifications.

  • This crab species has a larger male counterpart than the female.
  • Females have round-shaped flaps on the abdomen, whereas males have smaller and pointed tip-like flaps.
  • The males usually possess light shades on the claws, while the claws look pretty dark in females.

Price and Availability

These colorful crabs are abundantly available in the market to fulfill the regular demands.

If you already own a paludarium, adding these animals will be worth it.

Generally, the cost of vampire crabs depends on the color and the age of the crabs, while the seller may also ask for shipping charges. The average price ranges from $6 to $25.

Care Instruction

Quick Stats
Care Level Easy
Social Harmonious
Temperament Semi-Aggressive
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Complicated

Food and Dietary habits

Such crabs eat everything that they may find throughout the wilderness. Violet vampire crabs are omnivore scrappers who hunt when the opportunity arises.

Feeding them can be relatively easier than other fishes or amphibians because these are scavengers and quickly find their food while crawling on the surface.

Providing calcium-rich vegetables is essential health-wise because they go through the process of producing exoskeleton. Dried food can be one of their primary diets living inside an aquarium.

Here is a list of suggestions about what do vampire crabs eat in a captive environment.

  • Bugs, dead plants, algae, or organic debris are the primary part of the diet in its native ecology.
  • Worms (Bloodworms, or Earthworms), shrimps, and insects larva or baby crickets in live & frozen form.
  • Pellets, flakes, and algae wafers as dried supplements.
  • Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, etc., will help enhance the calcium level in the diet.

Quick tips: These orange and purple crabs should be fed a high-quality dried food diet rich in organic vegetable matters.


There is very little information on the process of breeding Vampire crabs. It seems to be difficult as they like to breed at their leisure and do not have any specific mating season.

Though it is hard to force them to mate otherwise, they do not demand any specific conditions for breeding. Follow the below-given information if you wish to make the crabs breed in tanks.

Fact: These crabs are ready to reproduce as early as six months from hatching.


Arrange a pair of crabs aging more than six months and put them in an aquarium (preferably a paludarium). Maintain a clean environment, and when they are ready to reproduce, the males are seen hanging out with the female to fertilize the eggs.

Fact: The vampire crabs lay 1.2 – 1.8 mm in diameter eggs.


The females had to carry the eggs for about 25 – 30 days until they were ready to hatch. They can lay 20 – 80 eggs at a time, from which mini vampire crabs come out.

These are directly developed babies of 1 – 2 mm size and look exactly like adults. They quickly start making brisk movements from the moment they are born.

In the wild, these babies independently move away from the location. While in the tank, you should remove the parents at this stage as they might start hunting these juveniles. You also need to monitor the group of babies as they can attempt to predate the weaker ones among them.

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Characteristics and Habits

These are night-walker species and usually stay idle in the daytime. Vampire crabs like to move between the land and water, but due to their nocturnal nature, they prefer hunting, feeding, or coming out of the caves and crevices of the paludarium in the dark.

These crabs are completely harmless creatures and make a good companionship with each other, though they do not behave well with different species, such as red devil crabs or sand fire vampire crabs.

They had to pass through the molting process, where the old exoskeleton upgrades to a newer and larger shell that helps in the growth and protection of the crab.

It is a normal process, more frequent at an early age and mainly after a month when they become adults. They feel susceptible because the new shell is soft, and thus they try being out of sight behind the vegetation or rocks for some time.

Note: It looks bizarre watching them resting like a statue at any specific position for the whole day, but it is their natural behavior.


Few diseases gravely affect a Vampire crab’s living condition. Parasites and infections caused by bacteria are the primary causes of ill health in these crabs. Two such diseases are mentioned below:

  • A damaged shell is the effect of low calcium and sodium in the crab’s diet. Adding minerals to the crab’s diet or directly into the tank’s water can benefit.
  • Poisoning from copper has generally been the leading cause of death in them. Avoid adding copper-rich minerals and salt into the water.
  • Pathogen induction is similar to the ich, a common disease in fishes. It often becomes an issue in crabs when fishes are introduced into the tank and can be easily cured by regularly cleaning the tank water.

Necessary Tank Requirements

Tank Setup Stats
Minimum Size 20 Liters
Water Temperature 72 – 82 F
Water Hardness 4 – 16
Lighting No
pH Level 7 – 8

Quick tips: Vivarium’s are not for vampire crabs; tanks with 80 percent land and 20 percent water are suggested. 

Ideal Tank Size

The vampire crab is small but loves to roam around the space, searching for food particles.

Thus, a suitable tank volume will be 10 Gallons to house six of them, preferably two males and four females.

Tip: A horizontally large tank is better than a vertical size since the crabs prefer shallow water with a large land area.

As a beginner, you may also start with a 5 Gallons tank, keeping three of these crabs together. But it will not benefit in the long term as the crabs won’t get proper movement space and thus may not be able to finish their average life.

Setting up a Tank

  • Plants

Because these crabs aren’t picky regarding the flora around them, a range of green leafy plants will serve the purpose of this paludarium. Cryptocoryne, and anubias are suitable greens for these vampire crab tanks.

Plants that float on the surface will comfort the crabs to hide underneath. Living plants create a natural essence, and they sustain because the crabs only consume dead plant matter.

  • Lighting

As these crabs are mainly nocturnal, they rarely come out during the day. A Moderate amount of lighting is more than enough.

A single LED strip can add to the rich aesthetic and would highlight the colorful crabs.

  • Substrate

Substrates consisting of moss and sand can be beneficial. Once every month, crabs hide inside the sand burrows when it is time for molting.

A thick substrate is even essential during breeding, as when a pregnant crab is ready to lay eggs, it shelters in sand holes or moss for safety purposes.

You can also use floating perches or rocks if it is a community tank with fishes or other crustaceans as mates.

  • Oxygen and Filtration
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A good filter is necessary because an under-gravel system will not be adequate for crab keeping. Crabs need a humid temperature wherever they live, be it in the wild or inside a captive region.

Maintaining a humid climate with 75 percent humidity is best to keep the crabs calm, and you can reasonably achieve it through a humidifier.

  • Décor and Aesthetics

The vampire crabs will appreciate anything resembling the equatorial rainforest. Building small caves and burrows will help them survive and enjoy the ambiance of the tank. Leafy structures and a bit of driftwood are an excellent choice for these crabs.

Important Note: Expensive filters are not necessary, whereas a humidifier can come in handy because these crabs are from a tropical climate that is moist and humid.

Water Parameters

These freshwater vampire crabs are semi-aquatic and spend quite a bit of time on the land. Hence, instead of a full-fledged water tank, they should be given a paludarium space with a ratio of water to land at 1:4.

Though the environment is less water and more land area, you must consider specific parameters while filling the tank to keep the crabs healthy.

The water should be clean and regularly monitored for any impurities from food and excretes, while you can also replace 40% of it on a weekly basis.

The water temperature in the tank should be around the range of 24 – 28 degrees Centigrade.

Fact: The vampire crabs behave actively when the temperature of the water is comparatively warm.

The water should be moderately hard between 8 – 12 with excess mineral contents, and alkalinity or pH ranging from 7.5 – 8.

Tank Mates

These crabs prefer the company of peaceful&small creatures. They are rarely seen combating with the same species, except during the mating season, which is the reason for keeping one male with two females together.

Avoid crabs of other breeds as the vampire crabs might behave aggressively against them.

Regarding other tank mates, you must ensure they are friendly-natured and almost the same size. Such similar creatures in a tank will avoid attacking each- other.

The most compatible aquatics of vampire crabs are listed here.

  • Large Snails
  • Shrimps (Cherry)
  • Invertebrates
  • Dither fish
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Guppies
  • Neon Tetra
  • Zebra Danios

Frequently Asked Questions

Are vampire crabs aggressive?

They can occasionally behave aggressively towards other males or crabs of different species but generally show higher bonds and respect towards the tank mates. The same species of crabs can easily stay together.

Can a person be able to hold these crabs?

Yes, they are easy to carry. The crabs are entirely harmless to humans due to their tiny claws and pincers; handling them is pretty comfortable.

Can they breadth underwater?

Crabs use the gills to breadth underwater. They use the appendages placed on their lower side close to the claws, and when water passes through the gills, it extracts oxygen from it.

Can any fish live with vampire crabs in a tank?

Smaller fishes don’t have a chance of co-existing with these crabs. But fishes bigger or similar in size to these crabs can live in the paludarium. Snails and other invertebrates are suggested as tankmates.

How long do they take to molt?

Molting is a normal process that after approx. one month as long as they live. Depending upon the species’ origin, removing the shell to gain a new one takes about 15 – 180 minutes.

How Many times can you feed them?

The vampire crabs only eat when it is dark, and since they are typical scavengers, you must only schedule their feed once in 24 hours.


These colorful little crabs are worth spending your money on if you have prior knowledge of the setup of a paludarium for vampire crabs. With little to moderate care needed, they are very aesthetic as pets.

These are one of the best crustaceans for petting due to their peaceful nature, small size, with non-injurious claws.

They like to co-exist and can quickly adjust in community tanks, and being omnivorous in their diet makes it easier for crab owners to feed them.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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