Vampire Crab: Species Profile, Care Guide & Pictures

Vampire crab on green leaf

It is easy to get captivated by vampire crabs with their unique color and feisty appearance. But beyond their distinctive appearance, there are other fascinating things about these semi-terrestrial crabs worth knowing.

Read on to get to know more about vampire crabs. From their appearance and behavior to their maintenance and cost, we’ve got everything covered. Let’s start.

Vampire Crab Quick Facts

Scientific Name:Geosesarma spp.
Origin:Indonesia, particularly in Java, Sulawesi, Riau, and Krakatau
Habitat:Semi-terrestrial: found on edges of rivers and lakes with dense vegetation
Lifespan:2–3 years
Size:1–2 in (3–6 cm) wide
Temperament:Peaceful towards each other but can be aggressive and territorial in certain circumstances
Care Level:Intermediate
Tank Size:10 gal
Temperature:70–82°F (21–28°C)​
Lighting:Standard aquarium lighting suitable; moonlight setting for nocturnal observation​
Substrate:Mixture of aquatic and terrestrial substrates for land and water areas​
Availability:Relatively rare

What Is a Vampire Crab?

Frontal view of vampire crab

Vampire crabs are a group of semi-terrestrial crabs that belong to the genus Geosesarma. These crabs have captured the interest of aquarium enthusiasts due to their vibrant colors and unique appearance.

They are primarily found in the freshwater environments of the eastern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia.

Little is still known about vampire crabs due to their recent discovery. The genus Geosesarma includes numerous species of vampire crabs, but the exact number is subject to ongoing research and discovery.

Nonetheless, two recognized species are notable for their colors: the Geosesarma dennerle, distinguished by its purple and cream color, and the Geosesarma hagen, known for its dark brown and orange appearance.

Why Is It Called a Vampire Crab?

The vampire crab gets its name from its distinctive, striking eyes, which are brightly colored, often appearing in shades of yellow, orange, or red.

These vivid eyes stand out against their darker carapaces. This apparent contrast, alongside their nocturnal nature, evokes an eerie resemblance to the mythical creatures of the night, hence the name “vampire crab.”

Vampire Crab Origin and Natural Habitat

Vampire crab crawling on moss

Vampire crabs are fascinating creatures that trace their origins to Southeast Asia, particularly thriving on the Indonesian island of Java.

This region’s unique environment, characterized by its dense forests, freshwater streams, and rocky areas, provides the ideal conditions for these crabs.

Vampire crabs’ habitat supports a semi-terrestrial lifestyle, requiring access to land and water for survival. The blend of terrestrial and aquatic environments allows them to forage for food, find shelter, and reproduce effectively.

Vampire Crab Physical Characteristics

Red vampire crab on rock

Vampire crabs are known for their distinctive and colorful appearance. These crabs are relatively small, with their size typically not exceeding two inches in width, including their leg span.

Their compact bodies and relatively small claws are adapted more for their semi-terrestrial lifestyle rather than defense or predation.

One of the most striking features of vampire crabs is their vividly colored carapace, which can reflect a wide array of colors depending on the species.

The Geosesarma d. species, for example, often display a vibrant purple or violet shell adorned with lighter spots, creating a stark contrast. Their eyes are also distinct, usually bright yellow or orange.

Meanwhile, the Geosesarma h., also known as the red vampire crab, has a darker carapace, from deep browns to almost black, with bright orange or red spots.

Their eyes tend to match this fiery coloration, leaning more towards a deep red. This species exhibits a more dramatic color contrast, enhancing its “devilish” appeal.

Vampire Crab Temperament and Behavior

Vampire crab facing forward

Vampire crabs are calm and enjoy being with others of their kind, making them great for group settings in aquariums.

They are most active at night, which aligns with their natural nocturnal habits. During the day, they usually hide and sometimes stay still in one spot.

They can be territorial to their kind and other species, especially when the tank is too crowded or when competing for mates. Nonetheless, this behavior is more of establishing territory rather than outright aggression.

To keep them healthy, having an aquarium that mimics their natural environment with both land and water areas is important. It’s also essential to give them enough space to avoid conflicts.

Vampire Crab Lifespan and Health

Vampire crab on bark

Vampire crabs can live for 2 to 3 years in captivity, with some reaching up to 5 years when given optimal care.

This lifespan is influenced by several factors, including the quality of their environment, diet, and how well their health is managed.

Their health largely depends on maintaining clean water, proper humidity levels, and a balanced diet.

Keeping Vampire Crabs as Pets

Vampire crab raising claw

Having vampire crabs as pets can be an exciting endeavor. These crabs are relatively easy to care for compared to other aquatic pets.

However, they have specific habitat and dietary requirements that should be met to keep them healthy and thriving.


Creating a suitable habitat is essential for vampire crabs, which thrive in a paludarium — an enclosure that combines terrestrial and aquatic elements.

A minimum of 10 gallons is recommended for housing a small group, around two to five crabs, to provide ample space for exploration and territory establishment.

The land area should consist of moist substrates such as coconut fiber or sphagnum moss decorated with plants, rocks, and driftwood to offer hiding spots and climbing opportunities.

The water section should be shallow but large enough for the crabs to submerge if they choose to.

When I set up a paludarium for my vampire crabs, I used an 80:20 land-to-water ratio to mimic the natural habitat of vampire crabs in the wild.

It is recommended not to go below a 50:50 ratio since they are mainly terrestrial animals rather than aquatic.

I also ensure ample hiding places, such as plants, rocks, and driftwood. This is very important for nocturnal animals, such as vampire crabs.

Here is a tutorial video on how to set up a paludarium for vampire crabs:

I Made a Paludarium for Vampire Crabs, Here’s How!

Diet and Nutrition

Vampire crabs are omnivorous, requiring a balanced diet of plant-based and protein-rich foods.

Algae wafers, blanched vegetables like zucchini or spinach, and occasional treats of protein such as brine shrimp, earthworms, or bloodworms will keep them healthy.

Feeding them in small quantities is essential to prevent overfeeding and maintain water quality. Regular feeding, balanced with their natural tendency to scavenge, will ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Temperature and Lighting

The right temperature and lighting conditions are crucial for mimicking the natural environment of vampire crabs. Maintain the temperature within the range of 70 to 82°F to simulate their tropical habitat.

Lighting should be moderate, with a cycle that includes light and dark periods to support their nocturnal activities.

LED lights with a timer can help create a consistent day-night rhythm, encouraging natural behaviors and reducing stress.

Humidity is also something you should monitor. Many owners fail to factor in the humidity on the land part of the aquarium, which is why they find it difficult to keep them. The humidity should be 75% on the land portion.

Breeding Vampire Crabs

Vampire crab on ground

Vampire crabs follow a unique breeding process that’s intriguing and challenging to replicate in captivity.

In their natural habitats across the freshwater environments of Southeast Asia, these crabs skip the larval stage, which is common in many aquatic species.

Instead, they practice direct development, where the offspring emerge as tiny versions of the adults.

Breeding these creatures in a home aquarium requires a keen understanding of their natural living conditions. A balance between land and water areas that these semi-terrestrial crabs need should be provided.

Specific conditions related to water quality, temperature, pH levels, and especially humidity must also be maintained to mimic the crab’s natural habitat and encourage breeding behaviors.

The actual process of how vampire crabs breed is straightforward compared to other aquatic creatures. There’s no elaborate courtship dance or mating ritual.

After mating, the female carries the fertilized eggs under her abdomen, protecting them until they’re ready to hatch. This breeding style, while simple, demands careful attention in captivity to ensure offspring survival.

Pro Tip: Vampire crabs can have cannibalistic tendencies. Hence, placing the baby crabs in a separate container or providing ample hiding places is recommended to prevent them from being snacked on by larger crabs.

How Much Does a Vampire Crab Cost?

Vampire crab on wood

The cost of owning a vampire crab varies, typically ranging between $15 and $25 each. This price can fluctuate based on factors like the crab’s size, coloration, and rarity.

When planning to buy a vampire crab, it’s important to remember that the initial purchase price is just one part of the overall cost.

Setting up a suitable habitat that mimics their natural environment, with both land and aquatic elements, is crucial for their well-being.

This setup and other maintenance expenses should be factored into the total investment in keeping vampire crabs as pets.

For those interested in purchasing vampire crabs, here are three places where you can find vampire crabs:

  • Online Aquatic Pet Stores: Websites like Aquatic Arts and Aqua Imports offer a variety of vampire crabs with detailed care instructions and support for buyers.
  • Local Pet Shops: Some specialized local pet stores may carry vampire crabs, allowing buyers to see the animals in person before purchasing. You can also ask for tips from the shopkeepers on how to keep and maintain these crab species.
  • Reptile and Exotic Animal Expos: These events can be great places to find vampire crabs, as they often feature vendors specializing in exotic pets. Vising these expos is also a fun way of understanding exotic breeds more.

Regardless of where you choose to buy, ensuring the source is reputable and committed to the health and well-being of their animals is key.

Aside from reading customer feedback, checking the seller’s terms and conditions is part of my routine before finalizing any online purchase.

It’s a good way to know exactly what to expect in terms of returns, shipping, and warranties. It’s like a quick reality check to ensure everything’s on the up and up, helping avoid any future hassles.

Recommended Tankmates for a Vampire Crab

Vampire crab perched on rock

When considering tankmates for your vampire crab, selecting species that share similar requirements for temperature, humidity, and space is essential.

Peaceful, small fish that dwell in the upper parts of the water column make good companions for vampire crabs.

When I adjusted my tank to a 60:40 land-to-water ratio, I added neon tetras or guppies because they are less likely to venture into the crab’s territory on the land portions of the setup.

I also once tried to add snails and larger shrimp species, and they did coexist well with the vampire crabs. They occupied different niches within the tank and generally did not compete for resources.

Avoiding large or aggressive fish that might see vampire crabs as prey is important. Similarly, vampire crabs should not be housed with smaller crustaceans they might prey upon.

The key is maintaining balance in the tank, ensuring all inhabitants have enough space and resources to thrive without infringing on each other’s territory.

Frequently Asked Questions

Vampire crab with a green background

Are Vampire Crabs Rare?

Vampire crabs are considered a rare species, primarily found on small islands in the Indian Ocean, such as Java, Riau, Krakatau, and Sulawesi.

Their distinctive habitat requirements, semi-terrestrial nature, and vibrant colors contribute to their rarity in the wild and the pet trade.

Are Vampire Crabs Aggressive?

Vampire crabs are generally not aggressive towards humans, their kind, or other species, especially when kept in a suitable environment with enough space.

However, they may show territorial behavior towards other species if they feel threatened or their space is invaded. It’s vital to carefully choose tank mates and provide hiding spots to prevent potential aggression.

Can Vampire Crabs Breathe Underwater?

Vampire crabs have specialized gills under their body, allowing them to breathe underwater. This adaptation enables them to live in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

Will Vampire Crabs Eat Other Fish in an Aquarium?

Vampire crabs are primarily scavengers and omnivores, preferring a diet that includes plant matter and detritus. They are not known to hunt or eat live fish actively in an aquarium setting.

However, if given the chance, they might opportunistically feed on small, weak, or dead fish. Ensuring they are well-fed with appropriate food is crucial to minimize any risk to other aquarium inhabitants.

Can Shrimp and Vampire Crabs Live Together?

Shrimp, especially larger species, and vampire crabs can live together in an aquarium, provided the environment is set up correctly to cater to both species’ needs.

It’s important to ensure that the vampire crabs are well-fed to minimize the chance of them preying on smaller shrimp. These two species can coexist peacefully with the right conditions and careful monitoring​.

With proper care and maintenance, vampire crabs can be great and intriguing additions to a paludarium tank. If there are other things you wish to know about these crab species, just let us know in the comments below!

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