Aquariums make peacefully beautiful additions to our homes. Throughout the world, it is one of the most popular hobbies. However, aquariums are not just for fish keeping.
A relatively recent addition to the aquarium hobby, invertebrates, and crustaceans (like crabs, crayfish, dwarf shrimp, etc.) are quickly gaining popularity.
The reason behind it is simple – crustaceans are relatively easy pets to keep and care for. They are also considerably cheaper than most pets, and there is a lot of different crabs, crayfish, dwarf shrimp species to choose from.
Whether your aquarist journey has only just begun or you are a seasoned veteran and looking for something new to add to your aquarium, there are some important questions you should consider yourself and ask the shopkeepers before taking the final decision.
So, here are key things you should know about crustaceans before you bring one home.
1. What Species Is This?
When you are buying a certain type of crustaceans, you need to know what classification they belong to.
In the future, it will allow you to research more about this particular species.
On my blog you can find detailed articles on many species, for example:
2. What Kind of Tank Do They Need?
Basically, there are three categories you can divide different types of aquariums into:
- Freshwater tanks,
- Saltwater tanks,
- Brackish tanks.
Do these crustaceans prefer cool or warm temperatures, hard or soft water, etc.?
Do they need open spaces or lots of hiding places?
Can you keep them in planted tanks or reef tanks? Are they plants or corals safe?
Are these crustaceans fully aquatic or semi-aquatic?
All these questions will let you set up a proper tank with optimal conditions.
You can read more about it in my articles:
- How to Set up Paludarium
- How to Set Up a Crayfish Tank
- Hermit Crab Tank Setup
- Basic Shrimp Tank Setup for Neocaridina.
- How to Set Up a Caridina Shrimp Tank
- How to Set Up a Freshwater Crab Tank
3. Is it Captive-bred or Wild-caught?
Ideally, you need to consider the source (water parameters) from where your shrimp, crabs, crayfish, etc. came from.
- Are they captive-bred and if so, how long the species have been bred?
- Are they the first, second, etc. generation?
Why is it so important to know the history of these animals?
Many crabs, crayfish, dwarf shrimp sold today are raised in captivity and tolerate a certain range of water chemistry parameters, some are still wild-caught and may need a specific pH, GH, KH, or temperature to thrive.
Therefore, wild-caught and captive-bred animals may not have the same requirement. You need to do your best to find out the water parameters they were bred in.
|Animals may have already accustomed to less ‘ideal’ water parameters. As a result, any attempt to introduce them to other water conditions can shock them.|
Always research the type of crustaceans you want to buy or ask if they need special conditions.
You can read more about it in my article “The Ideal Water Parameters for Fish and Shrimp Keeping”.
4. How Big Will the Crabs, Crayfish, or Shrimp Get?
Almost all cold-blooded animals, including crustaceans, will continue to grow (molt) as long as they are alive. As a result, they may outgrow a small aquarium.
Remember, their size is determined by genetics, not by aquarium size!
Many crustaceans you see in pet stores are usually juveniles. Some species may only get a little bigger, while others may get really huge (triple or more in size).
You have to make sure the crabs, crayfish, or shrimp you intend to buy will fit comfortably in your tank when they reach adult size.
You can read more about the molting process in my articles:
- Crabs and Molting Process
- Crayfish and Molting Process
- Everything About Hermit Crab Molting
- Aquarium: Molting Process and Metabolism of the Dwarf Shrimp
5. Is This Species Peaceful or Aggressive?
Do not simply dismiss crabs, crayfish, or shrimp that are aggressive. They may and will disrupt the peace in your community tank.
Many species of crustaceans are naturally aggressive. You do not want an aggressive crustacean that spends its day chasing and harassing everyone else around, stressing them.
While some crabs, crayfish, or shrimp may not kill their tankmates right away, it will lead to problems eventually.
Nipping, chasing, and keeping from feeding will take their toll on the victim, resulting in increased susceptibility to disease or even death.
It is important to understand that while the temperament of individual crustaceans may vary to some degree, most species can be divided into various categories based on their compatibility with other fish, snails, plants, corals, etc.
You can also read “Can You Keep Crayfish With Other Fish?”.
6. Are They Territorial?
Even though many crabs, crayfish, or shrimp are aggressive and territorial at the same time, there is still a difference between being aggressive and being territorial.
Territorial crustaceans will not allow others in their space as long as they have enough space and structure to define their territorial boundaries. They can chase other tank inhabitants away if they come too close, but they will otherwise leave them alone.
Obviously, this question directly correlates with the size of the tank. An increase in the tank size and complexity can reduce harmful aggressive behaviors. It will also give you an idea of how many crustaceans you may keep in the same tank.
7. Is it a Male or Female?
Why is it so important to know the gender of your crustaceans?
When we are talking about crabs and crayfish, once again we have to keep in mind their potential aggressive and territorial behavior.
Depending on the species, as adults, one male and one female may be kept together, but two adult males may require far more space to prevent territorial fighting.
Luckily, we usually do not have to worry about such conflict with dwarf shrimp. However, female to male ratio will also affect the breeding rate. So, if you want to get good results, you need to know that.
Note: There is a unique crayfish in our world – Marbled crayfish (read my guide here). Every Marbled crayfish is female – they reproduce by cloning themselves and can overpopulate home tanks in a short time.
8. How Many Can I Keep Together?
Some crustaceans are solitary and as adults, they do not tolerate closely related species or even others of their own kind.
Some other species, on the other hand, do best in colonies of 6 or more. In the company of their own, they become more confident and do not hide all the time.
For example, according to the study, the optimal density is 2-3 dwarf shrimp per 1 liter (5-10 per gallon).
9. What Do I Feed It?
You have to ask for very specific details about the crabs, crayfish, or shrimp’s diet and even their eating habits.
Are they carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous? Are they scavengers or hunters? Will they be a part of clean up crew in the tank or simply cause chaos and destruction?
All these questions will help you to avoid getting surprised when you see any signs of aggression, including feeding times when they will fight off other tank inhabitants as they perceive to threaten their meals.
You need to make sure your crabs, crayfish, or shrimp will get the proper nutrition by researching the best food to give your pets.
It is extremely important that you know the feeding routines.
10. What’s the life expectancy of the species?
The average life span of dwarf shrimp (Neocaridina and Caridina species) is 12-24 months. While medium-sized shrimp such as Amano or Bamboo shrimp can live up to 3-5 years. Many crayfish and crab species often live 8 to 10 years.
Pets provide companionship, affection, and responsibility!
Buying a pet such as crab, crayfish, or shrimp can be a lifelong commitment. They require a proper environment in order to stay healthy and live happy life.
You can also read “How Long Do Dwarf Shrimp Live?”.
There are many crabs, crayfish, or dwarf shrimp species that you can choose from. However, there are also many important things for the aquarist to consider when selecting a new pet.
As I mentioned earlier, buying them can be a lifelong commitment.
When you are in a pet store, do not hesitate to ask as many questions as you can. At the same time, you have to be very careful there, DO NOT think that they know everything and everything they say is true!
Do some research beforehand about the specific needs of the animal. Take it seriously!