Although Vampire crabs (Geosesarma dennerle) are relatively new to the hobby, they have already become rising in their popularity as ornamental species in recent years. The only problem with Geosesarma species is that their ecology and biology is still poorly studied. As a result, there is a lot of wrong information or downright confusion when it comes to caring for them.
Vampire crabs are not freshwater crabs, they are semi-terrestrial animals. These crabs are sociable, omnivorous, pretty hardy and easy to care for.
They were first introduced in 2006. Since then there has been an increasing number of colorful land-dwelling crabs sold for the ornamental fish trade in Europe, Asia, and America going under the name “Vampire crabs”.
Interesting fact: According to “Shrimp King” Christian Lukhaup, these species have been in the aquarium trade for many years but no one knew where they come from.
Quick Notes about Vampire Crab
||Vampire, Geosesarma sb|
|Scientific Name||Geosesarma dennerle|
|Tank size (minimal)||5 gallons (~20 liters)|
|Size of the carapace
Size across the leg span
|1.5 – 2.5 cm (~1 inch)
5 cm (~2 inches)
|Optimal Temperature||24 – 28°C (~75°F – 82°F)|
|Aquarium type||Paludarium (aquarium that has both terrestrial and aquatic elements (freshwater)|
|Optimal PH||7.5 – 8.0 (7.0 – 8.5)|
|Optimal KH||0 – 10|
||4 – 16|
||75% and higher|
|Nitrate||Less than 20 ppm|
|Life span||up to 2 years|
|Color Form||Purple with orange eyes|
Taxonomy of the Geosesarma sp.
The genus Geosesarma includes a group of semi-terrestrial crabs widely distributed in Southeast Asia, the eastern Indian Ocean, and the western Pacific. Currently, this genus contains 58 recognized species. Although new species are continually being described, taxonomy at the genus level is still in a state of flux.
The two most common and popular color forms are:
- a bicolored cream and violet morph (Vampire crab);
- a bicolored dark brown – bright orange one (Red devil crab).
Note: They came from Sulawesi, Java, Krakatau or Riau Islands.
Interesting fact: The new species (Geosesarma Hagen – Red devil crab and Geosesarma Dennerle – Vampire crab) got their names after the German company Dennerle and Rolf C. Hagen, who kindly supported the study in Java.
Natural Habitat of the Vampire Crab
Geosesarma Dennerle (and Geosesarma Hagen) share the same natural habitat. They live in forests (between rocks and among the dense vegetation) near freshwater rivers and lakes. They do not depend on saltwater for development.
Description of the Vampire Crab
Like most Geosesarma species, Vampire crabs are nocturnal and shy. However, from time to time you will also see them at dusk or even during the day.
They are pretty small. Vampire crabs barely reach 5 cm (2 inches) across the leg span. Their carapace (shell width) is about 2.5cm (~1 inch) wide. It makes them ideal for keeping in small (medium) terrariums or paludariums.
The claws do not open very wide. Therefore, it is very hard for them even to pinch you.
Their spectacular colors (bright purple claws, yellow eyes and violet purple to purplish- brown carapace with cream to yellowish-white spot on the back) explain their attraction to aquarists.
Vampire crabs do not live long. They usually achieve a life expectancy of 2 years or slightly more.
Why are They Called Vampire Crabs?
There are several theories on why Vampire crabs are named like that. According to the first theory, this is because of their glowing yellow eyes and creamy spots on the backs that can have a “Bat-like” shape. The second theory says that there is no any mystery. This is just a good marketing move. Because catchy names always attract anyone’s attention and this helps in self-promotion.
The Behavior of the Vampire Crab
Vampire crabs show an interesting behavior. In general, they are peaceful among each other, but not with crabs of a different kind. For example, if you put Geosesarma Hagen (Red devil crab) and Geosesarma Dennerle (Vampire crab) together, they will fight more often.
Note: Clearly, we have a species competition here. Biologists believe that this is because, in the wild, they occupy the same space at the same time.
Vampire crabs are not very active. Once they find a place where they like to sit, they will stay there for long periods. However, it does not mean that they are slow. These crabs can sprint for short distances very well.
Sexing Vampire Crab
Like with all crabs, they have the same gender differences:
- Males are slightly bigger than females.
- Males also have larger, brighter claws. Females have smaller (about half that size) claws.
- The underside of the male’s shell has an oblong or pointed appearance. In contrast, females have a rounded one (wider and oval).
Vampire Crab and Molting
Like the other members of Crustacea, Vampire crab has a hard exoskeleton that protects its internal organs. However, the problem is that this rigid exoskeleton (shell) also prevents growing. Therefore, in order to grow, they have to shed the old shell. So, molting is a process of shedding their hard and old exoskeletons. After that they grow new, larger ones as their size increases.
During the first 6 months of life, Vampire shrimp molt many times. This number decreases to 1 time per month as they become adults.
Important: In Vampire crabs, both molting and breeding occur in freshwater that is unique to this type of crab.
Keep in mind that, during the molting process and right after it, they are extremely vulnerable. So, you will have to prove a lot of hiding places or other crabs can eat a molted one.
For more information, read my article “Crabs and Molting Process”.
Feeding Vampire Crab
Vampire Crabs are predominantly omnivorous creatures, meaning that they can eat almost anything. In the wild, their diet consists of small terrestrial insects (living and dead crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, mealworms, woodlice and springtails), worms, and plant detritus.
In captivity, in addition to any organic matter (brine shrimp, earthworm pieces, bloodworms, etc.), crabs will also eat all kinds of dried algae, shrimp, or fish flakes, wafers, pellets, vegetables (dried or fresh), dry leaves, etc.
Like all snails, shrimp, and crayfish, crabs, also require a lot of calcium for their exoskeleton.
Keeping and Caring for Vampire Crab
Keeping Vampire crabs is easy if you know how to care for them the right way.
Land vs Water Ratio
First of all, I need to start off by saying that Vampire crabs require more land than water (Paludarium). That is why they are not suitable for freshwater tanks! Unfortunately, this is a very common mistake between crab keepers. They believe that it will be enough if they provide them with rocks and driftwood to climb and sit on. Well, this is wrong!
If we really want to give them a comfortable environment where they can thrive and breed, we have to mimic their natural habitat.
That is why it is recommended to give them more land surface in their tank. For example, an 80/20 setup of land and water (or at least 50/50) would be preferable. Vampire crabs stay more time in land area than in water. They do not need a lot of water. As long as water pools can completely cover their entire bodies, they will be fine. Ideally, the paludariums must contain a 10 – 15 cm (4 – 6 inches) deep bottom tray with freshwater.
Important: Vampire crabs cannot stay in water for a long time. They will drown. It is crucial to provide a variety of surfaces for them to get out of the water.
Vampire crabs need clean water for molting and breeding. Unfortunately, this is the second common mistake people make. Remember that Geosesarma dennerle species inhabits forest with pure fresh running rivers and streams.
So, if you are not going to use a filter in their setup, you will need to replace the water regularly. Do not let it sit in the tank for ages! Vampire crabs need a good water source if you intend to keep them long term.
Tip: Every time you replace water, use Seachem Prime (link to check the price on Amazon) to dechlorinate it. Chlorine is dangerous for them.
Note: Depending on the setup, an outside canister filter can be a good choice. In this case, you will need to Remineralize water with Salty Shrimp GH/KH+ or GH+ (Read more about it here).
They do not require anything big. It is possible to keep several Vampire crabs (1 male and 2 females) in a 5-gallon tank. However, if you want to increase the colony, it would be better to have at least a 10-gallon tank.
Tip# 1: Floor space is more important than height.
Tip #2: These crabs are great escape artists. So, a tight-fitting lid is essential.
The substrate in the tank should be made of gravel, earth, sand, or sand-earth mixture to nibble at and excavate in.
Decorations and Plants
In nature, Vampire crabs live in leaf litter and rotten wood near streams in the wild. So, they will appreciate all types of leaves, rocks, wood, plants, PVC pipes, etc. in your tank.
They do not eat healthy plants and can, therefore, be kept in beautifully planted terrassapes. Actually, Vampire crabs can benefit from live plants by collecting bacteria and microorganisms off them.
Vampire crabs thrive in water with a pH of 7.5 – 8.0. If the pH is too low they become very lethargic. The ideal temperature should be around 24 – 28 C (75 – 82 F), KH 0 – 10 and GH 4 – 16.
Do not forget that Vampire crabs also need stable humidity around 75% or higher. This is one of the reasons why people fail to keep them.
Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Mating Vampire Crab
The mating process is quite simple. Vampire crabs do not have any mating rituals. The male simply flips the female upside down, and wrap himself around her to fertilize.
Breeding Vampire Crab
After mating, it takes about 1 month for the eggs to hatch out. Before hatching, females become even more secretive and start hiding almost all the time. Depending on the size, the females can carry from 20 to 80 eggs. They have large eggs and direct development (no larval stages).
Females give birth to live, fully formed miniatures of the adult Vampire crab. They release young into freshwater. Freshly hatched young crabs are only 1 – 2 mm long. They cannot live separately from the mother and stay with her (still under the abdomen) for up to several weeks.
Unfortunately, cannibalism can also be found among the crabs when the brood-care behavior is ended. That is why it is advisable to separate the mother from the baby crabs. Otherwise, only a small number will reach the adult stage.
Note: Keep in mind that young crabs can also become prey to the siblings during the molt. So, it is absolutely crucial to have as many hiding places as possible. Ideally, you should also separate them by size.
Vampire Crab and Suitable Tank Mates
Vampire Crabs are social animals that do well in a community with their own kind. Therefore, if you decide to keep different types of Geosesarma species (such as Tangerine-head crab, Red Devil crabs, etc.) or but Metasesarma species (like Red Apple crab, Marble crabs, etc.) . in the tank, be ready for conflicts and territorial disputes.
Keep in mind that Vampire crabs will lose the fights most times.
If aquarium size allows and you are planning to keep shrimp and fish with them, I need to warn you that there will be losses from time to time. Because of predation, it is not advisable to keep them with small snails at all.
Vampire crabs (Geosesarma dennerle) have a striking appearance and look great in paludariums. They are social amongst each other so it is recommended they be kept in groups.
This species is semi-terrestrial and relatively easy to care for. You will never have any problem with feeding them because Vampire crabs are scavengers and will eat nearly anything on the tank floor.
45 thoughts on “Vampire Crab – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”
I have a tank set-up for a rainbow crab (unfortunately my rainbow crab died recently). Will the rainbow crab tank set-up be OK for vampire crabs? The set-up is pretty much how you described it should be on your guide for rainbow crabs.
Sorry to hear that, but what happened to your Rainbow crab?
Regarding Vampire crabs. Well, their setup of paludarium is almost the same as with Rainbow crabs.
at least a bowl of freshwater (deep enough to submerge)
substrate to dig
If your setup follows these rules then – yes.
can you please tell me what kind of light should i use for vampire crab? Do they need some special ( UVB) light?
They do not need UVD light.
Hi, can you please tell me if they need some special light(UVB for example)?
No, Vampire crabs do not require special light. Lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants in the paludarium.
I found today some babies in my tank and I separated them, But im not sure How I should set up a tank for them.. do they need som special one for small crabs? Or is it fine to make for them the same tank as for the adult crabs?
Thanks for response
Yes, they have the same requirements as for the adult Vampire crabs.
How did you go about separating them?
I have heard some people say they need brackish water to breed and be happy (half salt half fresh) although they can survive in fresh water. I was wondering if this was true as I am new to vampire crabs haha.
No, Vampire crabs need only freshwater. Their natural habitat is near freshwater rivers and lakes.
Is it possible that you confused them with Vampire shrimp? Because Vampire shrimp do not brackish water to breed.
Do you put the food in water for them to eat or on land. Seems if in water would be messy and get rancid.
Only on land. It is easier to clean.
Will I need a humidifier? I noticed there is a hygrometer in your list but no humidifier mentioned.
Thank you for this guide!
Humidifier is just another way to maintain humidity at certain level.
I wrote about this in myarticle “Humidity for Land crabs and Hermit crabs. How to Control (Increase or Lower)“.
I couldn’t find any info online so I hope you can help me.
I have noticed my Red Devil Crab has two small black spots on its claws that weren’t there when I got it (around 3 months ago).
Are they a cause of concern? If so, is there anything I can do?
It means that the claws were damaged. What you see is melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions.
Even though those spots are not aesthetically pleasing. I would not worry too much about your Red Devil crab because in most cases, the meat (under the hard shell) usually does not get harmed or even bruised.
However, if those spots keep growing, it can be alarming.
Thank you so much for your reply! It means a lot to me because I literally couldn’t find any info online.
Thank you again!!
Hi can I plant mint in vampire crab enclosure?
I am not aware of any reasons why it would be problematic to plant mint in vampire crab tank, so I believe it is a viable option.
I manage to breed vampire crabs very often lately since i changed from regular food to bits of my cats food. When i accidently dropped on in, the shyness dissapeared and they all started fighting for it.
So i went on with this experiment en fed them only Hill’s Sience Plan Adult 1-6 Tuna flavoured cat food and they all LOVE it! (break, short soak, drop in tank)
Since they have been breeding a lot. The Java moss and pods i use give them enough protection, they can also run over the floating plants for protection from the adults, although i see no carnivorism as they prefer the cat food the most.
Hi Wout Nuyts,
Thank you, it is always nice to learn something more about them!
Do you give it as a treat or in their everyday feed?
Hi Michael. I’m looking to get vampire crabs in the UK but can only find stores online which will sell un-sexed crabs. I’ve heard that its generally not a good idea to keep more than 1 male at a time. Just wondering if you know whether this is a hard requirement or more of a suggestion. Thanks!
It is great that you are doing the research before getting Vampire crabs!
Regarding your question, generally, males should not give you problems, however, it also depends on the individual temperament.
Also, what size of the tank you are talking about? The more space they have to roam the happier they will be.
Hello, it’s advised for every 1 male 2 females. It is hard when ordering online to get what you want but if you can get to a shop you can see them fir yourself and pick. Mine have had loads of babies.
I had two female vampire crabs. I’ve had them for 3 months and recently shifted them to a large paludarium with 70-30 land-water ratio. I use a sloping sand substrate, the deepest part of the water is 10cm. About two weeks after the shift, they both molted on the same day. Unfortunately one of them didn’t make it. I found her body in the open, in 1cm shallow water, and it was very soft almost gooey. Could this be a failed molt? Both crabs stopped eating a few days before their molt. The other one seems fine now though. What could be the cause? Here’s the water parameters: pH 8.0, ammonia 0.25, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, kh 5 gh 7
What is your humidity level? What did you feed them before they molted?
How old were they?
Unfortunately, sometimes, it is just bad luck.
It sucks but we can’t do anything about it.
Hi so I’m getting g three different colored vampire crabs same species but WHOLE different color will that trigger any alarms for them to fight each other?
Color does not matter, species matters.
If this is Geosesarma dennerle species, you should not worry.
Can you feed vampire crabs mango? It’s late at night and the only thing we have,or mabye cucumber??
Yes, you can give Vampire crabs mango, cucumber, etc.
Check out my article – What Do Crabs Eat and How to Feed Them?
You will find lots of options for your crabs.
Hi Michael, I’m a beginner to Vampire Crab. Not too long ago i bought one Red Devil Crab and one Vampire Crab. The Red Devil Crab attack the Vampire Crab and it loses 2 limbs and died not too long after. I bought them from the same tank in the shop (there were few other vampire crabs in the tank too) and the shop owner did not advise me not to keep them tgt :(. Also, they told me just a bit of water with a drift wood is sufficient to keep them as pets and apparently that is false as well 🙁
Why the Vampire Crabs did not fight with each other when they are in the same tank in the shop. Also, can I keep one male Red Devil Crab with 2 female Vampire Crabs or must be all Red Devil or all Vampire crabs?
1. I would not recommend keeping Red Devil Crabs and Vampire Crabs. Geosesarma species will fight between them more often compared to an only species tank. It is like every species wants to survive and dominate over this or that territory.
2. Why the Vampire Crabs did not fight with each other when they are in the same tank in the shop. Well, first of all, you do not know that for sure and I am seriously doubt that the shop owner would tell you anyway. Their job is to sell as many as they can.
3. You can use water bowls instead of a classical setup (with filter). However, there are several rules to that:
– The bowl should be deep enough to completely submerge your crabs. As long as water pools can completely cover their entire bodies, they will be fine. Therefore, 2-3 inches (5 – 7 cm) will be deep enough.
– It should be big enough to fit at least half of your crabs in it at the same time. For example, if you have 4 crabs, there should be enough space to fit at least 2 at the same time.
– Moreover, in the bowl there should also be some hiding places, so, they won’t see each other!
– You will have to change the water in the bowl every 2-3 days.
Hi Michael, thank you so much for getting back to me! I have re-arranged the tank with some rocks for hiding, pool of water, sand and i think the red devil crab seems more comfortable than before (a drift wood and some water in the tank). I’d also shared a small piece of grape with it and it seems to enjoy it too! Will reach out if I have more questions 🙂 You are awesome !
Hi, I have a couple questions regarding lighting for vampire crabs. First, I’ve read that you should have a red or black light on at night. Is this true, or is any lighting needed at night? Second, what type of light should I use during the day? Do white LEDs work, and are they good for paludarium plants? And do any paludarium plants work? And what is a good hood? Would glass with small holes for ventilation and cords work? Finally, if vampire crabs did breed, can you just keep the baby crabs in a tub that is wet with some cover? And what fruit are good for them, and is feeding them once a day in the evenign good? Sorry for all the questions, I’m getting vampire crabs soon and want to be prepared. Thanks hopefully someone can answer some of my questions thanks
Hi Rachael Ross,
Sorry I could not answer earlier.
>First, I’ve read that you should have a red or black light on at night. Is this true, or is any lighting needed at night?
No, it is not true. They do not need red or black light on at night. Vampire crabs are mostly nocturnal animals and could not care less about lighting.
>Second, what type of light should I use during the day? Do white LEDs work, and are they good for paludarium plants? And do any paludarium plants work? And what is a good hood?
Any. LED lights will be good enough for most plants!
>Would glass with small holes for ventilation and cords work?
It depends on the volume of your tank. Obviously, a few small holes in a large tank won’t change anything whereas it can be more than enough for small containers.
>Finally, if vampire crabs did breed, can you just keep the baby crabs in a tub that is wet with some cover? And what fruit are good for them, and is feeding them once a day in the evenign good? Sorry for all the questions, I’m getting vampire crabs soon and want to be prepared. Thanks hopefully someone can answer some of my questions thanks
Yes, you can. You can give them the same food. Just keep in mind that they are small and eat tiny particles of food. You can crush them up between your fingers.
How do I keep the humidity up in my crab thing?
There are different ways to control humindity.
Check out my article – “Humidity for Land crabs and Hermit crabs. How to Control (Increase or Lower)“.
Wow so much useful information here! I have a female Batik crab on her own, her tail is tilted down and full of what looks like black eggs? Is that what they are? If so can she produce babies parthanogenically or would they be non-hatching? I’ve only ever had males in the past all a bit nervous but she’s a friendly little thing.Thanks Fraz
Hi Frazie Hulbert,
Are you talking about Metasesarma obesum?
How long have you been keeping her? It is possible that she might store some semen for later fertilization.
Unfertilized eggs will be shed, eventually.
Do you have pictures?
hello my vampire crabs recently had children. i am not able to keep them for certain reasons. what do i do in this situation? do i bring them to a person at the store i got them from
You have a lot of possibilities. You could take them to a pet store, or post on forums, Facebook, or Craigslist about what you have to offer. I’m sure they’ll be taken quickly.
Hi Michael, is it bad to keep only one vampire crab in tank ?
Or more than one is a must?
Hi Jia Wey,
Yes, it is quite possible to keep one Vampire crab. Although they may benefit from being in a group of their own kind, but it is not that significant.