Fiddler crabs are an amazing pet that we recommend all the time. Their cute appearance and fun personality make them a joy to have around!
These critters have been a pretty popular pet choice over the years, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
But if you are one of the many people interested in these crabs, there are a few things you need to understand first. While these pets are quite hardy, they do require some unique conditions to thrive in captivity.
To make things easy, we made sure to cover all the essentials of fiddler crab care in this guide. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll be familiar with its habitat, tank setup, diet, tank mates, and other useful facts.
If you’re looking for a fun alternative to fishing in your home aquarium, consider the fiddler crab! These little crustaceans are energetic creatures with unique habitat needs.
Technically speaking, the name «fiddler crab» refers to approximately 100 closely related species and subspecies. They all belong to the Ocypodidae family and have similar needs.
Fiddler crabs come from coastal regions around the world. Many of the crabs in the pet trade today come from Florida, where they inhabit coastlines, ponds, and swamps. You can usually find crabs hiding in burrows along the shoreline or searching for food under the tide.
In captivity, fiddler crabs are very hardy and easy to care for. They make great pets for those who want something a little tough out of the box.
The average life span of the fiddler crab is two to three years in captivity. However, that is only with proper care and good living conditions.
Despite their hardy nature, fiddler crabs are not immune to health problems. In a poorly maintained environment, these crustaceans can suffer and die prematurely.
There are many different types of fiddler crabs out there. They come in a wide range of colors and some have unique patterns that help them stand out even more!
>That said, all Fiddler Crabs have the same basic appearance. They are small crabs with a tough shell (this is the outer shell that protects all the internal organs).
These crabs are decapods. They have ten feet that help them make their way on land and swim in the water. The most identifiable feet will be its two front claws.
The females have two small claws. However, the males have a huge claw. For most specimens, the large claw is significantly larger than their entire body!
Author’s Note: These huge claws have several interesting uses. Fiddler Crabs use them for self-defense and communication (more on this later).
Beyond their characteristic claw, fiddler crabs have stalked eyes and a pair of antennae. Most species of fiddler crab also have a beak-like structure on the front of their shell called a rostrum.
The average size of a fiddler crab is only 2 inches across. These are very small crustaceans!
Author’s Note: Many potential owners are surprised to discover that these are not huge crabs. There is something about seeing them in pictures that makes them seem bigger than they really are!
Fiddler Crab Care
Fiddler crab care is fairly easy compared to many other invertebrates out there. These critters are well adapted to life in captivity and can stay quite healthy in most situations.
Of course, you still need to address your basic needs! These creatures are unique and require a very specific environment if you want them to really thrive (which should be your goal with any pet).
Here are some care guidelines to help you:
The good news is that fiddler crabs don’t need a lot of space. A group of up to four crabs can live quite comfortably in a simple 10-gallon aquarium.
A standard aquarium will work fine. Just make sure it has a stable lid! A mesh cover is best, as it will provide ample air circulation throughout the habitat.
Author’s Note: If you want to keep a larger group, provide about five extra gallons for each additional crab.
For many owners, this can be one of the trickiest parts of fiddler crab care. These crabs are often traded as freshwater pets (we even included them on our list of freshwater crabs).
However, they do not live in pure freshwater environments in the wild.
To replicate its natural habitat, you must provide brackish water. Brackish water has low salinity, but it is far from fresh water. Use a hydrometer to find the proper level. It’s also a good idea to check salinity levels regularly to avoid problems (especially early on).
Once you get the following parameters right, your fiddler crabs will be much happier.
- Water temperature: Between 75°F and 85°F
- pH levels: 8.0 to 8.3
- Water hardness: 12 to 30 KH
- Specific Gravity: 1.005 to 1.08 (below 1.01 is best for most species)
Another common misconception about fiddler crabs is that they don’t need soil in their habitat. These crabs spend a lot of time in the water, but they also burrow in the sand. In fact, they often dig a house in the sand along the shore and retreat to the water when the tide comes in.
To create a similar environment in your tank, you will need to build an artificial shore out of your substrate.
Fine sand or aragonite substrate can be used. Aragonite is excellent for maintaining pH levels and providing crabs with trace minerals.
Author’s Note: Do not use gravel. Gravel can harm the crab. Also, it is almost impossible for crabs to dig or scavenge.
Using the substrate, create a gradual slope to one side of the tank. The water doesn’t need to be more than a few inches deep, so making a shoreline shouldn’t be too difficult.
In the water, you can add some rocks or driftwood. These decorations will give the crabs a place to climb when they are in the water. Small plants are also good for your setup.
To keep the water portion of the tank clean, add an internal filter. Don’t use a hanging model, as the crabs can climb out of the tank.
Finally, you need a way to keep the water well aerated. You can use a simple inner tube. Alternatively, you can position the output of the filter to create motion that simulates waves.
Possible common diseases
Health problems are not very common with fiddler crabs in captivity. However, they can still suffer from diseases caused by poor living conditions.
If you let the tank get too dirty, the water conditions will fluctuate. This can lead to shell diseases. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can damage the shell, eventually causing internal health problems.
Stay aware of the water conditions in the tank. To keep the water in good condition, clean the filter regularly. It’s also good to change about 20 percent of the water every few weeks just in case.
>Fiddler crabs can also experience problems during molting. Crabs molt every eight weeks or so as they grow. During this time, the crab may slow down and not eat.
They are vulnerable after molting, as the new shell is still soft. Just be patient and your crab should be back to normal.
Author’s Note: Many fiddler crabs will lose a limb at some point in their life. If this happens, the crab must regrow a new limb when it molts.
Fiddler Crab Food and Diet
Fiddler crabs are born scavengers. They are omnivores that will eat anything they can find!
When they eat, these crabs will use their claws to pull substrate into their mouths. They then sift through the substrate and eat the organic matter. This includes algae, fungi, and tiny insects.
Dry foods are readily available and are also a viable option for fiddler crabs. The food is formulated to provide all the nutrients the crabs need. Just drop a few pellets or flakes into the water and watch the crabs find them.
If you want to supplement the dry food, you can provide plankton, brine shrimp, seaweed, blanched zucchini, and bloodworms. Crabs will also eat their old shell after molting, so don’t be too quick to remove it!
Feed your crabs once a day. If food remains the next day, remove them to prevent water quality from deteriorating.
behavior and temperament
Fiddler crabs are never bored, which is one of the reasons they make such great pets! These critters are very active and can scurry across the sand very quickly. You will often find them digging burrows or crawling under the surface of the water.
As they dig their burrows, they are actively poking at the same time. You may see crabs spitting up small balls of sand as they search for food.
Aggression is not a big problem with Fiddler Crabs. Sometimes the males can become a bit territorial. They can also get into disputes over a female. If the moment of truth comes, they could end up fighting and losing a limb or two.
To avoid this, simply take out the aggressors and keep them in separate tanks.
Author’s Note: One cool behavioral quirk you can observe is waving! Fiddler crabs will move their large claw to communicate. This behavior alerts others to your presence.
Fiddler crabs do best in small groups of at least two. As long as you have ample space inside the tank, a larger group shouldn’t be a problem.
These crabs are very social and enjoy the company of others.
As for other tankmates, you have limited options. Not many fish will survive in the brackish water that fiddler crabs need. Also, these crabs will try to catch the fish to eat!
If you want to keep fish in the tank, stick to quick movements that can move away from the crab’s claw. Some owners have had success with Guppies, Mollies, Bumblebee Gobies, and Swordtails.
Keep in mind that fish will need more than a few inches of water to stay healthy, so you’ll need to adjust your tank setup a bit.
Other invertebrates, like snails or shrimp, could work. However, the risk of the crab hunting them is still present.
Simply put, fiddler crabs do best in a single species tank. You can try adding tankmates, but be vigilant to ensure your safety.
Successful breeding of fiddler crabs in captivity is impossible. You may see males and females performing a courtship dance. The female may even begin to develop eggs!
However, the reproductive cycle of fiddler crabs is much more complicated than can be achieved in an aquarium.
Fiddler crab larvae develop in deep ocean waters. They make their way to shore as they approach maturity.
There is simply no way to recreate the required environment in captivity, so the eggs will never hatch into crabs.
Fiddler crabs make fantastic pets and we recommend them to others all the time. Watching these little critters go about their business never gets old!
As long as you have a handle on their main care requirements (particularly regarding your tank setup), you should have no problem keeping them as pets. These crabs are low maintenance.
If you have questions about a particular species of fiddler crab, we are always happy to help. For the most part, the high-level care recommendations will stand. But it’s always smart to double check!