Freshwater Pom Pom Crab: Breeding & Care

Species Snapshot

  •         Species Name: Ptychognathus Barbatus.
  •         Common Names: Pom Pom crab, Cheerleading crab, Hong Kong crab.
  •         Size: Up to 1 inch.
  •         Lifespan: Up to 1 year.
  •         Native Distribution: Asia.

When it comes to freshwater crustaceans, many aquarium hobbyists think shrimp but there’s another option to consider for your cleanup crew: crabs. Freshwater crabs are less common in the aquarium hobby but they are no less useful than shrimp and they might even be more interesting. The Pom Pom crab is a species worthy of a second glance. We will present you with all the important facts about the crab and the ultimate freshwater Pom Pom Crab care guide.

Anatomy and Appearance

The freshwater Pom Pom crab (Ptychognathus Barbatus) is a fully aquatic species and a fairly new entrant to the aquarium hobby. They’re loved for their gentle nature but it’s their appearance that makes them stand out. These little crabs have Pom Pom-like tufts growing from each claw joint.

Pom Pom crabs are incredibly small, topping out around 1 inch at their full size. Though they’re one of the smallest freshwater crab species in the aquarium hobby, their carapace is unusually broad and their legs are very long and slender. These crabs are typically pale yellow or brown in color, though their color can change to match their environment.

Differentiating between male and female Pom Pom crabs is fairly straightforward. In males, the plate on the underside of the body known as the apron is thin and narrow. Females have a wide, curved apron. Males of the species also tend to have larger claws and “pom poms” as well.

Ideal Aquarium Setup

Because this species is still new to the aquarium hobby, freshwater Pom Pom crab care is considered somewhat difficult. This species can be found in rivers and springs throughout Asia but they’ve most frequently been spotted in China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Tank Size

In their native habitat, freshwater Pom Pom crabs don’t require a great deal of space. You can easily keep a group of several crabs in a 5-gallon tank. Because Pom Pom crabs aren’t particularly aggressive, you don’t have to worry too much about territorial tendencies. Even so, it’s always best to provide the largest tank you can accommodate.

Water Parameters

Pom pom crabs are native to tropical regions, so you’ll need to keep your crab tank warm – a temperature in the mid-70s usually works well. A neutral pH is recommended.

  • Temperature: 72°F to 82°F
  • pH Level: 6.2 to 7.2
  • Water Hardness: Up to 30 dKH

When it comes to freshwater Pom Pom crab care, it’s more important to provide your crabs with a clean, stable environment than to aim for a specific pH or water hardness. These crabs are used to very clean freshwater near the coast, though they do enter brackish environments for breeding purposes.

Tank Décor

Pom pom crabs tend to inhabit narrow rivers in tropical regions where the riverbed is sandy. Rocks and debris create cracks and crevices where these crabs can hide, so it’s important to mimic this environment with your tank setup.

Line the bottom of your tank with a sandy substrate so your crabs can burrow easily. Use rocks and driftwood to create hiding places and feel free to decorate with live plants. Just keep in mind that these crabs may uproot live plants with their burrowing habits, so choose hardy species or floating aquarium plants.

While Pom Pom crabs are a fully aquatic species, they can still function on land. These crabs do well in semi-aquatic setups where pieces of rock or driftwood sit above the water line. You may find that your crabs occasionally climb up and spend a little time outside of the water.

Freshwater Pom Pom Crab Care Guide.

Diet and Feeding

Like many crustaceans, the Pom Pom crab is a scavenger. These little crabs are opportunistic omnivores, so they’ll eat just about anything they can get their claws on. Aquarium hobbyists sometimes make the mistake of thinking these crabs are filter feeders, but the food they catch in their hairs doesn’t account for the majority of their consumption.

Pom Pom crabs make wonderful additions to a freshwater cleanup crew because they will scour your tank for algae, plant detritus, and microorganisms to feed on. These crabs will eat most commercial foods and should be offered live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms on occasion. Because these crabs scavenge for food, you may only need to supplement their feeding 2 to 3 times per week.

Don’t forget to include calcium in your Pom Pom crab’s diet – it’s necessary for them to develop a hard exoskeleton. Look for pellets that contain calcium or consider adding calcium supplements.

Temperament and Tank Mates

Many freshwater aquarium crabs are territorial but the Pom Pom crab is unique for its gentle temperament. These crabs are very active, so you’ll see them moving all over the tank in search of food instead of hiding in a cave. They may occasionally have fights with other crabs over food, but they’re much less aggressive than other species.

Because Pom Pom crabs are so gentle, they can be kept with other fish. Your crabs are unlikely to bother fish, but be sure to choose peaceful tankmates who won’t eat your crabs. It’s best to stick with fish that swim in the upper water column, though you can also keep these crabs with snails and shrimp.

Breeding Pom Pom Crabs

Because they are new to the aquarium hobby, little is known about the Pom Pom crab’s breeding habits – especially in captivity. It is commonly believed that Pom Pom crabs move to brackish waters for breeding and that the young go through several different larval stages before they reach maturity and seek out freshwater. It’s very difficult to reproduce Pom Pom crab breeding conditions in captivity

Other Interesting Facts

  • There is a saltwater crab species known by the same name – do not confuse freshwater Pom Pom crabs with marine Pom Pom crabs.
  • Pom pom crabs are native to Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and other parts of Asia where they dwell in freshwater habitats near rivers and springs.
  • Most freshwater crabs are not recommended for community tanks, but the Pom Pom crab’s small size and peaceful nature means they may do well with non-aggressive tankmates.
  • Pom pom crabs are thought to be fairly resistant to disease, though they can be affected by shell disease, fungal issues, and parasite infections like any crustacean.
  • Like all crustaceans, Pom Pom crabs molt as they grow. This process can be very dangerous because it leaves the crab without a protective shell.
  • Many freshwater crabs will dig burrows to molt in for their own safety – if your crab disappears for a day or two, this is likely what happened. 

Buy Pom Pom Crabs

If you are considering adding the freshwater Pom Pom Crab to your aquarium collection, there is a place where you can find these awesome peaceful crabs that will be a great addition to your tank. Check out these fun freshwater invertebrates at Shrimpy Business today! 

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