Pom Pom Crab: The Cute Freshwater Crustacean

Alison Page

Alison Page


Pom Pom Crab

Sharing is caring!

If you’re looking for a peaceful, fun creature to add to your freshwater aquarium, you might want to consider the Pom Pom crab.

These fully-aquatic crabs shouldn’t be confused with their marine counterparts, and they aren’t as readily available in the aquarium hobby as other species of micro crabs, so most hobbyists don’t know much about keeping them. That’s a shame, as these cute crabs are straightforward to care for and get along well with most peaceful fish species.

To learn more about the Pom Pom crab and its care, keep reading!

Freshwater Pom Pom Crab – At a Glance

Pom Pom Crab Info
Scientific Name:Ptychognathus barbatus
Common Name (species)Pom Pom crab
OriginMadagascar, Taiwan, New Caledonia
Care LevelEasy
ActivityActive scavengers
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature Range68° to 78° F
Water HardnessUp to 30 dKH
pH Range6.2 to 7.2
Filtration/Flow RateWell-filtered water with a moderate flow rate
Water typeFreshwater
BreedingNot bred in captivity
CompatibilityCan live with non-aggressive community fish
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

Origins and Natural Habitat

In the wild environment, the Pom Pom crab is very widely distributed throughout Africa, Asia, and Australia, particularly in countries such as Madagascar, Taiwan, and New Caledonia, where the crabs inhabit freshwater springs and streams.


Pom Pom crabs get their name from the tufts of hair that grow out of their arms. In fact, the hairs grow from the claw joint, which makes it look as if the Crab is holding cheerleading pom-poms! In male crabs, the bristles are thick and long, whereas they are barely noticeable in females.

In addition to the pom poms, these crabs are quite unique, having a broad shell for the creature’s size and long, slender legs. Most Pom Pom crabs are brown or pale yellow in color, and some have darker brown speckles on their bodies as well.

To tell the difference between a male and female Pom Pom crab, take a look at the underside of the creature at its plate. The plate differs in size and shape between males and females, with male crabs having a thin, narrow apron, while the female’s apron is wide and curved.


Freshwater Pom Pom crabs grow to a half to 1 inch wide, making them similar in size to the Thai micro crab.


One major downside to keeping this freshwater crab species is that they only live for an average of about one year. Since the crab’s lifespan is so short, providing optimal care is essential since poor living conditions would leave the crab vulnerable to health issues and disease, which would shorten its life even more.

How To Care for Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs

Pom Pom Crab

For these crabs to live to their maximum life expectancy, excellent care is essential. In this part of our guide, we explain all you need to know about looking after freshwater Pom Pom crabs.

Minimum Tank Size

Since these crabs are so tiny, you can keep a small colony of them in a 5-gallon tank as a minimum.

However, for the creatures’ comfort and well-being, a 10-gallon aquarium is a better choice, allowing you the scope to keep a larger colony and providing much more space for these active crabs to roam around.

Water Parameters

Unlike their saltwater cousins of the same name, Pom Pom crabs need a freshwater environment replicating the clean freshwater streams they inhabit close to the coast. So, although wild Pom Pom crabs move to brackish waters for breeding purposes, they need to live in a freshwater tank.

As far as is currently known, these seldom-seen pets need a tropical water temperature of between 68°F to 78°F, water hardness of less than 30 dKH, and pH levels in the range of 6.2 to 7.2.

Your tank will need a firmly fitting lid with no gaps around the filter outlet or electrical cables, as these crabs are very capable escape artists that will get out if they can!

Tank Setup

Unlike other crab species, Pom Pom crabs are highly active little guys that love having plenty to keep them amused, so a well-decorated tank suits them the best.

Choose a fine sand substrate so that the crabs can burrow and rummage through the sand with their claws, looking for scraps of food. Add plenty of natural decor, including driftwood and rocks that the crabs can hide underneath in a cozy resting place.

These crabs enjoy having lots of plants in their tank and won’t eat or destroy them. However, the Pom Poms will sometimes accidentally dig up or spoil shallow root systems with their constant digging, so I advise sticking to using floating plant species of those with strong roots that aren’t easily damaged.

Alternatively, you could plant your aquatic plants in terracotta pots or grow them over items of decoration, such as rocks and driftwood.

What Do Pom Pom Crabs Eat?

Pom Pom Crabs are scavengers and opportunistic omnivores that will eat whatever they find in their surrounding environment.

Despite their feathery hairs, these grabs are not filter feeders, largely because they don’t keep still for long enough to filter feed truly. Instead, Pom Pom crabs spend much of their time hunting around your tank in search of food, such as algae, plant detritus, and microorganisms.

You can offer your crabs commercial dry foods, and a regular diet of dried pellets and fish flake supplemented with protein-rich snacks such as bloodworms and baby brine shrimp will keep them healthy. If you feed your other fish frozen meaty proteins, you can be sure that the Pom Pom crabs will eat any leftovers they can find.

Temperament and Behavior

Pom Pom crabs are sure to keep you entertained with their antics and activity! Many other crab species are quite shy and spend much of their time hiding away, but these guys are the total opposite, running around the tank bottom, searching for scraps of food, climbing, digging, and eating.

Pom Pom crabs won’t hassle your other fish and will generally ignore them. That said, you might sometimes see skirmishes over food occurring, but they don’t amount to much, and there is usually no harm done.


As is the case with all invertebrate species, Pom Pom crabs shed their old shells every month or so to enable them to grow. Once molted, the shell is discarded, and the crabs will burrow into the sand to avoid injury and stay safe until their new shell has hardened.

Tank Mates

Pom Pom Crab

Pom Pom crabs tend to keep themselves to themselves and take no notice of your fish, shrimp, and snails.

That means you can keep Pom Poms with most peaceful freshwater fish species, snails, shrimp, and other small crabs. However, since the crabs tend to gravitate to the bottom of the tank, I recommend choosing small fish that stick to the upper parts of the water column.

So, species such as cherry shrimp, tetras, danios, and the like make good tank mate choices for a community aquarium containing this aquatic crab species.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Do not keep Pom Pom crabs with large, predatory, aggressive fish that might try to eat them!

As mentioned earlier, these crabs are opportunistic feeders and could try to make a meal of tiny fish, shrimplets, and fish fry.

Health and Disease

Unfortunately, not much is known about the diseases that can affect Pom Pom crabs. However, in general, they are thought to be pretty illness-resistant, provided you give them the correct living conditions and diet.

That said, Pom Poms can suffer from common diseases such as shell disease, fungal problems, and parasites.

To keep your crabs healthy, be sure to maintain good water conditions, perform frequent water changes, and test the water regularly to ensure the parameters are correct for the crabs.


Since all Pom Pom crabs are wild-caught, you must quarantine them for at least two weeks before introducing your new pets to your main display tank. That way, you can spot any signs of disease and treat it, only adding the crabs to your main tank when you know they’re disease-free and healthy.

Breeding and Reproduction

Unfortunately, despite extensive research, we can find no evidence of Pom Pom crabs being raised in captivity, largely because of their breeding process.

It’s thought that the species migrates to brackish waters to breed, and the baby Pom Poms go through several different larval stages before becoming mature and moving into their freshwater river homes.

For that reason, it’s virtually impossible to breed Pom Pom crabs in a tank in your home.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to keeping freshwater Pom Pom crabs! If you did, please remember to hit the share button before you go!

Pom Pom crabs are found throughout Africa, Asia, and Australia, living in freshwater streams and springs. These little-known micro crabs are slowly becoming popular with aquarists who love their quirky looks and active personalities. Even better, you can safely keep Pom Poms in a community nano tank with small fish, shrimp, and snails.

Sadly, the Pom Pom crab only survives for a year or so, but they are easy to keep and fun to watch, making them a great choice for kids and beginners, so why not add a small colony of these delightful crabs to your life?

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.