Freshwater Pom Pom Crab: Care, Compatibility, Diet, and Habitat

Crabs are perfect for trying something new and exotic without making care too hard. Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are really exotic. In order to branch out from keeping fish, this creature is an exciting way.

People know very little about Pom Pom Crab as they are a new introduction to the fishkeeping hobby. It results in a lack of information on the web.

But, aquarists have practically learned and attained enough knowledge of what conditions these creatures prefer, and they are hardy creatures. They can tolerate little mistakes.

They are cute crustaceans and it can’t be denied, particularly because of their unique “pom-poms” on their claws and tiny body size.

Another cuteness is that in a community tank they make great tank mates. They have the ability to live alongside an array of various creatures or tank mates. But, you can’t assure this for other freshwater crabs.

This guide covers all the necessary information you want while caring for Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs.

Freshwater Pom Pom Crab Overview & Facts

Size:Up to 1 inch
Color:Brown/Speckled yellow
Lifespan:1 year approx
Care LevelVery Easy
Minimum Size of Tank:5 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater with lots of caves
Compatibility:Peaceful and small tank mates
Freshwater Pom Pom Crab Stats

The Freshwater Pom Pom Crab, also known as Ptychognathus barbatus, is a crustacean that belongs to the Grapsidae family. Sometimes they are referred to as Cheerleading Crabs or Hong Kong Crabs.

Since this species is new to the fishkeeping world, there is limited scientific research and very little information is available on the internet about the Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs. 

Nonetheless, their popularity is increasing day by day, likely because of their hardy and tiny nature that makes them perfect for nano setups.

One thing we do know is their origin. Populations of wild Pom Pom Crabs have been found in tropical regions such as Japan, India, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Comoros.

This species is not a marine species. It is always confused with a marine species which has the exact common name, but those names are for different reasons.

The freshwater pom pom crabs get their name from their claws that have attached filter fans, while the marine species get their name from anemones that they always carry around in their claws.

Since this species is quite rare anyway, and also they are new to the fishkeeping hobby, finding stock of this creature near you could be difficult. Call up different pet stores to find your nearest stock or search around online.

Depending on your area, a Freshwater Pom Pom Crab could cost you from $10 to $20.


Caring for pom pom crabs is a short-lived effort because these crabs have an average lifespan of about one year or less.

Top-notch care for this creature is important if you want to keep them alive as long as possible because the life expectancy of pom pom crabs is so short. Poor living conditions could expose the crab to a myriad of health issues and diseases.

The lifespan of these crabs can change dramatically. In captivity, most individual crabs don’t survive more than a year, even in the healthiest of conditions.

Typical Behavior

Freshwater pom pom crab species are fully aquatic which means from larvae to adults they spend their whole lifecycle submerged in freshwater.

This protects you from the trouble of designing a tank with a mixture of land and water. However, if given the opportunity they can spend short periods on land.

These species are more active than most other crab species. You can notice them wandering around the aquarium, generally to scavenge some food.

They are very active and good climbers. Sometimes their active behavior will create a lot of problems. Because of their activeness, you will find them hiding behind aquarium equipment.

To prevent them from escaping the aquarium must be secured with a tight-fitting lid.

Crabs are also very good at digging. Pom pom crabs use their claws in order to move sand around and burrow the sand into the tank’s substrate.

Mostly this species is peaceful. Male pom pom crabs will display to each other occasionally, however, this rarely results in injury. Other tank mates will surely be ignored by the Pom Pom crabs.

It doesn’t matter which crustaceans you keep in your aquarium, all of them will go through molting. This is a method of shedding an old exoskeleton to develop a bigger one and to fit a growing individual crab.

Usually, it takes a few days to develop the new exoskeleton. Particularly in this period, the crabs will be vulnerable because they have no longer a hard shell for their protection.

During the process of developing a new exoskeleton, they will likely hide away in caves or even burrow to minimize the risk of damage. If they sometimes disappear, this could be the reason.

When you see discarded exoskeletons on the substrate, remove them, or otherwise they will be broken down and increase the nitrate levels in your tank.


A lot of people can picture a crab. Usually, Pom Pom Crabs don’t grow bigger than an inch. They are just the smaller version of the general crab you’d picture in your brain.

Moreover, one main thing which sets this creature apart is their claws also called chelae. Filter fans are attached to the pincers. However, the filter fans aren’t necessarily used for the purpose of filter-feeding, but sometimes they catch food which the pom pom crabs will then eat.

The filter fans are so small. It makes the crab seem like they are holding pom-poms. Hence their name.

Also, their claws are used as tools to move debris, burrow, fight and pick up food manually.

Freshwater pom pom crabs are not able to boast a bright array of colors; most of the body is brown or speckled yellow. It helps them to blend into the environment. Particularly, this is important because a creature this little don’t want to be spotted by any predators.

They have a broad body with a wide carapace to safeguard their important organs. Ten legs are attached to the body which also includes the pincers, and it is a characteristic of every decapod.

Pom pom crabs have a pair of sensitive eyes. Each eye extends from the body through a stalk. It helps the crabs to see in virtually 360 degrees if required.

They have two pairs of antennae which are located by their eyes. The shorter pair are used to smell/taste and the longer pair of antennae are used to feel the environment.

You have to look at their undersides in order to confirm the sex of the pom pom crabs. Female crabs do not have any distinctive V-shaped section, but the male crabs have. Also, Male crabs tend to have bigger claws with larger “pom-poms”.

Average Size of Freshwater Pom Pom Crab

Freshwater Pom Pom crab’s average size is between 0.6 and 1 inch in width. They can exceed the one-inch mark if the crabs have very good genetics (some crab’s sizes have even reached upto 1.75 inches).


The Freshwater Pom Pom Crab has a very wide geographic distribution. This species is spotted in India, Japan, Taiwan, China, Comoros, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

These regions share almost similar environments, therefore the crabs live there. You must recreate these conditions at your home to keep your crabs healthy.

Narrow rivers are their natural habitats in tropical areas. To create crevices and cracks, the riverbed would be covered with debris, rocks, and sand.

Aquarium Conditions

First, you have to decide whether to provide some land for the pom pom crabs. If the land is available, they will make use of it, however, they do not need land. They prefer to live as completely aquatic freshwater crabs.

Alternatively, you can place rocks or a substrate to create land if you really want it.

The bottom of the aquarium is to be layered in a sandy substrate. Your crabs like to burrow it and the fine grains make this so easy.

Create different crevices using driftwood, rocks, or decorations. These places are very important for your crabs to hide.

Freshwater pom pom crabs can be kept with live plants without causing any harm or damage. Your crabs won’t eat the live plants, even though pom poms happily accept vegetation as part of their food.

Since the pom pom crabs burrows, there is a chance that the delicate plants may be uprooted, but it is unlikely. If you are really worried about your live plants, you could float a few on the tank surface out of their reach instead.

Water Parameters

A lot of debate is there around the perfect water chemistry. You should not forget that pom pom crabs need freshwater environments, and there is also a saltwater crab species with the exact name. In spite of sharing the exact name, these are two different species of crab with unique environmental requirements.

The freshwater pom pom crabs spend most of their time in freshwater clean streams near the coast. They are able to enter brackish environments, however, this is generally only for the purpose of breeding.

The required environments and water conditions for this pom pom crab are still up for debate. Luckily, this crustacean adapts well to a wide range of conditions and they are hardy creatures.

In order to keep your crab healthy and happy, stick to the following water parameters.

  • Water temperature: 68°F to 78°F (more than 72 degrees is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.2 to 7.2
  • Water hardness: Up to 30 dKH (lower is best)

The only thing you require is a filter and a heater in this aquarium. Standard lighting is fine. You don’t have to raise water movement with water/air pumps.

What Size Tank Do They Need?

The species Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are very small. You’d expect the minimum tank size of the crab to be incredibly small to match their needs. In this case; a small group of pom poms can be kept in just a 5-gallon aquarium.

Be cautious that it is complicated to maintain the perfect conditions in aquariums this small though.

How Many Pom Pom Crabs Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

In a 5-gallon tank, a small group of about 4 crabs will be happy. The only thing you require to allow for a couple of additional gallons per extra crab you keep.

These crabs are not very territorial. This is why they don’t require too much space each, although this is always best to offer them the biggest possible tank that you can afford.

Pom Pom Crab Tank Mates

In a community tank, not many crabs can be kept together, however, Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are an exception to it.

If you choose them properly, this species can be kept in your aquarium alongside fish. Most fish will be ignored by the pom pom crabs, but beware of some fish because they might try to eat your crabs.

You must choose peaceful crab species which are not big enough to eat these little crustaceans. A few popular species include Mollies, Pearl Danio, Dwarf Gourami, and Neon Tetras.

As tank mates, other invertebrates can perform well. Particularly, Shrimps get along very nicely with the Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs. For example, you could try  Cherry Shrimp or Ghost Shrimp.

If you ever notice the pom pom crabs eat shrimp, probably it is already a dead shrimp. They are probably eating a discarded exoskeleton of shrimp.

Snails that are small will be at great risk of getting eaten by crabs. The reason is snails are slow and they couldn’t escape if required.

Can You Keep Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs Together In a Tank?

The only tank mates that pom pom crabs might show aggressive behavior to are the fellow Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs. However, even in this situation, it’s generally only the males displaying aggression to one another.

So yes, you can keep pom pom crabs together in an aquarium. Fighting is rare in the case of this species. This means the crabs are unlikely to injure each other.

Food and Diet

It’s not easy to feed Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs. As omnivores, this species can eat both vegetation and meaty foods. While designing their diet there are so many choices.

They spend a major portion of their time in search of food. These crabs are natural scavengers. In the wild environment, mostly the pom poms find algae and plant detritus. However, occasionally these crabs would come across crustaceans and small worms.

One thing which comes to the minds of a lot of people is dried foods. Dried foods are likely because they are easy to store, widely available, and cheap.

Pom pom crabs will accept dried foods happily like pellets, algae wafers, and flakes.

Dried foods are low on nutrients and it is the main problem with dried foods. A dried food diet should be supplemented with frozen/live food in order to ensure that your crabs get everything they want.

Frozen/live foods are high in nutrients. Alternatively, you could try things such as brine shrimp and bloodworms.

You can also chop up a few small pieces of green vegetables and drop them in the aquarium, they should be consumed by your pom pom crabs as they walk past. If the vegetables are ignored by them, remove them though.

To maintain a healthy and fit Freshwater Pom Pom Crab Calcium is very important. Mostly it’s required for developing a hard exoskeleton for their protection and growth.

If their diet does not have enough calcium, you can add extra calcium supplements to their food. It’s available in most pet stores.

Feed your little crustaceans 2 to 3 times a week. Usually, they can find sufficient food around the aquarium on their own, particularly if there are other inhabitants in your tank that you’re feeding.

Pom Pom Crab Care

This crab species is quite hardy. They are relatively easy to care for. In water chemistry, pom pom crabs can handle slight alterations without getting too ill.

Maintaining a clean and healthy tank should always be the priority of aquarists. Long-term exposure to unhealthy aquarium conditions may likely lead to adverse effects.

It is important to change your aquarium water regularly to keep the tank’s environment clean, as well as removing the excess amount of algae.

To check those parameters, use a water testing kit every week.

Ensure that the tank is completely secured with the help of a tight-fitting lid. Since freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are very good climbers, they could reach the top of the aquarium very easily, even if the aquarium water doesn’t go up to that level.

You will never want to lose your pom pom crabs because of a secret escape attempt by them.

If chemicals are ever added to your aquarium water, ensure that the chemicals do not contain copper. Because copper is toxic to most crustaceans. Even a slight increase in the concentrations of copper could lead to fatalities.

While your Pom Poms are molting, take special care. Until a new exoskeleton develops, the process leaves the crabs vulnerable for so many days.

Leave your pom poms alone during this time else you will risk damaging them.

Once the process of molting is over, the old exoskeleton is to be removed, otherwise, it will affect the water chemistry if it is broken down.

Common Possible Diseases

Not much information is available regarding the diseases of Pom Pom crabs. However, as a whole, it is assumed that they’re fairly resistant to any kind of illness.

We are aware of the fact that this species can suffer from some common issues like shell disease. This is characterized by the black lesions on the carapace. Parasitic infestations and fungal issues are common to them.

Diseases can be avoided by maintaining good water conditions in your tank. You should monitor water parameters closely and perform frequent water changes. When pH levels or temperatures fall out of the prescribed range, the pom pom crabs can experience serious disease or stress.

Because all the specimens of pom pom crabs are wild-caught in the trade. You should be cautious about bringing disease into your aquarium. It’s necessary for new crabs to be quarantined before adding them to an established tank.

If anything becomes wrong, quarantine the individual freshwater pom pom crabs and observe and research some common crab illnesses.


Breeding freshwater Pom Pom Crabs successfully is virtually not possible. There are just too few facts and information known about the crabs, therefore the reproductive behavior of the species is actually unknown.

What actually makes things even difficult is that adult pom pom crabs live in freshwater, but larvae require saltwater/brackish for their growth.

Not only would you require a distinct aquarium set up with the preferred environment for the larvae, but you would also require to time the transfer of the young crabs perfectly between the aquariums.

If you truly want to give it a go, you will have to ensure that you have a pair of one female and one male crab.

You have to maintain the perfect environment in your aquarium to hope that your crabs will start to naturally mate. It helps to clean the tank particularly important.

Changing the heater settings might help. Increase the temperature slowly towards 82°F.

Since the very little fact is known about a Freshwater Pom Pom Crab’s growth and development, raising the larvae in your aquarium is going to be a trial and error.

No reports of successful breeding of pom pom crabs in captivity are available. Therefore if you manage pom pom crabs, share your experience!

Are Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs Suitable for Your Aquarium?

A lot of people can look after Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs. Even if you have zero experience keeping crabs before, you’ll notice that caring for this little creature is quite easy and simple.

Like other crabs, pompoms are very compatible with other species. They are very happy around shrimps and fish; there are very few squabbles between the crab’s own type either.

Since they are tiny creatures they can fit into small aquariums, this is how they don’t occupy a lot of space in your house.

The only disadvantage of this species is that it is incredibly difficult to breed freshwater pom pom crabs at home. So if a breeding aquarium is your goal, look elsewhere.

To the recent aquarium industry, these adorable little crustaceans are wonderful additions. Placing some pom poms in your aquarium can help it to stand out against other species.

Do you have Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs in your tank? Share your experiences in the comment section below…

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