pom pom crab

Freshwater Pom Pom Crab Care Guide: Tank Size, Water Parameters, Diet, Maintenance, And More!

With their pom-pom-like hairdos and outgoing personalities, it’s no wonder why Freshwater Pom Pom crabs are so beloved by aquarists! Though they’re still relatively young in the aquarium hobby, the mystery around these curious crustaceans is slowly starting to clear up.

If you’re thinking about owning one of these captivating creatures yourself, understanding their care requirements is paramount! To help you out, we gathered all the important details and compiled them into this comprehensive guide.

pom pom crab
Pom Pom Crab, this mesmerizing creature with its pom-pom-like claws.

Species Summary

The Freshwater Pom Pom crab (scientific name: Ptychognathus barbatus ) is a rare gem in the aquarium trade! Found in freshwater springs and narrow streams throughout Africa, Asia, and Australia, this crustacean is most common in countries such as New Calcedonia, Madagascar, and Taiwan. Peaceful yet outgoing, they make an excellent addition to both big and small freshwater tanks.


Unfortunately, the lifespan of these crabs isn’t very long. On average, they tend to live for only around one year. To keep your Pom Pom crab in your tank for as long as possible, proper care and excellent water conditions are essential. Though information is unfortunately still lacking on whether they live longer in the wild or in captivity, providing them with an enriching environment is necessary regardless.


As their name implies, the Pom Pom crab has tufts of hair growing from the arms that look like pom poms! The hairs are much denser in males rather than in females. Other unique physical characteristics include a broad shell, long and slender legs, and pale yellow or brown coloration. Telling the difference between males and females is quite simple – males have a thin and narrow underside plate while females have a wide and curved one. On average, these crabs tend to reach a size of 0.6 – 1 inch in width, with some having exceeded 1.75 inches.

Pom Pom Crab Care

Though the practice of caring for Freshwater Pom Pom crabs is still relatively new, dedicated owners are doing everything they can to learn more about the mysteries of this species. Fortunately, we do have some tips and guidelines to follow in order to provide them with the happiest and healthiest environment possible!

Tank Size

For adequate comfort, a 10-gallon tank is recommended to house a colony of Pom Pom crabs. Of course, you can certainly go smaller, but doing so means that you’ll be limited to keeping a smaller colony. With a 10-gallon tank, you can accommodate more of these active creatures while still giving them plenty of room to roam.

Water Parameters

Pom Pom crabs need freshwater conditions, not to be confused with their saltwater counterparts who share the same name. Ideally, the ideal water parameters for these freshwater dwellers should be of a slightly brackish SG (1.004 – 1.012) standard with a pH level of 8. During mating and reproductive periods, the crabs may require the excretion of the gills and absorb salt from the environment.

Tank Mates

The Pom Pom crab is a peaceful species and will get along with much other community fish. It’s a great scavenger, so you can safely add a few snails, shrimp, and fish eggs to the same tank. However, it’s important to avoid any fish large enough to potentially try and munch on these little crustaceans!


At this point, conclusions are still being drawn on breeding Pom Pom crabs in captivity, making the success rate quite low. Before attempting to breed, the crabs should reach sexual maturity which typically takes around six months. Optimal water conditions for breeding need to be slightly brackish with a pH level of 8. When ready, the female will carry the eggs in her apron until they are hatched, producing baby crabs that need to feed on infusoria or other micro foods.

So if you’re dreaming of owning a Freshwater Pom Pom crab, you now have the knowledge to make it happen! With the right conditions, your crab companion could be a bright and lively addition to your aquarium. So let the adventures begin!


The diet of these crustaceans should mainly consist of sinking shrimp pellets, fish flakes, and freeze-dried foods. Additionally, you can supplement their diet with occasional treats such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Keeping the water clean will help in providing them with a healthy amount of microfauna to snack on.


Keeping up with routine maintenance is important for creating a stress-free environment for your Pom Pom crabs. Weekly water changes and spot cleaning should help maintain the ideal water parameters. For those who wish to breed, fertilized eggs should be removed from the aquarium to prevent them from being eaten.


When it comes to decorations, it’s best to use natural materials rather than plastic or plastic plants. This will give your Pom Pom crab plenty of room to explore and hunt around if need be. Driftwood, river rocks, and live plants can look great in an aquarium and create a fun hiding spot for crabs.


As for the substrate, using a smooth and sand-free material like pea gravel is recommended. If it’s too coarse, the Pom Pom crab could experience irritation when trying to move around. You can also opt for fine-grain sand, but keep in mind that they may not be able to move as freely through this kind of surface.


The ideal water temperature for Pom Pom crabs should range between 73 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. To achieve this, you’ll need to use a reliable heater and adjust it as needed.


Your Freshwater Pom Pom crab won’t need extremely bright lights, but they will still require some form of lighting. Providing low light and allowing the tank to remain dark for periods of time throughout the day is recommended.


For filtration, a high-quality unit should be used to keep the water clean and well-circulated. Submersible filters work well for smaller tanks, but for larger aquariums, a hang-on-back (HOB) filter is best.


Pom Pom crabs might appreciate a small amount of added salination to their tank, although it isn’t always necessary. Only add salt if you notice any health issues or problems that may indicate that the water is too hard. Do not add salt without first consulting a professional.


Stress can come from many sources, and for these crabs, it can easily be caused by overcrowding and too much competition for food. Be sure to provide enough food and hiding spots so the crabs don’t feel threatened or stressed out.

Aquatic Stress

Additionally, there are other forms of aquatic stress that Pom Pom crabs can suffer from. Poor water quality, bright lights, and inappropriate water chemistry can all contribute to this. Keeping up with regular water changes can help lessen the chances of your crabs becoming stressed or sick.


Freshwater pom crabs are fascinating freshwater crabs that come in a variety of sizes and colors. They make for interesting aquarium inhabitants, as they are active during both day and night, engage in social behaviors with other freshwater species, and require very specific environmental conditions to thrive.

With proper care and attention, these freshwater crabs can live up to four years and make a great addition to freshwater aquariums. With their unique looks and behaviors, freshwater pom pom crabs are sure to be an unforgettable part of the fishkeeping experience.