Freshwater Pom Pom Crab: A Friendly Guide to Their Care and Habitat

Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are truly unique aquatic creatures that have captured the hearts of many aquarium enthusiasts. Known for their small size and adorable appearance, these tiny freshwater inhabitants bring a touch of charm to any aquarium.

Ptychognathus barbatus, as they’re scientifically named, have earned their “cheerleading” nickname thanks to their captivating pom pom-like appendages. Although relatively new to the fishkeeping hobby, you, as a potential crab-caretaker, can be reassured that proper care of these delightful crustaceans is a breeze.

Throughout this article, you’ll discover all you need to know about taking care of Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs and ensuring they thrive alongside fellow tank mates, to provide you and your underwater friends with endless enjoyment.

Species Overview

The Freshwater Pom Pom Crab (Ptychognathus barbatus) is a small, friendly, and unique crustacean that can be a great addition to your aquarium. They are part of the Grapsidae family and are known for their non-aggressiveness, making them a popular choice among aquarists. They can be found in freshwater springs and narrow streams throughout Africa, Asia, and Australia.

These charming crabs are quite active and engaging, providing entertainment and companionship to their tank mates. Their care requirements may seem a bit mysterious, but they are relatively simple to take care of due to their hardy nature.

The following table highlights key aspects of the Freshwater Pom Pom Crab:

Property Information
Scientific name Ptychognathus barbatus
Common names Freshwater Pom Pom Crab, Hong Kong Crab, Cheerleading Crab
Distribution Africa, Asia, Australia
Size Small
Lifespan up to 1 year
Diet Omnivorous
Temperament Friendly, Non-aggressive
Minimum tank size
Water hardness
Care level
Filtration/Water Flow
Water type Freshwater
Breeding difficulty Difficult

Bringing a Freshwater Pom Pom Crab into your aquarium will not only enhance its biodiversity but also offer you and your aquatic pets a delightful and interactive experience.

Pom Pom Crab Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

The freshwater Pom Pom crab (Ptychognathus barbatus) is a unique and interesting species of crustacean found in freshwater habitats. They are native to the rivers and streams of Hong Kong and southern China. These crabs prefer slow-moving or stagnant waters, where they can easily navigate and feed on algae and detritus.

Size and Shape

As a small species, Pom Pom crabs typically reach an adult size of around 1 inch in length. Their compact size and non-aggressive nature make them perfect inhabitants for nano tanks. These crabs have a relatively flat and rounded body with slightly elongated pincers, which they use to forage and defend themselves.

Color and Markings

The color of the freshwater Pom Pom crab can vary, but it is generally beige or light brown with a mottled pattern of darker brown patches. This coloration helps them blend in with their natural surroundings, allowing them to avoid predators and sneak up on their prey. Their legs display bands of alternating colors, adding to their unique appearance.


It’s quite unfortunate that Pom Pom crabs have a short lifespan, averaging only about a year. Given their short lifespan, providing excellent care becomes essential if you want to maximize their time with you. Ensuring they have appropriate living conditions is crucial to prevent diseases and various health problems.

It’s worth noting that we have limited information about whether they live longer in the wild or in captivity. This lack of knowledge about the species is unusual, and we have much to learn about them!

By focusing on these key aspects of Pom Pom crabs, you’re on your way to creating a thriving environment for these interesting crustaceans! Keep in mind their specific needs and characteristics, and these friendly little creatures will add a touch of uniqueness to your aquarium.

Diet and Feeding

Your Freshwater Pom Pom Crabs are skilled scavengers and opportunistic omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet. They eat algae, plant detritus, and microorganisms by actively searching throughout your tank. Contrary to popular belief, Pom Pom Crabs are not filter feeders, as they don’t stand still enough to truly filter feed.

Feed your Pom Pom Crabs regular dried flakes or pellets to keep them healthy. However, make sure to include occasional protein-rich snacks to diversify their diet. Treat them with baby brine shrimp and bloodworms every now and then for optimal growth.

If your Pom Pom Crabs share the tank with other fish, they can also benefit from feeding on leftover foods. This helps them obtain the necessary nutrients and reduces waste in your aquarium, keeping both your crabs and tank in top shape.

Behavior and Temperament

Freshwater pom pom crabs have an active and lively temperament compared to other freshwater crabs. As you observe them in your tank, you’ll see them frequently searching for food by running, digging, and climbing. These interesting behaviors make the pom pom crabs a captivating addition to your aquarium.

Despite their activity, these crabs are generally peaceful and won’t bother other fish in the tank. You may occasionally witness fights among the crabs, but these conflicts are typically over food and not serious.

Molting is an important aspect of their life cycle; it’s when they shed their old shells and grow new ones. During this vulnerable stage, your pom pom crabs will burrow into the sand for safety and won’t display their usual active behavior. It’s essential to provide the right environment to ensure their well-being during molting. Be mindful that they need privacy and peace while molting to avoid injury.

In conclusion, the friendly and active behavior of freshwater pom pom crabs makes them a delightful addition to your aquarium. Just remember to accommodate their needs during the molting process.

Care and Tank Requirements

In this section, we will discuss the essential aspects of caring for your freshwater pom pom crab and the requirements for setting up a suitable tank environment.

Tank Size

For a single freshwater pom pom crab, a tank of at least 5 gallons is ideal. If you plan on having multiple crabs, adding at least 2 gallons per additional crab is recommended. Remember, providing ample space allows for proper growth and promotes a healthy habitat for your aquatic pets.

Water Parameters

To ensure a healthy living environment for your pom pom crabs, maintain the following water conditions:

  • Temperature: 22-28°C (72-82°F)
  • pH: 6.8-7.2
  • General hardness (GH): 6-8
  • Carbonate hardness (KH): 2-6
  • Total dissolved solids (TDS): 150-200

Tank Setup and Decorations

To mimic their natural habitat, use sand or fine gravel as the substrate for burrowing. Your pom pom crabs will appreciate hiding spots, so include items such as driftwood, rocks, and small caves. Additionally, adding live plants, like Java moss or Java fern, provides extra cover and enhances the overall aesthetic of the tank.

Filtration and Aeration

A good filtration system is crucial for maintaining optimal water quality. Opt for a gentle filter that won’t suck up the crabs or create strong currents that may stress them. An air stone or sponge filter is highly recommended for providing adequate aeration and creating ideal water movement for your pom pom crabs.

Following these guidelines will help maintain a healthy and thriving environment for your freshwater pom pom crabs, allowing you to enjoy their unique charm and liveliness in your aquarium.

Suitable Tank Mates

Your Pom Pom crabs will be indifferent to their tank mates, showing little interaction or acknowledgment towards them. To help them thrive, consider accommodating them with peaceful freshwater fish, medium-sized crabs, snails, and shrimp.

Shrimp Compatibility: Your Pom Pom crabs can coexist well with Cherry shrimp, Amano shrimp, and Bamboo shrimp.

Fish Compatibility: Choose peaceful fish species that inhabit the upper parts of the water column. Smaller fish are better, as they are less likely to bother or eat your Pom Pom crabs.

When selecting tank mates, be cautious of their size and vulnerability. Your Pom Pom crabs are opportunistic eaters, so tiny, slow-moving snails and shrimp, as well as fish fry, may be mistaken as food. Opt for tank mates that won’t interfere or make for easy prey to ensure the safety of all your aquatic pets.


Breeding your freshwater Pom Pom crab is a challenging task, mainly due to their inability to breed in captivity. In the wild, these crabs move to brackish waters during their breeding process. The larvae of Pom Pom crabs experience various stages of development before reaching maturity.

Unfortunately, replicating the deep brackish environments necessary for their development is virtually impossible within the confines of your home aquarium. As a result, attempting to breed Pom Pom crabs isn’t considered worth the effort and resources required. Focus your attention on providing proper care and enjoying their unique behaviors instead.

Common Diseases and Treatments

Although not much is known about diseases that affect Freshwater Pom Pom crabs, they are generally considered resistant to illness. However, they can still suffer from common issues like shell disease, characterized by black lesions on the carapace. Fungal problems and parasitic infestations are also common among Pom Pom crabs.

To prevent diseases in your crabs, maintaining good water conditions is crucial. Make sure to perform regular water changes and closely monitor parameters such as temperature, pH levels, and water hardness. Significant deviations in these parameters can cause stress or disease in your Pom Pom crabs.

Since all Pom Pom crabs in the trade are wild-caught, it’s essential to take precautions to prevent introducing diseases to your tank. One important practice is quarantining new crabs before adding them to an established aquarium. Quarantine helps mitigate the risk of introducing diseases to the existing crab population.

By taking proper care and monitoring water conditions, you can help ensure the overall health of your Freshwater Pom Pom crabs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for pom pom crabs?

A minimum tank size of 5 gallons is recommended for freshwater pom pom crabs. This ensures they have enough space to roam around and explore without feeling cramped.

How do I properly care for a pom pom crab?

To care for a freshwater pom pom crab, maintain a water temperature between 22-28°C (72-82°F), pH levels of 6.8-7.2, GH between 6-8, KH of 2-6, and a TDS range of 150-200. Use a sand or fine gravel substrate for burrowing, and provide hiding spots using plants, driftwood, or rocks. Regular water changes and proper filtration are essential to keep the water clean.

What is the lifespan of a freshwater pom pom crab?

The lifespan of a freshwater pom pom crab is not well documented. With proper care and a healthy environment, they may live up to one years.

Can these crabs live safely with other tankmates?

Yes, pom pom crabs can live with other tank mates as long as they are non-aggressive and can handle the same water parameters. Suitable tank mates include other freshwater crabs, shrimp, and small non-aggressive fish.

What do freshwater pom pom crabs eat?

Freshwater pom pom crabs are omnivorous. They are skilled scavengers and require a varied diet. Feed them algae, meaty foods, prepared crab foods, and the occasional blanched vegetables.

Are pom pom crabs suitable for a planted aquarium?

Yes, pom pom crabs can be kept in a planted aquarium. In fact, live plants provide a natural hiding place, and their roots offer additional substrate for burrowing. Make sure the plants can tolerate the same water conditions, and avoid fast-growing plants that may require frequent trimming, as this can disturb the crab’s habitat.