How to Care for Your Fiddler Crabs
The Inside Scoop from Aqualand on Uca Species
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Origins: These crabby little guys inhabit the shores of Florida. Their scavenging helps keep Florida’s coasts clean. Fiddler crabs eat algae in the wild. Anything you give them will be more nutritious.
Name: “Uca” comes from the name the local Seminoles called the little scudders. We call them “fiddlers” because that big claw the males wave around looks exactly like the 1684 Stradivarius mini-violin that Antonio Stradivari made for his second son – the one who played second fiddle.
Males in the Wild: Male fiddler crabs dig deep burrows in the mud. When the tide approaches (twice a day), they pull a lid over their burrow and retreat into the safety of their little hidey-holes. As the water withdraws, they flip their lids and start looking for algae and fiddler babes. When they see a female, they start waving that big claw around and making kissy-kissy noises (actually, rattling their big claw against their burrow walls) in hopes of coaxing one of the nubile female crabs into their boudoir to look at their etchings.
Females in the Wild: Female fiddler crabs also dig burrows and come out when the tide recedes to look for algae and guys with big claws.
Threats in the Wild: Big wading birds love tasty little fiddler crabs. Turtles ditto. Also raccoons and big frogs and toads. Not too many restaurants tho serve fiddler crabs on their menu. Indoors, their main threat is climbing out and drying out.
Water Conditions: Add a teaspoon of salt per gallon of water. Change your fiddler crab water often.
Like to Climb: Male fiddler crabs seek out high points in their cage so they can wave at more females. They can also climb out of their cage unless you cover it securely.
Size: We call them mini-crabs because they top out at about 1.5 inches – plus that great big claw on the male fiddler crabs.
Foods: Most important, provide their food in a shallow dish – one they can get in and out of easily. Hermit crab food works great. Probably anything you give them will work. Change their food daily. Once most foods get wet, they start growing moldy and … oh, wait, they eat that too. But you want a cage that smells clean, so change their food daily. You for sure want to avoid providing a home for those pesky gnat-like flitterbys that always find smelly food. Fiddler crabs eat surprisingly daintily. They pick up each tiny speck of food and carefully place it into their mouths -- unlike the larger crabs that greedily grab the biggest chunks they can find and run off with them.
Space Requirements: In small groups your fiddler crabs will want a square foot of space each. When you crowd them like we do, they seem to lose interest in arguing. They’ll act more naturally (argue more) in smaller herds.
Breeding: If the male fiddler crab coaxed a female into his burrow for a two-week honeymoon, she will produce numerous eggs (in the thousands) that drift off into the ocean. Hard to duplicate in the average backyard.
Substrate Choice: Dirt,
coconut fiber, potting soil, or vermiculite would make a good substrate to
burrow into. Most people use gravel
or sand. Fiddler crabs blend into natural gravels.
Tank Mates: You can mix them with equal-sized non-violent terrarium residents. Anoles, fire-belly toads, newts, dwarf African frogs come to mind. Even tho those big claws look formidable, these guys are not crayfish. You can pick them up with impunity (or with a net if you are fresh out of impunity). Cover your net. Fiddler crabs skitter out of a net in an instamante.
Plants: Immaterial to the crabs, but planted tanks (even plastic plants) make their biotope look better to us. Feng shui does not seem to apply to fiddler crabs.
Word: If you hear strange sounds coming from your
fiddler crab corral at night, relax.
Your fiddler crabs are just fiddling around.
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