How to Care for Your New Patriot Crab
Inside scoop on Cardisoma armatum

 
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Patriot Crab Factoids

Origin

West Africa

Maximum Size

Three-inches plus legs

Life Span

Probably five years

Life Style

Scavenger. Likes to hide. Pugnacious.

Temperature

Flexible -- 75 to 85 works fine

Threats

Other crabs. Copper.  Long legged shore birds like herons.
Substrate Not too important

Foods

Dead fish and any commercial pet food
Supplements Maybe a cuttlebone

Containers

Needs a 10-gallon minimum

LA
Pretty good-looking patriot crab, even if he is left-handed.

Origin:  Last millennium, we never really knew where patriot crabs came from until one of our Nigerian customers saw them and said they were very common in Nigeria. 

LA
Soap dish crab shipping containers full of cargo.

Soap Dish Crabs:  Patriot crabs were originally shipped in plastic soap dish containers and were thus called "soap dish crabs."  They came in yellow, purple, red, and blue.  They have a long list of AKAs, so you'll find them under a variety of names, like rainbow crabs, moon crabs, Columbian crabs, and others.

LA
One submerged.  One emersed.

Life Style:  Adult patriot crabs like to mix it up.  However, most are just as happy to hide.  In the wild they would dig burrows.  In captivity they're just as likely to scoot under a rock or piece of driftwood.  They live at the edge of the water.  They survive under water for long periods but need access to land to catch their breath.  Like all crabs, they have gills that must be kept moist, so they need access to water at all times.  A tank with half water and half land works well.  Or you can give them an easy to enter and exit dish of water and mostly land.  There's no magic formula.

LA
Right-handed crab and left-handed crab.

Water:  Do they do best on freshwater or brackish water?  Yes.  They do just fine on both.

LA
Typical crab hang out.  A little on the tacky side.  You can see two of the four in here.

LA
They're all out of sight here.

LA
Patriot crabs do fine in bare tanks.

LA
And they show up well over white gravel.

Substrate:  Bare tank, sand, gravel (natural or colored) make little diff to your crab.  However, they seem to blend into natural and multi-colored gravels.

Live Plants?  Patriot crabs are scavengers.  They eat whatever they find -- including live plants.

LA
Male patriot crab in combat mode.

Temperature?  Patriot crabs do well at 75 to 85 F.  In the wild, they probably face much more variation in their ambient temp.  Your best bet is to call a friend in Lagos and ask for their temp each day.  Suffice it to say, they probably cool off a great deal at night.

LA
Four confused patriot crabs not knowing who to argue with first.

Threats.  Patriot crabs are not schoolers like many of the mini-crabs.  They fight.  Give them plenty of room.  Copper is also a killer of all invertebrates.  Avoid medications.  And keep all long-legged shore birds out of their habitat.

LA
Older crabs lose some of their bright colors.  He also lost one of his legs.  Incredibly careless.

LA
Oops.  Here it is.  He'll grow it back on his next molt.

Dis-Armaments.  When patriot crabs argue, they try to tear off each other's arms and legs.  If they lose any parts, they are at a disadvantage when eating and when fighting.  Separate any walking (or non-walking) wounded.  They will grow new parts at their next molt.  It may take half a year for them to get back into fighting trim.

LA
Newly emerged crab and his "old suit."

LA
Another squishy "soft shell" crab.

LA
Here's his old "house."

Shell Shedding.  Crustaceans grow by taking in water, flexing their muscles,  and splitting their shells.  They then wriggle out of their former old shells and scuttle under a rock until their new shells harden.  At this stage, they are softer, helpless, and tastier.  Their fellow crabs have few compunctions against cannibalism at this time.  They will usually eat their old shell so the calcium does not go to waste.

LA
Belly of a male patriot crab.

LA
Ditto female patriot crab.

Sexing.  Look at their tail flap.  It's narrow on the males and wider on the females.  Pretty much like all crabs.  Don't worry, you won't breed them anyway.

LA
They scuttle right out of a net.

Capturing Crabs.  You can learn a great deal by picking up a patriot crab -- especially if you try it bare handed.  If you use a net, they scuttle out of that pretty fast.  A plastic drinking glass (don't worry about plastic glass being an oxymoron) probably works best.

Mixing with Fish?  We've already mentioned that 100% water works not so well.  That doesn't mean no one does it.  If you hold a patriot crab in your hand, you will see why fish do not do well in the same habitat.

LA
His mouth is at the top of his chest.

How Do They Eat?  You'll notice patriot crabs stuffing food into the top of their chest.  If you saw the movie Predator, you have a good idea of how their mouth works.

LA
They quickly learn to eat from your fingers.  Watch yours.

LA
They do like dead (and live) fish.

Last Words.  Patriot crabs do like dead goldfish or whatever else they find.  They'll do just fine on any of the pelleted pet foods for birds, lizards, ferrets, cats, dogs or whatever.  If you like to add supplements, add a piece of cuttlebone.  Patriot crabs are as easy to keep as a crawdad.  LA
 

Rose Marie Bove, maybe Canada (from spelling), July 2, 2008
Just a heads up. You said maximum Cardisoma armatum size is 3 inches. Incorrect. My crab is 4 inches across carapace and is in the process of moulting again. I've had him for 5 years now, so with legs about 4 inches per side he's going to be over 12 inches across. I've read that these crabs can reach 6 inches across. Just wanted to give you an update. Too bad you don't ship creatures. Any thought in the future?

A:  Gotcher message.  Will add to the page.  In the future "nada es impossible."  LA

LA
In shallow water with eyes popping out of the water.

LA
Hiding under a piece of wood.

LA
Enjoying a midday snack.

LA
Never to late for a snack.

LA
You can see his mouth here.

LA
Totally submerged and over sand.

LA
Totally emersed and looking for trouble.

LA
Always happy under a rock.

LA
Sometimes fish can be a little too snoopy.

LA
♪... Sitting on the dock of the bay ...♫

LA
See you later alligator.

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