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Four Crabs, Still No Pairs

George Monnat Jr

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I've been wanting a pair of Porcelain Anemone Crabs associated with my Bubble-Tip Anemones (BTAs) for quite some time. RCA got in a couple of Porcelain Crabs for me, but they were Porcelain Rock Crabs that don't associate with anemones. One of them was DOA, and I went ahead and bought the other. I occasionally see it feeding near the bottom of a rock, but it stays hidden most of the time.

On May 2nd, 2012 I finally found some Porcelain Anemone Crabs at AquaDome (one of my exciting finds on my first trip there). They supposedly associate with anemones in pairs, so I bought a pair. The next day, one of them was dead in the tank. Other posters mentioned that it could be a molt, but it looked like the internals had been eaten. I never saw it again, so I'm pretty sure it died.

The other spent the next three weeks or so hiding in the rocks and not approaching any of the anemones.

On May 17th, it molted. Luckily, it was still next to the molt, so I didn't need to worry about it having died, too.


Finally around May 24th, the Porcelain Anemone Crab associated with my Rose BTA (RBTA). Yay! It stayed with its rear protected in the RBTA with its claws and feeders sticking out.


On May 25th, the very next day, RCA got in five or six Porcelain Anemone Crabs! I bought three, so I would hopefully have one pair up with my existing crab then create a second pair in another anemone. As I put them in a drip acclimation bin, I noticed a problem. Two of them were going at it, and one had lost a left leg. I looked and my hopes faded. One of the three I had just purchased was a different species! There are two species of Porcelain Anemone Crabs that are typically available: Neopetrolisthes ohshimai like the one I had, and the less common (for here) Neopetrolisthes maculata. You can see that the one on the left in the picture below has a consistent, even, fine dot pattern meaning it's a N. maculata. The other two in the bin and the one in the DT have a much more uneven, "splotchy" pattern.


I was still hopeful that one of the two new N. ohshimai would pair up with the existing on in the RBTA, so I would have at least one pair. I placed the sole N. maculata on the top, far right corner of the DT where I had the four little BTAs from KimP that hadn't hosted any of my anemone crustaceans, yet. Within the next day or so, the N. maculata had associated with the smallest, poor little bleached BTA at the top.


Back to the N. ohshimai trio. I placed the two new N. ohshimai in front of the RBTA where the current N. ohshimai resided. I didn't want to put them directly on the RBTA, because I wasn't sure if they needed to spend time, as in hours, "acclimating" themselves to a new anemone like my shrimp do. One of the new N. ohshimai dropped below and in front of the RBTA's rock. The second new one started to drop just in front of the RBTA but then swam back and attached itself to the RBTA's foot. Yay!


I thought I had a great chance of getting a pair. I came back a little later, and things weren't going so well.


I had to break it up with a baster. The new, smaller N. ohshimai had already lost a leg. The new one retreated, and the older, bigger one kept a vigilant watch (it's a little difficult to see the new one at the bottom left of the picture below).


Now four days later, I still have zero pairs of the Porcelain Anemone Crabs. Along with my two Spotted Cleaner Shrimp (Periclimenes yucatanicus) and all my many Sexy Shrimp (Thor amboinensis), I'm running out of anemones. In addition to my six BTAs (Indo-Pacific anemones), I have two Condy Anemones (Condylactis gigantea) for my Caribbean crustaceans, namely the Spotted Cleaner Shrimp. One of the new N. ohshimai has taken over the bigger, purple Condy after kicking out the P. yucatanicus there (it's on the left side of the Condy in the picture below).


Fortunately, the P. yucatanicus didn't insist on its native Condy and moved to the nearby Green BTA (actually both ended up over there). The third N. ohshimai has been hanging out near the other new one and the purple Condy. Maybe the two new N. ohshimai will end up paired, but neither seems to like the established N. ohshimai very much. With my luck, I bought all of the same sex of N. ohshimai and a fourth of a different species meaning no pairs for me.

Oh well, at least most of them are in anemones now instead of just hiding in the rocks. And I have a soap opera to look forward to as they all jockey for hosts. One of the funniest things was seeing one of the P. yucatanicus kicking a Sexy Shrimp off of my blue Maxi-Mini Carpet Anemone (MMCA):


and later the Sexy Shrimp coming back in numbers to chase off the P. yucatanicus.


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Update from yesterday.

Around noon/lunch:

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai (Porcelain Anemone Crab) #1: on RBTA

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai (Porcelain Anemone Crab) #2: on purple Condy

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai (Porcelain Anemone Crab) #3: on small, far right GBTA

Neopetrolisthes maculatus (Porcelain Anemone Crab) #1: ? (was on small, bleached BTA a couple of days ago)

Periclimenes yucatanicus (Spotted Cleaner/Anemone Shrimp) #1: on pink Condy

Periclimenes yucatanicus (Spotted Cleaner/Anemone Shrimp) #2: on big GBTA

In the afternoon/evening:

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai #1: still on RBTA

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai #2: still on purple Condy

Neopetrolisthes ohshimai #3: on small, far right GBTA

Neopetrolisthes maculatus #1: on big, first GBTA

Periclimenes yucatanicus #1: still on pink Condy

Periclimenes yucatanicus #2: hanging out left of the big GBTA

Below you can see the N. maculatus in the middle of the big GBTA on the left and one of the three N. ohshimai in the smaller GBTA on the right (one of the four BTAs given to me by KimP; thanks for that, otherwise many of these non-pairing, ornamental crustaceans would be homeless!).


P. yucatanicus on the pink Condy


Here's an entertaining video of one of the P. yucatanicus crossing the big GBTA and encountering a Black Molly. I guess it thinks mollies shouldn't be in SW tanks, too. I was videoing, because I thought the shrimp and crab would get into it, but the crab (top of anemone, just right of center) pretty much ignored the shrimp (probably thought the shrimp was just a deranged, wandering homeless creature).


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Update from yesterday, when I went home for lunch two crabs were together in the big GBTA and one of the Spotted Cleaner/Anemone Shrimp, too! The crazy thing about the crab pair is they are two different species! They were next to each other without fighting, so maybe inter-racial love? I hope it stays that way (peaceful). In the first frame you can see the very fine spot pattern on the N. maculatus (left) and the coarser pattern on the N. ohshimai (right).


On a side note, the N. ohshimai that has taken up residence in my purple Condy got a pleasant surprise. The purple Condy spit up a chunk of Rod's Food Original Blend from the previous night. At least I hope it spit it out and the crab didn't reach in and steal it. I saw the crab eating it and watched as Banjo, the Yellow-Tailed Damselfish, stole it then lost it. At least the crab still had a piece that it was chewing on.


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  • 4 months later...

A couple months after the previous post, July 25th, I was at RCA and saw a huge, beautiful Neopetrolisthes maculatus in their small checkout tank. Since I had the three N. ohshimai and only one N. maculatus with anemones to spare, I figured I'd see if I could get them to pair. I added the 5th Porcelain Rock Crab. I still don't have any same-species pairs, but the original N. maculatus and one of the smaller N. ohsimai don't mind sharing the big GBTA.


The big, mean N. ohshimai took over the RBTA as in the posts above, the 2nd N. ohshimai hung out in the Purple Condy and the last N. ohshimai and the only N. maculatus (until I got the 5th one) shared the big GBTA. The problem with anemones is they occasionally "suck up" into themselves or the LR or they walk around. This can annoy the crabs enough to get them to move.


The RBTA is on the left, big GBTA in the middle and the Purple Condy on the right.

When the RBTA would suck up or move, the big, mean N. ohshimai would wander over to the big GBTA and take it over from the nice N. ohshimai and N. maculatus pair. That usually involves the loss of one or more of the N. maculatus's limbs. Currently, the smaller N. maculatus is missing both of its main claws and one of its two feeder arms. It's very close to starvation as the loss of its remaining feeder arm would make it very difficult for it to collect food. That's why I plan on capturing the big N. ohshimai and give it away. Then I'll have two of each, and they all play nice with each other.

The other, 3rd N. ohshimai is also nice. It shares my Pink Condy with my remaining Periclimenes yucatanicus shrimp (I was seriously bummed when the other one went MIA, I bet the dang big N. ohshimai killed it, but I have no proof of that).


Here's one of the smaller N. ohshimai hanging out in my Purple Condy:


Here's the big, newer N. maculatus using my Red Maxi-Mini as a cover and sharing it with one of my Peacock-Tail Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis):


You can see the big in the RBTA in the lower right. Ignore the patches of cyano and bubble algae (I got a small Emerald Crab working on that).

The Peacock-Tail Shrimp seem to prefer the Maxi-Minis. I don't know if that's natural, or if the others were already taken.


Here's the other one trying out a couple of small GBTA clones on the back wall. It didn't stay there long, preferring the Green and Orange Maxi-Minis lower down.


I don't want to forget to mention this guy. When I first ordered Porcelain Crabs from RCA, they got in a Porcelain Rock Crab for me. I bought it anyway and reordered. I didn't think I'd see it much if ever in my 125g. That's why I like the anemone ones, because they're almost always out in the open. Anyway, when I feed the tank, this guy pops out and starts waving his antenna and feeder arms around. It's big, blue and cool. I'm glad I got it.


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Great thread! I love my porcelain crabs. Seem to grow quickly. Good photography too!

My porcelains do similar things, within seconds of my addition of oyster eggs to the tank they are out in force!

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My porcelains do similar things, within seconds of my addition of oyster eggs to the tank they are out in force!

Where do you get oyster eggs? I haven't tried those.

Porcelain crabs aren't aggressive, but they do a great job of keeping the thieving shrimps from stealing all the food from the nems.

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