Panther Crab (Parathelphusa pantherina) breeding project

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Apr 26, 2015
Alright, here's the long-awaited thread. Just so you know, I probably won't be able to purchase the crabs for a few months, as I already know where I'm going to be purchasing them at when they come in stock.

So, let's start from the beginning and I'll fill you in then update periodically. The updates may become more frequent (once a day/every couple days) once I purchase and receive the crabs, but we'll see about that. ;)

Alright, so I decided to do this project over a year ago when I saw these crabs and fell in love with crabs. The primary reason behind this was because crayfish (my original first choice) are illegal where I live in AZ.

So, the first six months I did a ton of research to make sure I knew nearly everything there was to know about them. Then they came in stock and I couldn't purchase any.

Long story short, I ended up eventually special ordering these crabs via my lfs and bought three from them. Two of them climbed out and died (RIP). Please note I had them in a 75 gallon aquarium filled with water (I was stupid, I know, especially since I had done the research I had no excuse). I then bought two more and moved them all into a 10 gallon aquarium (another slightly stupid decision, IME).

Later, I found one of them with her legs torn off and only her carapace remained. I quickly moved this crab to the container I brought the latest two home in (this was one of the two) with an airstone. She survived and was able to eat, but when she went to moult I stressed her out too much b/c I was concerned she might need help. This was a naive decision. She died while preparing to moult.

My second to last crab had a failed moult, while my last crab climbed out of the ten gallon to look for a warmer place to live (it dipped below freezing and I forgot to put a heater in the aquarium).

So, in essence I've had just about everything possible go wrong with these crabs already, and I've learned quite a few lessons the hard way. :( (btw, I'm sorry I don't have any pics from back then)

Now on to today.

I have nine 10 gallon aquariums I will be using to breed these crabs. They will each have a DIY sponge filter, DIY moss wall (questions to follow), some spider wood for the crabs to climb on, and will be set up as sets of three.

I have 25 six-foot long 2x4s which I plan to create a DIY stand for the aquariums (three levels, each holding three aquariums. The stand will be situated where the first set of three aquariums are currently resting on the floor. Just envision a wooden stand around it so the aquariums aren't touching the wall), and for the future crablets which I plan to raise in a kiddie pool. I will purchase the crabs as trios (1M, 2F) and will house one trio on each level, one crab per aquarium.

The middle aquarium will hold a heater (the heat will dissipate into the adjoining two aquariums beside it, effectively heating those as well, tho perhaps with less effectiveness/efficiency).*
*I got this idea after keeping Red Clawed Crabs and noticing when I put a heater in the guppy aquarium next to the RCC, the crab aquarium would also be heated. I think I can use this to reduce the number of heaters needed, and thus the startup costs of this project (which, if successful, will be the beginning of my NPO [see my signature for a bit on that ;) ]).

The crablets will be situated on the same level as the parent. For example, if a female panther crab in the middle level breeds, her F1 generation will be raised in the middle kiddie pool, the same level as the parent (middle, middle).

Since I already have uploaded the max of four (4) pictures (the three sets of three aquariums and the planned DIY sponge filter once the sponge is cycled), and two more are needed to help illustrate my question on the moss wall, I will publish this and reply with my moss wall question. More pics to follow as I continue this project!


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Here's my question on the moss wall. My parents went out shopping and picked me up some plastic canvas (pictured below), but they are the soft kind that aren't rigid and thus not ideal for a moss wall...

However, I have some wooden skewers that I had an idea to cut to size, wedge into my aquarium so they don't float, fasten the canvas on that, and continue with my moss wall. Would this work?

The attached pics are of the canvas and the skewers (of course, I won't be using the sharp end). Unfortunately, I am not sure of the type of wood the skewers are made from...


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That is how I made my moss wall, just like that. This is a cool project, I'm following along!

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Alright, I know it's been a couple weeks since I've been able to post an update, but I've been a bit busier with college than I anticipated. However, I'm starting to figure it out, so hopefully I'll be able to keep these coming at least once a week until I get the crabs. As mentioned, when I get the crabs I plan to post more often, but until then a post a week sounds good unless, of course, absolutely nothing happens, but I don't foresee that happening anytime soon ;)

So, I just finished changing the water in a few of my 10 gallons, ordered some Java Moss online that's shipping out tomorrow (via Aquabid), and have some pics and questions...

This one is one of the worse aquariums that I changed the water in. As you may be able to tell, the aquarium is definitely cloudy and I noticed what looked like brown hair algae on the spider wood (little brown swirly smudge center of photo). I'm not too terribly concerned about the algae since I know it'll probably disappear as the nutrients get depleted (I'm pretty sure it's normal in newly set-up aquariums), but I am slightly concerned about the water quality.

This one is a pic after I emptied the water, and you may be able to tell the bottom glass is still very cloudy.

This is the aquarium after I filled it to its normal water level (over the two weeks it'd lowered about a centimeter, which is easier for me to estimate than inches atm).

Now, my primary concern is the ¨breeding¨ aspect of this...

As most of you more experienced breeders know, bacteria (while good) is also the ultimate foe of any breeding project. This is the primary reason I decided against white play sand in the bottom of these aquaria, even though when I initially started this thread I was still going to put sand in the aquariums.

Might this continue to be a problem, or should it resolve itself? I'm hoping the latter, but hopefully y'all more experienced breeders and aquarists can help settle my concerns.

Second, while my shipment of java moss should arrive by Thursday (at the latest I expect it Friday), I do have a 20 gallon long I plan to initially start the moss walls in until I feel comfortable enough to ¨install¨ them in the 10 gallons. I also plan to build a stand for these aquaria, so y'all have that to look forward to in the future :D

Now, when will I feel comfortable installing them? Idk, but it'll probably be when I have enough with plenty to spare in case something goes wrong. Better safe than sorry, right guys (and gals, of course ;) )?

Lastly, as you may have deduced, these aquariums are going to be severely low-tech. I'm going to hopefully be able to use the natural sunlight that comes into the room through the window, though we'll see how that goes when I get the stand set up and everything running...

In conclusion, I'd like to travel down memory lane with my last batch of crabs. I found these on PhotoBucket when I went on my account after hearing some of you advise another individual to use the website instead of posting directly into here.


Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, enjoy.

PS, I would post some of these pics to my profile of these crabs, but there's no closeup shots of them so they're not great for identifying the species of crab. When I get the ones I plan to breed, I'll definitely get some great identifying pics and update that thread as well.

Hope you are enjoying this as much as I am! I'll update this soon, so stay tuned
Just a quick update: the moss is eta on Saturday. If it comes in, you can expect this thread to be updated by Monday with the build up to the beginning of the moss wall with air current, though the filters will likely still be cycling. Stay tuned!

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Super excited!!!!! :d :d :d

Alright, so I'm super excited about this right now, because my moss just came in! :D :D :D :D :D

Anyhow, I haven't been this excited in a long time, but I did document everything with pics (thanks to my biology and business backgrounds). Here goes... :D

package just delivered (took a pic of the back to protect privacy)

inside of package (just opened)

lil closer :D

official measurement, mm (still inside bag)

official measurement, inches (still inside bag)

official measurement, inches (moss removed and on top of bag)

official measurement, mm (moss removed and on top of bag)

official weight/mass, oz (tared for weight of bag, moss added after. i.e. this is the weight of the moss ONLY) [advertised as ~0.03 oz (starting to wonder if it's a typo lol)]

And here's the beginning of the 24 hour soak (I read on one of the seller's feedback that after a 24-hour soak it was the advertised selling size, a small golfball)

I'm wondering if I should put the moss in a cup (I have a couple I only use for my aquariums) with an airstone? My reasoning is it may help it fill out and possibly grow???

Anyway, tomorrow I have a picnic lunch with one of my clubs so I may not be home until 4pm. I'll hopefully update this again tomorrow night, but probably won't have too much more done until Monday/next weekend.

One last question, how much of the java moss is required to start a moss wall? I need to divvy this up nine ways, and am wondering if there's enough to get the job done. If not, I'll wait until it grows out a bit and propagate the moss walls from there.
I went ahead and put the moss in one of the cups after a failed attempt to add an airline to the bag direct. I also added an airstone, so we'll see how much it fills out after 26-28 hours.

At 3pm this afternoon I went ahead and documented the next steps of the build that I´m working on as part of my breeding project (the moss wall currently).

size of the moss, just removed from the cup of water

moss next to a golf ball for size comparison (advertised as the size of a small golf ball)

another angle

the mass of the moss after 25 hour soak (just to satisfy my curiosity)

*again, this is just the mass of the moss, as the plastic bag was set on there and the scale was tared (it resets to zero so you only get the mass of what you want to weigh). The bag is there to act as a barrier in case anything is on the scale that may harm the moss (it´s my dad´s and he uses it for his ebay business selling miscellaneous small items)

Next I decided to tear up the moss into nine segments, each roughly the same size. This was interesting since I didn´t tear any moss, but it naturally separated into nine similar sized portions. ??? lol

I originally put them in the nine aquariums to grow a bit before I put together the moss wall, but then thought better of it. I decided to use the plastic canvas to help keep the moss near the surface in an attempt that it´d receive more sunlight.

The following is the process I used to cut all nine of the canvas to size, and adding the moss on top afterward. Please note: the pics are from the last patient. Originally I cut two squares off, but it still didn´t fit into the aquarium well [too large] so I cut off another two squares and it fit nicely

before the operation, with the operating utensil laying on top the patient

The label and tag on the top removed (most removed easily and left no residue, the one that was slightly more difficult I was sure to scrape the remaining label off with the edge of the knife)

the surgical removal of four squares (keep ´em steady!)

surgery complete

test fitting and placing java moss on top

All nine of the patients with successful surgery and placement, with moss on each

I´m hoping the moss will grow enough in the next couple months to set up and install the actual moss wall. I´ll take pics and update this thread every week with the growth

Wow! Seems like you really want to get it right! Looks good! When are you going to get ze crabs?
Wow this is a really involved project!

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It is... just beginning lol

Wow! Seems like you really want to get it right! Looks good! When are you going to get ze crabs?

Thank you!

I do! I've put enough money into this "business" already by half assing it (pardon my french plz), so now i definitely want to get it right lol :D

They're not in stock where I'm going to purchase them from yet :( So tbh I have no clue. However, I check once or twice a week and will purchase them IMMEDIATELY when I see they're in stock. This is to ensure I get the biggest stock they have, since at 1.5 to 2 inches selling size if I get the lower end of the spectrum (around 1.5") they may require a few more moults before they breed. And if anyone is familiar with the ecdysozoa (inverts that moult an outer shell as they grow [ecdysis])... well it's a pretty much exponential function, with the time between ecdysis/moulting getting longer as the invert ages.

What that means is if I get a crab less than 1.8" (I've read that's when the female is mature and can hold eggs) I might have to wait an extremely long time for crablets. That would mean I'd have to sell the young at a bit higher price to break even (more time before breeding, more food. Less time, less food. All else being equal (ceteris paribus), even if I am able to maintain a self replicating system to feed these crabs).

Out of a few experiments I plan to perform with these crabs, moulting time is definitely one variable I hope to figure out. Plus, I'll also change a few variables to see how it affects the growth of the young (e.g. food type, food variability, water temp, pH, number of crabs around, food amount, along with a few others I have written down in a composition book somewhere in my fish room *my actual bedroom, which I'm sleeping in my nephew's room next door lol*).

In my mind, if it's really worth doing, it's worth half assing it for a while as long as you overdo it when you're actually able to lol jk (there's just a lot to know) :)

Let's just say, when I finally move out of my parents house it'll be a lot of fun hahaha

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When are you going to get ze crabs?

In addition to the above post, I'd be inclined to hope not until I get the base work/foundation done for this project (in order of expected completion):
1) moss wall and filtration build

2) DIY stand build

3) all the food web that's lower than the crabs established and breeding well
[in order of high on the food web to low on the food web]
A) guppies
B) worm cultures (for both crabs and guppies)
I) microworm
II) white worm
III) black worm
IV) any others?
C) artemia, which will be fun figuring out how to culture them so I have a self sustaining supply (I know of one resource that I'll have to dig up and read again)
D) algae/plants
E) other necessary microorganisms to make this possible

4) finish my business plan

5) figure out exactly which experiments I would like to do with the F1 and beyond generations and outline/plan them out (no crabs will be hurt in any experiment. Trust me, I consider these my children like others do with dogs and cats, and I wouldn't stand for it unless it would help stop abuse like the experiments to determine if crabs feel pain. That experiment shed light on the inhumane practices of cooking live crabs in a pot, though that doesn't deter me from wanting to see the crab behavior that makes it possible and perhaps determine why they do that)

As always, thanks for your input. All questions, comments, and input welcome!


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Also, just to note something I thought of last night/this morning, only numbers 1-3 need to be done before I'm comfortable getting the crabs, though I will still get them if they come in stock before those get done. The other two are extras that I'd like to have done, but aren't necessary to complete before, as they can be done after I get the crabs.


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Here's the updated one week pics of the moss:

Also, since I suspect the time for purchasing the crabs are near (within three months) I'm definitely thinking about culturing live food.

Up to discuss this week is black worms. I've read they eat the mulm out of an aquarium, and I have a 75 gallon aquarium that I've been using to age water for some time (pic below).

*the bones are in there for calcium, since I'm going to be keeping and breeding mostly crabs and shrimps, with a few fish added in occasionally.

However, I've always disliked having all the mulm in the bottom, and so refused to fill it up for almost a month. Did you catch that?

Yes! Mulm! I guess I have food for the black worms, :lol:

So, I'll be looking around online for the black worms, will purchase play sand for my 20 gallon long, and will soon purchase the guppies as well. Both the guppies and the worms will be kept in the 20 gallon long, though if the guppies eat too many of the worms I'll transfer them to the 75 gallon since it already has the mulm.

What do you think? Should I just fill the bottom of the 75 gallon with sand and use it for the black worms? Keep in mind most people using this method of culturing black worms don't recommend a deep aquarium, and the 75 gallon IS my holding aquarium for all my water (think chlorine :confused: ). So, I think it might be best if I go ahead and use my 20 gallon long for the worms, but might also be able to use a kiddie pool that'll house the crablets when they're born.

Anywho, I have a few things to consider for this next week. Looking forward to any suggestions/comments!

Please note, I will be out of town this next weekend, so I may not update my thread until Monday night. Please be patient.


On a funnier closing note, I'd like to emphasize about the dumbest cricket I've ever seen :lol:

Maybe it'll be the start of my cricket farm ;)
I apologize for not posting pics last week, but a lot has been going on. Nothing to worry about though. :)

Here's the pics for this week (week three, since I missed a week):

I'm going to be buying an electricity watt meter so I can keep track of how many watts i'm using, and to make this a bit more legit. However, I have a couple questions:
1) If I were to invest in a couple lights, how much would it impact the growth of the moss? (I'm not sure if it's getting enough light)
2) Is there any way to add a poll to an already existing thread?

Anyway, now on to a little known secret. Do you think there's any reason why I take pictures of three of them at a time? Why not do them one at a time? Why not four or six at a time? Shoot, why not two at a time? Answer comes next week. Something to think about.

Also, I've been working on my business plan and project proposal, which I'll share here when I get them complete. I'm nearly complete on the proposal, but still need to work a lot more on the business plan.

Thank you to everyone who keeps up with this thread! Your support is very much appreciated.


PS, I apologize if some of my earlier replies to people's posts sounded rude. That was not my goal, and it won't happen again. Please feel free to post questions, comments, or suggestions on this thread. Also, feel free to answer my questions when I ask them if you know the answer.


:fish2: *waiting for the crabs to come in stock* Until then, it won't be too exciting. However, I do plan to purchase some guppies and start on the self-sustaining food system in the next couple weeks
green go you sure do post a lot of content. i mean holy smokes its like reading a novel, its good you are giving all the info anyone else would need to breed these
I blame it on my scientific background lol "be as detailed as possible" :)

when I'm able to breed them and accomplish what I'm setting out to do (this will be evident in my project proposal) I'll write a "scientific" report on it and hopefully get it published. I'm just not certain I'll be able to do it as a scientist since I won't have my PhD for another five to seven years. I'll also condense the basics into a PDF I'll share with those who buy the crabs off me, though this might just go public depending on how I decide to sell (online or local via lfs)

A BIG THANK YOU to those dedicated enough to read this completely!


PS, hopefully when I get home I'll be able to update this again with some content I forgot to include in my last update. Don't worry, I'll try not to make it so long ;) but it does affect the entire project

PPS, is it possible to create a poll within an existing thread? I'd like to do a quick survey to see if it'd be worth setting something up. Details to follow when I get an answer. Thank you!

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I have friends who have been published in scientific journals without PhD, so don't discount anything.

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Well I didn't read quite everything, but most of it. This is very cool!

A few things:

IMHO a wattage meter is a bit overkill unless it's super cheap. Unless you really want to document everything.

The moss seems like it's growing slowly. A long T8 or T5 light would help, or multiple CFLs. Depending on the watts and how high you hang each one, you could get anywhere from low to medium light. I think it would be a worthwhile investment.

How much do these crabs go for? I've never heard of them TBH.

Are the guppy fry going to be crab food?
Alright, so here's the missing info that I forgot to mention Saturday:

In my Conservation of Biodiversity class, we're learning about minimum viable population size and the 50/500 rule which has recently been redefined as the 100/1000 rule. Basically, this is the minimum effective population size (number of breeding individuals while taking into account ratio of males to females. The actual population size will be MUCH HIGHER) for a species to not go extinct. However, in captivity this number will likely be much lower (I hope).

Now, for the reason I'd like to set up a poll (which I'll do by Saturday when I update this thread with the week four pics and why I photograph them three at a time). To be concise: I need funding. I'm going to enter into a challenge where I can receive up to $10,000 (US), but if that falls through, I'll most likely need some funding for this and other breeding projects/ventures.

1) this is the only forum I'm doing this for
2) I could give discounts to everyone who buys my plants/organisms who also donates (I'm also open to suggestions if someone wants something specific, though of course I'll need to breed it first). Oh, and these discounts will likely mean you'll be practically only be paying shipping due to my unique method of self-sufficiency (read: practically FREE plants and fish/inverts)
3) well, who doesn't want to help ensure the wild population's survival of the species we keep in aquaria?

Thanks again for the support!


PS, I'm likely going to set my business up as a nonprofit, so you may or may not be able to get tax deductions. However, should my business be established/registered, which will happen AFTER I have something to sell, there will likely be no discounts. If there is no tax deductions, you'll get discounts. The length of time you receive the discounts (or the number of discounts you receive, as I haven't decided yet) will depend on how much you're able to donate

Thanks again!


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