51 of the Most Colorful Crabs in the World

You may know them as a zodiac sign or a type of seafood, but crabs are also beautiful and often bright-colored additions to the planet. And if you’re like most people, you may not have heard of some of the most magnificently colored crabs on Earth.

Here’s our list of the world’s most colorful crabs:

1. Sally Lightfoot Crab

Sally Lightfoot Crab standing on rock.
  • Latin name: Grapsus grapsus
  • Habitat: Pacific coast of Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, as well as on the Galapagos Islands
  • Size: Carapace about 3.1″ long
  • Diet: Mostly algae, though it also will eat other plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: These crabs vary in color, but the brightest of them are patched with red, yellow, and sky blue.

This crab is easily one of the most colorful on the list. But somewhat confusingly, it is not the only species called the “Sally Lightfoot crab.” Percnon gibbesi, the urchin crab, also shares the name. Though it sometimes comes close to the size of the blue crab and other edible crabs, the Sally Lightfoot crab is not generally considered to be edible.

2. Purple Rock Crab

Closeup view of purple rock crab hiding between two rocks,
  • Latin name: Leptograpsus variegatus
  • Habitat: Rocky coastal areas of Australia, New Zealand, South America, and some Pacific islands
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ long
  • Diet: Algae, limpets, barnacles, and other plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: As its name suggests, the purple rock crab has claws and legs that are an intense shade of purple. Individual crabs may have accents of orange or green, too.

These pretty and distinctive-looking crabs are somewhat different from other purple crabs on the list. That’s because rather than being pure purple, they are usually purple with whitish markings. The exact nature of the markings will vary depending on the crab, but many have claws whose purple color fades to whitish toward the points. They also usually have polka-dot-like white spots.

3. Calico Crab

A Dolly Varden Crab burrows itself at the shore of the protected island.
  • Latin name: Hepatus epheliticus
  • Habitat: Shallow parts of the western Atlantic Ocean (from about the Chesapeake Bay to the Dominican Republic)
  • Size: Carapace up to about 3″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of detritus on the ocean floor
  • Colorful feature: At first glance, the calico crab almost looks like a cartoon. Its shell is usually white or off-white and covered with orange, red, or purple spots. Those spots are outlined in a darker color that gives the calico crab a distinctive and clean-lined look.

The calico crab is a useful part of the ocean’s “garbage disposal,” as it eats decomposing plant and animal matter. It also frequently carries an animal called the “hitchhiking anemone” on its back. This is something that benefits both: the anemone has access to more food as the crab carries it around, and the crab is protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging ability.

4. Red-Spotted Guard Crab

Small orange red-spotted guard crab.
  • Latin name: Trapezia tigrina
  • Habitat: Coral reefs throughout much of the Indo-Pacific region
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of zooplankton
  • Colorful feature: This crab has a white base color dotted with rust-red spots. The spots are small and fairly uniform in size, giving the crab a dalmatian-like look.

You might wonder why this colorful crab is called a “guard crab.” It’s not the only species with the name. Guard crabs live in areas sheltered by corals while also defending the corals from starfish and other predators. As you can see in the picture, its relatively flat shell lets it fit easily among coral branches.

5. Golden Ghost Crab

Close-up of Golden Ghost Crab on sand at beach.
  • Latin name: Ocypode convexa
  • Habitat: Along the coast of western Australia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Largely carrion, various types of debris, and small animals it catches
  • Colorful feature: These bright crabs are golden-yellow to lemon yellow in color. They are mostly one color, although the large claw will sometimes look a little paler.

These bright, fast-moving crabs can only be found in western Australia. They are plentiful in their native range, but they unfortunately have caused problems for endangered sea turtles. Golden ghost crabs prey on turtle eggs and hatchlings, and in some areas, nesting sites are covered by screens or monitored by humans to discourage predation by the crabs.

6. Paraleptuca chlorophthalmus

Close-up of Paraleptuca chlorophthalmus.
  • Latin name: Paraleptuca chlorophthalmus
  • Habitat: Mangrove swamps in East Africa
  • Size: Carapace about 0.6″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of detritus within mud
  • Colorful feature: These marsh fiddler crabs have some of the brightest colors on the list. The tops of their carapace are bright tomato red, and their legs and lower bodies are stark black. They also sometimes have bright blue and black markings on the carapace.

Most of the crabs on the list live either on the coast or in marshes. And like other tiny fiddler crabs, these crustaceans live in the marshes of mangrove swamps. They create burrows in the banks in order to hide from predators and high tides. Other fiddler crabs may try to invade their burrows, so they spend a good amount of time defending them.

7. Rainbow Crab

Three Rainbow crabs in an aquarium.
  • Latin name: Cardisoma armatum
  • Habitat: Coastal areas and some deltas in western Africa
  • Size: Carapace up to 8″ wide, though most individuals are smaller
  • Diet: Mostly fruit, vegetation, and carrion
  • Colorful feature: The rainbow crab is a beautiful mixture of colors. Its carapace is usually blue or blue-violet, the legs are reddish, and the claws are white. The colors look brighter and much more saturated when the crabs are young. As they get older, they start to fade.

As you might expect, this crab’s bright colors have made it somewhat popular in the pet industry. But if you’re in the market for one, you might see it advertised as the “soapdish crab.” This name has nothing to do with its appearance; it is such an aggressive species that crabs are often shipped in soap dishes so they do not kill one another in transit.

8. Crucifix Crab

Crucifix crab isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Charybdis feriata
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical coastline in the western Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to 8″ wide
  • Diet: Various small ocean organisms
  • Colorful feature: This crab has a light, cross-shaped marking on the shell. But the shell and legs usually have intricate, marble-like patterning of brown and cream.

This crab is part of a Catholic legend: the story goes that Saint Francis Xavier was in Indonesia and lost his crucifix in a storm. The next day, a crab walked out of the ocean and carried the crucifix back. Francis blessed the crab, and it has had the distinctive cross marking ever since.

9. Montagu’s Crab

Close-up of Montagu's Crab.
  • Latin name: Lophozozymus incisus
  • Habitat: Warm waters off the coast of Australia and parts of Europe and Asia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 0.7″ wide
  • Diet: Largely clams and some plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This rare and stunning crab has some of the most spectacular patterning on the list. It has a mostly white base color and is marked with hot pink, violet, and fiery orange. The exact patterning varies between individuals.

This crab is beautiful, but it’s best to keep your distance; it is among the most toxic crabs in the world! The Montagu’s crab and others in its genus store the same toxins that can be found in pufferfish. The toxins are in their egg sacs and muscles, so eating this crab is likely to be lethal.

10. Blue Land Crab

Blue land crab next to burrow.
  • Latin name: Cardisoma guanhumi
  • Habitat: Coastal land in Central America and South America, as well as in the Caribbean
  • Size: Carapace up to 6″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly fruit, leaves, insects, and carrion
  • Colorful feature: Some individual blue land crabs are brighter than others. The most colorful among them are a distinctive deep blue, though some are a pretty powder blue. Younger crabs often have orange legs, too.

These terrestrial crabs live in burrows. But even in their burrows, they can hear the sound of a fruit falling. They also can sense faint vibrations in the ground in order to better detect both predators and prey. These crabs have fairly good vision, although their visual abilities increase with body size.

11. Mosaic Boxer Crab

Mosaic Boxer Crab on sand.
  • Latin name: Lybia tesselata
  • Habitat: Shallow, tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Size: Carapace can grow to about 1″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of small aquatic organisms, though it seems to prefer animals to plants
  • Colorful feature: This crab has pretty, intricate patterning of white, maroon, and orange. Its legs are especially remarkable, as they are marked with multicolored pinstripes. Since the patches on the carapace have dark, neat outlines, the crab often looks like stained glass!

This crab looks like a little cheerleader! You might sometimes hear it called the pompom crab. But the pompoms you see in the picture aren’t actually part of the crab itself. This crab will often carry a sea anemone in each claw for protection, as the anemone can sting predators. This also benefits the sea anemone, as it can access more food as it’s carried around.

12. Lemon Yellow Clawed Fiddler

Lemon Yellow Clawed Fiddler isolated on black background.
  • Latin name: Austruca perplexa
  • Habitat: Coastal areas of parts of Japan, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia
  • Size: Carapace up to 0.5″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly algae, carrion, and small invertebrates
  • Colorful feature: This aptly-named crab is, as the name suggests, just about the color of a lemon rind. The whole body is yellow, but the larger claw of the male is usually the brightest of all.

Many of the colorful crustaceans on the list are fiddler crabs. And thanks to its sunny coloring, this is probably one of the brightest of all. The males have giant, very bright claws that they use to attract mates. The higher a male is able to raise his claw, the more likely he is to find a mate. As a result, males of this species have evolved over time to have larger and larger claws.

13. Blue Sponge Porcelain Crab

Close-up of Blue Sponge Porcelain Crab.
  • Latin name: Aliaporcellana spongicola
  • Habitat: Mostly coral reefs in the Philippines and Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to 0.5″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plankton
  • Colorful feature: This beautiful crab is among the most colorful of the porcelain crabs! It has a bright blue base color with striking orange coloring. The amount of orange on the body varies with each individual crab, but all of them are stunningly beautiful!

These crabs are lovely, but they might be hard to find in the wild. They are able to hide among corals, sponges, and other marine life in reefs. Their bodies are also flattened enough that they can hide comfortably in rock crevices. But if a predator does manage to get ahold of one of these crabs, they have a defense mechanism ready: they will easily lose limbs if attacked.

14. Flower Crab

Isolated Flower Crab.
  • Latin name: Portunus pelagicus
  • Habitat: Estuaries in most parts of Australia and up to New Caledonia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 8″ wide
  • Diet: Fish, bivalves, and sometimes algae
  • Colorful feature: This swimming crab looks a bit like the blue crab, Much of its body is bright blue, although the carapace is often darker brown with intricate white patterning.

This beautiful crab goes by many other names: you may hear it called the blue crab, blue swimmer crab, blue manna crab, or sand crab. In their native range, they are heavily fished and sold as both hard shell and soft-shell crabs, much as blue crabs are sold in North America. In order to prevent overfishing, Australia has put limits on the number of crabs that can be collected by recreational fishers.

15. Purple Shore Crab

A purple shore crab in natural habitat.
  • Latin name: Hemigrapsus nudus
  • Habitat: Rocky intertidal areas on the west coast of North America
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2.2″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly green algae, though it may sometimes feed on carrion as well
  • Colorful feature: These colorful crabs range from maroon to deep purple in color. As you can see in the picture, the color on the legs fades as you approach each end, giving the crab an airbrushed look. The front claws are usually pale with dark reddish spots.

This hardy crab is able to tolerate a wide range of temperature conditions. You can find it in intertidal areas from Alaska to Baja California. However, its small size, dark coloring, and relatively flat body make it hard to spot, as it can quickly scurry under rocks if need be.

16. Uca tetragonon

Uca tetragonon next to rock.
  • Latin name: Uca tetragonon
  • Habitat: Usually mangrove swamps in parts of Africa and Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.4″ wide
  • Diet: Various small organisms
  • Colorful feature: These bright crabs have noticeable, bright red claws. Their carapace is usually dark, although as you can see in the picture, they may be patterned with green, blue, or both.

Like many other fiddler crab species, this one seems happiest in swampy areas. While it is too small to be a practical food animal, it does have an interesting use: this crab is often used in the production of scented coconut oil!

17. Mandarin Vampire Crab

Mandarin Vampire Crab isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Geosesarma notophorum
  • Habitat: Forests near water in Java, Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to 2″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plant matter, small fish, and invertebrates
  • Colorful feature: These striking crabs will certainly make a statement in any terrarium. They are bright red-orange, though the claws are usually more orange than red.

You might not think of crabs as being pets. However, the mandarin vampire crab, along with other vampire crab species, is one of the more popular crabs found in captivity. The name “vampire crab” is a bit misleading. “Vampire” doesn’t refer to their feeding habits. Rather, it references their bright yellow eyes that are present in many vampire crab species. In darker vampire crabs, the yellow eyes form an especially sharp contrast with the rest of the body.

18. Candy Crab

Close-up of Candy Crab underwater.
  • Latin name: Hoplophrys oatesii
  • Habitat: Soft corals in reefs across the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 0.8″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plankton
  • Colorful feature: The candy crab can change color somewhat to mimic the corals where it lives. Its coloration is usually a mix of pink and white. The colors aren’t only created by the crab itself; it attaches coral polyps to itself in order to better camouflage.

Lots of candy crabs like the one in the picture are a pretty cotton candy pink. But depending on the exact color of the corals where they live, candy crabs may be red, yellow, or white as well. You may have heard these crabs called one of their many other names; they are also called Oates’s soft coral crabs, commensal soft coral crabs, or Dendronephthya crabs. The last name references the genus of corals where these crabs live.

19. Japanese Spider Crab

Close up of Japanese Spider Crab.
  • Latin name: Macrocheira kaempferi
  • Habitat: Mostly deep ocean waters off the coast of Japan
  • Size: Carapace up to 16″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of ocean plants and animals
  • Colorful feature: Some Japanese spider crabs are more colorful than others. Most are bright orange and patterned with white, although they may also have accents of red and yellow.

Lots of crabs on this list are cute and colorful. But the Japanese spider crab often looks scary. It’s much larger than other crabs on the list, as it can grow up to 42 pounds with a leg span of 12 feet! You might think that they’re often caught for food thanks to their large size, but Japanese spider crabs are only occasionally eaten. If you see one, it’s wise to avoid it, as these crabs have claws strong enough to cause serious injuries.

20. Gaudy Clown Crab

Gaudy Clown Crab in acquarium.
  • Latin name: Platypodiella spectabilis
  • Habitat: Coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.2″ wide
  • Diet: Small aquatic organisms
  • Colorful feature: The gaudy clown crab looks as though it’s been hand-painted, but the pattern you see in the picture is its natural color! It has a vibrant orange base color with patches of yellow or cream. These patches have blue outlines with blue spots.

This crab isn’t as talked about as some of the other species on the list, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful! Thanks to its patterning, it’s a pretty popular aquarium pet. It’s also easy to care for, making it a good choice for those relatively new to aquaculture.

21. Hairy Yellow Hermit Crab

Close-up of Hairy Yellow Hermit Crab.
  • Latin name: Aniculus maximus
  • Habitat: Warm waters throughout the Indo-Pacific region
  • Size: Up to about 2″ long
  • Diet: Mostly fish and algae
  • Colorful feature: Unlike may other hermit crabs, these crabs are typically vibrant yellow. Some of them are red or orange. But all colors have legs that are marked with plenty of fine hairs.

The hairy yellow hermit crab is different from the hermit crabs usually kept as pets. This one is aquatic. However, it is sometimes kept as an aquarium pet. Its bright coloration makes it a noticeable addition to any aquarium, but it’s also useful: its appetite for algae makes it an excellent aquarium cleaner.

22. Commensal Crab

Coral crab hiding between branches of hard coral.
  • Latin name: Trapezia rufopunctata
  • Habitat: Coral reefs in the Maldives, Polynesia, and the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Coral polyps and mucus
  • Colorful feature: This guard crab has a white base color marked with hundreds of red-orange spots. Its eyes are bright yellow and add another burst of color!

This distinctive crab has an unusual shape: its trapezoidal carapace sets it apart from many other crabs. And like other guard crabs, it has a symbiotic relationship with corals. With its flattened body, it can easily hide within the branches of hard coral. It eats polyps and coral mucus, and in exchange, it protects the coral from predators.

23. Blue Crab

Blue Crab with claws in the air.
  • Latin name: Callinectes sapidus
  • Habitat: Parts of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, though it has been introduced all over the world
  • Size: Carapace up to about 9″ wide
  • Diet: Fish, bivalves, plants, carrion, and just about any other food it can find
  • Colorful feature: This beautiful crab has blue legs and often has orange claws. Its carapace is dark blue-green.

The blue crab has perhaps the most culinary importance of any crab on the list. It’s often made into crab cakes, although soft-shell crabs are also served as a delicacy. It’s especially popular around the Chesapeake Bay as well as in Louisiana and the Carolinas. Though the population of crabs is generally stable, overfishing periodically becomes an issue.

24. Chilean Santolla

Chilean Santolla isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Lithodes santolla
  • Habitat: Waters surrounding southern South America
  • Size: Carapace is up to 7.5″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of marine organisms
  • Colorful feature: Most crabs are red when cooked, but the Chilean santolla has a bright red, spiky shell that you can’t miss!

This crab, also called the Chilean king crab, is one of the more popular culinary crabs on the list. Its meat is snowy white and delicious. This crab is usually fished, but some research has indicated that it can stay alive outside of water for long periods of time. As a result, it may be suitable for inclusion in the live seafood market.

25. Red Frog Crab

Red frog crab isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Ranina ranina
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical areas along Australia’s east coast
  • Size: Carapace up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Small fish that swim close to the ocean floor
  • Colorful feature: As the name suggests, the red frog crab is a deep red-orange in color. The color usually darkens toward the bottom of the legs, while the claws appear paler.

As you probably guessed from the name, this hefty crab does look a bit froglike. It can weigh up to 2 pounds and is often fished for meat. It’s somewhat unusual in that it is mostly nocturnal. During the day, it mostly stays buried in the sand. 

26. Puget Sound King Crab

Puget Sound King Crab on colorful rocks.
  • Latin name: Lopholithodes mandtii
  • Habitat: Waters off the Pacific coast of North America
  • Size: Carapace up to about 10″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly sea urchins, sea anemones, and related species
  • Colorful feature: The Puget Sound king crab has one of the more unusual colors on the list. Adult crabs have shells that are a colorful mixture of orange, red, and purple.

The colorful Puget Sound king crab has an impressively large range that overlaps with the range of other king crab species. And while other species like the Alaskan king crab are often caught for food, this species is a protected species in the state of Washington. At least in this area, it’s not a good idea to capture it for food. Though it does look somewhat like other king crab species, the Puget Sound king crab has rough, blunt bumps on the carapace that set it apart from other types of king crabs.

27. Meder’s Mangrove Crab

Meder's Mangrove Crab standing on the roots of a mangrove tree.
  • Latin name: Episesarma mederi
  • Habitat: Muddy mangrove swamps in Southeast Asia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: These crabs are some of the brightest marsh crabs on the list. Their carapace is usually greenish with bright sky blue markings. Its legs are a deeper cobalt blue, and its claws are closer to being rich red in color.

This little crustacean is one of the many marsh crabs on the list. But along with other members of its genus, it has evolved to be completely terrestrial. Most terrestrial crabs need to return to the water at least to spawn, but these ones are able to reproduce while still in their mangrove habitats.

28. Green Crab

Green Crab on sand.
  • Latin name: Carcinus maenas
  • Habitat: Native to the Baltic Sea and the northeast Atlantic, though it is an invasive species all over the world
  • Size: Carapace up to about 3.5″ wide
  • Diet: Mollusks, worms, and smaller crustaceans
  • Colorful feature: Most of us picture crabs as being red, orange, or maybe blue. But as the name says, the green crab is usually a rich and verdant green. Some are a uniform green. Others, like the crab in the picture, have patterning of various shades of green. And sometimes, these crabs are gray, brown, or red.

The green crab has been named one of the top 100 worst invasive species in the world. You might wonder how it came to be distributed far from its native range: it has stowed away in the hulls of ships and in shipments of mollusks. It lives in either protected or semi-protected marine environments, so it is found close to the coast.

29. Widehand Hermit Crab

Very colorful hermit crab with distinctive blue on inner thighs.
  • Latin name: Elassochirus tenuimanus
  • Habitat: Rocky shores in the northwest Pacific from Alaska to Washington
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.7″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of both plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: As you can see in the picture, this hermit crab is much more colorful than most. It is usually some shade of yellow or orange with distinctive hints of blue. Some crabs like the one in the picture even have red patterning on the legs.

The name of this crab comes from its one very large, hand-like claw. When it retreats into its shell, the crab can pull this large claw over the shell opening, effectively sealing itself off from predators. Like many other hermit crabs, these crabs live in rocky coastal areas where they can easily hide from predators if they need to. You can find them in intertidal parts of their range.

30. Orange Disco Vampire Crab

Orange Disco Vampire Crab isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Geosesarma tiomanicum
  • Habitat: Forested areas close to water in Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: The orange disco vampire crab is bright enough to be a breeder-developed morph. However, its beautiful markings are all-natural. This colorful crab has a purplish base color with splashes of bright orange. Its claws are electric purple in color.

This little crab has one of the coolest names on the list! And like other bright vampire crabs, it’s one of the more common crustaceans in the pet industry. It’s fairly easy to keep and doesn’t take that much space; a collection of three crabs will do well in a 5-gallon aquarium. And since it is a scavenger in nature, it’s not a picky eater at all.

31. Sea Cucumber Crab

Close-up of Sea Cucumber Crab.
  • Latin name: Lissocarcinus orbicularis
  • Habitat: Warm waters in the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.6″ wide
  • Diet: Sea cucumber tissues and various small marine organisms
  • Colorful feature: This striking crab is another on the list with cartoon-like markings. Its base color is white, and it’s marked with irregular reddish splotches and bands.

This striking crab is able to obtain food from sea cucumbers in a commensalistic relationship. That means that the crab benefits from the relationship, but the sea cucumber does not benefit. However, the sea cucumber isn’t harmed. These crabs can sometimes live in the gut cavity of sea cucumbers in order to obtain food.

32. Blackback Crab

Blackback Crab on rock.
  • Latin name: Gecarcinus lateralis
  • Habitat: Atlantic coastline from Texas to Venezuela, along with the coastal areas of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean
  • Size: Carapace up to about 4.3″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly various types of plant matter, though it will also eat animal matter
  • Colorful feature: At first glance, this bright and glossy crab looks like it could be made of rubber or plastic! Its body is a distinctive and vibrant orange. It’s named for the broad black patch atop the carapace.

As one of the most colorful crabs on our list, this is one that many people might want in an aquarium. Fortunately, this hardy species is adaptable enough to do fairly well in captivity. It’s easy to confuse with the Halloween crab, as it has similar coloration. However, the Halloween crab usually has more prominent yellow and purple markings. The blackback crab will sometimes have a hint of purple on the claws, but it’s not as pronounced. Some people believe that these two crab types should be designated as a single species, but there’s some disagreement about that among experts.

33. Christmas Island Red Crab

Christmas Island Red Crab sitting in vegetation.
  • Latin name: Gecarcoidea natalis
  • Habitat: Only on Christmas Island and Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean
  • Size: Carapace up to about 4.6″ wide
  • Diet: Largely fruit, leaves, flowers, seedlings, and dead animals
  • Colorful feature: True to the name, the Christmas Island red crab is almost entirely bright red in color. The exact shade may vary, as some crabs are more orangish while others are closer to maroon.

These crabs create quite a spectacle during mating season. They have a mass migration to the sea to spawn. During that time, they can halt traffic and even seem to carpet the ground! While not spawning or migrating to spawn, these crabs live solitary lives in burrows they dig in the forest.

34. Pink Ghost Crab

Pink Ghost Crab in water.
  • Latin name: Ocypode ryderi
  • Habitat: Coastlines of eastern Africa
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.4″ wide
  • Diet: Small animals and carrion
  • Colorful feature: These crabs look a lot like a regular ghost crab that has been faintly washed in pink. They have distinctive violet-tinged joints that make it easy to distinguish them from similar-looking species.

Like other ghost crab species, this one is nocturnal. During the day, it lives in burrows deep underground. At night, it emerges to look for food. It can be found along much of the coastline of eastern Africa: it’s abundant from the eastern part of the cape to Kenya.

35. Porcelain Crab

Porcelain crab in an anemone.
  • Latin name: Neopetrolisthes maculatus
  • Habitat: Coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1″ wide
  • Diet: Various small aquatic plants and animals
  • Colorful feature: True to its name, the porcelain crab has a white, porcelain-like base color. It’s marked with small reddish spots. However, it has a feature that makes it markedly different from other spotted crabs on the list: its legs appear solid white, and its flattened, spotted claws are rimmed in spotless white as well.

You might sometimes call this bright and unusual creature the “porcelain anemone crab.” The name makes sense, as it tends to live within the stinging tentacles of some species of sea anemones. The formidable stinging tentacles help shield the crab from would-be predators.

36. Zebra Crab

Close-up of Zebra Crab.
  • Latin name: Zebrida sp.
  • Habitat: Coral reefs where sea urchins are present in the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 0.8″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly algae and cyanobacteria
  • Colorful feature: These distinctive and spiny crabs have some of the strangest patterning on the list. As you likely gathered from the name, they have a whitish base color with zebra-like stripes. The zebra stripes are usually thick, undulating, and dark brown or black.

The zebra crab has a strikingly odd, thorny body shape. But if you think it’s cool, you can keep one as a pet! It largely eats algae, so it’s useful for cleaning saltwater tanks. Plus, its small size and calm disposition make it a convenient and low-risk addition to a saltwater tank!

37. Halloween Crab

Halloween Crab on the beach.
  • Latin name: Gecarcinus quadratus
  • Habitat: Sand dunes, rainforests, and mangroves on the Pacific coast from Mexico to Panama
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly bits of fallen leaves and seedlings
  • Colorful feature: The Halloween crab just might be the most colorful crab on the entire list. Though its carapace is mostly black, it has fiery orange legs ad bright purple claws. It also has two large, usually yellow patches behind the eyes.

This colorful crab has lots of names, some of which are shared with other species. You might hear it called the moon crab, Halloween moon crab, mouthless crab, harlequin land crab, whitespot crab, or red land crab. As you may have guessed, its bright colors mean that it is sometimes kept as an aquarium pet.

38. West African Fiddler Crab

West African Fiddler Crab on beach.
  • Latin name: Uca tangeri
  • Habitat: Atlantic coastlines of western Africa and southwestern Europe
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Both plant and animal matter; just about anything they can find
  • Colorful feature: Not all individuals of this species are colorful; some are actually quite dull. But some, like the crab in the picture, are bright solid colors including purple, red, and orange.

You might not imagine Africa as a home for crabs. But this species is fairly abundant there, especially in the Gambia. You don’t often see it referred to by a common name, but the Food and Agriculture Organization, an international organization, calls it the West African fiddler crab.

39. Vampire Crab

Little Purple Vampire Crab isolated on black background.
  • Latin name: Geosesarma dennerle
  • Habitat: Found throughout the island of Java in Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly various types of animal matter
  • Colorful feature: This little crab’s body is largely deep purple, although there is a yellowish patch on its carapace. Its bright yellow eyes also beautifully complement its purple body!

As you likely noticed, this crab is not the only one on the list described as the “vampire crab.” Every member of the genus Geosesarma is generally called a vampire crab, but this one rarely has a modifier in front of its name. However, some people call it the “purple vampire crab” or “little purple vampire crab.”

40. Orang-utan Crab

Orang-utan Crab in aquarium.
  • Latin name: Achaeus japonicus
  • Habitat: Tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 0.8″ in diameter
  • Diet: Various types of plankton that get caught in its hairs
  • Colorful feature: This unique fuzzy crab is usually a rusty orange color similar to that of an orangutan.

This unusual crab is classified as part of a group of “decorator crabs.” These crabs are able to attach bits of ocean debris to themselves in order to camouflage and protect themselves from predators.

41. Halloween Hermit Crab

Close-up of Halloween Hermit Crab.
  • Latin name: Ciliopagurus strigatus
  • Habitat: Coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region
  • Size: Up to about 2″ long
  • Diet: Just about anything it can find, although it is a great algae eater in aquariums
  • Colorful feature: This bright hermit crab is considered to be the brightest of all aquatic hermit crabs. Its body is bright red, and its walking legs are striped with bright colors, usually thin bands of orange and white.

If you want an algae eater that people will notice, this brilliant aquatic hermit crab is a great choice! Aside from its bright colors, it has the advantage of being long-lived; it can live up to 10 years in captivity. The Halloween hermit crab has a generally peaceful disposition, but be careful with other shell-bearing aquatic life. When this crab decides it’s time for a new shell, it will sometimes attack a snail to get one!

42. Crowned Coral Crab

Crowned Coral Crab with eggs.
  • Latin name: Quadrella coronata
  • Habitat: Coral reefs around New Caledonia, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Seychelles
  • Size: Carapace up to about 0.5″ wide
  • Diet: Various marine animals it finds in coral reefs
  • Colorful feature: Not every crowned coral crab is this colorful. But some individuals are bright yellow or even a unique yellow-white pattern like the one in the picture.

This interesting-looking crab isn’t quite as talked about as some of the other crabs on the list. It looks and behaves similarly to guard crabs, and its relatively flattened shell makes it easy for it to hide among coral branches. Notably, most similar species have patterns of red and white as opposed to yellow and white.

43. Red Devil Vampire Crab

Red Devil Vampire Crab isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Geosesarma hagen
  • Habitat: Tropical areas throughout Indonesia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Just about anything they can find from detritus to small animals
  • Colorful feature: This bright red vampire crab can almost look intimidating. The top of its carapace and claws are bright red, and it has the piercing yellow eyes vampire crabs are known for.

If you’re in the market for a pet crab, this one (or really any vampire crab) is a great option. These crabs have stunningly bright coloration, are easy to care for, and don’t need a massive amount of space. And as exotic pets go, they’re also relatively affordable! Like many variations of vampire crabs, red devil vampire crabs are a naturally occurring variant as opposed to a breeder-developed morph.

44. Palawan Purple Crab

Palawan Purple Crab on the shore.
  • Latin name: Insulamon palawanense
  • Habitat: Only the island of Palawan in the Philippines
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2.1″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly dead plants, fruit, and small animals
  • Colorful feature: These crabs are probably the most spectacular of the purple crabs on the list. Their entire bodies are bright, iridescent purple, although the tips of their claws are often brilliant orange.

Thanks to its magnificent coloration, you would think this crab would have attracted the interest of researchers a long time ago. But it was only scientifically described in 2012! Experts aren’t sure exactly why the crabs have evolved to be purple, though some think the color may help the crabs identify others of the same species.

45. Coconut Crab

A closeup shot of a Coconut crab.
  • Latin name: Birgus latro
  • Habitat: Various islands across the Indian Ocean and in parts of the Pacific Ocean
  • Size: Carapace up to about 16″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly fruit, nuts, and seeds, although they will also eat carrion
  • Colorful feature: This large, somewhat scary-looking crab varies in color. But as you can see in the photo, some are rich brown with accents of magnificent blue.

The coconut crab lives almost entirely on land. It’s truly a sight to behold, as its leg span is often around 3 feet! This crab looks prehistoric, and in a sense, it is. Fossils of coconut crabs have been dated all the way back to the Miocene epoch, a period from about 5-23 million years ago.

46. Royal Crab

Close-up of Royal Crab.
  • Latin name: Calappa granulata
  • Habitat: Warm waters in much of the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean
  • Size: Carapace up to about 3.6″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly bivalves and some other types of marine animals
  • Colorful feature: The royal crab has a cheerful spotted appearance. As you can see in the picture, its body is usually orangish and covered with bright reddish spots.

Along with other members of its genus, the royal crab is known as a shame-faced crab. That’s because it tends to cover part of its face with its large claws, making it look as though it’s covering its face in shame. It tends to live in burrows on the ocean floor, although it can be found in places with rocky or coral floors as well.

47. Yellowline Arrow Crab

Yellowline Arrow Crab underwater.
  • Latin name: Stenorhynchus seticornis
  • Habitat: Coral reefs in much of the Atlantic Ocean
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2.4″ long
  • Diet: Various types of coral reef invertebrates
  • Colorful feature: This crab is often very colorful, but its body is so slender that you may have to look closely to see it! The body is usually yellow or a similar color lined with iridescent blue, brown or black. Its legs are often reddish, and its claws are blue or violet.

This odd animal looks more like a stick bug than a crab! But believe it or not, the yellowline arrow crab can actually serve a useful purpose in an aquarium. Since it eats various types of invertebrates, it can help control the population of bristle worms, or marine worms that can often multiply in aquariums.

48. Striped Shore Crab

Striped Shore Crab in rocks.
  • Latin name: Pachygrapsus crassipes
  • Habitat: Seashores of the northeastern and Northwestern Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 2″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plant matter and small animals
  • Colorful feature: Some individuals of this species are more colorful than others. They have a purple, brown, or black carapace with slender green stripes. The claws are reddish purple with the legs being a mix of purple and green.

Like most crab species, this one needs both dry land and water to survive. Its gills must be wet in order to breathe on land. However, the striped shore crab is quite good at keeping its gills moistened, as it can breathe on dry land for as long as 70 hours!

49. Painted Ghost Crab

Painted Ghost Crab on beach.
  • Latin name: Ocypode gaudichaudii
  • Habitat: Pacific coastlines from El Salvador to Chile, as well as the Galapagos Islands
  • Size: Carapace about 1.5″ wide
  • Diet: Largely diatoms and various small animals
  • Colorful feature: Most types of ghost crabs are somewhat pale in appearance. Not this one! As you can see from the photo, the painted ghost crab is a vibrant orange color. It has sandy spots patterned across the back of the carapace.

This bright ghost crab has one of the more interesting patterns on the list. However, despite that pattern, even experts frequently misidentify it in field studies. That’s likely because the juveniles of this species often closely resemble juveniles of other crab species.

50. Convex Reef Crab

Close-up of Convex Reef Crab.
  • Latin name: Carpilius convexus
  • Habitat: Coral reefs across the Indo-Pacific
  • Size: Carapace up to about 9″ wide
  • Diet: Mostly various types of mollusks
  • Colorful feature: This large crab species has a highly variable color pattern. It is usually red or a similar color with brownish patches.

Some species on the list have been studied more than others. And this species, despite having been known to the scientific community for hundreds of years, has barely been researched at all. Experts simply assume it eats marine mollusks like other members of its genus, as there appears to be no literature whatsoever on its diet.

51. Urchin Crab

Urchin Crab in rocks.
  • Latin name: Percnon gibbesi
  • Habitat: Shorelines on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific coast of North America, and the Mediterranean region
  • Size: Carapace up to about 1.2″ wide
  • Diet: Various types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This beautiful crab has a brick-red base color. The legs are banded in yellow while the back of the carapace is mottled with sky blue.

Though this crab is beautiful, it has become a major pest in many parts of the world. It has been described as the most invasive species of decapod to reach the Mediterranean. This is a somewhat recent invasion, as the first sightings of urchin crabs in this region were in Italy in 1999.

Nature’s Brightly Colored Crabs

Whether you’re on the beach, in a marsh, or swimming through a coral reef, you’re likely to see some of the planet’s most colorful crabs. You might need to look closely, but if you take the time, you’ll be glad you took a moment to witness these tiny wonders!