It was in February that Vi Dung came to know about the new trend of having colorful freshwater crabs as pets.
The 23-year-old long time aquarist from the northern province of Lao Cai discovered this by chance on social media.
Hooked, he decided to order two large 7-cm long crabs, one red and one yellow, for VND350,000 ($14.97) each to keep as pets in his fish tank.
The price of each crab ranges from a few tens to several hundred thousand dong (VND100,000 = $4.28) depending on the size and color.
Dung said the type of crab he has bought is called Hainan potamon rubrum. Though they can be found in the wild in many countries in the region, they are rarely caught because they live in rivers and lakes in mountainous areas. This type of crab is harmless to the environment, doesn’t need to live at high water levels and is suitable to be kept in aquariums, he added.
“I like this type of crab because they are unique. Their colors make the aquarium more lively and shiny.”
Dung said he took careful instructions from the seller on how to take care of the crabs, what are their ideal living environment was and many details before making his purchase.
“If I knew that they are this easy to raise, I would have purchased four more crabs,” he said, noting he only needs to make sure that the fish tank has enough oxygen and feed them shrimp, worms or tiny fish.
“The best part is that they don’t attack other fish in the tank.”
Smitten by Dung’s new pets, his friends asked him where to get them and bought some for themselves. Some created semi-terrain tanks to raise the crabs separately while others put them in fish tanks along with their fish.
In Can Tho Province, Thanh Tuyen, ordered six colorful crabs of various sizes online for nearly VND1 million to be released into her aquarium in May.
The 24-year-old admitted that she was worried most that her crabs might die because of the long distance transportation. Fortunately, all six arrived safe and sound.
Since the beginning of this year, the number of people seeking colorful crabs has skyrocketed, businesses say.
Ha Xuan Loc, 34, owner of a chain of crab shops in Hanoi, Da Lat and HCMC, said that the main reasons for more and more people choosing to have the colorful crabs as pets were: they are cheap, do not get sick easily and don’t require much caring for. People with little experience can also raise them.
“This hobby has emerged in many places around the world since the 2010s. It is most popular in Thailand and China. The Chinese market has a particularly large demand for freshwater aquarium crabs because locals supply is inadequate” Loc said.
In 2016, he started trying to breed the Hainan potamon crab, but they died soon.
It took two years of research and expert guidance from several researchers in the country and abroad, including a teacher in Thailand, for Loc to obtain success in breeding the crabs.
“At that time, I had brought these bred crabs to sell at my aquarium shops, but no one was interested. All the attention of pet lovers were focused on arowanas and arhat fishes, reptiles and imported cats and dogs.”
The red, yellow, green and blue crabs that Loc bred at his farm in Son La Province, coming in 5-6 cm sizes, are selling like hot cakes now.
Since the beginning of this year, he has sold nearly 2,000 crabs on average each month to customers across Vietnam. He has also shipped them abroad.
“Most of my customers are under 40,” Loc said, adding that there are times he does not have enough of the crustaceans to sell because it is not spawning season.
According to him, the freshwater aquatic crabs currently on the market are from erstwhile Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). The domesticated crabs can easily adapt to the weather and humidity in Vietnam and rarely get sick. The average life expectancy is from 2-3 years to a dozen years if sufficient care is taken. As a result, raising freshwater aquatic crabs has become very popular in Vietnam, Loc said.
In fact, pet lovers can easily find places that sell these crabs by googling “ornamental crabs” or “freshwater aquatic crabs.”
“But pet owners need to be careful with cheap crabs because they might have just been caught fresh from the wild, have not been tamed and are not familiar with the habitat in the tank. So they can die easily,” Loc warned.
He advised newcomers to purchase from reputable crab farmers and consult sellers at length on caring for them.
For him, a standard crab must have clear colors, no scratches and all legs and claws must be intact.
Loc stands next to his aquarium at his home in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District on July 19, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
Hanoian Truong Anh, 20, bought 10 crabs for VND200,000 to raise as pets because they were cheap. Others places were selling them for more than VND100,000 each.
But the crabs that were delivered were weak. The color of the shell was not the same as advertised photos. All of them died in just five days.
Meanwhile, Tuyen in Can Tho plans to order a few more with unique colors after successfully raising six of the freshwater crabs.
She said: “Raising crab is as addictive as raising fish, making one want to collect more and more. Not just me, many friends also love to keep these crabs as pets.”
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