Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. I thoroughly enjoy keeping lobsters, and have even been lucky enough to work with the Atlantic or Maine lobster (Homarus americanus), known better to diners than aquarists. Unlike this huge cold-water beast, a number of small, colorful tropical lobsters are ideally suited to home aquariums. Today I’d like to take a look their general husbandry as well as the care of a popular species, the dwarf red lobster (Enoplometopus occidentalis).
Diet and Feeding Techniques
All lobsters are, to some extent, scavengers, but should not be expected to subsist on leftovers alone. In aquariums with fishes, lobsters rarely get enough food unless they are individually fed, or, if only diurnal fishes are kept, fed after dark. Feeding prongs or tubes greatly simplify lobster feeding, and most readily adapt to these implements.
Free-living lobsters generally consume a wide range of foods, and it is a simple matter to provide a varied diet in captivity, and thus ensure their good health. Be sure to offer several types of plant and animal-based pelleted and frozen foods.
Observing Your Lobsters
Most lobsters are nocturnal, but well-habituated individuals may forage by day. Night-viewing bulbs, designed for use with reptiles, will assist in revealing their night time activities to you.
Caves situated alongside the glass may allow a better view of lobsters during the day…covering that portion of the glass with black paper will encourage them to take up residence.
Precautions – Digging and Shedding
Rocks and coral should be situated on the aquarium’s bottom, not on the substrate, as nearly all lobsters burrow when constructing shelters. Those digging below heavy objects may be crushed in the process.
While similarly sized lobsters may co-exist, shedding time always presents problems if more than one individual is kept. Lobsters are soft and defenseless for several hours after molting, and are usually found and consumed by tank-mates. Large aquariums with a complex internal structure (corals, rocks, etc.) offer the best hope of success, but I’ve lost animals even in giant commercial aquarium exhibits.
Dwarf Red or Hawaiian Reef Lobster, Enoplometopus occidentalis
Looking much like a miniature, cooked Maine Lobster, this 2-5 inch beauty is one of the most attractive species available. Clad in vivid red, it sometimes fools aquarists by remaining “peaceful” by day, only to hunt down small slumbering fishes at night. Dwarf red lobsters are highly territorial, and will treat other lobster species and large shrimps, as well as their own kind, as intruders.
The closely related Flame Reef Lobster (E. antillensis), also from the Indo-Pacific, is a “screaming” red-orange in color and marked with white and orange spots. Less commonly seen but well-worth searching for, are E. holthuisi, which is light red with a white “bullseye” on the thorax, the pink, Purple-spotted Purple Reef Lobster (E. debelius) and Daum’s Lobster (E. daumi), which is beautifully colored in a pale purple that grades to deep purple at the head and claws.
Next time I’ll introduce a “lobster impersonator”, the Pistol or Snapping Shrimp (Synalpheus spp.), the Blue Spiny Lobster and other popular species.
Until then, please write in with your questions and comments.
The abstract of an interesting experiment on red lobster aggression is posted here.
For a look at maternal care among the lobsters’ freshwater relatives, please see Maternal Care in Crayfishes, a Personal Observation.