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Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi – Part 3

Here it is – Part III of our “Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi” series. We’ve got 6 more species of rare and unusual crabs and shrimps that can be found here in North Sulawesi at some of the best dive sites in Indonesia. Underwater photographers, get your flights booked and your macro lenses ready! Here at Murex Dive Resorts our Dive Guides are true professionals at finding you the best crustaceans – no matter how small, how rare or how camouflaged!

Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Coleman Shrimp (Periclimenes colemani)

The Coleman shrimp is a type of commensal shrimp which is also known as the Fire urchin shrimp because it lives exclusively in symbiosis with the Variable fire urchin (Asthenosoma varium). This species of shrimp is often found in pairs and its delicate markings combined with the bright color of its host urchin make it an exceptional underwater photography subject. The largest of the pair is usually the female but they still only grow up to 2cm. These crustaceans can be found on urchins from 5 – 30 meters and they feed on parasites which are attracted to the urchin as well as algae and plankton.

Periclimenes Colemani - Coleman Shrimp

Coleman Shrimp (Periclimenes Colemani) found in Lembeh Strait

Dive Sites: Coleman Shrimp do not live on all fire urchins; they are quite a rare find but the best dive site for spotting them are Jahir 2 in Lembeh. Around Bangka and Manado they are even rarer. You can try your chances at City Extra in Manado but you have to be very very lucky. Around Bangka we still need to spot the 1st ones.

Cryptodomia Sponge Crab (Cryptodomia Sp.)

These sponge crabs are a shallow water species of crustaceans which bear similarities to hermit crabs. They live in a cavity which they create on the underside of their host sponge – they cut out a fragment from the sponge and trim it to their own shape using their claws. Their last two pairs of legs are shorter than the other legs and bend upward over their carapace (shell), to hold the sponge in place. The sponge grows along with the crab, providing a consistent shelter – and protection! Because they are almost completely concealed by the sponge they can be tricky to spot. The best time for finding this species is during night dives when they are most active.

Dive Sites: The best dive sites for finding Cryptodomia are (night dives) at Air Prang in Lembeh, Murex House Reef in Manado and Sabora in Bangka.

Mosaic Boxer Crab (Lybia tesselata)

This rare species of crab is usually found hiding under small rock piles. Its carapace has a distinct “mosaic-like” white, black and orange colour pattern. Boxer crabs take their name from the anemones which they carry in their claws (like boxers’ gloves) and live in symbiosis with. The anemones stinging cells protect the boxer crab against predators and in return, the boxer crab provides food for its protectors. They have a body size of about 1.5 cm and because they move very fast they can be difficult to find. They are also referred to as the “pom-pom” crab for those who see cheer leading pom-poms rather than boxing gloves!

Mosaic Boxer Crab (Lybia tesselata)

Mosaic Boxer Crab (Lybia tesselata) with his boxing gloves ready to go

Dive Sites: This species is a rare treat and the sites where we have most success in finding them are Nudi Falls in Lembeh, Tanjung Kelapa in Manado and Sahaung 1 in Bangka.

Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)

This species of anemone shrimp is known by several different names, including “White spot anemone shrimp”, “Glass anemone shrimp” and “Peacock tail anemone shrimp”. All three names refer to its translucent body which is decorated with white spots or the 5 orange spots on its tail which are edged in back and have a close resemblance to peacock tail feathers. This shrimp grows up to 4 cm and is found mainly on the sea anemone Crytodendrum adhaesivum at depths of up to 30 meters. It’s not an especially rare species but they can be quite mobile on the anemone which means you need some patience to capture a crisp image.

Crustaceans Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)

Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)

Dive Sites: Anemone shrimp can be found at many of our dive sites in Manado, Bangka, Lembeh and Bunaken including all three House Reefs.

Bubble Coral Shrimps (Vir philippinensis)

This is a small shrimp species and as its name would suggest it is most often found inside bubble coral but also occasionally on anemones. Its body is almost all transparent with the exception of a purple coloured appendage and antennae and a purple line running in the centre of its body. This species grow up to 3 cm and we have year round, frequent sightings. Due to the extreme colour contrast between the transparent body and purple details it is an attractive shrimp to photograph. If they feel threatened they will retreat between the bubbles of the coral for protection but as it is a common species you will have lots of opportunities.

Bubble Coral Shrimp (Vir philippinensis)

Bubble Coral Shrimp (Vir philippinensis) found on the walls of Bunaken

Dive Sites: As with the anemone shrimp, bubble coral shrimps can be found at many of our dive sites in Manado, Bangka, Lembeh and Bunaken including all three House Reefs.

Dragon Shrimp (Miropandalus hardingi)

This tiny shrimp only grows up to 2cm and it is commensal with black corals / whip corals. It has a very distinctive body shape with large tooth like spines along centre of its back (almost like a miniature dinosaur). It has numerous colour variations which range from green, white or black depending on the colour of its whip or green coral host. The trick to finding this species is to carefully study every whip coral from tip to root and from all angles!

crustacean Dragon Shrimp (Miropandalus hardingi)

Dragon Shrimp (Miropandalus hardingi) found on the Lembeh Resort house reef

Dive Sites: This species can be found all year round at any dive site that hosts whip or black corals . We recommend Nudi Retreat in Lembeh, Murex House Reef in Manado and Batu Gosok in Bangka.

We are already planning part IV of this Crustacean Series because rare, unusual, photographic and beautiful crustaceans are just one of the highlights of diving in North Sulawesi and also one of the many reasons why we are frequently listed as having the best dive sites in Indonesia – and in the world! Please let us know if you are interested in a species we haven’t mentioned or, if you would like more information about a particular species then please ask us in the comments section or email us at [email protected]

We are not just a diving resort – we are a team of friendly, expert professionals with a passion for marine life, a passion for photography, a passion for teaching and a passion for making your diving holiday the best it can be. We hope you will make us your home and away from home and we will be with you every step of the way.

Murex Passport to Paradise Package

Why not explore all three of our dive bases with our Passport to Paradise option? No wasted transfer time, you dive from resort to resort – no equipment drying, no packing it all up, wake up in one place and dive your way to the next. Exploring different dive destinations couldn’t be easier!


Dive, Snorkel and Explore More with us in beautiful North Sulawesi.

+62 811 4390 0091
[email protected]
Murex Dive Resorts, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
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