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Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi – Part 2

Part II of our “Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi” is here! We have so many amazing crustaceans in North Sulawesi that just one Blog was nowhere near enough. In Part II we take a look at shrimps and crabs – some you will know and some of the very rare species may be new to you. Let us know in the comments section below if there are any special species that you are interested in us covering in Part III – among our vast array of dives sites, which offer some of the best muck diving and reef (and House Reef) diving in Indonesia, we are confident that our expert team of Dive Guides can find the critters that you are looking for!

Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Tiger Shrimp (Phyllognathia ceratophthalmus)

The Tiger Shrimp is a very rare species of shrimp that we are very lucky to have here in North Sulawesi. It is only found in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean region and is a real treat for macro photographers. Its body is a pale white to translucent shade and is decorated with exquisite orange and blue markings. This species of crustaceans only grows up to 2cm and we find it in shallow reef areas, often close to coral rubble and / or sponges.

Tiger Shrimp in Bangka

The Tiger Shrimp is a very rare species of shrimp that we are very lucky to have these Crustaceans here in North Sulawesi.

Dive Sites: This is a rare shrimp so it can be difficult to guarantee a sighting. The dive sites where we have most luck finding this shrimp include Jahir 2 and the House Reef in Lembeh, Tanjung Kelapa in Manado / Bunaken and Tiga Batu in Bangka.

Spotted Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus)

There are around 300 species of porcelain crabs which all share the same common characteristics but the spotted variety is the one we encounter most frequently in North Sulawesi. Porcelain crabs are small crustaceans, usually with body widths of less than 15 mm (0.59 in) and they are a fragile crustaceans which will often shed their limbs to escape predators, hence their name. The lost appendage can grow back over several moults. In North Sulawesi the most common places we find this species is among the stinging tentacles or under the basal disk of carpet anemones. They have a bright white to creamy colored body and legs with the carapace being decorated with red spots. As they are often in anemones taking pictures can be tricky if there is a defensive anemone fish occupying the same host!

Porcelain Crab in Bunaken and Manado

In North Sulawesi the most common places we find this species of crustaceans is among the stinging tentacles or under the basal disk of carpet anemones.

Dive sites: Porcelain crabs are easy to find at all of our dive sites and there is often more than one in a single anemone. The trick is to look down low into the anemone to the base of the tentacles. Ask our Dive Guides to help as these small crabs are incredibly photogenic.

Cleaner Shrimps (Our Three Favorites!)

1.Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

This is one of the most common types of cleaner shrimp that we find here in North Sulawesi. They are usually well hidden in crevices, cracks and small caves but despite this they are easy to spot as they attract fish for cleaning by “announcing” their presence by waving their long white antennae. The body and legs of this shrimp are banded in white and reddish brown (which are occasionally bordered in purple which can result in it being incorrectly identified as the Violet Banded Boxer Shrimp). The Banded Coral Shrimp grows up to 6cms and its abdomen, carapace and arms are covered in short spines.

Banded Coral Shrimp Crustaceans

Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) at Bangka Island

Dive Sites: The Banded Coral Shrimp can be found at almost all of our dive sites in Manado, Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh – all 3 resorts House Reefs are excellent places for spotting this species.

2.Humpback Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

This species of cleaner shrimp is also often referred to as the “White Line Cleaner Shrimp” as it has an orange body with a broad red stripe and a thinner but well defined white stripe down the back. Like the Banded Coral Shrimp this species attracts fish in need of cleaning by waving its white antennae – both species feed on parasites and dead tissue which they scavenge from fish during the cleaning process. Their presence on any reef undoubtedly maintains the health of the reef fish. This species of shrimp hatches from eggs and all hatchlings are male. Like most crustaceans they moult their shells periodically as they grow and after a few moults the Humpback Cleaner Shrimp becomes a hermaphrodite and functions as both male and female!

Bunaken Humpback Cleaner Shrimp

Humpback Cleaner Shrimp cleaning diver’s teeth

Dive Sites: Whilst this is not a particularly rare species it is not as common as the Banded Coral Cleaner species. The best dive sites for finding this particular shrimp are Nudi Falls in Lembeh, Manado House Reef, Lekuan I at Bunaken (in the small caves where we also find white tips reef sharks) and Sahoung in Bangka.

3.Violet Banded Boxer Shrimp (Stenopus tenuirostris)

This species of shrimp is very shy and usually found hiding under covered areas or in cracks and crevices in the reef – often in pairs. The arms and claws of this species of shrimp are banded in red and white while the head and body area are a violet to purple color, the tail is also patterned in red and white. The carapace and claw arms of this species are covered in fine spines which it uses as a defence mechanism. It is quite a rare find and can be tricky to take pictures of as it will retreat away once spotted.

Crustaceans in Manado Violet Banded Boxer Shrimp (Stenopus tenuirostris)

Violet Banded Boxer Shrimp (Stenopus tenuirostris)

Dive Sites: This rare species of crab can be quite elusive but the dive sites that offer the best chances of a sighting are …. in Lembeh, ……… in Bangka and ………. in Bunaken / Manado

Retusa Decorator Crab (Camposcia retusa)

This crab is also known as the Spider Decorator crab and it is THE master of disguise and unless it moves it is almost impossible to spot. It attaches algae, plants, coral rubble, shells, stones and even living organisms to its body and legs to disguise itself. The carapace is only around 3cm but with the legs included this species of crab can measure up to 10cm. This crab is mainly spotted at night as this is when it is active and so easiest to recognise. During the day time when it is largely sedentary it is very difficult to spot among the reef. They are a particularly tricky photography subject because unless the eyes are obvious and in focus it is difficult to recognise the crab underneath the elaborate decoration!


Dive Sites: This species of crab is relatively common despite its extensive efforts at camouflage. The best sites for sightings are the House Reef in Manado, Pintu Colada in Lembeh and Batu Mandi in Bangka.

Harlequin Crab (Lissocarcinus laevis)

This beautiful species of crab is also referred to as the Harlequin “Swimming” Crab and it lives in symbiosis with tube anemones where is tends to hideaway at the base of the anemone, hidden and protected by the tentacles. Its exquisite color pattern varies from a brown to red-orange color with distinctive white spots on its carapace and white bands on its claw arms. This is a shy species and it will dance (circles) around the base of the anemone to hide from predators (and photographers). If threatened it will even retreat into the sand from which the anemone is growing. The carapace of this species can grow up to 4cm and it is found at depths of up to 30 meters. It is a relatively rare species and a special find here in Sulawesi. It’s also a stunning photography subject.

A Bangka Harlequin Crab (Lissocarcinus laevis)

Harlequin Crab (Lissocarcinus laevis) found on a Bangka Island dive site

Dive Sites: Any dive site that has tube anemones is a potential hotspot for this species but we recommend Hairball 1, 2, and 3 in Lembeh, City Extra and Bethlehem in Manado / Bunaken and Peter’s Sponge in Bangka.

We hope you enjoyed Part II of this “Ultimate Guide” and please let us know if you are interested in a species we haven’t mentioned. If you would like more information about a particular species then please ask us in the comments section or email us at [email protected].

Have we enticed you in to exploring (or returning) to some of the best dive sites in Indonesia? Our friendly and professional staff here at Murex are ready to welcome you to our beautiful, tropical resorts. 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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