How to Keep Crabs Alive at Home?

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Many of us have caught crabs before but what do you do with them once they’re back onshore? This blog post will teach you how to keep crabs alive after they have been caught. You can either store your crabs in a bucket filled with seawater, a cooler or keep them in a crab box in the open water until your ready to eat them fresh. 

If you want to make sure that your home-caught crabs stay alive for an extended period of time, then this article is for you!

We’ll break down how to keep Dungeness and blue crabs alive using three methods including the aforementioned crab box, storing them in bushel baskets as well as keeping them in a cooler.


Required Supplies

There are there main methods for keeping crabs alive before eating them. They include cooler storage, a crab box, and storing them in the fridge in a bushel basket with damp newspaper.

To help you keep track of what you’ll need for any of these methods we have included a list of required supplies below: 

  • A cooler
  • A ventilated box / Bushel basket
  • Bags of Ice
  • Saltwater
  • Newspaper
  • A Fridge

Luckily for most of us, these are household items and will be readily available for us to use.


Interested in learning more about crabs? Read this article to understand how to identify male vs female blue crabs

live crabs in tank


How to Keep Dungeness Crab Alive

The two main ways to keep your Dungeness crab alive after catching them are to either keep them in saltwater until your ready to eat them or to take them out and place them in a bushel basket with each crab wrapped in damp salt water-soaked newspaper.

You should be prepared for some crabs to die with either of these methods as crabs have a tendency to suffocate when taken out of their natural environment. 

With either of these approaches, you can expect your crabs to survive for at least a day but not more than 2. You should never eat or cook up dead crab as it can often contain bad bacterial growth.

Commercial or seasoned fisherman will at times keep their crabs alive in the water by setting up ventilated boxes for the crabs to live in.

With this approach, you will need to feed the crabs on a daily basis but gives you the ability to keep them indefinitely until you’re ready to eat them. We’d only suggest this approach if you have experience with keeping crabs. 


How to Keep Blue Crab Alive

The first thing you need to do is find a container that will work well for your crab. You can use anything from an old bucket, plastic tub or even Tupperware as long it has enough space and holes in the lid so water doesn’t accumulate on top of them when they are stored upside down (which would kill crabs).

If possible try not to fill up more than one-third with seawater at any given time because if there isn’t much room left then oxygen levels might decrease which could lead these creatures to suffocate! Then place the crabs in a fridge or cold place.

You should keep watch on the crabs and ensure they aren’t sitting in standing water as this will lead them to stress out and cause some to die. Crabs also have a tendency of trying to eat each other if left alone so you will want to prevent this behaviour by feeding them regularly.

We suggest you cook and clean your crab meat then promptly freeze it if you are looking to store it for an extended period of time.

Frozen crab meat can be a great thing to have on hand for soups and the like so give it a shot even if it is just with your leftovers!


Related Questions


How long will crabs stay alive in a cooler?

Crabs will stay fresh in a cooler for 24-48 hours if kept with ample ice. With that being said, the water and ice should be changed out frequently as the crabs will die if left in standing water without room to breathe.

Dead crabs are no longer edible and are a waste of your hard-earned catch!


How do you keep crabs alive for a day?

To keep crabs alive for a day you should wrap them in damp salt water-soaked newspaper and place them in a ventilated bushel basket or tub. Alternatively, they can be stored in a cooler with plenty of ice as long as the crabs are not left in stale water.


How do you keep crabs alive overnight?

The best way to keep crabs alive is by putting them in a bushel basket that’s wrapped with moist burlap or newspaper.  If you live near the water where they were caught, put them in a floating live well (boxes).

If you choose to put them in a floating livewell you will need to feed the crabs regularly. 


Can you put live crabs in the fridge?

Yes, you can keep live crabs alive in the fridge for approximately 2 days before they will begin to die. The crab’s gills will begin to dry up leading them to suffocate.

Steamed crabs will store in the fridge for 5-7 days increasing the meat’s shelf life if prepared this way. 


Sources:
Can you freeze live crab?
https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/types-of-crabs-how-to-buy-and-store-recipes-tips-article

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Ryan W

Ryan is the owner of Fisherman First and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He's fished his entire life and has been to locations across North America to catch a range of fish and crustacean from crabs and prawns to minnow and trout.