Keeping Peeler Crabs – Tips and Tricks

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Keeping Peeler Crabs – Tips and Tricks

how to keep peeler crabs in filtered sea water - keeping peeler crabs This article will cover the fairly untouched subject of keeping peeler crabs in tanks using filtered sea water which reduces the work necessary to keep healthy crabs to use for your bait.

I love fishing with Peeler crabs and it is one of the countries top fishing baits for many species including cod, bass, flounder, coalfish and quite a few others.

Most aspects of catching and using peeler crabs are well covered in internet articles but when I found very little information on keeping them in a tank  I decided to write about it.

In addition to this article, there are some useful links on the right side of the page to information about other aspects of peeler crabs.

What Is Needed To Set Up A Peeler Crab Tank

You will need the following to set up the tank system for keeping Peeler crabs: A tank – I use a plasterers bath for my crab tank which does the job just fine, a Pump – You will need a pond pump with the ability to circulate over 600 litres of water per hour, a pond filter – I use a green genie pond filter which cost me roughly £40 from Argos, enough pipe of the right diameter to connect the pump to the filter, at least 10 gallons of saltwater (use as much water as possible – more water means you can safely stock more crabs), a hydrometer (to measure water evaporation), de chlorinator (available at pet shop to replace evaporated water), although not essential you may wish to purchase some form of chiller to cool down the water in the hot summer months (in the last 3 years however I have never used a chiller), and Last but not least – electricity to run the pump.

Please click on images for full sized pictures

Hydrometer Tank and filter Peeler crabs in tank Water from filter
Hydrometer for testing salinity in peeler crab tank - keeping peeler crabs Peeler crabs for bait Peeler crabs in tank getting ready to pop and peel Peeler crabs as bait

Setting Up Your Bait Tank

1. Fill up the tank with your saltwater.

2. Place the filter above the tank so that the water may fall back into the tank.

3. submerge your pump and connect it to the filter with the piping.

4. Turn on the pump and allow the water to circulate through the filter and back into your tank.

You must now allow the water to go through the nitrification process for at least 2 weeks before placing any crabs in the tank.

Maintenance – Too Much Salt Will  Kill  Your Peeler Crabs

Once your system is up and running it will need little maintenance. I would advise changing 25 percent of the water at least every 6 weeks.

One thing to keep an eye on is the salinity level of the water within your peeler crab tank.

As saltwater evaporates it leaves behind it the salt, so what happens is the remaining water becomes as saline as the dead sea and as we all know nothing lives there hence the name dead (which is what your peeler crabs will be if you don’t watch the salt level).

On a weekly basis you should therefore check the salt water level in the tank with your hydrometer. The hydrometer should read 33 or 1.022.

If the level has gone above this you will need to replace the evaporated water with de chlorinated tap water. Just follow the instructions of the de chlorinator bottle.

Add the water a little at a time until you hydrometer shows the salinity has returned to its normal level. Although this process sounds quite complicated I assure you it is quite the opposite.

Keeping Peeler Crabs – Conclusion

In conclusion all the information above will help anyone who keeps their peeler crabs in tanks to bring them to the popping stage without the constant hassle of having to change the water every 2 or 3 days.

Although a little costly at around £100 this system has certainly saved me a lot of time and effort over the past 3 years that I have been running the filter.

Holding Back Peeler Crabs

How To Slow down the peeler crab moult

When Your peeler crabs start to get a hairline crack around their shell they are at their very best for use as a fishing bait.

Usually at this point anglers will peel them and freeze them down for use at a later date, or they will take them and use them straight away before they pop out of their shell and become softies (softies are not considered as  good a bait as a crab you have peeled out of the shell yourself – their uptake of water at the popping stage seems to dilute the fish attracting juices).

However if your not going fishing until the weekend and want to keep them until that fishing trip there is one way to stop them from popping out of the shell.

peeler crab about to pop

Holding Peelers In The Fridge

Keeping your peelers cool at around 6 degrees will slow down the moulting process, keeping them between 2 and 6 degrees will slow it to an almost stop. Therefore keeping your peeler crabs that are about to pop in trays within the fridge will hold them at the cracking stage until your next fishing trip.

storing peeler crabs in the fridge

Keep Your Peeler Crabs Damp

It is a good idea to keep your peeler crabs damp while storing them in the fridge so it is a good idea to keep them in a couple of millimetres of sea water or to keep them covered with a damp (but not soaking) cloth.

peeler crabs in tray of sea water

peeler crabs covered by damp cloth ready for storage in the fridge.

By | 2018-03-23T08:48:40+00:00 October 5th, 2014|Bait, Cod Fishing, Featured|4 Comments

About the Author:

Site Administrator Glenn Kilpatrick has a passion for all types of sea angling. Past winner of the Whitby Sea Anglers fishing club on 2 occasions, Glenn now mainly focuses on summer fishing with bass and pollack being his favoured target fish. Glenn now also prefers Kayak Fishing over any other type of Sea Fishing.


  1. Tyson F. Gautreaux May 18, 2010 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Hi,Hello cos I sherish your fine site, i wuold be glad if you allow me to publish a blog review on your amazing wordpress site on my little would you allow me that? Pentek Water Filter

  2. derek ohren May 21, 2010 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I have just brought a 100 peelers from online baits and they have all turned up dead, what can i do, I’m so dissapointed

  3. Ray July 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the info – very interesting !
    ive a question – thanks for your time !

    for how long the crabs can stay alive using the tank method ?


  4. paul May 16, 2013 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    hi will hat system work for rag to?

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