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Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Published: March 25, 2022
Image Credit P. Dorman/Shutterstock.com
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It may surprise you to learn just how many different crabs there are, including a blue crab vs snow crab. Both of these crab species are delicious and prized for their meat, but what is their life like when found in the wild? And how do blue crabs differ from snow crabs, despite both of them being crustaceans

In this article, we will address everything you need to know about blue crabs and snow crabs. We will go over their appearance in great detail so that you can learn how to tell them apart. We will also address their locations and habitats, as well as their behaviors and overall lifespans when found in the wild. Let’s get started and talk about these two crabs now! 

Comparing Blue Crab vs Snow Crab

blue crab vs snow crab
Snow crabs are larger and weigh more than blue crabs overall.

A-Z-Animals.com

Blue CrabSnow Crab
SizeLess than one pound; 7-9 inches3-4 pounds; 6-8 inches not including legs
AppearanceBlue or olive colored shell; 3 very small legs and medium sized claws. Large back legs used for swimming4 elongated legs and smaller claws; often spotted on their shells due to age. Red or orange when they are young
Lifespan3-4 years15-20 years
BehaviorBurrows in grassy and shallow areas, including oyster reefs; prefers warm water, especially when shallowResides at 1000 feet deep or less; enjoys burrowing in mud and molts during their adolescence but less in adulthood
Habitat and LocationAtlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico; matures quickly in warm water Northern seas, both Atlantic and Pacific; cold temperatures

Key Differences Between Blue Crab vs Snow Crab

blue crab vs snow crab
Blue crabs have blue or olive colored shells, while snow crabs have orange and spotted shells.

Kondratuk Aleksei/Shutterstock.com

There are many key differences between blue crabs and snow crabs. Snow crabs are larger and weigh more than blue crabs overall. Blue crabs have blue or olive colored shells, while snow crabs have orange and spotted shells. The lifespan of the average snow crab is much longer than the lifespan of the average blue crab. Finally, snow crabs thrive in cold seas, while blue crabs prefer warmer climates. 

Let’s discuss these differences in more detail now.

Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: Size

You can easily tell a snow crab from a blue crab based on their size difference alone. For example, the average snow crab weighs anywhere from three to four pounds, while the average blue crab only averages less than a pound. And this includes the shell! When you think about the amount of meat that a blue crab has compared to a snow crab, it may make it clear which one you should eat for dinner. 

This also means that the body size of these two crabs differ as well. Snow crabs grow anywhere from 6 to 8 inches in their body, and this doesn’t include their long legs. Blue crabs on the other hand grow up anywhere from 7 to 9 inches, including their legs. This means that blue crabs are much smaller than snow crabs. 

blue crab vs snow crab
The lifespan of the average snow crab is much longer than the lifespan of the average blue crab.

P. Dorman/Shutterstock.com

Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: Location and Habitat

You won’t find these two crabs in the same geographic location, as they have very different habitat preferences. For example, blue crabs live in the Atlantic Ocean all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, while snow crabs live in northern seas, either the Atlantic or Pacific. You may already be able to see why these crabs prefer these locations. 

Snow crabs live up to their name and prefer colder climates and freezing seas, while blue crabs enjoy the warm waters and more temperate climates. In fact, blue crabs mature faster in warm water, while snow crabs thrive in cold temperatures. 

Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: Appearance

blue crab vs snow crab
Blue crabs live in the Atlantic Ocean all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, while snow crabs live in northern seas, either the Atlantic or Pacific.

Nick Kashenko/Shutterstock.com

Besides their size differences, you can easily tell the difference between a blue crab and snow crab just by looking at them. Snow crabs have extremely long legs compared to the size of their body, while blue crabs have very small legs. Blue crabs also only have three legs, while snow crabs have four.

The average snow crab has an orange shell that grows speckled with age, while blue crabs live up to their namesake and have blue or olive colored shells. Blue crabs also have large back feet to help them swim through the ocean, while snow crabs do not have this. 

Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: Behavior

There are some behavioral differences between blue crabs and snow crabs. While both of these crabs molt throughout their lifetime, there are other differences between them. For example, blue crabs enjoy living in shallow waters, while snow crabs prefer depths of up to 1000 feet. Snow crabs also enjoy muddy locations that they can borrow in, while blue crabs are often found in grassy sea beds and oyster reefs. 

blue crab vs snow crab
The average snow crab has an orange shell that grows speckled with age, while blue crabs live up to their namesake and have blue or olive colored shells.

ND700/Shutterstock.com

Blue Crab vs Snow Crab: Lifespan

The final difference between blue crabs and snow crabs is their lifespan. While both of these crab species likely do not live long and full lives given their desirability in the fishing industry, the snow crab far outweighs the blue crab. But by how much? And why? 

Snow crabs live an average of 15 to 20 years if they are lucky, while blue crabs only live 3 to 4 years on average. This is likely due to their size differences, as blue crabs are frequently preyed upon by a variety of oceanic species, while snow crabs are large enough and more able to defend themselves.

blue crab vs snow crab

P. Dorman/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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