After they hatch, the larvae feed on small planktonic animals. Rotifers or brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) are live food types used successfully in cultures. Hygiene during the egg and larval phase is critical to success through to post-larvae in the hatchery. Water quality parameters, such as temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen and ammonia, should be maintained at approximately open sea conditions throughout this phase. Crowding of larvae near the end of the cycle can lead to heavy losses due to cannibalism. The fully planktonic zoea larvae grow through 5 stages over 2-3 weeks at 27-28°C before changing into a megalopa. Using water directly from the tidal trenches assures the highest quality environment in this phase.
The megalopa has claws, resembling a small crab with a tail, but still swims actively, voraciously feeding on juveniles, other larvae and fresh and artificial diets. The megalopa stage lasts about a week before metamorphosing into the first crab stage, which is about 4mm wide.