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How Can you Pick the Best Live Crab or Fish from the Tank

Last updated 6 years ago

Here are some quick and informative tips from the experts at Relish Caterers on how to select the best Fish or Shell Fish in the Tank.

Live Things

The best way to choose a live fish or crab or lobster is to look for, well, life. Is it scampering around in its tank? Swimming happily? Or is it sulking in a corner or hanging motionless and panting? If so, don’t buy it. Lobsters and crabs starve themselves in tanks and often can be almost empty inside when you crack open one that’s been imprisoned in a tank for weeks.

Your best bet is to make friends with the fishmonger and find out when the new shipments arrive. Plan on being there to meet it and buy then. You will be rewarded for your extra effort.


Buy only at the finest fish markets. These are the places where turnover is so rapid you can be assured of fresh mussels, clams or oysters. You may still get a dead one, but the ratio will be far lower.

What is a dead one? Shellfish are sold alive, so they should react to you. Put them on the countertop and back away for a moment. Then tap the shell: It should close tighter than it was. Oysters are a little tough to do this with, but clams and mussels will definitely react. You can also tell a dead shellfish after you’ve cooked them all. Dead ones do not open after being cooked. Throw them away.

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