Colour changes in animals may be triggered by a variety of social and environmental factors and may occur over a matter of seconds or months. Crustaceans, like fiddler crabs (genus Uca), are particularly adept at changing their colour and have been the focus of numerous studies. However, few of these studies have attempted to quantitatively describe the individual variation in colour and pattern or their adaptive significance. This paper quantitatively describes the colour patterns of the fiddler crab Uca capricornis and their ability to change on a socially significant timescale. The most dramatic changes in colour pattern are associated with moulting. These ontogenetic changes result in a general reduction of the colour pattern with increasing size, although females are more colourful and variable than similarly-sized males. Uca capricornis are also capable of rapid colour changes in response to stress, but show no endogenous rhythms associated with the semilunar and tidal cycles commonly reported in other fiddler crabs. The extreme colour polymorphism and the relative stability of the colour patterns in Uca capricornis are consistent with their use in visually mediated mate recognition.