He was born in Berlin, where he studied medicine and natural sciences, receiving his PhD in 1855 as a student of Johann Christoph Friedrich Klug. In 1856 he obtained his habilitation for zoology, and soon afterwards, became a curator at the Zoological Museum of Humboldt University. In 1864 he began work as a lecturer at the Landwirtschaftlichen Lehranstalt (Agricultural Educational Facility) in Berlin. In 1874 he became an associate professor for zoology at the University of Berlin, and in 1876, a professor of zoology at the University of Greifswald. He died in Greifswald.
- Monographie der Endomychiden (1858) – Monograph on Endomychidae.
- Handbuch der Zoologie (with Wilhelm Peters und Julius Victor Carus), Leipzig (1863-1875).
- Carus, Julius Victor; Gerstaecker, C.E.A., eds. (1863). Handbuch der zoologie. Zweiter Band. Leipzig: Engelmann.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) (Arthropoda)
- Arthropoda, in Klassen und Ordnungen des Thierreichs, (Section Arthropoda, in classes and orders of the Animals) 1866–93.
- Beitrag zur Insekten-Fauna von Zanzibar. Parts -3. (1866) – Contribution to the insect-fauna of Zanzibar.
- Das Skelet des Döglings Hyperoodon Rostratus (Pont.) Ein Beitrag zur Osteologie der Cetaceen und zur vergleichenden Morphologie der Wirbelsäule, (1887) – The skeleton of the northern bottlenose whale. A contribution to the osteology of cetaceans and the comparative morphology of the spinal column.