FAQ How can I keep my tank warm during a power outage?

Check the substrate temperature too!

FAQ How can I keep my hermit crab tank warm during a power outage?

When the power goes out the biggest concern is keeping the crabitat warm. Allowing the temperature to fall below 72F is dangerous. We don’t have any data indicating at what temperature a crab will die or how long it can be exposed to this temperature before dying. Hermit crabs are tropical animals so they are not meant to endure cold temperatures for extended periods of time.

This article will suggest some ways to insulate a crabitat or deal with a power outage/lack of heat. Some of these ideas will also work in a pinch if your tank heater fails and you can’t get a replacement right away.

If you know the storm is coming start insulating the tank BEFORE the power goes out. You should also turn up the heat in the house. If the house is 80F when the power goes out it will stay warm longer than if it was only 70F.

If you can’t safely move the tank, consider moving everyone else to the room with the tank. Block all drafts coming in, cover the windows with blankets, keep the door to the room closed to hold in the warmth. Moving a tank with molters down is a bad idea and should only be done in a situation where the crabs will die otherwise. Moving a tank will cause molt burrows to collapse.

Insulating the tank:

  • Cut thick pieces of styrofoam/Foam/foamboard to make a crab-gloo. You could also buy extra Reflectix to have on hand for this purpose. Cover all sides. Tape in place so it holds together. Once the power is out cover the top also. If you don’t have an overhead light, cover the top immediately.
  • Next drape and emergency blanket over the tank. Make it snug all the way around.
  • Next layer a heavy blanket over the emergency blanket.
  • Avoid opening the tank to check on them once you have it insulated, this will just allow the warm air to escape faster.
  • If your oven is gas you can use it to heat water or stones to add to the tank to maintain warmth.

    Hot water bottles can be made from any empty plastic bottle. Boil or heat the water and then add to the bottle, place the bottle in the tank. If the bottle is a small opening (like a 2 liter) you can leave the cap off. If the bottle opening is large and a crab could potentially fall in, leave the cap on. You can also use your oven to heat up a brick, some slate tiles or stones. Soapstone holds heat longer than any other rock.

    Disposable hand and foot warmer packs are better than no heat at all and if wrapped in a towel they might hold their heat longer. Some are good for 72 hours.

    In a dire situation where you can can’t evacuate you could use terra cotta pots and a candle to make a room heater. Do this at your own risk!! I do not know how well this works or the potential dangers. Again it’s not just for fun but if you are desperately cold and can’t leave your house it might be enough. Please do not leave this unattended and burn down your house!!!!

    You should consider building a plastic bin temporary crabitat in case you need to evacuate with your crabs. You can see what that looks like in this video by Mellissa Archambault.

    If you are forced to evacuate and you have molters down you have a difficult decision to make. If you think you will only be gone 24 hours, it may be safe to leave them behind. This would be based on how cold the house has become. Sand will retain heat longer than air so molters have a bit of insulation and that may be enough to carry them through a 24 hour period. If there is a chance you will be gone longer and/or the temperatures in your house are below 50 degrees, you may want to risk digging up the molters to take them with you. This is a decision you will have to make based on your current set up and situation. Digging up a molter *can* kill them but freezing temps will definitely kill them.

    What should be in my emergency hermit crab kit?

  • Pre cut pieces of your chosen insulation for all four sides and the top, or a roll of Reflectix
  • An emergency blanket or two, enough to cover your entire tank
  • A heavy blanket big enough to encase your entire tank
  • Tape to hold the insulation in place
  • An empty jug or two for hot water
  • Some soapstone, bricks or slate for heating
  • Disposable heat packs


  • What follows is the original discussion from our Yahoo group many years ago. I have no knowledge of kerosene heaters so I can’t speak to their use or safety.

    Because of last night’s storm, power went out and we were out almost a full 24 hours. The temperature in the crabitat dipped to 55 degrees and all the little crabs half dug themselves into the sand and hid in their shells. I have four PPs and a strawberry. It looks like they all came out okay. When the temperature came back they were active again. I tried not to worry too much because I was in Florida during a cold spell and it got as low as the 40s and even high 30s at night. I was more concerned about my strawberry iPinch because I don’t think cold spells are too common where she comes from.
    It looks like some other folks aren’t so lucky. They will be out of power for days. I used a blanket to cover the habitat and try to keep it warm for as long as possible, and I think I should make a fully-encompassing ‘Crabgloo’ for such emergency occasions to try to keep heat in for even longer.

    Has anyone else had this sort of problem? How did you solve it? What do you suppose a cold-region crabber should do when something like this occurs?

    Ladybug15057 answered:

    Friday before last we had high winds of 60 mph and it broke the top off of my neighbor up the streets pine tree off. The top landed on the power lines, wrapped it self up in them and tore down the lines. We were without power for over 24 hours, and I noted even with me burning in our wood burning stove, (but the blower didn’t work due to no electric) the room was at 72 but the tanks began to dip below 70 and so did the substrate temp. What I did was I made up some soda bottles with hot water in them. I placed these in a couple places on the warm end of the tank to try to help keep the surface sand warmer. (which it did) I also used blankets to help keep some of the heat in.

    Aaaamory
    That’s a good idea. Our water heater is gas. How useful that turns out to be! We also have a fireplace but don’t use it because of our parrot. The vet specifically advises against it. Good thing outages don’t happen too often. Maybe once a year or every other year (one year it was a squirrel exploding inside a transformer).

    Ladybug15057
    Prior to me having so many tanks in our home, a hot water bottle also works to help keep an area of the substrate warm, but with so many tanks now…I would have a small fortune in hot water bottles.

    starmaiden
    I live in the Pacific NW too! Some storm that was eh! Wow! I was one of the lucky ones in this area and only lost power for a few hours. Some people are still without power.
    One year, after an ice storm, I was without power for a week! Fortunately this was before I had hermies! Unfortunately, everything in my house is electric except the wood burning stove, so I was cooking with my camp stove out in the snow.
    I always wondered what I would do for my crabs and bettafish should that happen again. I’ve even thought about buying a generator because it seems the power goes out frequently in this area due to storms. I like ladybug’s suggestion of pop bottles filled with warm water.

    Ladybug15057
    An added plus, because I too live in an all electric house and the hot water tank will only stay hot for so long too…but with a wood burning stove, one can heat cold water for the soda bottles too. (been there and done that as well) One can also warm water up on a kerosene heater if one has this as a back up heating source if the power goes out.

    Nora
    That storm was a stinker!The power was out for awhile! What I did for the hermies was to heat up rocks on the woodstove,placed them in orchid pots(clay pots that have holes on them) and put them in the tank. I also heated slate tiles,placed them on cookie sheets and put them on top of the tank, then iglooed the tank in with foam insulation and a space blanket. The tank stayed at 69 temp. and 75 humidity.
    The wind was phenominal. The woodstove really couldn’t belch out enough heat to keep the hermies toasty in the other room,considering the fan was useless.
    Are there links to emergency heating methods. It might be a helpful to others to see different coping methods when the power goes out for an extended period of time.I would like to download a list of heat approaches for the next time. I hadn’t even thought of ladybug’s hot water bottle method of heat. I know I worried about the hermies more than the tree that landed on my house!

    Ladybug15057
    Nora, thank you for the rock idea too…that’s one I didn’t think of. Being in the country I do have plenty of them, now to think of what to put them in to help out with the warming of the tank. Thank goodness power outages do not happen very often around here, and especially for extended periods of time.

    And please all, if anybody is going to use a kerosene heater for warmth make sure it is safe…they do require maintenance. Here are some links for reading for maintenance of kerosene heaters too: (I posted this on Hermies Group too because the question of keeping hermies warm came up today)

    I did a little searching, and it appears that with the cotton wicks one should not burn the wick dry. (I never had or knew there were cotton wicks) But when we did burn ours dry, thre was always a blackish residue on the top of the wick and it was a little hard. So I did get a toothbrush and went along the top of it. This did scrape majority of the black off and made the top of the wick soft again. But here are some links that maybe of some help so you hopefully will be prepared: (and the kerosene heater should always be stored dry)

    Main link with reading:
    http://www.milesstair.com/wick_replacement.html

    CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF KEROSENE HEATER WICKS

    http://www.milesstair.com/Kero_Heater_wicks.html

    REGULAR MAINTENANCE FOR KEROSENE APPLIANCES

    http://www.milesstair.com/regular_maintenance.html

    Due to this storm moving east, I live in southwestern Pa, so got all my hermie heater gear together today just in case.