How do I clean my hermit crab tank (crabitat)?

Originally posted on this is an updated version

Tank from a rescue - Photo by Heather Barnhart

Tank from a rescue – Photo by Heather Barnhart

Dead hermit crab with maggots in a tank from a rescue - Photo by Heather Barnhart

Dead hermit crab with maggots in a tank from a rescue – Photo by Heather Barnhart

A total tank tear down for cleaning is no longer considered necessary. If set up properly from the beginning your tank can be kept up with minimal effort. The information below can be applied when purchasing used items that you wish to clean before set up or if you have an emergency (flood, bacteria, insect invasion) situation and need to do a tear down to deal with it.

You will need to set up a temporary house for your crabs in advance of cleaning your tank to establish proper temperature and humidity. 10 gallon tanks are inexpensive and you can often pick them up for next to nothing at yard sales or even find them sitting on the curb. So long as you don’t have a huge number of hermit crabs you can keep them in a 10 gallon tank for a day or two if you are doing a deep clean of your large tank.

If you are able to leave your tank empty to air for 24 hours:
Use a mild 1:10 bleach dilution to wash and sterilize the tank. Rinse it very well with water and then rinse again with vinegar to neutralize any traces of bleach. Allow the tank to air out for 24 hours.

If you are unable to leave the tank empty, use vinegar only and rinse well.

Tanks with hard water stains require extra cleaning. Click the link for detailed information.

Sand can be sterilized by placing it on a baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes on 350F. Allow it to cool completely before returning it to the tank.

If you are using a mix of sand and eco earth type bedding it should all be tossed and replaced.

Empty shells and other heat resistant items can be boiled. Empty shells should be submerged in a large bowl or bucket of water and left to sit for an hour or so to ensure there are no hermit crabs hiding in them that you may have overlooked. Do not boil ROCKS!!!

Wood logs, branches and cocohuts can also be baked but be vigilant and don’t leave them unattended.

Netting can be soaked in a vinegar and water mix to clean it. You should do this with all newly purchased netting. Allow it to soak over night, then change the water out and soak it again. If the water is clear after a second soak, you should be fine. Otherwise, continue changing the water until it’s clear.

Avoid using soap or chemicals on anything that your hermit crabs will come in contact with.

If you regularly have water or sand spots on your glass you can buy a mini squeegee to use as needed.

Consider adding some isopods (roly poly bugs aka wood lice) to help keep your tank clean.  You can catch your own outside or even order them online.

Deep cleaning guide