Vanessa Pike-Russell

Hi! My name is Vanessa Pike-Russell and became addicted to hermit crabs at age 5. My Great­-Grandfather wrote a poem about it. Then 17 years later in 1994 I was living in a one bedroom apartment and decided I wanted a pet. I saw some hermit crabs in a pet store in Westfield Warrawong. It was a case of love at first sight. When I entered the pet store I had no idea that I would be taking a land hermit crab home with me. As soon as I picked one of the land hermit crabs up and placed it gently onto my palm I was hooked! The busy antennae tickled my skin, and those cute eyes looked up at me in that adorable way only a hermit crab can. I bought one I named Mornay (get it – crabs mornay. It’s a white sauce served with seafood) with a cappuccino coloured shell. I bought the ‘complete package’ (NOT) which consisted of a plastic tank with a lid with vents, wood shavings as substrate, bowls, dishes, ‘Crazy Crabs care book’, ‘Crazy Crab salt’ and ‘Crazy crab food’. I then bought another hermit crab named fudge that was in a land snail shell the colour of chocolate fudge. By now you may notice that I am a foodie lol My sister Renee who is 14 years younger than me demanded I call him Cappuccino once I helped her make the connection between crabs and mornay sauce. I won a radio competition talking about the strangest pet names. I won $20 from the Figtree, NSW pet store where I bought shells and supplies.

After Mornay and Fudge died about a year after I purchased them when they tried to moult in wood shavings. I did some research on the natural environment of hermit crabs at University and learned more about their modified gills and need for a tropical environment. Wood shavings were the worst thing to use as a substrate! I bought a larger glass tank and swapped the wood shavings (what were Crazy Crabs thinking???) for some very fine river pebbles which I bought from an aquarium store which were recommended by the manager of the store. I invested in an under-tank heater that came from the inside of a foot warmer for a whole $10. I bought a mister bottle and would mist the substrate and generated enough humidity that the crabs were REALLY active. Then I bought a piece of mangrove driftwood and some sea sponges which I would mist and place in the tank. The UTH kept the tank to 25oC and I had my first successful moults.

I switched to beach sand with an area of shell grit and had more successful moults. I started a website on my pet hermit crabs at TPG my internet company which is still around today. I started receiving emails from hermit crab owners asking me questions. The questions started coming thick and fast and I decided to put the questions and answers on my website. It soon grew and I created a mailing list on ONE List which then changed into a community site which was converted to a Yahoo!Group and became the Land Hermit Crab Owners Society Yahoo!Group.

There were discussions that a book should be created with the articles and caresheets created by members of the LHCOS and then I had an idea of a magazine website with current information that is updated every month and the aim of a printed magazine every quarter. The Magazine site started as a static, hand-coded site and then became dynamic with database-driven content. We had over a thousand members of the, some of whom wrote articles, caresheet and content which was published and is now housed here. Now, the website has gone through many different versions of Content Management Software (PHP Nuke, Nuke Evolution, Xoops and now WordPress).

Stacy took over the running of CSJ when I was advised by my Endocrinologist specialist to take a leave of absence from my online communities and focus on getting well as I have a rare disease called panhypopituitarism and an offshoot of Addisons Disease.


Stacy moved The CSJ to Xoops and then WordPress and I took a much needed break from the crabbing world and the politics of running an online community and website. I thought it would be only a few months but it became years. I am so thankful that Stacy took ownership of The CSJ and brought it from strength to strength. I am forever thankful that I left it in such competent hands.

I made the decision to come back to the crabbing world now that I settled in Cleveland, Brisbane QLD Australia. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, having lived in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales then Queensland again. I’ve finally settled down and realised there was just something missing in my life without hermit crabs. I have a 4ft (78 Gallon) vivarium tank which I am soon to fill with Coenobita variabilis (Aussie Hermit Crabs).

I have a new website called Vanessa’s Crabitat which features land hermit crab care articles and caresheets; and hermit crab friendly products, my favourite pet stores and more.