Caresheets

The Crab Street Journal Caresheets

Caring for hermit crabs with limb loss or other deformities

Tiny hermit crab missing both pinchers

Missing both pinchers makes it difficult to eat and protect yourself.

This guide will help you care for a hermit crab that has been attacked, lost several limbs or is suffering from molt complications. General care instructions will be outlined and special exceptions for molting crabs will be included at the end of the guide. If this a newly purchased hermit crab that is dropping limbs you should check out our information on Post Purchase Stress. PPS is a common cause of dropped limbs. Dropping multiple limbs indicates extreme stress. Not all hermit crabs can recover from this type of limb loss.

Isolate

The victim hermit crab needs to be isolated. Use a secure container that other hermit crabs can not access. The victim will remain in isolation until healthy enough to return to the main group. The time in isolation depends on the severity of the attack. A badly injured crab may need to be isolated until the next molt.

The isolation unit should have the same humidity and temperature as the main tank. (Recommended: 80F/80%)

Include a hut or some other place to hide. Shallow substrate, spare shells, food and water are all needed. Each will be discussed below.

In some cases, a small kritter keeper can be turned into an isolation unit and placed in the main tank. With the screen lid secure the other crabs will not be able to harm the victim. This is less stressful as there is no environmental changes for the hermit crab to adapt too. This also allows him to be near his tank mates.

How do I set up a proper hermit crab habitat?

Shells

If your crab is also out of it’s shell that needs to be addressed first. Our cup method is tried and true and works in all but the worst cases. Provide 2 or 3 spare shells in the isolation unit once the crab is back in a shell.

How do I get my hermit crab back in it’s shell?

Food

Eating well is vital to the recovery process. Commercial hermit crabs foods are 99% unsafe. Most include chemicals that inhibit the molt process and/or are used as a pesticide. We strongly discourage ever feeding commercial foods but feeding them to an already sick crab will only worsen the situation. A natural diet of real food is best.

A hermit crab needs both claws to eat properly. One claw holds the food while the other tears or breaks off a small bit and then brings it up to the mouth. If your hermit crab is missing one claw they can still feed themselves but you will have to alter their diet. Soft foods that do not require tearing or breaking should be fed. Calcium rich foods can be ground into a powder and mixed with another food or fed dry.

If your hermit crab is missing both claws they will have to be hand fed. This means all foods will need to be ground into a powder and moistened slightly. You will dip a toothpick into the food and bring it up near the mouth. The mouth parts should reach down and take the food. If your hermit crab will not eat from you in this way, put a small amount of food in a bottle cap. Position the hermit crab over the cap so they can simply dip their mouth into it.

Change the food daily. Keep the food dish very close to where the hermit crab is resting. This will minimize the need to walk.

A diet consisting of all the key food groups is vital for recovery. Honey can be used to stimulate appetite or give a little boost but it does not have much nutritional value. You can use honey as a base for other foods you have ground up. Kind of like putting ketchup on your kid’s food!

What can my hermit crab eat?

Water

Land hermit crabs can drink water without their claws if they are able to move themselves over the dish. Use small, shallow dishes such as a bottle cap. Keep both kinds of water very close to where the hermit crab is resting. If the hermit crab can walk a bit you can use a wide shallow dish. Change daily or when empty. Water must be treated with Prime or a similar water conditioner.

Substrate

Use shallow play sand for your substrate in isolation. While in normal conditions deep sand is needed that isn’t recommended in this scenario.

Why?

In this situation the crab most likely does not have the strength or ability to dig properly.

The injured hermit crab needs to remain above ground so you can ensure they are eating and drinking.

When the victim is ready to molt again he will be able to safely surface molt in the isolation unit. If he does not move into the hiding place you provided, carefully place it over him. It would not hurt to cover the isolation unit for a few days during the molting process to reduce stress. Shadows passing over the hermit crab signal predator danger, a cover will minimize that additional stress.

Light

Continue to maintain a normal cycle of 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. It is not critical to provide UVB in the isolation unit. If you already have a UVB light set up on the main tank and will be keeping the isolation unit inside the main tank that is fine.

Return to the colony

How will you know your hermit crab is ready to return to the colony?

Are all the limbs regenerated? At the very least your hermit crab needs both claws. This means they will be able to protect themselves inside their shell, as well as feed themselves and climb to escape other crabs if needed.

Is the hermit crab active and eating and drinking normally again?

Able to climb in and out of your water pools unassisted?

If yes to all of the above it is time to return to the main tank. When you do return the hermit crab to the colony do it when you can be around to monitor the tank for a few hours.

Molting crabs

It is rare that a molter will be attacked by tank mates. When this does occur it is a result of incorrect substrate (eco earth only or not deep enough) or a poor diet. The molter needs to be gently moved to isolation and cared for using the above recommendations. Soft crabs should be moved with a clean spoon (or something similar) so that you do not transfer bacteria or other germs to the soft exoskeleton.

A molting crab will be quite weak for a couple days. Don’t expect him to eat or drink in the first day or two. If the exoskeleton was not eaten, it should be ground up and put in a dish with the victim (in addition to the food suggestions above). If the exoskeleton was eaten, provide another source of calcium in the food dish. Remember while underground hermit crabs do not ‘drink’ but they are able to absorb moisture from the substrate if needed. The molt sac is also full of water. Normally the crab would only eat their exo while under but after an attack it is important to get them to eat anything. Don’t force food in the first 24 hours after a molt. Give the crab a chance to eat on their own before attempting to hand feed.

If the molter was wounded and has visible damage to the exo you can treat the spot with our Medicinal Wash for Hermit Crabs if you catch it early.  Damage to the exo can cause the outer layers to fuse with the soft under layer. This can lead to difficulties shedding properly during the next molt. This is a very rare time when you may want to move the crab to an isolation unit when you observe pre molt symptoms. This will allow you to monitor the molt process. They may molt perfectly fine in your main tank but if they don’t survive the molt you won’t know for months.

Tips:

Wash your hands before tending to your patient

Use a spoon to gently scoop up the victim. Dig just beneath the crab so there is a some substrate between the crab and the spoon. That will ensure you don’t injure the crab with the spoon.

 

Setting up a proper crabitat

Surviving is not thriving

How to set up a proper crabitat

Let’s look at how to set up a proper hermit crab habitat, which we refer to as a crabitat.

Basing your tank set up on what you saw at the petstore or mall cart where you may have purchased your hermit crabs is a recipe for disaster. Kritter Keepers and wire cages are death boxes and should never be used.

Listed below are the primary components of a proper set up and we will discuss them in detail. If you are not willing to equip the tank properly you should return your hermit crabs or rehome them, they will not thrive without a properly set up habitat. Captive hermit crabs can live over 30 years in the proper habitat. Most hermit crabs die either in the first month of ownership, during the first molt of ownership or within the first year to 18 months.  So yes, they can technically ‘survive’ in poor conditions but why on earth would you purposely do this to an animal???

A simple list of the items you will need to properly outfit the crabitat. There are low cost options for most of these items.

  • Tank
  • Lid
  • Light*
  • Heat
  • Substrate
  • Gauges
  • Bowls
  • Climbers
  • Hiders
  • Plants and Vines

The tank itself should be glass or lexan and large enough to comfortably house your hermit crabs. A MINIMUM of 2 gallons of space per small or medium hermit crab but 5 gallons per crab is much more humane. Large and jumbo crabs will need much more space, 10 gallon minimum. A 10 gallon tank is too small for even one large or jumbo crab. Plan for the future when purchasing your tank, allow for the growth of your crabs or additions to the herd.   A used tank is perfectly fine and will greatly reduce the cost of supplies.

The tank must have a lid that retains humidity. A screen lid with glass, lexan or plastic wrap on top is what is typically used. Hermit crabs require humidity to breathe. Opening the lid for feedings and water changes each day usually provides enough air exchange. Fresh air flow reduces mold, mildew and fungus growth.

Light is required, whether they are used as your heat source or not. Hermit crabs require a normal 12 hour cycle of light and dark, it is vital to the molt process. If your crabitat is in a well light room that will meet the need of daytime light. Do NOT place your tank in directly sunlight!

UVB is believed to extend the life span of captive hermit crabs. UVB bulbs must be mounted in such a way that there is no glass or plastic barrier between the bulb and the hermit crabs. Most people mount the lid inside the tank.  Bulbs must be replaced every 12 months.

For nighttime viewing, LED in red or blue is safe. Your hermit crabs do not require a light at night.

Hermit crabs require warm temperatures. This can come from overhead lights or from heat pad (often called under the tank heater or UTH) which is placed on the wall of the tank and not under it. Over head lights or heat emitters are not recommended for inexperienced pet owners. They make it challenging to maintain the correct environment in the tank.

Ways to heat your crabitat

Global Temperature and Precipitation Maps by Month

Gauges are the only way to monitor and maintain proper heat and humidity levels. The tank temperatures should be a range of 75F to 82F.  72F is the absolute minimum and your tank should not remain at this temperature long term. A temporary dip or spike in temperature is not cause for concern. A range means that your tank should have areas of different temperatures. Some species seem to enjoy slightly warmer temperatures but the common clypeatus is happy in the 75-82F range. Check the substrate temperature as well to make sure it is not too hot. Overly warm substrate will kill molters or discourage molting. Humidity ranges should be 70-80% this is relative humidity. Occasional higher humidity is not cause for concern but maintaining excessively high humidity could lead to flooding or lethal bacteria due to over saturation of your substrate. Your analog hygrometer will need to be calibrated before use. Wireless, digital gauges are relatively cheap and are more accurate than analog gauges.

Substrate should be a mix of play sand and eco earth. The ideal mix will keep the sand moist throughout. The consistency should be so that you could easily make a sand castle. That means that molting burrows will not collapse from drying out. The eco earth will help maintain humidity but you may need to add some moss pits if your levels are too low. Not all moss is safe so be sure to check our list: Which types of moss are safe for my hermit crabs? Excessive misting or dampening of the substrate can lead to lethal bacteria blooms and/or flooding.

Substrates for hermit crabs

Three bowls will be needed. Two of the bowls should be deep enough to allow your hermit crabs to submerge themselves. One should be fresh water and one should be ocean water made with marine grade salt mix. All water that comes in contact with your hermit crabs must be treated to remove chlorine, chloramines, ammonia as well as other chemicals. The third bowl will be for food. These don’t have to be reptile dishes specifically but they should be something that your smallest crabs can easily enter and exit. Many people use disposable Gladware type bowls for water pools. We recommend placing a rock, fake plant or coral in the pool for the smaller crabs to climb out.

Places to hide, things to climb on, as well as plants and vines are important to create an environment that is stimulating and enriching for your hermit crabs. Huts do not have to be made of coconut shells, many things will work. The same holds true for things to climb on. There are lots of DIY ideas or less expensive ideas for creating vertical climbing opportunities. Fake plants and vines from a craft store will work as well as the ones you find at the pet store. Some live plants are safe for the crabitat but your hermit crabs will most likely kill them.

Creating additional levels in your crabitat to maximize usable space

Your goal should be to create an environment that is as close to what hermit crabs experience in nature as possible. Hermit crabs live primarily on beaches, so think tropical!

Here are some examples of properly set up crabitats:

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Hermit Crab Surface Molt

Hermit crabs typically go about their molting business below ground away from your prying eyes and nosey tank mates but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you will find yourself with a surface molter on your hands. Surface molts can be very cool for you but additionally stressful for the crab.

Coenobita clypeatus - Purple Pincer Hermit Crab Surface Molt

Coenobita clypeatus – Purple Pincer Hermit Crab Surface Molt

C. compressus surface molt. Top most leg is a newly regenerated limb.

C. compressus surface molt. Top most leg is a newly regenerated limb Photo by Nichole Edwards.


Let’s look at the best way to handle a surface molter.

  • First do not touch or move the crab! (unless you feel you must to ensure it’s safety)
  • Second find a way to securely isolate the crab.
  • It is extremely important that your tank temperature and humidity are in the proper ranges at this time.
  • Do not mist a soft hermit crab, there is danger of causing an infection by over wetting the soft exo.
  • Do not remove the shed exoskeleton (skin), your molter is going to eat that and it’s important that he does!
  • Do not place your molter in total darkness. Normal light cycles are needed!
ISO bottle should be pushed all the way to the bottom of your substrate so there is no way for another crab to burrow in from below.

ISO bottle should be pushed all the way to the bottom of your substrate so there is no way for another crab to burrow in from below.

In place isolation of a surface molter can be accomplished by cutting the bottom off of a 2L plastic bottle and then placing it over the molter and pushing it down (gently!) into the substrate, all the way to the bottom of your tank if possible. This will keep tank mates from cannibalizing the molter while it is soft and defenseless. Remove the lid from the bottle top to allow air flow.  If you can’t get the bottle all the way to the bottom of the tank, keep an eye out for signs of other crabs trying to burrow their way in.


Kritter Keeper used in main tank as an ISO for surface molters

Kritter Keeper used in main tank as an ISO for surface molters

If you simply can not securely isolate the surface molter, you may be forced to move them. You need to have some sort of container ready, preferably something that can stay in the same tank where the molt has occurred. Very small kritter keepers are ideal for this as they have secure lids but are vented for air flow. As gently as possible move the molter AND the shed exo to the isolation container. Do not poke, prod or otherwise futz with the molter.


Post Molt Photo by Jenny Velasquez

Post Molt Photo by Jenny Velasquez

When the molter begins moving around on his own you can gently move him from the 2L bottle enclosure to a larger isolation tank stocked with food and water and a hut. When your molter has fully hardened up it’s time to go back to the main tank. Monitor the molter and the tank mates for signs of aggression. If you witness ongoing aggressive behavior, place all crabs upside down in your water pools. This will rinse off the molting scent and everyone will smell the same again. Unless there is a problem, bathing is UNNECESSARY and should not be done. Aggressive behavior is an indicator of a bigger problem, usually over crowding or inadequate diet.


I understand that it is very fascinating to be able to watch the molt process happening but remember your presence is threatening to the hermit crab at this time. If you want to take photos, do NOT use the flash! Limit your photo taking and time spent hovering and try really hard to let your poor little crabbie do his molting business in peace and quiet.


Coenobita rugosus post surface molt munching on some delicious exo:

Emergency Help Links

Emergency Hermit Crab Help

Emergency Hermit Crab Self Help

We are sorry that you are experiencing a crab care emergency. Below are some links and information to our most commonly experienced emergency situations.

Be aware that the site is not monitored and you may not receive an immediate response from someone. It is in your hermit crab’s best interest that you read the articles linked below.

After reading these items if you still need some help, please locate the list of Emergency Help Questions.


Aggressive hermit crab

I purchased new hermit crabs: PPS (Post Purchase Stress)

Calibrating Humidity/hydrometer

Limb loss

Mites or pests within crabitat

Hypoaspis Mites are beneficial

What is Molting?

Is my Hermit crab dead or molting?

Preventing overheating in the crabitat

My hermit crab has left it’s shell and is naked

Caring for hermit crabs with limb loss or other deformities

PPS (Post Purchase Stress) Minimizing the Impact

written by Sue Latell March 8, 2006

Newly adopted clypeatus

Minimizing the Impact of Post Purchase Stress may prevent hermit crab deaths after purchase

I have belonged to the on-line crabbing community for a little over 3 years now. From day one there was discussion about the number of deaths immediately occurring after purchase. It evolved into a named syndrome: PPS. Many “unexplainable” deaths that occurred in the time-frame from newly acquired to first post molt death were labeled PPS. Time lines wavered (anywhere from one week-up to one year), and alarmingly glossed over (in my opinion) too many other potential causes. The interesting aspect about this subject is that for all the debate that occurred, and the viable, if not absolute reasons offered, not one person or group was willing to agree or offer what to do to minimize it. What is more alarming about this is my own willingness to allow it to continue, even though I understand what PPS is! I think I have been maintaining PPS as an excusable reason for me to have a death in my population. It is important to me to be, or at least appear to be competent in the care of our charges. So grudgingly I have to admit that my complacency in not wanting to clearly define and action PPS, is so that I have a contingent reason to remain blameless for their death. It has been and is treated like this big mystery that there is no obtainable solution to! Well I think it is time to recognize what PPS is, as I am pretty sure we have had the answers at hand for some time!

The purpose of this article is to define what we know PPS to be TODAY; as we can understand its cause and is supported by the knowledge we have documentation for. We can amend standard care practices at this minute. That said, this definition should and will be refined as our successes and information on crabs grows. This is a first step to taking rightful responsibility for this type of crab death. There is a somewhat tested solution to this (if at this point, only by me) that I hope will evolve into an observed and practiced tactic. Please also refer to the companion article: “Refining the Purpose for ISOLATION”, for further clarification.

What is PPS?

PPS is the result of a crab’s inability to physiologically adapt quickly enough from his natural circumstances (environment and habits) into a transitional one and then into a captive environment. The inability to adapt is invoked and influenced by the degree of and withholding of elements the crabs need to adjust to their environment.

This statement means that crabs suffer the most risk of physical stress induced death from the change in their environment (heat, humidity, range and associated resources) by being harvested, shipped and housed by the pet merchants. Resources in this context are water, salt water, food and shelter. Explicitly we need to recognize that the stress is not an “emotional” one, which we have to tendency to relate more easily to. It is physical and involves their ability or inability to forage (for food); have access to resources such as salt water, fresh water; an appropriate substrate and/or room to metabolize to their new environmental surroundings (heat and humidity)! So what factors influence the potential for PPS?

Hermit crabs have remarkable stamina and can tolerate the extremity of their environmental changes for a certain amount of time. They also have built in metabolic processes that assist them in adjusting to their immediate environment. These include hibernation and respiratory regulation. These processes function when fueled appropriately by diet. Because they involve digestion and chemical adjustment, they take longer time to come into effect. Therefore, a rapidly changing environment can short circuit these process mechanisms. Another process, not quite of the same class is osmotic regulation. As long as there is physical access to water, crabs are immediately able to implement procedures to control temperature. This process is mostly reliant on water. A guide to understanding the time frame these processes can take for crabs to implement involves their initial health, their size, and how fluctuant the extremes are in occurrences and interval. All of these things by their very nature are aberrant! For example, a healthy crab can slow down his processes to accommodate a drop in temperature with minimal impact for about 7 days (the rough estimate it takes for a medium sized crab to ingest and process his last meal, plus exhaust immediate reserves). A lower humidity can also be accommodated in similar fashion. Water access does play a significant roll in this control mechanism, as well as for an over hot/humid situation. So if there is a lack of a key resource (water), or if the temperature they are kept at changes rapidly, they may be unable to sustain equilibrium for extended periods of time, especially if the crabs are not fed adequately. This inability does not immediately kill them, but the longer the duration of these types of events accrue, the more they become life threatening. This also explains why a crab may resort to cannibalism to survive!

The hardest part about determining if your crab may succumb to PPS is in the KNOWING if these circumstances were applicable to your crab’s journey to you. Well I can say with some measure of certainty that they would have had to endure significant change over at LEAST a 21 day period. That said, from some of the stories I have read on our forums, that time frame is modest! At some point in the future I will provide a more detailed accounting of what our crabs can go through to get to our pet stores, but for now let’s just focus on PPS.

Here is the really difficult point about PPS, and due to its nature, is probably the main reason we have continued to seek “reasons” outside of our control for PPS. Our NEW CRAB introductory practices! We pride ourselves on establishing and sustaining our interpretation of an “ideal” living environment for our crabs. Temperature and humidity are kept and monitored (by gauge) at the optimum levels (but not always in ranges>>bad, very bad). We for the most part provide the best in foods and offer both types of waters. Provide for hiding, climbing, digging, lighting; what more could our crabs possibly need and want in these circumstances? Why do they still die? Because we in our infinite wisdom think we have provided crab heaven! Well we missed an obvious problem. Not only have some of us taken on the belief that if we provide the right conditions crabs will recover just by what we provide, we have also ignored that crabs have the ability to adjust to their environment when they haven’t already been taxed to very extreme limits. This includes going from BAD environments to GOOD ones! We do not factor in what they have endured before getting to us, and we are quite strict in getting them into good ones as soon as possible. It seems that it is difficult for us even to conceive that we may be pushing them past their endurance level by moving them from that “Crab in a Cup” or dreaded mall kiosk, to a good crabitat set up.

Well in large part we are! We need to graduate them to the ideal conditions so their bodies and processes can catch up. How long can that take? Up to a month, and that is just strictly going by their ability to physically accommodate the change. What fuels that? Food taken in over time, waters and familiarity they gain in their surroundings. Then there is the possibility that they need to molt. Let’s hope they don’t have to for that first 30 day period. In my experience, molters that were new to my tanks suffered the greatest proportion of death! Death resulted 80% more then, than at any other time in my entire 6 year run!! The second month was a bit better at 30% death ratio, but after that it has (at least for me) been less than a 3% chance (at a 50 headcount) after 60 days.

So what are we supposed to do to prevent PPS?

Well while I am tempted to say that a procedure will “cure” almost all potential for PPS, it would be untrue. Since we have absolutely no control over when a crab is collected, or how long it has taken him to be collected, or have the experience to be able to with precision estimate at what point on the PPS scale an individual crab may be at, we have to generalize a treatment. We also cannot accurately factor in how people interpret heat and humidity, healthy diet and other handling aspects involved in overall crab husbandry.

So for the time being, PPS would be best addressed with a method that first allows for close observation by handlers, and secondly accommodates the crab’s ability to adjust to his immediate environment. So what does it take for these conditions to be utilized and what specifically does this mean?

The most important principal is GRADUATION of environmental conditions. Based on an average, calculated by scientists while they studied components of a hermit crab’s anatomical processes, they noted that it can take up to 96 hours for a crab collected and sampled directly from his native habitat to adjust to a change in environment. This is once the crab reaches his physiological threshold whereby hormonal triggers begin to occur. The hormonal regulation is fueled mostly by the crab’s food resources, but it also can include other regulatory systems. This means that a crab requires time to reduce physical stress by being able to adjust to his immediate circumstance. The greater the change, the less potential a crab has to adjust successfully, and co-dependent to time is the resources available to the crab either internally (through reserves), or externally in the form of food and water. Scientists have calculated that there is the highest successful adjustment when environmental changes occur in 5-7% increments. This means if they are adjusting temperature or humidity, they use the existing conditions as the constant, and use the percentage as the increment for adjustment. So how do we apply that to our method of introduction? By this:

1. Observe and recognize that your crabs are mostly leaving poor humidity and heat conditions. (Usually too high/low heat, and too low humidity) Also, food resources have probably (but not always) been limited, thus making the crab’s system “sluggish” and slow to respond to the change. See if they have had water vs. a sponge; note the approximate heat and humidity conditions and think of them in comparative terms to the ideal. Then establish a threshold (minimum tolerance level), that will be your starting point for readjusting crabs to the acceptable ranges.

This is not an exact process, because as you can already see, there can be several variables. I will provide an example, and after that I am afraid it will remain for the time being a function of trial and error, until we have more data in respect to successful outcomes. We will be measuring this by people providing key data that will be stored in a database. Once we tabulate “samples”, the increased number of samples will provide more accurate standards that we can provide as procedure to future situations.

2. We must utilize ISOLATION in a separate tank, where the environmental factors of heat and humidity is not PRESET at the ideal conditions. I have been concerned lately in the shift of thinking regarding the necessity of Isolation as part of the procedure for introduction. Far more focus has been placed on ISO being utilized for MOLTING. What I find frustrating about this, is that it is NOT necessary to do so in most circumstances. For re-acclimatizing stressed hermit crabs, it is! Please read the companion article “Refining the Purpose for ISOLATION”.

This is the sector where in the past I had remained flexible in terms of the duration of time we keep new crabs in isolation. That was when I was looking at it strictly from the perspective of general health and potential for bugs. What I was remiss in communicating, is that I have always as a practice kept new crabs in ISO for at least a month. In fact, it was rare that I move one to the main tank earlier even though they showed no indication of stress or contamination. The other important aspect of my ISO tank is that it is NOT at the same range in heat and humidity as my main population tanks. This was not immediately intentional; it came about from not being used! Why heat and humidify an empty tank?

Many of you already know that I do not advocate removal of pre-molt or molting crabs to isolation. So really my ISO has really only served as the transitional tank for new crabs, or as the treatment tank for sick ones. I think that initially this is why I had fewer occurrences of PPS, without knowingly doing it. My ISO built up to the ideal and equivalent main crabitat conditions over the period of time I kept them in ISO. I did not see the relationship until I consulted Peter about overheating issues and about dropped limbs. This was in early 2004. Principally what I learned about dropped limbs is that it was due to a stress induced shock caused by an extreme environmental change (that aspect was speculated and communicated already) and was just confirmed. The new information was that by controlling the extremity of the change, we would allow the crab to metabolically adjust less stressfully. It was outlined to me that changes in humidity and temperature should be gradually increased in percentage and in time to assist the crab. Or, at the very least , recognizing WHAT the differences in the crab’s initial environment were and adjusting the new conditions in relation to IDEAL conditions. I have shared this several times, especially when it was clearly explained by the owner how poor the previous conditions were. Consider this rationale: Remember reading at least once a story relating how a crab was able to survive DIRE conditions for up to a year and survive, only to die within weeks of being introduced to a “perfect” environment? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the crab evolved to adjusting to his conditions to subsist in his environment if it occurred over an interval of time that his body could adapt to? Then we basically eliminated that interval to reverse the process, thus resulting in death. I saw immediately why this could be possible. Now you may understand too why I have been harping on maintaining “ranges” of temperature and humidity. It is because it can maximize the crab’s ability to adjust!

3. We must set a starting point for environmental conditions. If your crab comes from a pet store that has for example a heat lamp, no cover, no water, chances are that the approximate existing humidity range is 50% or lower. ASK how long the crabs have been in the store tank. If it has been more than 2 days, you will need to start at the lowest level that crabs can tolerate. That is 60% (with access to water and food), and a maximum tank temperature of 72 degrees. You would keep that level for a period of 72 hours and then increase it by 10% to 66%, and maintain that level for 72 hours, repeating the process until you match your main tanks average humidity level. This would take roughly 2 weeks if your target range was 79%. During this time crabs will need food to support the hormonal adjustment necessary to acclimate. Give them the fighting chance by not immediately moving them into a more competitive environment with your existing and healthier crabs! By sticking new crabs into a main population without benefit of isolation during their adjustment, you are diminishing the new crab’s ability to recover by increasing the resource competition level.

Temperature is not as significant to worry about; crabs use osmotic processes to control that! So their only need there is access to ocean salt water. It is the hormonally, or more accurately, the metabolically related processes that helps a crab adjust to humidity, and for that they need fuel and the time to process it. In effect this is how to minimize PPS.

Why is this not a fool proof cure?

This is the question that has held me back for some time. I wanted a definitive answer as to why PPS happened. It wasn’t until I looked at it in components that it became clear that while we can significantly reduce PPS, there will be circumstances that cannot be overcome. The ones I understand the most are:

1). Damage to gills from prolonged dehydration –

This condition thankfully is not too common, surfactants that the crab regurgitates from his digestive tract in order to self hydrate his gills, ultimately will result in death. There is nothing we can do if the conditions he endured drive him to this point.

2). Starvation-

While this seems to be one of the things we can combat more readily, if it has endured for a prolonged period of time, we may not be able to reverse the effects. A crab requires constant energy to sustain his metabolic changes. He may not be able to produce the necessary hormones to transition into his new environment. What’s imminently worse about this condition is that it can result in death for a crab that needs to molt, and remains a potential for causing molt death more typically, but not exclusively (depending on the crabs size) for the first few months of ownership.

3). Our humidity and temperature control-

Okay, I am prepared to deal with the flack I will get for blaming owners who fail to recognize the importance of maintaining temperature and humidity ranges. But there it is! There is an inherent mistake created when we relate heat and humidity in absolute terms! When we reply to inquiries with a comment like “set your heat and humidity to 80/80 and you can’t go wrong”, well, we do! While 80/80 is within the tolerable ranges, it does not communicate that these settings are the higher end of the range, and that there is and should be other temperatures and humidity levels within the crabitat. I realize that this occurs more out of a convention of speech and is not meant to mislead people. The sad reality is that people (especially new crabbers) take these stated levels literally and they worry and painstakingly try to achieve this exact ratio. What worries me about this is that we need to recognize AND COMMUNICATE that a crabitat should have RANGES of heat and temperature. The people saying that 80/80 produces active healthy crabs are not totally wrong (I just hate the way it is expressed because it gets misconstrued)…it is the “Way” it is interpreted when we use such an explicit example. We cannot show that the loftier areas will be lower in humidity but higher in heat…just like the middle of the tank will be closer to the true 80/80…and that the lower regions will be even more skewed temperature wise over the UTH (if there is one), below the lamp etc…so how can we communicate these acceptable ranges without creating a pseudo class that people use really by convention of speech and lack of full understanding how humidity and temperature work? It gets into dangerous ground when we say “oh Straws like the humidity at 85%”…well many of us do not segregate our tanks by species…and an E or PP may overheat when a tank is that over saturated!

I feel this aspect contributes greatly to crab death in general, and not just from the PPS perspective. Though it is related in the sense that we diminish our crab’s ability to adjust by not providing differences that our crabs can utilize! They are in a tank people! There is no comparison to their natural habitat where there is wind and tidal influences, ground cover, and the fact that they can move to utilize these resources at their whim, and instinct! We NEED to provide for that! I trust my own experience in this, and I admit I have never had an “unexplained” death 6 months to 1 year after getting them. So rather blatantly, I don’t think it is acceptable to define PPS over such a broad time-frame! I have had a couple of puzzling deaths, and I attribute it more to me not providing them with the proper foods, or the proper balance of adequate diet, and maybe even possibly poisoning them, than the soon to be dispensed idea that it is PPS! We need to call a spade a spade, or we are in danger of remaining blissfully, and BLAMEFULLY ignorant of real issues that we could resolve! I am ashamed that until a short while ago, I was willing to ignore the significant realization that WE are a component of PPS. I trust the results I have had over the years, and have now filled in the reasons (started by dumb luck, and now more understood) due to valuable information I learned from reading and discussing with experts the physical processes our crabs are capable of. Now it is time to use the information and change our methods!

So what will the new time defined extent of PPS related deaths be?

For now, until we amass actual numbers, I think my model that I accrued when taking in adopted crabs, and purchased new crabs will be used (a total of 117 over 2 years). That means that potential PPS deaths will defined for at least 30 days from original ownership date up to and including the first molt. This will be conditioned by the fact that if a molt occurs after the first 60 days (being the highest risk for PPS related death), then the death may be more attributed to a lack within the owners environment, not necessarily PPS. The factors used to qualify these latent molts will be crab size and review of the owner’s food list and environmental conditions!

Overview:

PPS is Death as a result of a crab being deprived of the conditions and resources he needs to adapt to changes in his environment. We are part of that change. We can minimize PPS death by practicing ISOLATION and a GRADUATED increase to ideal crabitat conditions over a period of time to offset the poor conditions crab harvesting can create. These changes should occur in stages that the crab’s physical processes can accommodate. We need first to acknowledge the crabs own capability to adjust, and synchronize the environmental adjustments to their metabolic time frame. Death of a crab should not be classified as PPS outside of the initial established time frame of adjustment (30 days), unless there is a molt occurring within a 60 day time frame. After 60days, a case by case assessment should be done, and evaluated based on the crab’s size, on the conditions he came from, and from the examination of existing diet and environmental factors (heat and humidity). While PPS will be definite within the 30 day period, that likelihood in classification diminishes as time increases.

Implementation Recommendations:

This definition will be amended by statistical evaluation, and new study material. I recommend review in the process be conducted in 90 days time and that a committee be established in evaluating collected data. A permanent template with fixed element names should be used to feed the database for this data collection category: PPS.

Concurrent to this study, an evaluation of the specific accepted time frame for PPS to be considered a cause should be presented to crab care communities by poll. It should be encouraged that members also support their choice with their personal reasoning. This will then be used to help the committee establish the recognized and formally accepted time interval for decreeing PPS as the cause of death.

More articles about PPS:

Technique for Adjusting PPS Crabs
Comparative Example for PPS Practices
Preventing Death in New Hermit Crabs

Offering greensand and worm castings is recommended at well. When hermit crabs won’t eat anything they will almost always eat both of these highly nutritious foods.

A video on reducing PPS

Refining the Purpose of Isolation

written by Sue Latell March 8, 2006

2006Hermit CrabsThe Definition of Isolation

Isolation by very general definition, in the crabbing world means to keep crabs separated from each other in groups or by individuals by means of an object such as another tank. It can also mean that one crab can be isolated within a crabitat by an object such as a bottle or CD case, or piece of plastic. The purpose for this division is multiple. Most commonly, isolation has been utilized when dealing with crab illness, contamination, surface molting and more often than I like to see, molting in general. What ever happened to using it for NEW crab introduction? This was at one time, the main reason to have isolation. It was a measure to ensure a crab’s health and stability before subjecting him to competition in a larger population of crabs. This purpose will be my main focus! First let’s address some noted trends.

Comparative Example for PPS Practices

written by Sue Latel March 8, 2006

Newly adopted clypeatus

Comparative Example for PPS Minimization Technique

Little Billy has had 3 hermit crabs since his 12 birthday. He has a 20 gallon tank housing his 3 small PP crabs. One day when he is at the store picking up some ocean salt water for his crabs, he spots a tank containing 2 poor little Ruggies that have no water except for a damp sponge, huge pellets of food that he doubts they have even attempted to eat, and no ground cover to protect them from the 100 watt heat lamp that is shining directly on them from an open tank top. Billy has been a very conscientious crab owner. He explored on-line information on how to care for hermit crabs and has all the bells and whistles to keep his crab people happy. He has proudly seen his crabs molt, grow and prosper for the past year. Billy knows that the little Ruggies will not last long in the current conditions they are in. He consults a clerk, advises her of the poor crabitat conditions, and notes that there will likely be no changes made based on his advice. Billy’s mom is a sweetheart and lets Billy rescue these poor crabs from their sorry condition. Billy finds out from the cashier that those are the last ones from their shipment last month, and now they can order more. (God forbid). Billy provides his new crabs with a dip into his tanks water dish, and then they scurry to hide in the handy cave he has for his crabs. Well, a week later, and Billy has still not seen his new crabs. He doesn’t think they have even been to the food dish. He isn’t too concerned since they are likely de-stressing in the wonderful conditions in his tank. Well a couple of more weeks pass. Billy thinks he seen one of his new guys in the water dish, now there is signs of digging, this crab must be molting. Well another couple of weeks lapse, and it is now high time to do a deep clean. Billy carefully digs around to see if he can locate where his crabs may be down molting so he proceeds cautiously. Billy takes out some of his plants and shells for rinsing, he has found the top of one of his new crab’s shells, he checks to see how the little guy is faring and discovers that it has died. Billy is heart broken. Finally the entire tank is unearthed and Billy discovers that neither one of his new little ruggies made it!! That darn PPS, it is just not fair!

Checklist for Regular Care and Maintenance of Your Hermit Crabs and the Crabitat

Don't mind me, just taking out the trash

Don’t mind me, just taking out the trash

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

After your crabitat is set up you will have to maintain it and your crabs. Below you will find a list of what tasks should be done daily, weekly and monthly.

Daily

o Refill fresh water dish and the ocean water pond
o Empty and clean the food dish (no chemicals)
o Offer a different food each day
o Check the humidity level is 70- 80% relative
o Check the temperature level is near 80F and that it is stable

Weekly

o Clean the bowls and dishes (without chemicals)
o Pick through the substrate for food and feces (isopods and springtails can help with this)

Monthly

o Where needed, remove all items from tank (substrate, wood, toys, dishes etc) and clean by boiling or baking. Usually only needed if you have unwanted mold or mildew.
o Wipe down walls of tank with vinegar and water, or ocean water mixture. (Avoid cleaning chemicals eg. bleach)
o Sterilize (boiling) seashells and re-offer them to crabs


Identifying and Addressing Aggression in Hermit Crabs

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

Behaviour in the Wild

Identifying and Addressing Aggression in Hermit Crabs

Identifying and Addressing Aggression in Hermit Crabs

Land hermit crabs are territorial animals, and as such they will often act aggressively towards one another to establish a ‘pecking’ order among their colony. Sometimes this can be in the form of ‘feeler’ or antennae fights, others in violent pushing or flicking fellow tank mates out of the way. Usually this is not serious enough to warrant intervention. However, some hermit crabs will act in a manner that is harmful to other hermit crabs, often trying to pull their hermie buddy out of a desired shell, or attacking eyes, antennae, claws, legs or abdomen.

If you witness behavior that may be harmful to one or more hermit crabs, it is important to separate them until the aggressor has settled down. Sometimes tank aggression can be a precursor to a molt, or the result of being picked on or bullied in the past. The most common form of aggression is where one crab tries to pull their tank-mate out of the security of the seashell.

Handling with Respect and Gentleness

Holding hermit crab

Gently holding a hermit crab

It shouldn’t be forgotten that hermit crabs are not toys, but living animals. It is important to pick them up gently, carefully and talking softly to them to let them know that they are safe is often a good idea. Use slow and gentle movements and always remember to carry them steadily. If you were placed on a palm and thought you were going to tumble off the edge, what would you do? A hermit crab doesn’t have hands with fingers, it has claws and legs. In order to save itself it will grip on with what it has available, so remember to help your buddy know he is safe from harm and put yourself in the place of the hermit crab at all times. A hermit crab treated with respect and gentleness will be gentle. A hermit crab that is handled roughly and with anger or haste will soon let you know that he can be just as crabby!

Autonomy

Hermit crab with gel limb

Hermit crab with gel limb

In the wild a hermit crab will “throw” a claw or leg if another hermit crab tries to pull them out of their shell. This is a responsive behaviour and their limbs are built in a way that they are able to “drop” or “throw” a limb easily so they may survive an attack. This is called Autonomy.

Normal Behaviour

Tumble Time

Gentle sitting on Jimmy

Gentle sitting on Jimmy

You may see your hermit crabs climb over the top of each other, or perhaps flick each other out of a prized spot or corner. This is natural behaviour, and doesn’t normally harm your hermit crabs. You may have watched puppies or kittens playing and vying for the best spot near Mummy dog, ‘rough-housing’ and play fighting. The flicking and tumbling another hermit crab out of the way is just in the nature of the territorial hermit crab and helps to establish ‘pecking order’ amongst hermit crabs.

Stridulation (Chirping or croaking)

Hermit Crab Chirping Croaking (click to play!)

I was doing some reading of my “Biology of the Land Crabs’ book today and came across a chapter on stridulation behaviour in land crabs. Of specific interest was a paragraph on Coenobita:

“Stridulation in conjunction with posturing is common in aggressive displays of Coenobita (Hazlett, 1966; S. Gilchrist, unpub). Clicking by rapping of appendages together and by tapping the shell are integral parts of aggressive encounters of C. clypeatus and C. compressus. When alarmed, Birgus latro briskly stamps the second peripods. At other times, even when not apparently alarmed, this crab produces continuous clicks (Grubb, 1971). This may be a proximity warning to con-specifics.”

[ Reference: page 130 from Biology of the Land Crabs. Edited by Warren W. Burggren and Brian R. McMahon. Published in 1998 by Cambridge University Press.]

I have other references which I will dig up (literally, its all in storage) and share. From personal experience my hermit crabs mainly chirp when there is another crab bullying them. Prime example was when I heard ‘rheet rheet rheet’ and went over to the tank, saw one crab over the top of another one and trying to pull the poor crab out of its shell! I’d be making a lot of noise too! Some crabs have chirped or croaked when being picked up, but very rarely. It reminds me of a car alarm – sometimes its a false alarm, other times it means something is wrong.

Antennae Fencing

Antennae war

Antennae war

Another thing that hermit crabs like to do is to go up to each other and have a hermie ‘antennae/feeler wiggling and touching’ encounter. You might see the antennae moving quickly, and brushing against the antennae of the other hermit crab. This may take a few minutes to die down, and either crab lose interest. Sometimes it is almost as if they are talking in code, giving signals to each other. As long as they are not hurting each other, it is often best to let them interact and develop their social skills with other land hermit crabs.

Cheliped Clashes

Sometimes they may even brush cheliped, grasping claw, against each other. IF this progresses into an entirely aggressive act, such as trying to sever antennae, limbs, eye stalks or removing the other hermit crab from its shell, THEN it is time to ‘break it up’.

Mating Behaviors

Often the mating ritual will appear aggressive at first glance. However, if you observe the crabs you will see the male guarding his chosen female and fending off other males. He will never attempt to pull the female from the shell but he may rock her gently to coax her to come forward from her shell so that mating can occur. If she is resistant he will simply follow her around until she changes her mind. Females enter their ‘mating season’ after a molt so you will often find the males clamoring for a freshly molted female.

Some guarding behavior in C. brevimanus:

More guarding behavior in C. Clypeatus:

Shell-based Aggression

When one crab likes another’s shell, say Crab A likes Crab B’s shell, Crab A will go up to Crab B’s shell, knock its shell ( that of Crab A) against the other crab’s shell (Crab B), causing the crab in the desired shell (Crab B) to come out and have a look at what is going on. Now the first crab will try to pull the second crab out of its shell by a cheliped or other limb. The second crab will normally drop his cheliped(grasping claw) or leg/s and retreat inside his shell, using his remaining cheliped to protect himself. Preferring to loose a limb instead of loosing a shell.

Attempting to pull a hermit crab from its shell almost always results in the crab being torn in half (Ingle and Christiansen 2004), a testament to both its reliance upon its shelter and the strength to which its well adapted abdomen can hol on. The abdomen of all asymmetrical hermit crabs coils to the right and hence is better adapted to right-handed or dextril gastropod shells, though the less common left-handed shells are also utilised (Ruppert et al 2004). [1]

If there is a shell involved, it often helps if you place the attacker into a container with a number of suitable shells in different sizes, shapes and weights. It could well be that your hermit is crabby because his shell is too small. Imagine if you had to wear shoes two sizes small or large for you, and you were stuck in a glass tank and not able to go shopping to find a new one. What else could you do, but fight for the best shells with your tank mate. Remove the source of the aggression, and you will have relative peace and happiness in your crabarium.

Non violent shell theft video:


Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram

Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram

Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram

Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram

Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram

Perlatus shell fight by Melissa Nesgoda @hermitcrabs56304 on Instagram


Deadly Behaviour

If you don’t remove the cause of the stress, you may just find that your overly stressed and crabby companion has ripped another hermit crab out of its shell, or viciously attacked it. If this happens, it is time to re-evaluate your crabitat and seashell collection, but first isolate the aggressive hermit crab and give it somewhere comfortable, equipped and containing an area it can retreat within darkness.

Somewhere Dark and Private


Hermies n Herps rock shelter

Hermies n Herps rock shelter

It is important that you have several spots within your tank for your hermit crabs to retreat within to escape the stress of life in captivity, mostly in partial darkness or protection from other hermit crabs. The most popular forms of tank decorations that meet this need are the Rock Caves, Coconut Huts, Hideout Dens, Terracotta (clean) flower pots, and more. Just like reptiles and many other animals, hermit crabs will be significantly less stressed if they believe they are protected from predators and allowed some cover of darkness.

Some Strategies

Over the past seven years I have had a handful of hermit crabs that were dangerously aggressive to their tank mates, and each time the best remedy was:

Terrarium

Terrarium

1. isolation
2. dark and private, quiet
3. access to more seashells, trade old shells for new shells, boil old shells and offer again
4. re-assess what you are feeding, is there enough protein in the diet?
5. observing the hermit crab on supervised visits to the crabarium


Larger Crabitats = More Space + Less Stress

If you are still having problems then it may help if you separate the crabs into two tanks, or upsize to a larger tank if needed, with a barrier. Most of the time people use a 10 Gallon or 20 Gallon LONG tank, which has very limited surface area. If you buy a larger tank, perhaps get one custom made. It is often cheaper due to the thinner base — no need to have the thickness due to heaviness of water in fish tanks. If you can’t afford this, it might help if you exercise your hermit crabs in a large, clean storage tub or other plastic container for a few hours a day (weather permitting).

Photo Credits: Travis Wease, Vanessa Pike Russell, Stacy Griffith, Michelle Stephens, Melissa Nesgoda

References:

  1. Dardanus megistos by Storm Martin 2012

Hermit Crab Essentials Shopping Checklist

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

hermit crab shopping list

Download this shopping list at the bottom of the article

Hermit crabs are advertised as cheap and easy to maintain, which is not necessarily true. To keep your hermit crabs happy and healthy, you will need to provide a lot more than food and water.

The following is a list of the essential items your pet hermit crabs will need:

Essential items for optimum land hermit crab care

Glass tank with lid:

A glass tank is preferred over plastic tanks, which will scratch and will not be able to hold the humidity within the ventilated lids. Plastic tanks are not large enough to provide the necessary space. A glass lid on a glass tank helps keep the temperature and humidity within hermit crab’s habitat, allowing for a slight gap for airflow. This airflow of fresh air into the humid environment will help to cut down on mould and bacteria, which can cause illness and even death among hermit crabs, often detected by a musty or ammonia odor.

Substrate:

Substrate is what we call the material that lines the bottom of the tank, and creates the ‘beach’ within your crabitat. The most popular substrates being: sanitized beach sand; silica dust-free play sand mixed with coco fiber bedding sold in compressed bricks. You will need enough of a depth to cover your largest Land Hermit Crab to three times it’s height. A minimum of 6 inches is recommended. A jumbo hermit crab needs at least 12 inches of substrate. Deep, moist substrate is essential for successful molting.

Under Tank Heater:

An Under Tank Heater or U.T.H. is a heat pad made especially for small animals and reptiles. An U.T.H. is used to keep the hermit crabs warm by gently warming the objects in the tank. You may need a thermostat to regulate the warmth of the tank if the temperature rises above 82F. Despite the name the heat pad is not placed UNDER the tank for hermit crabs. The heat pad is placed on the back wall of the tank typically.

Overhead light:

Hermit crabs require normal 12 hour cycles of day light and darkness at all times. Hermit crabs also may benefit from a UVB bulb. You can use a UVB or LED bulb to provide day light. You can use a red or blue LED for nighttime viewing but the crabs don’t require light at night.  For inexperienced pet owners we do not recommend using a heat lamp or emitter in place of a heat pad, it is challenging to control the environment with these products.

Dishes:

You will need at least three dishes: a fresh water pool, ocean water pond, and a food dish, non metallic. Pools should be deep enough for your crabs to submerge in.

Food:

Feeding commercial foods is not recommended. The only exceptions are foods that are free of chemicals. Land hermit crabs are omnivorous scavengers so they can eat a wide variety of foods. All foods should be free of chemicals and table salt. Check our list of safe and unsafe foods for hermit crabs and our Going Natural Beginners List for ideas on what you can feed to your hermit crabs.

 

Thermometer:

A thermometer is used to observe the temperature inside the tank. Thermometers come in three main types: the adhesive fish tank style, based on a sticker that changes colour as the temperature at the glass raises; the circular reptile-type thermometers which are based on a coil which contracts or expands; a digital gauge which uses a probe and allows you to measure the temperature at more than one location. If you can find traditional laboratory thermometers those can be used also. A combination wireless gauge is a simple solution.

For more on substrate temperatures visit: Substrate temperature V air temperature

Hygrometer:

A hygrometer is used to observe the humidity inside the tank. Just as with temperature, humidity is very important. If the humidity drops and the air is dry, your land hermit crab will have difficulty in breathing through their modified gills. Humidity should be near 80% relative humidity.

This wireless combo unit is a great option for you tank:

How to Calibrate Your Hygrometer

Water Ager/Conditioner:

Water Ager or Conditioners are very important if the quality of water is not suitable for use with fish in an aquarium and most tap water is not. It is important to removes harmful substances from tap water such as chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals, which can make hermit crabs ill. Chloramines cannot be removed by leaving the water sitting out for 24 hours as previously suggested.

Ocean Salt:

A sea water solution is recommended for the “Ocean Water” pool within your tank. Iodized salt, or table salt, should never be used for the ocean water pond. You should use a salt mix intended for salt water aquariums and mix according to package directions for fish. Fresh water salt is not the same and does not meet the needs of land hermit crabs.

For more on salt visit: The Importance of the Right Kind of Salt
For help on mixing ocean water visit: Mixing Ocean Water

Extras – Optional extras

Moss
Moss is an excellent way to create and maintain humidity in your tank. Your hermit crabs will love a big pile of moss to hide under and munch on. Check out our list of Safe and Unsafe Moss for Hermit Crabs

 

Water Glass, Marbles or Glass Pebbles:

Great to use in deeper water dishes to enable crabs the traction they need to get in and out, plus acts as a decoration.

Plastic Canvas or Gutter Guard

Perfect for creating ramps in and out of your water pools so there is no risk of a hermit crab getting trapped in the pool with no way out.

Plastic Plants and Vines

There are many types of plastic or fabric plants and vines which can improve the look of your crabarium, as well as to add entertainment for the crabs as they climb over, hide under and travel among the greenery. It is a good idea to create some dark spots in the tank, but be careful that they can’t climb out!

Substrate enhancements

The basic substrate mix of play sand and coco fiber is sufficient but you want to create a more realistic environment you can add some additional items to the substrate. If you can mix these in at the time you are setting up your tank that is ideal. Once your crabs are down molting it’s difficult to add more items. You can add coco bark (often sold as Orchid Bark), crushed oyster shells and leaf litter (pesticide free) from known safe trees. You can check out list of safe and unsafe wood.

Shopping Checklist

Mandatory:

  • Glass Tank
  • Solid Lid
  • Substrate
  • Gauges
  • Dishes – 2 deep dishes for water, you can use scallop shells for food
  • Heat pad
  • Food
  • Ocean salt for making ocean water
  • Dechlorinator
  • Shells
  • Furniture (for climbing and hiding)

Optional:

  • UVB 5.0 bulb
  • LED light hood
  • Mister
  • Moss
  • Plastic canvas or gutter guard
  • Water glass, Marbles or Glass pebbles
  • Plastic Plants and Vines
  • Orchid Bark (coco bark) organic