Tag Archive for cleaning

FAQ-Are there other pets that can live with hermit crabs?

In 2009 we introduced isopods to our crabitats.

In 2009 we introduced isopods to our crabitats.

The list of critters that can safely exist with hermit crabs is fairly short.


Isopods – beneficial tank cleaners
Springtails – beneficial tank cleaners
Food/soil mites – harmless


Fiddler Crabs/Halloween Crabs – aggressive diggers and are likely to eat molting hermit crabs.

Fiddler and Halloween crabs are aggressive diggers

Earth worms, beetles, centipedes, crickets, praying mantis, roaches: May stress each other, over populate, disrupt/harm/ kill/ eat molters. Crabs may harm /kill them. May carry/spread disease/parasites, especially with over population.

Centipedes – venomous
Millipedes – poisonous 

Snails – Hermit crabs can kill snails

Frogs/Lizards – could harm each other, different habitat needs

Fish – inappropriate water for a fish

Hermit crab grooming

Coenobita perlatus grooming itself - Photo by Stacy Spangler of Isopod Connection

Coenobita perlatus grooming itself – Photo by Stacy Spangler of Isopod Connection

In hermit crabs, the fourth and particularly the fifth pereopods are reduced, usually remaining within the confines of the gastropod shell and hence are not used for walking. These appendages do however becoming important when the hermit crab attempts to right itself, providing anchorage within the shell. Further, the fifth pereopod has become specialised as a gill cleaning appendage, often resting within the gill chamber (Bauer 1981). On the abdomen only the left pleopods are retained (Poore 2004).[1]

Hermit crabs used specialized setae on the third maixillipedes and fifth pereiopods for most grooming but used the unmodified first, second, and third pereiopods as well. Most brachyuran grooming was performed with modified setae on the the third maxillipedal palps and eipods, with a row of simple setae on each chelipede merus, and with the chelipede fingers.

The third maxillipedes and fifth pereiopods performed the majority of movements, including all of the more complex actions, and were suprisingly dexterous. Coenobita clypeatus devoted most of it’s grooming energy on the eyes and anntennules and did so with the mesial surfaces of the dactylus, propodus, carpus, and distal merus of the third maxillipedal endopods.

The three pairs of walking legs (chelipedes included) groomed themselves by scrubbing against each other in various combinations of two or three appendages. In addition, the fingers of the minor chelipede picked at the surface of the major chelipede. The chelate fifth pereiopods were quite flexible and extended as far forward as the chelipedes. The fifth pereiopods also groomed most of the central and posterior carapace, including the branchial chamber, and much of the abdomen. The fifth peeriopods groomed much of the shell’s interior, particularly the columella and innner and outer lips, as well as the exterior lips.These appendages did not function exclusively as grooming organs, as they also use their laterally situated gripping scales to brace the body against the shell (Johnson 1965, Vuillemin 1970).

After every few grooming acts, the fifth pereiopods moved anteriorly, in unison. to meet the two third maxillipedes, which were extended posteriorly beneath the body. The plumodenticulate and serrate setai of the posterior appendages were then scrubbed by the maxillipedes. The third maxillipedes, in turn, were scrubbed against each other and/or against the second maxillipedes after a grooming bout. The interior mouthparts had a self-cleaning function as well.

Thus, the maxillipedes groomed the anterior portion of the body (especially the sensory structures), the walking legs groomed each other, and the fifth pereiopods scrubbed the most posterior areas. Two movements were, at times, performed simulanteously, e.g., mutual leg scrubs and anntennule grooming. Although grooming may occur at any time, it was most frequentl and intense immediately after a ran and was often performed in standing water if it was available. Water is clearly an important debris-flushing medium. The grooming setae, parrticuarly the serrate setae, may also serve in a sensory capacity (Derby 1982).

Foam bathing, in which bubbles produced by the mouthparts disperse fluid about the body, occurred in partially submerged or emergent crabs. This action has been variously interpreted as a method of thermoregulation, pheromone distribution, water reserve aeration, or cleansing (Altevogt 1968, Wright 1966, Lindberg 1980, Jacoby 1981, Schone & Schone 1963, Brownscombe 1965). [2]

Dardanus megistos by Storm Martin 2012
2. Grooming structure and function in some terrestrial Crustacea

FAQ How do I get the stink out of a shell?

FAQ How do I get the smell out of an empty sea shell so I can reuse it?

FAQ How do I get the smell out of an empty sea shell so I can reuse it?

CrabbyMum asked:

Get the odor out of shells? I know to boil newly purchased shells, but I want to reuse some of the shells that are smelly from a crab dying in it. So far, we’ve lost one of the Littles (PP = Faith) and I think another is not going to make it. I have her in iso and will wait til we are sure before dealing with it’s shell tho. But I tried soaking the ones that Violet and Faith were in because the odor was so strong in them yet and then boiled them. I remember reading how Vinegar can damage them so I didn’t use anything but declorinated water. Didn’t dare try soap or dishwashing liquid either. But once the water got to boiling the odor nearly drove us all out of the house. :sick: What should I have done? Is there a safe way to remove the odor?
I really want to get these shells clean because they are both usable shells. Violet’s was large and not particularly pretty on the outside, but the inside is in good condition except for the odor. Faith’s is painted and boiling removed most of the paint and the clear shellac or what ever the polish was on it. The size of that one is perfect for the other Little one and since I don’t have much in the way of tiny shells (waiting for a new order to get here), I really need it before she comes up from destressing. At least I HOPE that is why she is still in hiding…

are you boiling with SALT water?

I just had a crazy thought that might safely work….ocean water will probably eat away the shine of the shell if there is any. But put some ocean water within the shell and leave it sit for a couple of hours. Shake out the ocean water, and here is the crazy part…put it in a baggy with a twisty tie on it and place it in the freezer overnight. Not sure if you have ever heard of it or tried it, (and it works too….if one has a smelly pair of tenny shoes, (or any shoes) and put them in a garbage bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours it kills the stench of the shoes. Honest…it works with shoes.

Hmmm… Hadn’t thought of using salt in the water. Just declorinated and boiled about 5 minutes. I was tempted to try a weak bleach solution but was afraid of what that might do to the shell and didn’t want to risk not being able to get it all out of the shell. I would think that a crab with a bleached bottom would be crabby indeed. :blush:
I like the baking soda and/or lemon idea as they are natural and are natural deodorizers. Faith’s shell is a shiny spotted one (looks to be a Babylon Spirata type) so I’d like to preserve it if possible. Violet’s shell is a nonpolished Pica and the outside is sort of crusted with a stone like material that I was afraid would come off when it was cleaned – but it didn’t.
Marie. Oh golly – I remember doing that with tennies when I was a girl. It really did kill alot of odors – we soaked them in baking soda water, froze them in the snowbanks in winter and then left them hanging on a line for a day or two. I’ll give it a try with the soda and the freezer.

Ok – I wonder… How about soaking in Hydrogen Peroxide? Just in case the odor is still there because there is something still stuck inside the shell that I can’t get at. Wouldn’t that bubble it out?

I was a bit leery to post this link last night, but if you think something maybe stuck in the shell, (part of Violet or another previous critter) this maybe a route to try. But I would be very hesitant about any chemicals within the hermies shell. (one never knows if the shell will absorb them or not)

From: http://www.seashells.org/cleaning/liveseashells.htm

How to clean live seashells
It might be a good idea to check with local authorities where you will be gathering the sea shells as some areas prohibit the practice of collecting live specimens. If you are lucky enough to gather some live sea shells there are a few methods of cleaning that can be followed. Before starting to clean your live seashells you might also want to read through cleaning dead seashells.

1- Burying-This one is by far the easiest to do. Find an area in your yard where you don’t mind digging a hole and bury the seashells about 18 “( enough so animals will not dig them up). Let them remain buried until insects, larvae, worms, and bacteria remove all the tissue (a least a couple months). The longer the better. Go to step 5

2- Freezing- If number 1 is not an option then this method will work also. Place the seashells in a water tight bag and cover with water then place them in the freezer(just like you would fresh fish). When ready to clean allow the seashells to thaw at room temperature. After they are completely defrosted you should be able to grab hold of the animal inside and gently pull it out. Go to step 5

3- Boiling-Take a pot of water large enough to hold the seashells you are cleaning. Bring the water to a boil and let boil a few minutes(longer for larger or a great number of seashells). Using tongs and being careful not to burn yourself remove 1 shell and grasp with gloves or towel, so you don’t burn yourself, and gently pull out the animal tissue inside. Go to step 5

4-Microwave- This is an easy method if you don’t mind the smell in your microwave (my wife is not to fond of this method). The time you cook your seashells can really vary by microwave so really just try it until you figure out how long to put them in for and then treat them just like you would in step 3. Go to step 5

5-Bleaching-After no tissue remains soak the seashells in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water. There is no set time to let them soak because it various by the type of seashells and quantity of seashells being cleaned. Just make sure to remove them after the periostracum is gone. The periostracum is the flaky leathery covering that covers most live seashells.

6- Fresh water-Remove from bleach and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. If preferred you can rub the seashells with baby oil to give them a luster.

Notes of interest

1- If tissue should break off inside the seashells you are cleaning there are two ways to proceed. Shake the seashell vigorously trying to remove the extra tissue or sit it outside where flies, bugs and ants will crawl inside the seashells and remove any remaining tissue.

2-Operculums- This is the trap door of the shell that helps protect it from intruders. Many serious collectors like to keep this part of the shell to show that it was a live taken seashell


3- Water picks- Sometimes on smaller seashells another method to remove the tissue is to squirt them with a water pick and the high pressure will push the tissue out. This will only work with smaller seashells.

4- Dental picks- A lot of times dental picks and other instruments are used to help in removing barnacles and other growth on seashells. These can be purchased at many seashell stores. Try checking www.seashells.com .


does the smell really need to be gotten rid of though? I mean, for us, yeah, of course it’s WAY more pleasant to have a clean, non smelling shell for our crab to inhabit, but for the crabs, they probably don’t care. I guess that there’s a smell there for a reason – i wonder if there is some little decomposing bits of the previous crab still left. If thats the case, they probably do need to be cleaned. I know i’ve cleaned (just boiled) some shells, other’s I’ve just placed back in the crabitat – the crabs don’t seem to care too much.

Normally if there is a stench to the shell that cannot boil away when sterilizing it there is ‘something’ down within it. So it is best to try to get the odor to go away. As you said though, it probably doesn’t bother the hermies as far as the smell goes…but if there is something down within the shell it could harm their soft abdomen. I have had this happen a couple of times with new shells I have bought online. They appeared fine, no odor, but when I boiled them prior to offering them to the hermies oh my goodness the stink! :sick: After a few boils, an ocean water soak and another boil, not sure what it was but upon shaking the shell small bits of black substance came out of them. On one shell I had to do the ocean water soak a couple times and boil again after each soak before the stink went away and each time something black came out of the shell. :sick:
P.S. Sorry to say to, but this ‘might’ of been one of Violets complications too?

i guess that’s probably a pretty good rule to follow – if it smells, there’s something causing the smell and it’s best to get it out

Perhaps I’m just stupid and didn’t know this, but, I had a shell that needed cleaning. It had some funky green spots inside that I’m thinking had something to do with when my hermit crab, Daes, who was occupying the shell died. I didn’t want to use bleach on the shell to get those spots out and I wasn’t sure boiling water would be helpful. I guess I should’ve tried vinegar first, but nope. I decided I’d try lemon juice. I left it sitting overnight and this morning I dumped out the juice. The shell it self was crusty (strange) and that could’ve been scrubbed off. BUT …the lemon juice ate a hole through the shell.
So, the conclusion? Do not soak your shells in lemon juice to clean them. At least overnight.
And the worse part? It didn’t even get rid of the green spots!
So I thought I’d just post this and save everyone a shell.

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.


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


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


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