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Technique for Adjusting PPS Crabs – Method

The Post Purchase Stress death cycle created by Mary Milhorn

The Post Purchase Stress death cycle created by Mary Milhorn

This is a (hopefully) more simplified revision of the original.  I have also created a printable calendar for tracking.


The objective of this method is to reduce the impact of physical stress by keeping the hermit crab above ground eating well and exposed to light. Both are vital to the hermit crab’s ability to recover. This is a thirty day method. While this can be accomplished in three weeks, there is no reason to rush. If you are adding new hermit crabs to your existing colony it is important that you do not introduce sick or contagious animals to your healthy colony. Thirty days of observation and quarantine will prevent total colony loss.

Why should I do this?

Do you want your hermit crab to live? With proper care they can live at least 40 years in captivity. Most die within a year. Using this adjustment method to help the crab repair the damage done will improve it’s chances of long term survival.


When planning your trip to purchase your new pets, take note of the temperature and humidity in the store crabitat. If there are no gauges or conditions are unknown we will use a standard starting point.

If these will be your first hermit crabs you can perform this method in the large tank that will be their permanent home.

Each week you will improve the conditions in the isolation crabitat so long as the crab is eating and active.

Normal food may seem foreign after a long time on pellets. Appetite can be stimulated at the beginning by offering greensand and worm castings. Both are highly nutritious and well liked. Popcorn, peanut butter, honey are less nutritious but can be fed as well.

After the first 48 hours there should be some sign of improvement but if not, do not give up.


  • Glass tank with a lid (small tanks are harder to regulate but a 10 gallon is fine)
  • Heat pad
  • Fake plants, logs to climb
  • Thin layer of dry sand
  • Moss
  • EE or shredded coconut husk
  • Fresh and Salt water pools (Treated with Prime)
  • Full spectrum light or at least UVB (12 hours on/off)
  • Digital gauges- must be calibrated
  • Spare shells
  • 2 liter bottle cut in half in case of a surface molt

Do not make the sand deep enough to encourage digging, this can trigger a surface molt.

Do not provide cocohuts or hides, we need the crabs active and where we can see them.

Feeding routine:

Stick to small portions

Change food every day, never leave the day before’s food in the tank with the new food

Do not feed the same food twice in a seven day period

Food that is untouched after 8 hours should be removed and replaced with something new

What to feed:

These are the food groups, and examples of what foods are found within the grouping. Please note that there is overlap in what group these foods represent.

Protein and lipids: this is for energy to grow, forage, reduce competition or minimize cannibalism which more frequently occurs in captivity.

Foods in this class are: meats, fish like silver sides, gold fish, clams, oyster; bone marrow (all meats including poultry), nut meats (many also fall in the omega fats group) salmon skin(including fat). Some vegetation like avocado meat (only) and bamboo stalks. (which also provide Cellulose, high energy)

Carotenoids, Zeaxanthin and cellulose: these foods are necessary to assist the crabs metabolic functions of calcium absorption, processing of minerals, and coloring an individual crab has (darkens pigments). It also improves the crab’s immune system and nervous system functionality.

Foods in this class are: tannin rich leaves, bark, cambium (inner branch skins) of plants like oak, maple, mangrove root, some perennial leaves; fresh fruits and vegetables that are orange, yellow, red or dark green (i.e. squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, natural corn, mango, blue berries, etc); many flower petals (dry), spinach, foliage, bean sprouts, seaweed: spirulina in particular, reptile moss (from pet store) etc.

Carbohydrates: these foods are quick energy foods that will help your crab by immediately fueling them but saving their “stored” reserves necessary for metabolic function.

Foods in this group include: grapes, apple, honey, wheat germ, oatmeal, dried fruit (raisins mostly due to Copper sulfate use in others), banana, pineapple, citrus pulp (inner membrane of skin considered cellulose).

Omega fats: this food group is very important and is totally missed in commercial food formulations unless they are frozen foods! These are necessary for nervous system, exo-skeletal health and processing of carotenoids and other minerals. If there are deficiencies in this group it is typically exhibited by molt death (where you are uncertain), a mildewy appearance to the exoskeleton (they look dehydrated), and they are not active!

Foods in this group overlap protein groups. They include: Coconut, walnut, whole fish (like a dead gold fish), fish skin, animal fat, olive oil, some grass seeds, seeds, peanut butter, etc. There are many of these suitable, some found in fresh flower petals like roses, sunflower, crab apple blossom, etc. Take a look at the edible plants list LINK

Calcium: it is considered superior to provide more than one natural form of calcium! Calcium of course is used mainly for growth of the exoskeleton. Calcium without the support of light and carotenoids will not be properly absorbed by the crab! The acceptable form for supplementation outside of natural forms is Calcium carbonate powder ONLY!

Foods containing calcium, will also provide some proteins as well; here are the main foods ideally used: freeze dried brine shrimp, meal worms, blood worms, krill (fresh, frozen or freeze dried), shrimp tails, sand dollars, powdered oyster shell, cuttlebone, broccoli heads, milk.

How often do I feed from each group?

Protein – everyday

Fruits/Vegetables – 6 out of 7 days

Calcium – 4 out of 7 days

Fats – 3 out of 7 days

Other – 2 out of 7 days

Original method created by Sue Latell in 2008 in collaboration with a DVM and marine biologist.

Preventing death in new hermit crabs

Preventing death in new hermit crabs

Preventing death in new hermit crabs

One of the biggest concerns when buying hermit crabs is early death due to PPS or Post Purchase Stress. The term PPS has been used commonly for many, many years in the hermit crab community. PPS is blamed for unexplained deaths of new crabs. The physical stress occurs mostly PRIOR to your purchase and how many of your new crabs die unexpectedly relies on how much stress was inflicted prior to purchase. The act of harvesting and shipping hermit crabs is very stressful as the crabs are denied humidity, food, water and warmth for long periods prior to shipping and during shipping. They mostly arrive at pet stores dry, hungry, dehydrated and sometimes cold. The last crabs harvested before shipping will be less stressed and more likely to survive. Naturally the opposite holds true for the first crabs to be harvested. Often it takes a period of time for the stress and dehydration to catch up with them but it does and the hermit crab dies. Sometimes it’s a week, or a month but it could take longer. Gill damage from dry air (lack of humidity) can be a slow painful death for a hermit crab.

There are some ways to give your new pet hermit crab the best possible chance at survival. When you purchase new crabs, take note of the store conditions. If there are no gauges, do your best to guess the humidity. When you bring home a new hermit crab, place it in an isolation tank with the same humidity as the store. Use a tiny amount of moss if needed to create the proper humidity. The temperature should be at 72F and remain there. Place a very small amount of sand in the tank, not enough for the crabs to burrow in. Leave the crabs alone except to change food and water. This will allow the crab to relax, destress and get enough to eat and drink. It is very important that your crabs eat well during this time. Food fuels metabolism and this is how they will adjust to the tank settings as you change them. Once you have a consist starting humidity at or near that of the store, hold it there for four days. In four days, add some more moss to bring the humidity up 5%. Continue to increase in this manner until your ISO tank is the same humidity as your main tank. Between the 3rd and 4th week, add more sand so that the crabs can dig down if they want.

If you buy more than one crab, it is okay to place them in the same isolation tank together.

It’s a good idea to closely inspect the hermit crabs before placing them in your main tank. Look for signs of mites or black spots on the exoskeleton. If the hermit crabs have mites (parasites) or black spots on the body, you should keep them quarantined until the mites are gone or they have molted and the black spots are gone. Shell disease is contagious.

If you adopt or purchase hermit crabs from a filthy environment where bugs, flies, maggots are present you should prepare a SHALLOW tray of dechlorinated water and place the crabs right side up and let them walk around. The water should only be deep enough to touch the lower lip of the shell…this will allow some water to swish in the shell and hopefully wash out any parasites or fly larvae. This is really a worst case scenario that we don’t often see but it does happen. If you are rescuing hermit crabs from these conditions be prepared to keep them isolated until you are 100% sure they are free of parasitic mites or other bugs. You do not want to introduce these things into your established tank and hermit crab colony.

Bathing your hermit crabs as a matter of routine is strongly discouraged.

Sue Latell of www.coenobita.org has put together two articles on reducing the impact of PPS in newly purchased crabs. Members of The Crab Street Journal helped conduct the trials on this method and did report a definite change in the death rate of newly purchased crabs. The two articles are linked to each other and also explain the importance of having lights for your crabitat. These are MUST READ articles because they cover a lot of important information.

Refining the Purpose of ISOLATION

PPS (Post Purchase Stress): Minimizing the Impact

This information is based on the exclusive research of Susan Latell, All Rights Reserved.

More articles about PPS:
PPS Minimizing the Impact
Technique for Adjusting PPS Crabs
Comparative Example for PPS Practices
Preventing Death in New Hermit Crabs