Tag Archive for tank

Managing grain mites in the crabitat



Written by Anne Grady

Food mites, more properly called grain mites are something that can be found in any tank at any time. The first thing to understand is that they did not come from the crabs, having hermit crabs does not cause you to have food mites.

Food mites come into your home through the everyday things you buy at the grocery store. Anything that contains grain can have food mites. Oatmeal, grits, breakfast cereal, noodles, flour and rice are a few examples. In general you won’t see them and they are harmless, but that box of corn meal or pancake mix that gets left on the shelf for a few months can be the start of them multiplying and spreading through your home.

The moist, warm place that is your hermit crab tank is also a place they love and if they find it they will move in and set up house. They will begin to multiply rapidly.
You can’t totally prevent any food mites from entering your home, but using your products in a few weeks and throwing out older things will help. Placing items in your freezer will prolong their life and help kill off mites.

If you have food mites in your tank, start by taking out all food and water dishes and cleaning them very well. Remove the top ½ inch of substrate to get those you don’t see. For a week change out food every day and wash the dishes each time. Feed only dry foods during that time. Any mites you see should be removed, of course. Wipe them off the glass with a paper towel and wash décor if you think they are climbing on it.

Many react to food mites by wanting to tear down the tank and start over, but that does not address the second part of the problem, the source.

You also need to attempt to identify the source of the food mites in your home. Check things that have been on the shelf for a while. Things like flour and pancake mix you can dump just a little on the counter, make it as smooth as you can and leave it for half an hour. If you check it and the surface has been “roughed” up, it more than likely has food mites. Things like noodles and rice that won’t work that way you can freeze for 3 or 4 days to kill them if they are in there. Wash all your pantry and cupboard shelves with a good cleaner or just vinegar and water.

There is no way to completely avoid having a food mite in your home, but these methods should help you to have far fewer problems with them.


Setting 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 5 parts play sand and 1 part 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. We suggest using a brackish water to expand the eco earth bricks. This will help reduce the chance of mold. The eco earth should be DRY when mixed into the sand so you don’t end up with water logged substrate at the beginning. You can always add water once the crabitat environment is stable, if needed. In many cases it is not needed. Starting with too wet substrate will lead to flooding and/or bacterial blooms. Mix your substrate dry, close up the tank with the lid and all the decor and allow it to stabilize for 48 hours. If the humidity is too low you can mist the substrate. Then wait another 24 hours and check the humidity again. It is much easier to add moisture to the substrate than it is to dry it out once it is in the tank.

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?

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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Standard tank measurements and weights

Standard Tank Measurement Gallons To Inches

Standard Tank Measurement Gallons To Inches


L x W x H 16″ x 8″ x 10″
Weight (empty) 7 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 62 lbs

L x W x H 20″ x 10″ x 12″
Weight (empty) 11 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 111 lbs

L x W x H 24″ x 8″ x 12″
Weight (empty) 16 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 116 lbs

L x W x H 14″ x 12″ x 18″
Weight (empty) 12 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 110 lbs

L x W x H 24″ x 12″ x 12″
Weight (empty) 21 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 170 lbs

L x W x H 20″ x 10″ x 18″
Weight (empty) 22 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 170 lbs

L x W x H 24″ x 8″ x 16″
Weight (empty) 22 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 170 lbs

L x W x H 24″ x 12″ x 16″
Weight (empty) 25 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 225 lbs

L x W x H 30″ x 12″ x 12″
Weight (empty) 25 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 225 lbs

L x W x H 18″ x 16″ x 20″
Weight (empty) 23 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 220 lbs

L x W x H 24″ x 12″ x 20″
Weight (empty) 32 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 282 lbs

L x W x H 30″ x 12″ x 18″
Weight (empty) 40 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 330 lbs

L x W x H 36″ x 18″ x 12″
Weight (empty) 48 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 348 lbs

L x W x H 23″ x 20″ x 24″
Weight (empty) 43 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 390 lbs

L x W x H 36″ x 18″ x 16″
Weight (empty) 58 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 458 lbs

L x W x H 48″ x 12″ x 16″
Weight (empty) 55 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 455 lbs

L x W x H 36″ x 12″ x 24″
Weight (empty) 66 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 515 lbs

L x W x H 48″ x 12″ x 19″
Weight (empty) 60 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 510 lbs

L x W x H 36″ x 18″ x 19″
Weight (empty) 100 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 600 lbs

L x W x H 48″ x 13″ x 21″
Weight (empty) 78 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 625 lbs

L x W x H 27″ x 24″ x 29″
Weight (empty) 110 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 750 lbs

L x W x H 36″ x 18″ x 24″
Weight (empty) 126 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 772 lbs

L x W x H 48″ x 18″ x 21″
Weight (empty) 140 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 850 lbs

L x W x H 48″ x 18″ x 24″
Weight (empty) 160 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 1050 lbs

L x W x H 72″ x 18″ x 21″
Weight (empty) 206 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 1400 lbs

L x W x H 72″ x 18″ x 28″
Weight (empty) 338 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 1800 lbs

L x W x H 72″ x 24″ x 25″
Weight (empty) 338 lbs
Weight (water-filled) 2100 lbs

Certain tanks of the same size or smaller may weigh more than those of larger sizes or equivalent. That is because some tanks use tempered glass for the bottom.

Ask Milo – What size tank do I need?

Mattiesse ask:

I am the proud owner of 4 beautiful crabs in Brisbane. the problem is, is that I live in NSW so my other parents in queens land need to take care of them. luckily im bringing them down here but I cant bring the tank, so im gonna have to make a new home. im planning on getting more hermit crabs as well so I need to know how to make the best sized and equipt tank for soon to have not 4 but 6-8 hermit crabs. how big should the tank be and what is the best stuff to get for them so they live a long healthy life!!!

How exciting! The amount of space you need depends on the size of crabs and the number of crabs. Long term you should have 10 gallons of space per crab so you would need at least an 80 gallon tank if you are going to keep 8 hermit crabs. That will give them plenty of space in your crabitat as they grow. You will need a lid that can hold in the humidity, a proper heat source, a day time light and about 12 inches deep substrate (mix of play sand with a bit of cocofiber mixed in). Also food dishes, saltwater and fresh water ponds (deep enough to submerge in), gauges, places to hide and things to climb. Oh and yes a bunch of shells!

For more details check out some of our articles:
Hermit Crab Essentials Shopping List
Newbies Guide to Hermit Crabs

Ask Milo – Vertical tanks

Finn asks:

I don’t have a lot of horizontal space in my house–is it okay to have a small-based but extremely tall tank for hermit crabs, basically with the necessary deep sand, but with multiple ‘tiers’ for them to climb and bathe and hang around?

Yes so long as your substrate is sufficiently deep and with a smaller footprint you may want to make the substrate even deeper than recommended so you don’t have a problem with molters crowding each other. The base should allow for both water dishes as well. Making multiple tiers is a great idea. You can also use fish netting and other climbables to make every vertical surface climbable. Stop by the forums for suggestions from our members.

Your friend in a pinch,

Deep cleaning your crabitat

Tank from a rescue - Photo by Heather Barnhart

Tank from a rescue – Photo by Heather Barnhart

The information in this article is somewhat outdated in that we generally no longer do scheduled deep cleanings. If your tank is set up properly it can be self cleaning, self sustaining. However if you have a flood or a bacteria outbreak or some other emergency situation you may find this information beneficial.

written by Michele Stephens

You’ve set up the perfect crabitat, the hermit crabs have been roaming happily about the place for weeks, even months. You change the water and the food but now, the substrate just isn’t looking as fresh as it use to and you suspect that it might be time to do a deep clean (a total tank teardown). Crabs in the wild are in an ever-changing environment that is cleansed by the elements, like rain and running water, sun and wind. Our crabs don’t get that in their tank so it’s up to us to do it for them. Okay, how do we do it? Well first you need to decide if it’s the right time. There are several factors that you need to consider before deep cleaning the tank.

  • How long has it been? Generally you can expect your tank to need a deep clean every 3-5 months depending on how crowded it is in there.
  • What is the status of the colony? Is everyone up? Is there anyone you haven’t seen in awhile? Are there any new additions? You want to try to time it so that you do the deep clean with as many crabs topside as possible.
  • Emergency deep clean. Sometimes you may have to do a deep clean earlier because of emergency circumstances. A major mold outbreak, mites, or ants would be good examples. Those types of deep cleans require some special directions that I will not cover here.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for a deep clean you need to get some supplies. It really depends on your tank and your preferences, but most of the following supplies apply to all deep cleans.

  • Lots of salt water (the same kind you give your hermit crabs to drink).
  • Substrate – if you are replacing yours. Some people prefer to remove, sift, and bake theirs but I prefer to fully replace mine.
  • A cookie sheet
  • Some bowls, the bigger the better
  • Vinegar and a couple of lemons
  • Paper towels
  • garbage or big bin for holding the substrate in as you remove it
  • an ISO or isolation unit

What you can do the night before

  • I usually am short on time the day of the deep clean so I like to get my work down as early as possible. There are some things you can do the night before to save you time on deep clean day.
  • Prepare your ISO tank. Make sure your humidity and temperature are within range. Especially if you are baking the sand/FB and they will be in there for a prolonged period of time. I’ve found that some Fiber Bedding reconstituted with warm water boost temp and humidity quickly.
  • If you are adding any new climbing elements or other toys, caves, pools, you can sterilize them now. With plastic and resin items I wash in a straight vinegar spray followed by peroxide before rinsing. Wood and cocohuts are soaked in salt water and baked at 250 for 20 minutes. Netting is soaked in salt water and microwaved in a glass bowl for 2 minutes.
  • If you are using fiber bedding you can hydrate it the night before so it’s ready, if you like to bake your sand, this is a nice time to do that too. (if you’re adding new)
  • One of my favorite things to do the night before the deep clean is to have the “Grand Stinky Feast”. Pull out your grosses, stinkiest foods and line them up. Shrimp, tuna, silversides, you name it. You don’t have to worry about where it will end up because you’ll be cleaning it all out tomorrow!
  • Then while you watch them eating the eyeballs out of your silversides you can stare at the tank and plan the new layout you’re going to execute perfectly tomorrow.

Tearing the Tank Down

Empty 150 gallon tank

Empty 150 gallon tank

First you will want to remove the climbing items and nets and sterilize them the same way that you did the new items the day before by soaking and baking. As you remove each item check it carefully for mold and for clinging crabbies. Items with mold need to be treated more aggressively than items that are mold-free. When you have your climbing items removed and soaking your tank will be empty except for the substrate. Grab two bowls. One bowl for shells, filled with salt water, one to give your crabs a bath in, filled with fresh water. You should also have an isolation unit or holding tank ready for them to wait in while you clean out the tank. As you remove “empty” shells put them in the salt water. A shell should always be treated as though there is a crab in it. Placing it in the water will force a hiding crab to emerge if it’s very small in the shell. Turn the shells over and over in the water to get the water all the way to the back. You’ll know you’ve gotten it completely full when no more bubbles come out and the shell no longer floats.

Once the “empty shells” are dealt with remove any surface crabs, give them a quick bath and put them in the holding tank. I use a 10 gallon aquarium for mine. You should have a good idea of how many crabs that you have. During deep cleans I like to photograph each of my crabs to chart their progress. The next step is the most delicate and the most nerve wracking of the whole process. During this particular deep clean I had 9 of my 15 crabs down. I was sure that many of them were just buried (maybe someone told them my plan) but I also knew that odds were very good that a few were molting. To prepare for this possibility I set up my 3 gallon ISO.

Grab an empty garbage can and line it with a new garbage bag. Starting with one corner carefully remove the sand one handful at a time. I usually empty each handful into a large plastic cup, sifting each one, then pour it into the garbage bag, sifting again. I cannot stress enough how important it is not to rush this part of the deep clean. Once you have a small area cleaned down to the bottom of the tank slowly widen the circle a little at a time. You want to find the buried crab from the side rather than the top, that way if their cave collapses it is only for a very short time. As you come across your buried crab assess whether or not he is molting. Obviously the presence of an exoskeleton will indicated a freshly molted crab but other signs will let you know where your crab is in the process. A pale crab with sharpened nail tips who withdraws far into the shell may indicate a freshly molted crab. Usually these guys are safe to return to the regular group but you can isolate them for a few days to be sure. If you find a crab in mid-molt carefully remove them and their exo to the isolation tank. Place a cocohut over them or nestle them into some moss. Put the ISO in a low traffic area and keep an eye on them, most crabs do quite well, even when disturbed as long as its not repeatedly.

Once all of your crabs have been collected do a head count. Even with this double sifting one of my crabs made it through the system and I had to get her out of the bag of sand. Your next job is to clean the tank. You can do this a number of ways. High concentration salt water, vinegar, or lemon juice are all good alternatives. My favorite method is to cut a lemon in half and use it to scrub down the glass. To minimize scratches from sand take a damp paper towel and carefully push all sand to the bottom of the tank. Whatever method you use, rinse the tank until the smell is no longer detected. This is when your advanced preparation pays off. Place your substrate in the tank. Remember that substrate should be twice as deep your biggest crab. I use damp substrate and I wet it in the bottom of the tank and mix it together as I add it. I slope mine toward the back of the tank so that it is almost twice as deep in the back as it is in the front.

Finally, the fun part, arrange your tank however you want. Try something new! Your crabs like variety and change, it keeps them active and curious. Once you’ve got your crabitat set up the way you want, add your empty shells and your crabs. Grab your camera. This is the best time to take pictures of your crabs, they are always at their most active when exploring their new territory.

Basic cleaning guide

Creating second levels in your crabitat


Creating a second level in your crabitat- photo credit Anne Grady

Hermit crabs are tree climbers by nature so maximizing all the vertical space in your tank will provide them with a more enriching and stimulating environment. Making use of all four walls of the tank will give your hermit crabs more room to roam and explore. Also if you use overhead lights you can provide your hermit crabs a way to get closer to the lights and warm themselves as needed.

You can get very creative in making second levels with a variety of materials. Just be sure the materials are safe before placing them in your tank. Avoid metal that can rust, paint that can peel and anything that might put off toxic fumes.  Evergreen woods are generally not safe.

Another concern will be growth of mold or mildew on the item after being exposed to the higher humidity needed in your crabitat.

Here are some suggestions for maximizing your vertical space.

  • Long climbing logs-use choya or other hermit crab safe woods
  • Fish or hemp net hung with suction cups-
  • Silk vines hung with suction cups- provides hiding places and climing surfaces
  • Lizard hammocks or turtle docks with suction cups are great corner levels
  • Plastic baskets or shower caddy hung with suction cups
  • Cork bark wall
  • Coco fiber wall
  • Plexi glass with supports under it
  • If you are up for a project you can take a smaller tank and create a topper for your main crabitat!

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Clever use of Lincoln Logs
Using choya logs for climbing

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

Originally posted on AllThingsCrabby.com this is an updated version

Tank from a rescue - Photo by Heather Barnhart

Tank from a rescue – Photo by Heather Barnhart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep cleaning guide

A guide for setting up a large crabitat on a budget

Setting up a proper crabitat can be expensive even with a 10 gallon tank and the bigger the tank the bigger the price tag for stocking it. With some planning and creativity you can upgrade to a large crabitat without going broke. This article is about ways to save money when setting up as well as some common mistakes to avoid.

The first thing I can’t stress to people enough is that there are places you can shop that are far cheaper than a pet store!!

Empty 150 gallon tank

Empty 150 gallon tank

A new 150 gallon tank will cost you hundreds of dollars. I bought my 150 gallon tank out of the newspaper for $60.00.

Places to buy used or inexpensive new items:

  • Yard sales
  • Flea Markets
  • eBay
  • Freecycle or ReUseIt (yahoo groups)
  • Thriftstores (Goodwill)
  • Dollar stores
  • Craigslist
  • LetGo! App

There are places where you absolutely should not cut corners.

Gauges – A high quality, accurate hygrometer will run you about $25.00 on most cigar websites. Cheaper gauges will stop working and have to be replaced frequently. In the long run it’s less expensive to buy a quality hygrometer. There are some wireless weather station gauges that are also great for your crabitat. Just don’t place them directly on the substrate. If you have more than one tank you can buy a base station that connections to units you place in the tanks wirelessly.

Lid – use glass or plexiglass. Plexiglass or Lexan is available at home improvement stores. It’s inexpensive and they will cut it to size for you, for free. So measure your tank opening before you go. You can also order pre cut pieces online.

Heat source – UTH or lights (Heating and Lighting Article)

Light fixture- you need day and night bulbs and combo hoods are perfect for this. You can get a bi-light or even a tri-light hood. You can get hoods that take a variety of bulb styles. Invest in a couple timers to control the lights and they become hassle free. If you use a light hood with higher wattage bulbs you won’t been another heating source.

Substrate is the least expensive. Playsand is the perfect substrate and is less than $5 for 25lbs. Eco earth or coir fiber can be purchased online in bales at very reasonable prices if you choose to mix in a small amount. A simple layer of Growstone or Hydroballs can be used to make a natural drainage layer if you have concerns about flooding. This should not happen if you do not start with overly wet substrate and don’t allow your humidity to stay above 90%. In 14 years of keeping hermit crabs I’ve never had a tank flood.

Inexpensive options

Paint tray pool

Paint tray pool

Bowls or pools don’t have to be expensive reptile dishes. You can use nearly any sort of glass or ceramic people dish that is the right shape and size. You can use empty scallop shells as food dishes or the clay trays for flower pots. A soap dish from the dollar store or clearance aisle works as a food dish. For pools you can use plastic paint trays or Tupperware dishes. To make them safe for all size crabs you can use aquarium sealant and glue river rocks or other items to the inner walls. You can also use plastic gutter guard to make a ramp or the plastic grids sold for doing craft projects.

Hermit crabs climbing

Hermit crabs climbing

Plastic canvas

Plastic canvas

You can get really creative with your decorations. If you pick up stones or driftwood be sure to check for insects and bake or boil first to sterilize. Buy your vines and plants at a craft store. Flowerpots, bowls and cups all make good ‘caves’. PVC pipe has been deemed unsafe and I can no longer recommend its use. You can convert Tupperware bowls into Humid Hides very easily. Natural fiber baskets provide a place to hide and something to climb on but check them regularly for mildew if your substrate is very damp. Use things like zip ties and suction cups to anchor decorations.

A glass fish bowl turned on it's side.

A glass fish bowl turned on it’s side makes a really cool humid hide when you add some moss.

Plexiglass and Suction Cups Second Level

Plexiglass and Suction Cups Second Level

Second or third levels are a great way to maximize the use of the space in your larger tank. There are so many different ideas out there for creating usable space out of thin air! A couple items to consider: plexi glass, plastic gutter guard, netting (fish or hemp) plastic canvas grids (like for latchhook rugs), plastic coated mesh wire and wooden dowels.

Skip the expensive backgrounds sold at the petstores and instead use a very clever idea submitted by one hermit crab owner: shower curtains! Vinyl shower curtains come in an array of designs and can be found dirt cheap at close out stores or dollar stores. Simply cut it to fit and affix to the outside of your tank. Soaking or washing first to remove the odor is recommended. If you are talented enough, consider painting a mural on the exterior of your tank. Use non toxic paints!

Things to ask yourself:

  • Will some items be too hard to clean around?
  •  Should items be permanently affixed?
  •  How heavy is the sand? How far do I have to carry it?
  •  Can I easily reach the food and water dishes?
  •  How much does substrate cost and how much will I need?


  • Take into consideration how your design will impact your crabitat cleaning.
  • Clean and sanitize anything you put in your tank.
  • Shop online first. Light bulbs and fixtures are traditionally less expensive online.
  • But a non adhesive heat pad. The adhesive goes bad really fast and the mats warp. Non adhesive can be mounted with tape and easily insulated.


  • Keep metal away from food and water dishes.
  • Watch for rust-remove anything that shows signs of rusting.
  • Check wire coating to make sure the crabs aren’t eating it –remove if they are.
  • Avoid putting any sort of paint in the tank. It peels and the crabs will eat it.
  • Avoid items that will easily mold or mildew.
  • Avoid toxic woods
  • Don’t make the second level too high or your crabs will escape.
  •  Don’t think for a second that your crabs will respect how feng shui their crabitat is and NOT completely destroy it.

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 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.


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.


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.



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


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 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


  • 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)


  • 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