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Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

A guide for setting up a large crabitat on a budget

October 16, 2012 in General

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 50 gallon tank will cost you hundreds of dollars new.

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

There are places where you absolutely should not cut corners.

Digital Cigar Hygrometer

Digital Cigar Hygrometer

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.




Plexiglass or Lexan Lid

Plexiglass or Lexan Lid

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.



Tri Light Hood

Tri Light Hood

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.




Under Tank Heater

Under Tank Heater

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

Substrate can be an ongoing expense. Playsand or ecoearth is the least expensive. Eco earth or coir fiber can be purchased online in bales at very reasonable prices. If you have invested in a more expensive substrate such as aragonite and want to continue to make use of it, you can divide your tank into different substrate areas. You can use plexiglass,legos, natural stones, driftwood or grapevine to make an inexpensive divider.



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 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.



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? Where will I dispose of it?
  •  Can I easily reach the food and water dishes?
  •  How much does substrate cost and how much will I need? How often will I replace it?
  •  How will I clean a reusable substrate?


  • 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.
  • Before you invest in one or more large heat pads (UTH) consider that if one or both go bad, you will need to empty your entire tank in order to replace it. Overhead bulbs are far easier to replace and maintain.


  • 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.
  • 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.
Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

FAQ Cost Cutting Tips

October 16, 2012 in FAQ

Written by Travis Wease
Tips for saving money and having a safe crabitat:

First off there are certain things that you can’t really skimp on when it comes to setting up a safe and fun crabitat. Things like a heat source whether it be lights or a UTH, substrate has a cost, although some are cheaper, humidity gauges, temperature gauges, and the tank itself has a cost, but here are some tips to save money and use items that you may already have laying around the house.

1.Look on Craigslist or Freecycle for tanks. Sometimes you can find them at Goodwill or other re-use stores very cheap. Most Wal-Marts sell a 10 gallon tank for 10 dollars, and that is the smallest I would recommend to house Hermit Crabs in.

2.Hidey huts can be made out of a lot of things. You can use a coffee mug turned on its side, a small plastic cup, and what I like to use are small Terra Cotta pots used for plants. Another thought is to buy a coconut from the grocery store and break it in half. Once you have all the milk, and meat out of the coconut you can cut a hole in the half and have a homemade cocohut for your crabs as well as some food for them. Another thing you can make a hidey out of are Lego’s.

3.Decorations are the same way you can use a lot of things to decorate your tank. Silk plants can be used, if you happen to have an aquarium a lot of the decorations for an aquarium can be used in the tank as well. Dollar stores, or Wal-mart, or crafts stores often have hanging vines that can be used with suction cups to hang in the tank as well. Cholla wood can be found in stores as can be used for climbing and the crabs love it and are known to snack on it. Another thing I use is cuttlebone. I stick the whole piece in my tank and the crab can climb on it and it is great calcium for post molters, lava stones are popular as well.

4. Shells can be found at dollar stores, craft stores, Wal-mart, and many online stores a lot of time quite a bit cheaper than you will ever find in a pet store.

5.Food/Diet is one area that you definitely don’t want to neglect but it is also an area you can save money as well. A lot of the foods we eat can be given to the crab as long as no pesticides or preservatives or seasonings of any type have been used. Also no table salt should be used or offered. Many of the fruits and veggies though are great for the crabs and some of their favorites. There are many online stores that sell great food and products and are very reasonably priced and ran by some very good crabbers.

6.Dishes can be made out of just about anything. You can use large clam shells for food or even things like tops of jars like plastic peanut bar jars, small Tupperware bowls, and lids from Tupperware bowls as well.

These are just some areas meant to help save money but there are many others as well. If you know that you or your neighbors do not use pesticides on your yard you can get things from there as well. Oak and maple leaves are very popular with crabs, dandelions are another favorite. Barks from oak and maple trees are great as well. Roly poly bugs can be put in the tank to help keep the substrate clean and don’t bother the crabs. Dollar stores have various containers and baskets that can be used in crabitats for hidey huts and dishes, containers for substrate.

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