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by Stacy

Deep cleaning your crabitat

February 22, 2015 in Crabitat, FAQ, General

I do not know the original author of this article.

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

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 class. 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

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by Stacy

Creating second levels in your crabitat

February 16, 2015 in Crabitat

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. 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. 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
Turtle dock in the corner

Turtle dock in the corner

Another turtle dock and fish net

Another turtle dock and fish net

We need more choya!

We need more choya!

Turtle dock and suspended vine with a long branch

Turtle dock and suspended vine with a long branch

Plexiglass level sitting on gladware humid hides

Plexiglass level sitting on gladware humid hides

Hermit crabs basking under the heat lamp

Hermit crabs basking under the heat lamp

Clever use of Lincoln Logs
Using choya logs for climbing

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by Stacy

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

February 22, 2014 in Crabitat

Originally posted on AllThingsCrabby.com

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 (and I do mean MILD people, very very mild) 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.

Sand should be checked every day for stray bits of food that will mold. Once per month, remove the sand and place 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 choose to buy new sand each time, it should still be baked to ensure it’s sterile.

Forest bedding substrates should be thrown out and replaced as often as needed. Be diligent about picking out stray bits of food each day to prevent mold.

Empty shells and other heat resistant items can be boiled monthly.

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.

Deep cleaning guide

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by Stacy

Guide to bugs you might find in your crabitat

February 21, 2013 in General

written by Jedediah


Insects have six legs and three body parts that are usually clearly visible, the head, the thorax (the breast) and the abdomen. Most of them have wings, although those might not be clearly visible, some insects can hide them in a sort of pouch on their back (like earwigs) and some insects have no wings at all. The vast majority of insects that you might find in your crabitat are beneficial, harmless or a nuisance at most. Usually you can get rid of them by doing a deep clean.

Common insects are:

Booklice aka Paperlice



Very often described as walking grains of sand, booklice are tiny and usually white to grey in colour. They are often hard to get rid of, probably because they can live in the rest of the house, too and quickly return to the crabitat where they find ideal conditions. They are harmless and even beneficial because they feed on mold and fungi.
Interesting fact: there are no male booklice, the females “clone” themselves, they are all more or less genetically identical.








Springtails are white, brown, green red, yellow or grey and very small, no bigger than 1/8 inch. They can hurl themselves in the air with a forklike tail they hold under their body, but they have no wings. Springtails are often found in flower pots and they need a humid atmosphere to survive, so the crabitat is ideal for them. They are beneficial because they will feed on crab poop, leftover food and other decaying material, they are excellent cleaners.
Interesting fact: Springtails are among the oldest insect species, they have been around for at least 400 million years.



Fruit flies or Drosophila

Drosophila- Fruit fly

Drosophila- Fruit fly

You probably know them, these are the flies that turn up whenever a piece of fruit is left for too long. The most common species is Drosophila melanogaster, around 2 mm in size, usually red eyes and a brownish colour (other species are a bit bigger or smaller, up to 4 mm). They feed on decaying fruit and breed rapidly (two weeks between generations) and can become a nuisance in the crabitat, although they are not harmful. To get rid of them, place a glass with wine, beer or fruit juice mixed with vinegar and a drop of dish liquid next to the crabitat, the flies will drown in the liquid. It’s best to stop feeding fruit for that time so that the larvae won’t find any food.
Interesting fact: Fruit flies mutate easily and you can breed really weird flies in a short time (no wings, small wings, white eyes, no eyes ect.)


Humpbacked Flies or Phorid Flies



They look very much like fruit flies, but if you take a closer look, you can see a hump. Apart from that, they can be recognized by the way they run around: very fast, always stopping after a short distance and very reluctant to fly. Humpbacked flies are the only insects that have been found in crabitats that can be harmfull to the crabs, at least I haven’t heard of any other. The adults and larvae can feed on almost anything including flesh, so if a crab has an open wound the larvae are able to get into the wound and eat the crab from the inside out. Some species are able to lay their eggs into healthy animals, but those are parasites of a certain species and as far as I know, no phorid fly preys on land hermit crabs specifically. To get rid of them, do a deep clean, bake or boil everything, bathe the crabs and I recommend keeping the crabs in an ISO tank that’s easy to clean for six weeks to make sure there are no eggs or larvae left. Clean the ISO every week (change substrate and hiding places, boil or bake the hiding places you want to use again) and make sure the food doesn’t spoil.

Interesting fact: Phorid flies have been known to survive by eating shoe polish – you somehow have to admire a bug that’s so adaptive



Fungus gnats

Fungus gnat

Fungus gnat

Fungus gnats are small (2,5 mm), black flies. Both the adults and the larvae feed on decaying and living plant matter, the adults eat pollen, too, and they are harmless to the crabs, but can become a pest when they multiply too much. To get rid of them, you can use yellow sticky traps. Those are sticky on both sides and can be attached to the lid of the crabitat where the crabs cannot reach them.


Silverfish and Firebrats

Silverfish Firebrat

Silverfish Firebrat

Those are rarely found in crabitats, but I will include them anyway. Silverfish are often found in bathrooms, firebrats need a high temperature to breed and are sometimes found in bakeries and other warm places. Both look similar, 1/3 to ¾ inches long and carrot shaped without wings. Silverfish are silver in colour and really look a bit like fish. Firebrats are hairy and often have dark grey stripes on their body. Both feed on almost anything at all, including cereals, fish food ect. They are harmless and won’t breed in the crabitat because it’s too humid and too cool for the firebrats and probably too hot for the silverfish, so they will disappear eventually. They mostly get into crabitats by chance.
Interesting fact: Both can survive and even thrive on a steady diet of wallpaper, tissue paper or similar things. Like springtails, they have been around for a very long time.




There are more insects that can be found in your crabitat, especially small flies and other tiny insects living in the soil, but those are the species that people have found very often and that were positively identified. If you find something else, try to take a picture of make a drawing so that the bug can be identified.


Arachnids are such bugs as spiders, scorpions, mites and other bugs related to spiders. They have two body parts, the thorax and the abdomen, no wings or antenna and eight legs.


There are thousands of species of mites and it’s extremely hard to identify them. They come in all colours (white, grey, black, brown, bright red ect.) and many sizes. Only comparatively few species are harmful for the crabs. The rule of thumb is: if you find them in the food dish or the rest of the crabitat, they are probably harmless. If you find them on the crab, especially on the joints, the abdomen or the mouthparts, they are predatory and harmfull. A deep clean will get rid of the harmless mites, for the predatory ones you will need to bathe the crabs in salt water or you might even need to pick off the mites because they have claws on their legs to hold onto their prey.

Interesting fact: Some mites feed on pollen and hitch rides with hummingbirds, racing up the beak and then down again into a new flower. Others hitch rides with flying insects to reach new plants and some not only hitch a ride, but also suck the haemolymph (insect blood) on the insect that’s carrying them. Many species change their dietary habits depending on their age.

Click on the links at the bottom to see pictures of mites hitching rides with insects:


Other mite pictures:






Bookscorpion or Pseudoscorpions



A rare guest in crabitats that sometimes comes with moss or leaf litter is the bookscorpion. They look like tiny (1-4 mm) scorpions, but have no tail and are absolutely harmless unless you are a springtail or a fruit fly.

Interesting fact: One species, Chelifer cancroides, does live in books and this species gave the whole order its name. They dance with each other during mating and they build a small nest from grains of sand, moss and silk. The females produce a nourishing substance for their babies, so in a sense they nurse their babies.


Other bugs you might find




Woodlice, also called pillbugs, sowbugs or rolypolys, are the only crustaceans that live permanently on land without any contact to water. They need a humid atmosphere to breathe, that’s why they are sometimes found in crabitats. Woodlice are harmless and feed on decaying plant matter. They are often used as tank cleaners with reptiles, phasmids and other animals.

http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/7649/wlice.htm (DEAD LINK)


Millipedes and Centipedes





Both belong to the Subphylum Myrapodia (this means “numerous feet”) of the Phyllum Arthropoda (“joint-legged”), which insects, arachnids and crustaceans belong to, too. Millipedes (“with a thousand feet”) have two legs on either side per body segment, centipedes (“with a hundred feet”) only one. They sometimes turn up in crabitats and come from moss, leaf litter or with live plants. Millipedes are vegetarians that feed on decaying plant matter, centipedes are predators. The centipedes you might find in your crabitat are very small and are no danger to the crabs.

Interesting fact: Millipede males of some species can breed only after every second molt.



Bugs that help getting rid of other bugs

You can purchase predatory mites or insects that will feed on some bugs in your crabitat and then die when they find no more prey. This is a efficient and absolutely crab-safe method to get rid of bugs, without stressing the crabs by doing deep cleans ect.

Here’s one website that offers such bugs:


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by Stacy

Air Temperature versus Substrate Temperature

February 21, 2013 in General

written by Marie Davis

It can be confusing as to what the temperature of ones Crabitat actually is sometimes.

One buys a thermometer to place on the inside of their Crabitat to monitor the air temperature. The hermit crabs original home is in the tropics, so air temperature of ones Crabitat is important so not to cause them any undo stress. The thermometer is placed at substrate level, along with the humidity gauge, to monitor the temperature and humidity within the tank where the hermit crabs spend the majority of their time.

Even doing this, there are times when some crabber’s experience complications with their hermit crabs. For some unknown reason, they begin to have hermit crabs going shell less within their Crabitat. When asked what the substrate temperature is, they are bewildered. Most have never heard of monitoring the substrate temperature, or even thought to feel the substrate to see just how warm it is. Within the first year of my crabbing, I had discovered during the first cool months that even though the thermometer on the wall of my tank may have read 72 degree’s Fahrenheit, there were times, which the substrate temperature within my Crabitat was actually much higher than what the wall thermometer read. I had found that the substrate temperature was in reality 80 to 80+ degrees Fahrenheit (26.67-26.67+ Celsius) when I took the temperature where my UTH, (under tank heater), was located. I began to take the substrate temperature as frequently as I read the inside wall thermometer for this reason. Frequently, I had found there to be a discrepancy between the two temperature readings. The wall thermometer reading and the actual substrate temperature would vary as much as 5-10 degrees, and sometimes more. During the colder months, the thermometer on the tank wall usually read much lower than what the substrate temperature was.

During the warmer months, the substrate temperature was usually cooler than what the wall thermometer reading was. It seemed as I was continuously taking the temperature of my substrate and needing to plug or unplug the UTH on our tanks according to what the reading of the thermometer was. For this reason, I invested in Electronic Temperature Controllers that had a probe that went into the substrate of my Crabitat. I set the temperature of the Controller to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.56 Celsius) to maintain a steady stable temperature within my Crabitat. I would like to take this opportunity to suggest to every crabber that along with monitoring the temperature of the air of their Crabitat, to please also monitor the temperature of their substrate, especially where their UTH or other warming source is located. Substrate temperature is just as relevant as the air temperature within ones Crabitat, especially if one has a hermit crab burrow into it, which they have been known to do.

A hermit crabs natural home is in the tropics. For this reason, they should have a stable air temperature in the Crabitat of 74-78 F (22-25 C) degrees. When a hermit crab is subjected to a temperature of 70 degrees F, (21 C) they will begin to go into a hibernation type state. If it is not corrected, this is stressful to the hermit crab, and can eventually be lethal to them. Anything 82 degree’s F (28 C), or higher, there is a high chance of them over heating, which can also be lethal to them. Hermit crabs are cold blooded creatures. For this reason, with the warm side of the Crabitat substrate being 78-80 F (25.56-26.67 C) there should always be a cooler side as well (72-73 F/22.22-22.78 C) for the hermit crab to choose where they are most comfortable at to regulate their body temperature.

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by Stacy

On Keeping Hermit Crabs Warm

February 21, 2013 in General

written by Jenn Borgeson, Vanessa Pike-Russell, Crab Lover Don

Hints on keeping your hermit crabs warm by Hermies Yahoo!Groups Members

Jenn on Insulation:

Make sure your crab tank is in a naturally warm part of the house but NOT near a heater or heating vent … I keep my small 3 gallon plastic molting tank on the kitchen counter. Kitchens are naturally one of the warmer more humid places in your house. Also check out your bathroom or laundry room, but watch the temp … you don’t want them to get TOO warm.

You can also make a Crab-gloo very cheaply using foam board from your local craft or drug/groocery store. The board usually runs no more than $2 per poster board sized piece. Two pieces should do the trick depending on the size of your crab tank. To do this measure the height, the front (width) and the side (depth) … Add 1″ to each of these measure ments. Lets say your tank is 12″ high, 14″ wide and 8″ deep … so you will cut out 3 pieces that measure 13″ by 15″ (your crab-gloo back/top/front) and two pieces that measure 13″ by 9″(the sides) … With me so far? Good!

Now break out the duct tape … you will need to tape the sides on at 90 degree angles to the back. Now tape the top on to just one sides … this will work like a hinge and your can open and shut it to get into your tank. Place your 3 sided box over your hermie tank. The front piece is kind of optional … you can leave it loose and just set it in place at night to help keep your hermies toasty … or a good idea would be to tape it on just one side ( like the top to create a door … open it during the day, close it at night!
Your parents should not complain about this at all because you have just followed a plan and done geometry in the process! If you want to toss in some art … how about drawing and coloring background scenes on your foam board for your hermie friends to enjoy?! My kids to this on a regular basis with construction paper … sometimes they are at the beach, the mountains, school … it’s really up to YOU!

Keeping them Warm, by CLD:


The IDEAL temperature for your hermit crabs is around seventy-four degrees F. They are most content at this temperature, this is the night time temperature in their native land. Remember that this is the temp that you are trying to achieve at the substrate level….after all, isn’t this the level that they spend most of their time!!?? Keeping the tank between that 70 to 80 degree temp is what you are aiming for… Be sure to keep your thermometer at substrate level, since that is where they spend all their time and heat rises so true temperature would be difficult to obtain from a thermometer placed in the upper tank region.

If the temperature gets too low(50-60 degrees F), dormancy and hibernation will occur. A long hibernation may permanently affect the hermit crab. A long hibernation may permanently affect the hermit crab. They don’t actually die unless the temp gets REALLY low (below 50 degrees F) However, when a crab gets too hot(a brown liquid discharge is an ‘overheat’ indicator), it causes irreversible damage and a usually quite painful death. Getting over 80 degrees is playing with fire. They may also hang out of it’s shell, be inactive, spend extra time in the water dish, or dig a lot to find cooler temperatures. Be sure to keep the temperature from fluctuating as this may cause stress.


The tank should also be kept between 50-60% exact humidity level (76-82% relative humidity, sometimes a gauge will measure in relative but most of the time they measure exact). If the air is too moist your crabs will have a hard time breathing. Bacteria, molds, and other harmful stuff will grow in the tank as well causing sickness and stress. A good way of knowing this if you don’t have a humidity gauge is if there is condensation on the sides. If the air is too dry their gills will dry out and they will slowly suffocate. Their gills need to be moist for them to breathe properly, this one reason why lightly misting them once a day is encouraged. Be sure to keep the humidity from fluctuating as well because this may cause stress.


There are two different types of heating equipment you can use…

A Moonglow Bulb- A 15 watt or less bulb is the only thing FMR (The Worlds Most Knowledgeable & Caring Supplier of Hermit Crabs)recommends(you may verify this via FMR at 1-800-535-2722 M-F 5-9 Eastern time….ask for Kathy), anything more will dry your crab and your tank out and could easily “bake” your crabs. Some strong bulbs have also been known to cause sunburn on hermit crabs. An incandescent nocturnal black light bulb coated with rare earth element to stimulate the natural glow of the moon is preferred. They can see a little better at night and you can see them a little better. They tend to like the extra atmosphere might be a little more active; they will even often bask in the glow at night. Turning the moonglow bulb on and off CAN create temperature changes that might cause stress to your crabs so keep it on all the time. Moonglow bulbs are not recommended as a primary source of heating and are best used in conjuction with

An Under the Tank Heater- FMR makes one for tanks under 5 gallons that meets all specifications for Hermit Crabs and this 4 X 6 inch heater can be used on both a plastic ‘critter keeper’ and glass aquariums. You can order it online at petdiscounters.com if your pet store doesn’t have it. Other companies manufacture them in larger sizes and temp ranges. Make sure it will not heat your tank over 80 degrees F. You want to allow for some warmer and cooler areas on the tank, so it is not a good idea to buy a heater to cover the entire bottom of the tank. Unless you go into a really high quality product, you probably will not find a heater that can be regulated via a thermostat and many will raise the tank 10 degrees above whatever the original temperature was. Adjusting substrate depth is the best way to regulate the temps. Be sure to keep your water pool and natural sponges directly above the heater because this will help ensure proper humidity levels.

Keeping a large sponge in a dish with water in it, over the heater is good for raising humidity. The water (warmed by the heater) is drawn into the sponge which helps ‘disperse’ the humidity into the air a little better, by providing a larger surface from which the water evaporates. You can order under the tank heaters that heat tanks up to 60 gallons as well as FMR’s brand online at petdiscounters.com if your local pet store doesn’t have one.

What Not to Use for Heating

Don’t use a heating rock as these are generally made for lizards and get too hot. The crabs may also climb on top of them causing great harm and the heat is too centralized. Also do not use a heating pad as they are not designed for this particular use. They need air ventilation and circulation that properly designed undertank heaters have and regular heating pads don’t. Heating pads will melt plastic and bake crabs.


Keep a thermometer in the cage and be sure to turn off any heating equipment when the substrate gets too hot. If it is the summer time and your house is very hot you can keep the tank on the floor(hot air rises), invest in an air conditioner, keep them in the shade and out of direct light, keep windows open, provide drinking water that is a bit cooler than usual, etc.

Crab-Gloo history, by CLD

“Folks: I am going to add a little to an earlier post. I wanted to back up what Jenn posted about using the foam board as an insulator. It has been a staple at Kritterland from the beginning!

My first crabs were adopted in the middle of the winter in February of ’97. They were in a medium sized plastic ‘kritter carrier’… I was very concerned about taking them out in the cool air, knowing that they shouldn’t get chilled…. We were at an indoors Arts and Crafts show….and as we were looking I saw the ideal remedy….Someone was selling those soft-sided insulated lunch/beverage coolers. SO……….. my new guys came home warm and happy that night.

The ‘six-pack’ size worked for that medium carrier! We now have several sizes of carriers and coolers just ‘incase’… the first one stays in the car just incase we go to a pet store…. Works great in the summer too to keep the sun from baking them…another serves as a back-up ‘iso area’

Now, the problem of warmth after getting them here…was another concern! Being a former art teacher, I had some foam board sitting around so I got out the old exacto knife and we created an insulated ‘box’ to go around the carrier… This was adapted to work with each upgrade to larger tanks…with the foamboard around the back and sides of the tank… (one sheet of foamboard takes care of a ten gallon tank.) It was cheap and worked well. Since then I have suggested it to many folks as an alternative. I used this while doing my studies with the undertank heaters and nocturnal light bulbs. I found that I could MAINTAIN a much better and consistant temperature level with the three-sided insulation than without it. I have passed along this suggestion to many others and it works quite well in a school setting….allowing the kids to change the backgrounds with their art work…. I do have ‘front covers of foam board to use in case of an emergency ….

have used other colors but prefer the white foamboard… and using clear or white tape to make the hinged ‘corners’… have used velcro to secure the pieces also… So since then we still use the insulation idea… plus, the crabs can see their reflections better and their activies at that are very entertaining!

I like the fact Jenn gave this ‘thing’ a name…. “Crab-gloo” is much more catchy than ‘the box’… Have fun with this and let your imagination go wild. One school here had a contest to see which class had the best ‘backdrops’ for their crabs… some changed the background weekly….it was great fun and a good project for both art and science lessons…. with the little hermies benefitting from all the fun ‘environments’created just for them. As Jenn pointed out this is a fairly cheap way to go until you can get alternative heating! Have fun and Happy Crabbing! CLD” Message 353 at Hermies Yahoo!Groups

MoonGlow Bulbs and more by Jenn:

It is best to do as Crablover Don did and leave a moonglow bulb and heater on twenty-four hours and regulate your tank tank temp and humidity by using a piece of cardboard, spool of thread, or something to prop open your glass top (you can place plastic wrap or towels over 2/3 of a screen top), and by increasing the depth of the substrate OVER the undertank heater and keeping your water pool and natural sponges above the heater. He was also able to stabilize the temperature by placing foam on the outside of the tank on 3 sides.

From: “Jenn Borgesen”

Hi All! I’m back, but am still in the process of transferring data from my old computer to the new! I am tickled to see all the great topics being discussed on the list and ‘naturally’ I just have to toss in my two bits here and there! Cold Crabs: Seems to me we had this discussion last spring and again last fall! To recap … Yes, E crabs are particularly susceptable to temperature fluctuations. I know it is hard to keep things stable when one day you’re running the furnace and the next day it’s the a/c! Here’s some of the stuff that’s been offered up in past discussions to help maintain even temperatures in your crab tank … 1. Build a Crab-gloo! I think I have the basic instrux somewhere on my old system, but if a list member still has it handy … please feel free to post it! Basically, using your tank measurements, foam board and duct tape, you can build a quickie shelter to help hold in the heat when the temp starts to dip. Use your tank measurements plus 1″ to construct a 5 sided shelter. Don had a couple of those zip up 12 pack ‘coolers’ … he’d place one of his smaller plastic molting tanks in it to keep babies warm on the way home from the store … again any kind of insulation will help keep warmth inside the tank. 2. Hot water bottle …. just like it sounds, if the power is out and the temp is dropping fill a plastic bottle with hot water and place it in the tank to help create radiant heat to keep your babies warm. This can be done in conjunction with the above Crab-gloo 3. Make sure the tank is well away from direct sunlight and drafty areas … a well sheltered spot along an inside wall is best. Hope this helps! New Tank … Rick, it sounds like you are coming up with some great ideas and I am glad to hear that any heat from a blowdryer will not come into contact with the crabs. On the subject of under the tank heaters not covering the full bottom of the tank … you really don’t need them to. Having only half of the tank covered can become quite a benefit, especially if the temp should fluctuate as in the above – cold crabs – The crabs will have opportunity to self regulate if only half of the tank bottom is heated. If things get too hot they can move to the cooler side and conversely if the temp falls! Some crabbers who live in colder climates do use two heaters in winter to get complete bottom coverage. But I find with a closed lid system one UT heater designed for your tank size (ie 5 gal, 10 gal, etc.) is sufficient. Gotta run fer now guys … time to zip a few more files! :)Jenn

Messages from Hermies Yahoo!Groups:

What do I do to keep them warm?!

You can surround the tank with insulation — styrofoam or blankets work best. Fill the water and food dishes first, so you don’t have to open the tank and let heat out later. If you have a cooler chest and still have power, make up some hot packs now — hot water bottles, or soaked hot washcloths in a ziplock bag — and hopefully the chest will keep them warm for use later if needed.

We lost power and were snowed in for two days last year, and I actually resorted to putting all the guys in a critter keeper (easier to do then, I had 7, not 28!) and took them into the car with the heat turned on full blast — just made sure to keep lots of water in the tank so they didn’t get too dry. I think I also used the car heater to warm up some water for a hot pack for the tank, too…

HTH, and hope your weather has settled down a bit,



Fom: “jenn_borgesen”
Bracing for Bad Weather

Hi all ..

Woke up to about 6″ of that white fluffy stuff this morning. The good news is that it was so warm yesterday (61 deg!) that a lot of it is melting on the pavement. But what was left was oh so heavy to shovel, no exercise needed for me today!

The bad news … the snow is really sticky and is all over the trees and powerlines. Very pretty, but bad news if we get much more of it or if the wind picks up! My poor Canadian Hemlock tree looks like a closed umbrella, tons of snow holding down the branches! So we’re prepping for a potential power failure here just in case!

I do have a gas hot water heater so I can make up hot water bottles to help keep the crab tanks warm … and I’ve already taped together a crabgloo and pulled out old blankets to wrap the tank should the worst occur!

Hope everyone else in the storm’s path is doing well!


We’ve got about 6″ of snow with frozen rain on top, but thankfully the power is still on. I see there have been some great help posted for folks without power … in times of real desperation, we’ve used hot water bottles, towels & blankets and once I even put crabs into a paper lunch bag, stapled the lid and slipped them into the inside pocket of my down jacket to transport them to warmer quarters with the rest of the family.

From: “hermies_owner”
Subject: Re: Another Humidity Dilema

Hi Sharon,

I had a feeling this may happen. As I said on the phone, once you get the humidity up to a good level, it often stays in the tank and sometimes rises a little high. I would stop dampening the driftwood and perhaps place it in a plakkie bag (as Craig calls it) and sanitise it in the microwave or dry it out in the sun.

The humidity level will change as the weather warms up (as it has done over the last week here in Tassie) and this is one of the reasons the humidity gauge is so essential, so that we can maintain the humidity when need be. What is the humidity level now? 85 isn’t too bad, but if it goes above 90 you may find condensation on the sides of the wall and perhaps the beginning of bacteria problems if left unattended. I know that isn’t the case with you, but just that it can happen.

There have been times when my humidity level snuck from 75 to 90 overnight, so I did the standard things of placing the water dish over the unheated side, turned the UTH down only slightly, and left the lids off for five minutes or so while I washed out the bowls and refilled the food dishes. Sometimes this is all that I need to get the humidity level to where it need be.

Basically it is trial and error until you find what works best for your enclosure. As always, you know I’m only a phone call away :)

Look out, though… antarctic blasts are headed our way! Under Tank Heater alerts, and perhaps create a CrabGloo from Don’s example of four walls of styrofoam cut to measure, then taped up to help insulate the tanks. Being the Art Teacher that he was, Don also recommended decorating the CrabGlo while you are trying to keep warm, creating not just an insulation but a background while you are at it!

Past background painting competition entrants can be found at http://comps.aboutlandhermitcrabs.com

Take care!


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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 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

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.

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 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.
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by Stacy

FAQ How can I keep my tank warm during a power outage?

October 16, 2012 in FAQ

Aaaamory asked:

Because of last night’s storm, power went out and we were out almost a full 24 hours. The temperature in the crabitat dipped to 55 degrees and all the little crabs half dug themselves into the sand and hid in their shells. I have four PPs and a strawberry. It looks like they all came out okay. When the temperature came back they were active again. I tried not to worry too much because I was in Florida during a cold spell and it got as low as the 40s and even high 30s at night. I was more concerned about my strawberry iPinch because I don’t think cold spells are too common where she comes from.
It looks like some other folks aren’t so lucky. They will be out of power for days. I used a blanket to cover the habitat and try to keep it warm for as long as possible, and I think I should make a fully-encompassing ‘Crabgloo’ for such emergency occasions to try to keep heat in for even longer.
Has anyone else had this sort of problem? How did you solve it? What do you suppose a cold-region crabber should do when something like this occurs?

Ladybug15057 answered:

Friday before last we had high winds of 60 mph and it broke the top off of my neighbor up the streets pine tree off. The top landed on the power lines, wrapped it self up in them and tore down the lines. We were without power for over 24 hours, and I noted even with me burning in our wood burning stove, (but the blower didn’t work due to no electric) the room was at 72 but the tanks began to dip below 70 and so did the substrate temp. What I did was I made up some soda bottles with hot water in them. I placed these in a couple places on the warm end of the tank to try to help keep the surface sand warmer. (which it did) I also used blankets to help keep some of the heat in.

That’s a good idea. Our water heater is gas. How useful that turns out to be! We also have a fireplace but don’t use it because of our parrot. The vet specifically advises against it. Good thing outages don’t happen too often. Maybe once a year or every other year (one year it was a squirrel exploding inside a transformer).

Prior to me having so many tanks in our home, a hot water bottle also works to help keep an area of the substrate warm, but with so many tanks now…I would have a small fortune in hot water bottles.

I live in the Pacific NW too! Some storm that was eh! Wow! I was one of the lucky ones in this area and only lost power for a few hours. Some people are still without power.
One year, after an ice storm, I was without power for a week! Fortunately this was before I had hermies! Unfortunately, everything in my house is electric except the wood burning stove, so I was cooking with my camp stove out in the snow.
I always wondered what I would do for my crabs and bettafish should that happen again. I’ve even thought about buying a generator because it seems the power goes out frequently in this area due to storms. I like ladybug’s suggestion of pop bottles filled with warm water.

An added plus, because I too live in an all electric house and the hot water tank will only stay hot for so long too…but with a wood burning stove, one can heat cold water for the soda bottles too. (been there and done that as well) One can also warm water up on a kerosene heater if one has this as a back up heating source if the power goes out.

That storm was a stinker!The power was out for awhile! What I did for the hermies was to heat up rocks on the woodstove,placed them in orchid pots(clay pots that have holes on them) and put them in the tank. I also heated slate tiles,placed them on cookie sheets and put them on top of the tank, then iglooed the tank in with foam insulation and a space blanket. The tank stayed at 69 temp. and 75 humidity.
The wind was phenominal. The woodstove really couldn’t belch out enough heat to keep the hermies toasty in the other room,considering the fan was useless.
Are there links to emergency heating methods. It might be a helpful to others to see different coping methods when the power goes out for an extended period of time.I would like to download a list of heat approaches for the next time. I hadn’t even thought of ladybug’s hot water bottle method of heat. I know I worried about the hermies more than the tree that landed on my house!

Nora, thank you for the rock idea too…that’s one I didn’t think of. Being in the country I do have plenty of them, now to think of what to put them in to help out with the warming of the tank. Thank goodness power outages do not happen very often around here, and especially for extended periods of time.

And please all, if anybody is going to use a kerosene heater for warmth make sure it is safe…they do require maintenance. Here are some links for reading for maintenance of kerosene heaters too: (I posted this on Hermies Group too because the question of keeping hermies warm came up today)

I did a little searching, and it appears that with the cotton wicks one should not burn the wick dry. (I never had or knew there were cotton wicks) But when we did burn ours dry, thre was always a blackish residue on the top of the wick and it was a little hard. So I did get a toothbrush and went along the top of it. This did scrape majority of the black off and made the top of the wick soft again. But here are some links that maybe of some help so you hopefully will be prepared: (and the kerosene heater should always be stored dry)

Main link with reading:






Due to this storm moving east, I live in southwestern Pa, so got all my hermie heater gear together today just in case.

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by Stacy

FAQ Can other animals live with hermit crabs?

October 16, 2012 in FAQ

Skyguyx5 asked:

Ok, I have seen a few posts about putting worms and other pets into the crabitat that I wanted to see what else we could put in there. Ive been thinking of putting another kind of animal in with my crabs because it will be more natural for them to be around other animals, like in the wild. So here are some that I came up with and some that Ive read about online. Thoughts and additions MORE than welcome!

Frogs (I think rottigirl has them in her tank????)
Millipedes- they seem to have almost the same needs as crabs?
Worms – ????
Fiddler crabs– you’d have to redo your tank for the fiddler crabs to have a lagoon type thing??? but will they take over the tank a bit?
While I think it would be fun to have other animals in there with the hermit crabs, I don’t want the other animal to be a hunter of hermit crabs, or the hunted… lol What else lives peacefully among hermit crabs in the wild?

LolaGranola answered:

Generally a bad idea because it’s a closed system. Hermit crabs go dormant during a molt and are very vulnerable to any kind of carnivore. A crab that would normally ‘move away’ to a new area to avoid other animals would be stuck in the tank which would provide an additional stress.

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by Stacy

FAQ How can I cool down my tank?

October 16, 2012 in FAQ

Morganthe asked:

My sisters and I received crabs over the summer. They were seperated for a while because of budget constraints (we had three small plastic fish tanks, but nothing big enough for multiple crabs) but have since been moved into one large tank back in my bedroom, a glass ten gallon with a glass fishtank lid. Their living conditions are better now than they were, but theres still one concern. My parents HATE the things, and when my apartment goes through I’ll be taking them with me, but for now they are trapped in the south-east corner room of the house. I live in the desert and this room is always warm. Ever yheater I could kept tempertures steady at a level above the ambient room temperature, but my room temp is already too high (85F). I’m currently hanging dechlorinated ice cubes from a thin bag with a fan near the tank. I spary the glass top of the cage to keep the humidity up. This works fine in the afternoons and on weekends when I can attend to the crabs hourly, but I need to find a way to regulate the temperature when I’m not around. I’m currently turning off the fan while I’m away, which increases the temperature, but prevents high evaporation rates. Does anyone know of anything that will lower the temperature in the tank? I’ve read everything I can get my hands on, but they all seem directed at people who have cold winters and pleasent summers.

Ladybug15057 answered:

Prior to getting our central air conditioning, our tanks would hit in the upper 80’s. Using a fan does help to circulate the air, but unfortunately dries the humidity in the tank which the hermies need to breath. What I had done, was I saved 16 oz. plastic Pepsi bottles. I filled them 2/3’s full of water and put them in the freezer. I used a Kool Aid cap (or other plastic lid) as a drip basin and pushed this in the substrate. I then put the frozen soda
bottle in the Kool Aid lid, with a couple of small sponges around the space between the Kool Aid lid and soda bottle so the little hermies didn’t get stuck and freeze to death. This made a cool place in the substrate if the hermies wanted/needed a place to cool off at. We did have a couple of hermies throughout the day that took advantage of the cool substrate in all our tanks. One thing I noticed about the frozen soda bottle, was that the outside of the bottle would be full of condensation, and at times I would have to empty the Kool Aid lid. I also noticed the humidity of the tank dropped, which meant that I had to use larger sponges to keep the humidity up.

PS. If you choose this method, start saving your soda bottles. The soda bottles would keep ice in it 4-6 hours on a ‘hot’ day. I would exchange these about 3-4 times a day, refreezing the ones I took out of the tank. Make sure to keep a close eye on the humidity level. The soda bottle will pull some of the humidity out of the tanks air so you may need to supply other water sources as well to keep the humidity level up. (you do have a lid for your tank right to help hold humidity within the tank?)