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You are browsing the archive for hermit crab.

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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

Suitable shells for hermit crabs

February 21, 2015 in General

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our video on choosing the right shells

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by Stacy

FAQ Can I put ladybugs in my crabitat?

February 16, 2015 in Crabitat, FAQ

Craboza asked:
I want them to eat the bad things.
Will they eat aphids and other bad bugs in there?
Or anything that is not the crabs?
I want them to keep all possible parasites out.

If I can use ladybugs, how many can I put in? Where do I get them? Thank you.

Bugboy (aka King Arthur-Pod) answered:
Don’t…..lady bugs are toxic, that’s the reason for the orange and black coloring.
If one should die and the crabs eat it, could be harmful.
Put one on the tip of your tongue, you’ll no how nasty they really are(OK so I’m an entomologist and only we do crazy stuff like licking beetles).

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by Stacy

Hermit Crab Food Recipes

February 16, 2015 in Food and Nutrition

Unfortunately I have no indications as to who may have created this list though I suspect the list came from Kerie Campbell. I know there are endless food ideas but these may help get you started.

Fruity Fish & Flowers II

dried calendula (about 2 tsp.)
dried chamomile (about 1 tsp.)
coconut chunk
large papaya chunk
pink flame rose bud

Kibble and place in the serving dish.

Air-pop about 1 Tbl. amaranth
shred some dulse
1 Tbl. Flott tuna
1 tsp rolled oats
large pinch dandelion root
large pinch dried dandelion leaf.

Kibble and place on top of the fruit dish, sort of a reverse-chutney.

Star Fruit Surprise

Part One: Fruit Salad

1 Tbl. dried pumpkin seed
1 chunk skin-on red delicious apple
6-8 raisins
chunk of old banana
lg. pinch of dried calendula
1 tsp. red clover seed
1 tsp. dried hibiscus flowers
5 sunflower sprouts
1 tsp honey

Kibble, garnish with slice of starfruit.

Part Two: Crunchy Eggs Variant


1/2 eggshell
2 baby carrots
several 1 inch squares of dried nori
1 tsp. hempseed

Cook lightly in coconut oil over low heat until carrot starts to
soften. Add beaten egg and cook gently until just set.

Put in bowl next to Starfruit Surprise, garnish all with some
popcorn popped in coconut oil. Serve!

Copepod Quiche

Preheat oven to 425.

3-4 amaranth graham crackers
1 tsp. melted coconut oil
1-2 tsp. soymilk

Mix well until soggy but still firm. Press into a ceramic serving
dish. I use the Petco ones — you can see them in several of the
pictures in the photo album, approx. 3 inches in diameter and half an
inch deep.

Bake for about 5 minutes, until crust is firming up.

1 egg (discard half to two thirds of the white)
2 tsp. soy milk
pinch of Esprit du Sel (mortared & pestled)
1 heaping teaspoon dried copepods
1/2 tsp. kelp powder
crushed dried jasmine flowers (about 6)
1/2 tsp. rooibos

Mix well, pour into crust. Bake about 8 minutes — it will puff up in
the middle when done — don’t leave it a second longer!

Cut into wedges for number of servings needed. This recipe is

Garnish with 1/2 eggshell and sunflower sprouts.

Lazy Kibble (because I am so tired from my long weekend
with Cheyenne I couldn’t be bothered thinking ahead…)

Yesterday’s persimmon slice (nicely leathery by now)
1 Tbl. wheat germ
1 Tbl. sunflower seeds
small mangrove rootlet

Krill Kibble with Chicken Marrow

8-10 thawed krill
coconut chunk
4-6 small blueberries
1 blackberry
1 tsp. dried bladderwrack
1 amaranth graham cracker

Garnish with dried persimmon slice and a smashed open chicken leg bone.

Crabby Joes Mach II

1 Eden Nori-Maki rice cracker
1 coconut chunk
2 cooked clams
3 thawed orange rose petals
3 blueberries
1 tsp. reconstituted arame (sea vegetable)
largish chunk of Semifreddi’s Challah
1 tsp. sunflower seed
1 Krill oil capsule, squeezed out

Weedfish Salad

1 tsp. Flott tuna
3 wilted dandelion heads
1 Tbl. wheat germ
coconut chunk
1/2 orange rosebud

Kibble, garnish with small wedge from extremely old orange, and


small mangrove root ball
1 banana chunk (going black)
1 old chunk of kiwi
1 dried bosc pear slice
1 Tbl. hempseed meal

Fruity Fish and Flowers

In the morning, heat 1/3 cup of coconut milk until hot in microwave
(about 45 seconds at 1100 watts).

Add 2-3 Tbl. barley, and soak all day long.

(In the evening) Kibble together with:

large papaya chunk
coconut chunk
dried persimmon slice
wilted red nasturtium blossom
4 wilted jasmine blossoms
1 pink/red rose bud
1 tsp. chlorella
large pinch red raspberry leaf

Top with thawed silversides, sprinkle with gomasio (sesame seed with
seasalt) and serve!

No name
1 steamed mussel
1 slice blood orange
1 slice uncooked winter squash w/ seeds
1 slice really old kiwi
overblown pink rose

Tonight’s kibble consists of

1 (thawed) yellow rose bud
4 (thawed) krill
3 blueberries
1 raspberry
1 Tbl. rolled oats
1 Tbl. pumpkin seed
1 tsp. kelp powder
1 tsp. honey
banana chunk
1/2 Wasa rolled oats crispbread, broken into bits with mortar and
pestle and soaked in coconut milk for five minutes
1 Tbl. coconut milk


1/2 brown egg shell
2 tsp. Flott tuna
1 large fresh coconut chunk
1 tsp. flaxseed meal
1/2 tsp. four algae powder
1 tsp. bee pollen
1 tsp. rooibus

Mix with raw egg, cook until barely set in coconut oil over very low

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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

Tips for cooling off

May 7, 2014 in Crabitat

Our beloved hermit crabs are ectothermic creatures, which means they depend on the environment to regulate their body temperature. This means maintaining their crabitat at proper temperature and humidity is literally a matter of life and death.

With warm summer temps comes the risk of a too hot crabitat, below are some tips to help cool down your crabbies on a blazing hot day.

First remember that hermit crabs are tropical creatures so they can handle brief temperature spikes and be okay. A prolonged heat wave will be too much for them to handle. If you cool your home by opening windows and using fans, you must keep a close watch on the temperature in the crabitat. If you have air conditioning and maintain a fairly consistent inside temperature, the tank temperature shouldn’t vary too much.

82F is the upper limit for crabitat temperature. Your tank should have a range of temperatures. Ideally with the coolest part of the tank being 72F and the warmest part around 80F. Be sure to check the substrate temperature and the air temperature. In the summer, a cooler substrate temperature is ok. That will allow your hermit crabs to burrow to cool off. The opposite is true in the winter.

These are temporary fixes for a spike in temperature and not ideal for maintaining a proper crabitat environment day to day.

Consider moving the crabitat to a cooler part of the house if an extended heat wave is expected. Pre chill some dechlorinated water so you have it on hand.

Try removing the lid and use a fan to quickly cycle hot air out. The fan will cause a drop in humidity but that will be okay. Overheating is a bigger danger. If you have your crabitat set up properly, the change in humidity will be brief and will not harm healthy hermit crabs. Consider a cold water misting after using the fan, use dechlorinated water.

Freeze some plastic bottles of water and pop one in the crabitat to cool it off. Replace as needed on a hot day. Freeze these now so you have them when you need them. Those blue lunch box freezer things can be used too, but not if they are leaking or are of a soft material the hermit crabs can puncture. If you use these I would not leave them unattended for too long.

Make sure their water pools are not hot. Cooler water can help them cool themselves.

If you have to use ice cubes to cool off the crabitat, place them in substrate and not in the water pools. Unless of course you were clever and froze some dechlorinated water. :)

Hermit crabs will hang out of their shell in an effort to cool themselves off. If you see this behavior, act fast before permanent damage occurs.

Leaking of brown liquid or bubbling/foaming at the mouth are signs of severe overheating and what is likely irreversible physical injury to your hermit crab.

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by Stacy

What size is my hermit crab?

March 3, 2014 in General

Open the PDF Size Chart below and print it out. Compare your hermit crab to the chart to see what size it would be generally accepted as. This is a chart created by the hermit crab community to have a general guideline for size categories in reference to our hermit crabs.

61.7 KiB
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by Stacy

Distribution of Coenobita – Hermit Crabs

March 3, 2014 in Biology, General

We’ve created a chart of the distribution of coenobita – hermit crabs. Click the gray box below to view the chart.

105.0 KiB
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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

Which types of moss are safe for my hermit crabs?

February 22, 2014 in Crabitat, FAQ

Hermit crabs enjoying some moss while their tank is being cleaned!

Hermit crabs enjoying some moss while their tank is being cleaned!

Hermit crabs love moss! Not only is it a great way to create and maintain humidity but your crabs will burrow in it and even eat it. They key is to select safe moss.

There are over 1200 types of moss so it would be impossible to address all of them. Listed below are the most commonly encountered types. In all instances you are looking for 100% natural, chemical free, dye free moss. When collecting your own live moss, know what you are collecting and do not collect from areas that may have been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides or contains pine needles/pine cones.

Note that the TERRARIUM MOSS currently being sold at Petco is Sphagnum moss so be sure to read the labels!

Zoo Med Terrarium Moss is Sphagnum

Zoo Med Terrarium Moss is Sphagnum


Sphagnum Moss/Peat Moss
ladybug15057 answered:

Doing a quick search, here are a couple of links about Sphagnum moss:

“Don’t confuse sphagnum moss with sphagnum peat moss. Sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss are not the same product. Sphagnum moss is used in the floral industry to line wire baskets and make wreaths. It is the LIVING moss that grows on top of a sphagnum bog. Sphagnum peat moss is used as a soil conditioner by gardeners. It is the dead material that accumulates in the lower levels of a sphagnum bog. Harvesters of the horticultural peat moss remove the top few inches of the live sphagnum moss before harvesting the peat from the lower levels of the bog.

There has also been some confusion about which of the two is actually the source of a fungal disease called Cutaneous Sporotrichosis, which according to Gerry Hood of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, is causing some concern within gardening circles. Sporotrichosis is a chronic infection identified by ulcerous skin lesions and is caused by coming in contact with the fungus, Sporothrix schenckii. Research has found no cases of sporotrichosis being transmitted in sphagnum peat moss. However, the fungus Sporothrix schenckii,does live in the top, living portion of the bog that is removed before peat harvesting.”





Peat moss can also acidify its surroundings by taking up cations such as calcium and magnesium and releasing hydrogen ions.

Sue Latell answered:
Cypress is a conifer. Coniferous wood/needles are toxic to crabs when ingested. Crabs typically graze on their substrates, making cypress a bad substrate. Cypress mulch according to my herp expert is really best for reptiles that are carnivorous. Cypress has uses only in EXTERNAL application, for most mammals and other animals it has toxic properties, and depending on the species of cypress, the most common is arsenic.

Spanish Moss (sometimes called Cypress moss) is often treated with chemicals

Reindeer/Caribou (lichen) Moss - usually dyed and therefore unsafe.


Frog Moss/Pillow Moss
Sold by Zoo Med

Zoo Med Frog Moss

Zoo Med Frog Moss

Pillow Moss

Pillow Moss

Completely natural frog moss for use with frogs, toads, salamanders, garter or green snakes, and all other moss environment species. Use as a top substrate or decorative accent in vivarium/terrarium applications.

Frog Moss (also called “Pillow Moss”) will come back to life and grow in proper terrarium conditions.
A beautiful, decorative living moss to accent your naturalistic terrarium.
Increases humidity in terrariums making it perfect for all high humidity loving species of reptiles or amphibians.

Additional Information:
Zoo Med’s Frog Moss can be washed and reused several times before needing to be replaced with new moss.

Beaked Moss

Zilla Beaked Moss

Zilla Beaked Moss

100% natural terrarium moss is great for amphibians and reptiles that inhabit moist environments. The moss holds moisture, generating higher levels of humidity that is beneficial for tropical and forest species. Ideal for Chameleons, Frogs, Green Anoles, Rainforest Geckos, Salamanders & Newts.

• Holds Moisture
• Provides a Realistic Setting for Reptiles and Amphibians
• Completely Natural (no dyes or chemicals)

Moisture stability with natural beauty
From the lush coniferous rain forests of Oregon, we harvest a moisture-loving moss that tropical reptiles thrive in. Its natural moisture retention properties keep humidity levels uniformly high, while forming a lovely green carpet that’s the closest thing to home for rainforest reptiles. Looks great, and your favorite pet will love having it under foot! Since it’s 100% biodegradable, mulch it into your garden for natural disposal.

Ideal for Chameleons, Frogs, Green Anoles, Rainforest Geckos, Salamanders & Newts.
Zill Beaked moss

Flukers makes dyed and undyed moss. Both are listed as all natural. They are easy to tell the difference though. The undyed is perfectly safe, the jury is out on the other.

Hiawatha Moss

Hiawatha Moss

Hiawatha Moss

Sheet Moss
Sheet Moss

Sheet Moss

Exo Terra is selling Forest Moss which is actually Plume moss and I’ve used it in my tank with no issues.

The Exo Terra Forest Moss Tropical Terrarium Substrate is real compressed moss grown in tropical Asia. This ecological substrate is ideal for increasing humidity in the terrarium and is totally safe for frogs, salamanders and burrowing or digging animals. The Exo Terra Forest Moss Tropical Terrarium Substrate is extremely absorbent and is recommended in humidifying shelters such as the Exo Terra Snake Cave or Reptile Cave. It is also an ideal egg-laying or incubation medium.

ExoTerra Forest Moss (Plume Moss)

ExoTerra Forest Moss (Plume Moss)

Don’t forge the moss – Naturally Crabby