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Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Crayola Play Sand

October 16, 2012 in General

Written by Marie Davis
Article reprinted here with exclusive permission to Marie (ladybug15057) for use on the Crab Street Journal and, by author’s stipulations, may not be reprinted elsewhere. You are always welcome to link to this article.

There is a newer product on the market called Crayola play sand. It comes in 4 vibrant colors pink, purple, green and blue which means some form of coloring additive is used. From past research I have done, I had learned that just because it is FDA, OHSA, EPA, etc. approved or within their standards, or considered safe for children does this necessarily mean it is safe for one to put within the crabitat where our hermit crabs live their whole lives while living in captivity with us.

FDA, EPA, and OSHA (as well as others) do permit for a percentage of known harmful ingredients to be within a product before it requires it to be labeled as dangerous or poisonous, or before it is pulled off of the shelves where they are sold. With majority of the studies that are done, it is normally regarding studies on humans, and even then many times the results are not considered conclusive, especially the long term effects.

When I began researching I came across a forum that claimed that the Crayola play sand also had an antifungal agent within it.

I had gone to Crayola’s web site and found it does state that products containing lead must be labeled as such per California Proposition 65. It does not state that there is not lead in the Crayola products, only that they must have on the label that the lead content complies with FDA regulations.

Doing a Google search shows that even with all the known health issues with lead, a certain percentage of lead is acceptable in products sold in the U.S. This includes and not limited to candy children often eat, as well as in the wrappers it is wrapped in, water we drink, foods we eat, etc. Household and public water pipes, or the soder used to connect these pipes was banned by EPA in June 1988. This means that many older households, building structures, as well as public water suppliers who have not replaced all the water pipes still contain lead in the pipes and soder that was used.
Regardless of whether it is FDA, OSHA, EPA, etc. a certain amount of impurities are permissible in all products on the market and will pass inspection by their standards of considered safe toxicity levels when tested.

I had made a telephone call directly to Crayola, and spoke with Chris. She in turn mentioned that the toll free telephone number that was listed on Crayola’s web site was for sales, and referred me to their licensing partner play sand manufacturer N2M in Texas for the information I was seeking. When I called N2M I had received the receptionist who had taken my name and telephone number and my call was returned.
I had a few questions regarding Crayola play sand written down in preparation for some of the concerns I had.
One was the coating that was used on the play sand. It explained that the coating on the Crayola play sand I had read about was an acrylic coating that was approved by Arts and Creative Materials Institute and used for arts and crafts. The acrylic colorant used to color the quartz sand was an ACMI approved colorant and used for arts and crafts. I mentioned I had read on the internet the play sand had an antifungal deterrent used on it, and she stated there was and it too was approved by the Arts and Creative Materials Institute guidelines and was also used in arts and crafts materials. The N2M Group Administrator had mentioned that through human studies it was recommended to use a sun screen on younger children prior to exposing them to the Crayola play sand due to how sensitive their skin is and the possibility of absorbing anything from the play sand and to help stop the possible irritation of their skin. With this in mind, I thought of how soft a hermies abdomen is, as well as how gel like they are when they molt and what, if any, effects it would have on a hermit crab.

This led me to ask if any studies had been done on hermit crabs and the Administrator stated that due to Animal right laws, PETA, and other Animal rights organizations their company was not licensed to do any testing on animals be it cat, dog, hermit crab, fish, etc.

I mentioned that searching the Crayola play sand I was unable to locate a MSDS sheet on this product. The Group Administrator had taken my e-mail address and e-mailed me both the MSDS as well as the letter from Duke University School of Medicine giving me permission to use them. It was explained to me that the information was copyrighted as with all the information on Crayola’s web site. I explained to the Group Administrator that I was one of the Site Administrators of the Crab Street Journal and wanted to share the information with all the staff and its members. I was given permission to use the MSDS as well as the letter from Duke University in my article, but I also had to make a note that it is copyrighted and without authorization of its use it fell under the Crayola’s copyright law.


Once I received them, I decided to research even further. From the research, I would strongly recommend to err on the side of caution where it comes to hermit crabs and not use this as a substrate within a crabitat.
Researching what ACMI’s guidelines were for arts and crafts acrylic colorants and acrylic coatings, I came across that they follow the FDA and OSHA guidelines for safe levels of any products sold in the U.S.

Arts and Crafts acrylic paint ingredients are 1, 2-Ethanediol (5-10%), Kaolin (1-5%), Titanium Oxide (20-30%), 2-Propenoic Acid, Butyl Ester, Polymer with ethenyl acetate (20-30%), Propanoic acid, 2- Methyl, Monoester with 2, 2, 4 Trimethyl, 1, 3 pentanediol (1-5%), Water (40-50%)
Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in many acrylic paints and photographic products.
At these percentages for the arts and crafts acrylic paint ingredients it is considered safe by OSHA and FDA. Yet there is an area as well for emergency and first aid procedures for inhaling of this acrylic paint, skin contact as well as if it is ingested. “Ingestion: If swallowed, give two glasses of water to drink. Consult a physician.” Please remember, these emergency and first aid procedures are for humans, not hermit crabs who may end up eating the play sand daily with the above ingredients, as well as living on or burrowed under this play sand.

Arts and crafts acrylic coatings ingredients are:
P-Tert-Butylphenol, Hydrous Magnesium silicate, M-Xylene-Alpha, Alpha Diamine, Trimethylhexamethylenediamine, Phenol, Formaldehyde Amine Polymer, 4- Nonyl Phenol..Branched, Polyamide.
The arts and crafts acrylic coating is also considered to be at safe levels by the OSHA and FDA for humans. But also has warnings about this acrylic coating that it may cause chemical eye or skin burns, may cause allergic skin or respiratory reactions, as well as it maybe absorbed through the skin and possibly target organ effects.
Again, Please remember, these emergency and first aid procedures are for humans, not hermit crabs who may end up eating the play sand daily with the above ingredients, as well as living on or burrowed under this play sand.

Green Options
Green Living Magazine
Written by: Gary A. Davis and Em Turner, University of Tennessee – Knoxville Waste Management Institute

ASTDR Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HHS

The Crayola Store
MSDS-Arts and crafts acrylic paint

Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Substrates for Hermit Crabs

September 25, 2012 in Caresheets


beach sand

Beach sand is cheap and re-usable in Australia, yet can be expensive in land-locked areas of the US and other countries. Most owners use playsand found at their local hardware store. Please take note of the quality when purchasing playsands. If in doubt ask other hermit crab owners what they use and ask how it works when damp. Some playsands are low-grade sand made from crushed rocks and have impurities since they are used for the building industry. If in doubt as to the quality always wash and bake your sand the first time you use it. However, not all impurities can be washed, boiled, or baked out of a substrate. Cleaning and drying sand can be messy. Make sure you cover the drains or use a plug when rinsing. Most rinse their sand and then dry it before returning it to a cleaned crabarium. Another alternative is to take the sand outside and place it in a bucket, use a hose to rinse the sand until the water runs out of the bucket and is clear. To drain the sand, place the sand into a pillow case so that your drains are not blocked up.

The positives of sand include that it is attractive to look at, especially after some heavy hermit crab traffic, with their little marks in the sand. Hermit crabs love tunneling down in sand but you must be careful that you keep an eye on the level of dampness. If there is standing water or food items in damp sand you may develop mold (mould) or bacteria. This leads to a weakened condition, stress to the hermit crabs and can mean possible death. Many use a kitty litter scoop or sieve to pick through the sand on a regular basis to remove uneaten food or refuse.
There are several brands which are not recommended. If in doubt as to the brand found locally post a message to the Forum.
Read our FAQ on Sand

River Pebbles

River Pebbles
Inexpensive and great remedy for sandy feet by for placing around the water dish. Hermit Crabs often wade through the water dish and then onto sand which then sticks to their wet exoskeleton. Placing river pebbles gives them a ‘drying off’ place and offers more traction. It can also be used to fill out a crabitat which uses more expensive substrate (aragonite, coral sand etc). The finer river pebbles are preferred since it is easier for the crab to burrow under. People that use river pebbles as a primary substrate often find their crabs burrowing under the water dish, creating a nest with the water dish as a ‘roof’ of sorts. Carol of CrabWorks has recently used river pebbles and during her early years used ultra fine gravel substrate for over thirty years with great success. You can read about it here.
Make sure that the river pebbles that you purchase are NOT coated with resin or paint and that they are heat proof if you are intending to bake or steam the pebbles sterile. Many members have tried to bake the pebbles as found in many fish tanks only to find the resin or paint melt in the process. There are many natural river pebbles which are not coated around. One brand to ask for is Ultrastone Natural River pebbles. If in doubt as to the brand found locally post a message to the Forum.

Coral Sand and Reef Sand – versatile yet fragile

Coral Sand
Coral sand can be purchased per pound/kilo from your local fish / aquarium store. It can be expensive but it is a wonderful source of calcium for your land hermit crab. It is similar to Aragonite sand. Keep an eye on the coral sand for if it gets too damp it can disintegrate so try to keep it at ‘sandcastle sand’ consistency.
“[Coral sands] are larger grit substrates rich in calcuim and trace minerals, crabs love it. Reef sand & gravel are often very dusty so you have to rinse & dry before use of shake it out well (I used to use a strainer outside to shake out excess dust) It is very porous and holds water so when washed it takes FOREVER to dry. Also much of it washes away when you rinse it, it does not hold up well for repeated washings.” (© Jenn B of LHCOS, 2001) ****Update note**** The larger grain coral sands are harder for the hermit crab to burrow and nest in for molting. The Carib Sea sugar and select grains that are oolitic are recommended to be placed within the crabitat.

Caribsea Aragonite Oolitic Select
CaribSea Aragonite Oolitic Select
Caribsea Aragonite Sugar Grain
CaribSea Aragonite Sugar grain
Caribsea Coralite Bermuda Pink
Caribsea GeoMarine Florida Crushed Coral
Geo-Marine: Florida Crushed Coral It’s the only crushed coral with aragonite, which provides up to 25 times the buffering power of other crushed corals, dolomite or oyster shell. Eliminate chronic pH problems and provide maximum surface area for water purifying bacteria. CaribSea’s Florida Crushed Coral with aragonite allows an increase in bioload by up to 50% and it never needs replacement! Approx 2-5mm diameter (1/8 – 1/4”).

Aragamax (Aragonite sand by Carib Sea)

Caribsea Aragonite Alive Bahamas Oolite
Caribsea Aragonite Alive Bahamas Oolite
Caribsea Aragonite Fiji Pink
Caribsea Aragonite Alive Fiji Pink
Caribsea Aragonite Alive Florida Crushed Coral
Caribsea Aragonite Alive Florida Crushed Coral

CaribSea’s Arag-Alive!™

Only CaribSea’s Arag-Alive!™ Live Sands contains not just the broad spectrum of marine bacteria found in the ocean, but additional specially selected strains of marine bacteria as well. Arag-Alive!™ compresses new tank cycle time and suppresses the initial ammonia spike. Arag-Alive!™ creates a natural biological balance, and makes cycling a new aquarium faster and safer. Live rocks and most invertebrates can be added immediately. Gradually introduce fish within the first 3 weeks, and do not exceed one inch of fish per 5 gallons during this time.
For a full line of coral and reef sands, visit our friends at:

Compressed Coconut Fiber Expandable Substrate

A growing number of hermit crab owners are trying coconut fiber in their tanks as a secondary substrate. There are a number of companies that produce this fine coconut fiber which is sold in bricks. Compressed Coconut fiber is marketed under names such as:

Pet-Tech Bed-a-Beast-not recommended
Bed A Beast
T-Rex Forest Bed
Forest Bedding
Zoo Med Eco Earth
Eco Earth
Note: The coconut fiber expandable substrate is meant to be used damp for tropical critters like hermit crab
If in doubt as to the brand found locally post a message to the Forum.

Substrate comparison

Quikrete Playsand

Quikrete Playsand(Hardware & Building supplies)
Poor quality sand not recommended as substrate.

SouthDown/YardRight/Old Castle Tropical Play Sand

Located at:
(Hardware eg. Home Depot)
Highly prized by land hermit crab owners and aquarium enthusiasts. Unfortunately no longer sold in the United States. Now being sold to CaribSea company.

Aragamax (Aragonite sand by Carib Sea) or Aragonite by Nature’s Ocean

Caribsea Aragamax Select

Natures Ocean Aragonite Sand
Located at:
Good Pet Stores and local fish stores / aquarium stores & online
Highly prized by land hermit crab owners and aquarium enthusiasts although it is much more expensive than the Tropical PlaySand.
Aragmax is an Oolitic aragonite sand from CaribSea. Another is made by the ESV Company.

Calci Sand

Calci sand
Located at:
Good Pet Stores and local fish stores / aquarium stores and online
Not recommended for hermit crabs. Aside from being very expensive, when wet it smells terrible, clumps and sticks to the hermit crabs.

Unsafe substrates

Substrates which we DO NOT recommend are: Corn Shavings, Cedar, Wood Shavings and other reptile beddings made for desert animals. Cedar shavings should never be used as it is toxic to all animals. The oils in cedar are used in pest control because of the damage to arthropods, which would also harm your land hermit crabs. If in doubt as to the brand found locally post a message to the Forum.

FourPaws Nature Bedding-made from fir shavings:
Nature Bedding

Photo references:

Inland Reef.com (website is no longer valid)




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