One of the biggest concerns when buying hermit crabs is early death due to PPS or Post Purchase Stress. The term PPS has been used commonly for many, many years in the hermit crab community. PPS is blamed for unexplained deaths of new crabs. The physical stress occurs mostly PRIOR to your purchase and how many of your new crabs die unexpectedly relies on how much stress was inflicted prior to purchase. The act of harvesting and shipping hermit crabs is very stressful as the crabs are denied humidity, food, water and warmth for long periods prior to shipping and during shipping. They mostly arrive at pet stores dry, hungry, dehydrated and sometimes cold. The last crabs harvested before shipping will be less stressed and more likely to survive. Naturally the opposite holds true for the first crabs to be harvested. Often it takes a period of time for the stress and dehydration to catch up with them but it does and the hermit crab dies. Sometimes it’s a week, or a month but it could take longer. Gill damage from dry air (lack of humidity) can be a slow painful death for a hermit crab.
There are some ways to give your new pet hermit crab the best possible chance at survival. When you purchase new crabs, take note of the store conditions. If there are no gauges, do your best to guess the humidity. When you bring home a new hermit crab, place it in an isolation tank with the same humidity as the store. Use a tiny amount of moss if needed to create the proper humidity. The temperature should be at 72F and remain there. Place a very small amount of sand in the tank, not enough for the crabs to burrow in. Leave the crabs alone except to change food and water. This will allow the crab to relax, destress and get enough to eat and drink. It is very important that your crabs eat well during this time. Food fuels metabolism and this is how they will adjust to the tank settings as you change them. Once you have a consist starting humidity at or near that of the store, hold it there for four days. In four days, add some more moss to bring the humidity up 5%. Continue to increase in this manner until your ISO tank is the same humidity as your main tank. Between the 3rd and 4th week, add more sand so that the crabs can dig down if they want.
If you buy more than one crab, it is okay to place them in the same isolation tank together.
It’s a good idea to closely inspect the hermit crabs before placing them in your main tank. Look for signs of mites or black spots on the exoskeleton. If the hermit crabs have mites (parasites) or black spots on the body, you should keep them quarantined until the mites are gone or they have molted and the black spots are gone. Shell disease is contagious.
If you adopt or purchase hermit crabs from a filthy environment where bugs, flies, maggots are present you should prepare a SHALLOW tray of dechlorinated water and place the crabs right side up and let them walk around. The water should only be deep enough to touch the lower lip of the shell…this will allow some water to swish in the shell and hopefully wash out any parasites or fly larvae. This is really a worst case scenario that we don’t often see but it does happen. If you are rescuing hermit crabs from these conditions be prepared to keep them isolated until you are 100% sure they are free of parasitic mites or other bugs. You do not want to introduce these things into your established tank and hermit crab colony.
Bathing your hermit crabs as a matter of routine is strongly discouraged.
Sue Latell of www.coenobita.org has put together two articles on reducing the impact of PPS in newly purchased crabs. Members of The Crab Street Journal helped conduct the trials on this method and did report a definite change in the death rate of newly purchased crabs. The two articles are linked to each other and also explain the importance of having lights for your crabitat. These are MUST READ articles because they cover a lot of important information.
Refining the Purpose of ISOLATION
PPS (Post Purchase Stress): Minimizing the Impact
This information is based on the exclusive research of Susan Latell, All Rights Reserved.