Thursday, May 08, 2008

Shell Beach

Welcome to Shell Beach. Do you get the bonus points for recognizing the movie reference? Dark City. There is no Shell Beach. But at my house there is! I set up the crabitat today and got Not Sure some friends. I felt that having more than one in my tiny tank previously was wrong and once I got the bigger tank set up, its good for more crabs.

Here's the full view of the crabitat.
Left: notice the big shell that's also a water dish with sea sponge. Behind it are the clay-colored salt-water bath and the green food dish with powdered hermit crab chow from the pet store. The little shell to the right is for treats - today's treat is freeze dried bloodworms from the pet store for feeding to fish. Behind that is the "bubbler" everyone seems so fond of for keeping humidity high. Its just a fish tank air tube and pump through an air stone. I submerged mine in an empty and cleaned plastic fruit cup (it was pears, in case you wondered) and covered it with river rocks I already owned.
Middle is shells shells shells.
Right is the hiding hut, a few pieces of driftwood, and the low end of the sand dune. I also added a piece of cuttlebone to the right but after I'd taken the picture.
With all the awesome shells to choose from, why would anyone use crappy painted shells? Nature is beautiful and colorful!
In case you're wondering what Not Sure's friends' names are, I stayed on the Idiocracy movie theme. They are: Rita, Frito (the lawyer), and Upgrayedd (the pimp) - he's the largest of them, because of his giant pimp-hand (er, purple pincher).

Total cost of my crabitat and its inhabitants (for those thinking of getting hermit crabs as pets):
00.00 10 gallon aquarium from someone on FreeCycle
20.00 hermit crabs x4 from PetSmart (I feel I "rescued" them all)
04.00 playground sand from Home Depot (50 pounds in one bag. I have more than half left)
10.50 shells, large and small shell for water/food, sea sponge from an eBay seller
11.00 shells, 1 full pound of them, assorted from another eBay seller
13.00 thermometer and humidity gauge in a 2-pack
01.50 cuttlebone (sold for birds) to supply necessary calcium
03.00 driftwood pieces x2
03.00 hiding log
08.00 air pump, air tubing, air stone for "bubbler" to keep humidity high
06.50 powdered crab food from pet store as a daily food
04.00 salt water conditioner for cleaning shells and adding to water
00.00 two plastic water bottles, one for clean and one for salty water for daily refilling (reused my own)
00.00 river rocks to put over bubbler, already had
00.00 plastic fruit cup to make use of bubbler
07.00 plexiglass lid for tank from Home Depot
04.00 special knife to cut plexiglass to fit

Now, could I have done it cheaper? YES! I could have found my own driftwood. I live on the beach. I probably could have got my own crabs too, but I'm okay with store bought. I probably could have gotten the salt water conditioner cheaper too. And next time, I will buy a larger size for a bigger savings, not the pet store's stuff.

But it gets worse. Husband, just skip this part...

Here's what the pet store sold me that I didn't need in their misguided efforts to make a sale and not know what a crab needs:
20.00 tiny plastic cage (as shown in my other post)
11.00 temperature and humidity gauge for another cage (I couldn't remove it)
09.00 calcisand - unnecessarily expensive! refer to my play sand above!
40.00 of stuff I do not need. Grr.
But, I will be using this second tiny tank as my isolation tank for a sick, injured, or molting crab. So at least I'm making the best of things.

Realistically, do you need to spend $100 to keep hermit crabs? Absolutely not! However, you do need basics. And basics are not always cheap, but regular maintenance after that is very very low. So over the long run, the good initial investment is worth a bit as they are a super cheap pet after you set them up to start with - much like fish.

Here's what you need:
  • Good sized tank. 10 gallon minimum. As big as you like, but remember they're not tall and don't fly, so long not tall.
  • Some kind of hiding thing. A coco-hut or a log or a fishtank accessory (not painted) or any number of woven baskets or things you may already have. Remember they're scavengers.
  • Something to climb. Again, like above, you may have stuff laying around that will suffice or branches in your yard.
  • A thermometer and hygrometer (humidity monitor). Do fork over the money for this, but anywhere from $5 to $50 depending on how fancy you like it. I'm fine with dials but you may prefer digital.
  • 4 dishes: clean water, salt water, food, treat. Use the caps from Gatorade bottles for the food and treat. Use baby food jar lids for the water, or peanut butter lids for the water, depending on the size of your crabs. Remember to change the water and refill the water and clean out the food dishes. You do NOT need to buy anything special.
  • A cuttlebone. Again, less than $2 at the pet store in the bird section.
  • Some crab chow. I like powder, you may like pellets. Some people make their own. I'm all about convenience. If I knew somewhere I could buy it cheap and pre-ground, I would.
  • A sea sponge. Not a regular sponge from the kitchen. Put this in the plain water so your crabs can still climb in the water, but if they need to, they can grab on to climb out and won't drown. Also helps with humidity.
  • The bubbler. Its optional, but its helpful. I also like the white noise they make.
  • 2 or more crabs of a similar size (so they can share shells and so small doesn't drown in large's water dish). Don't crowd your tank, but you can see after you add 1-2 how many will fit comfortably.
  • Some spare shells. Don't use the painted ones. Don't use the ones that look lacquered. Natural shells. Lots of places sell them. My pet store did NOT sell them. But look online and factor in shipping charges to see if its worth it. For me, with the flat shells or for a whole pound, it was worth it.
  • Special note: before you put stuff in your tank to stay (climbing or hiding things, extra shells), make up some of your salt water and boil your things in it. This decreases molding with the high humidity. What I did is took a large glass measuring cup, added salt additive, laid shells opening up, boiled plain water, and added the water to whatever line for the additive I'd put in (1 tsp for 3 cups, so 3 cups of water) and swished around. Dry thoroughly, preferably in the sun.
  • Keep in a low traffic area, they have a compound eye like a fly and can be jumpy. And out of direct sunlight, but not in a dark room (like my computer room, or a basement) as they need the light regulation to know when to be active.
  • They're nocturnal so keeping them in the bedroom may not be the best bet.
I hope this helps someone. I'm happy to answer with my novice opinion if you have anything to ask. Or I can probably refer you to some good sites.

Happy crabbing!


Cassandra said...

Lovely update - sounds like fun. Too bad we have a no caged/tanked pets rule at my house.

semele said...

Update: the big shell to hold water is leaking. Doh! That'll become my food dish now.

Travis said...

I like the update and your site layout. You mention you are about convenience on finding the food. have you checked out She has great food and selection and she is very reasonably priced. Just a thought.