Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hermit Crabs - the real deal

I've had my hermit crabs now for only 4 months. But in that time I've done tons of research and learned a lot about the lil guys through some trial and error, but mostly by being willing to take good advice when I heard/read it. At this time, I have 12 crabs ranging from Tiny (about the size of a nickel) to medium (about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger). They all coexist nicely and have great digs.

This article is meant to be a quick guide for anyone interested in owning hermit crabs, or improving the conditions of their own crabitat.

The initial cost is fairly high, but the monthly cost is very low. Fairly minimal cost for a pet.

Feeding will be every 2 days. Water will need to be refilled every 3-7 days depending on how deep your dishes are. Cleaning will need to be done monthly. Cleaning will probably take about 30 minutes. That's it! Very low maintenance.

Painted shells:
Just a quick word about painted shells. Never! That's the word. Never. Cool? Okay. Why? Oh, alright. Paint is toxic to animals who are adapted to breathe through gills on land and they nibble the edges and it wears off in the home and eventually kills them. Good enough, huh? Plus, pets aren't decorations. Shells are beautiful. Let them be. Further, the places that make the shells and the process to get them into them is inhumane. Remember the word for painted shells? Never. Good. Moving on.

I'll go into detail here as to what you REALLY need to save you the time and expense of doing it "wrong" and having to go back and re-buy or do again. Bleh to that! If you'd like to see my previous attempts, (lets call it progress) you can look HERE and HERE and HERE. To save you the trials of it all, I'm going to condense it and tell you what it cost me. I'll leave out what I spent that DIDN'T need to be bought so you can do it once and do it right.

I promise you that if you buy these things, and just this, you'll have a perfect crabitat out of the box and can get your lil hermies home and happy right away.
  • 20.00 20 gallon long tank - bigger is better, but this is a great size for up to medium crabs. Want it cheaper? Try FreeCycle or CraigsList or ask the pet store if they have any tanks that will not hold water. You're not putting water in, so a small crack is okay! You may get half price or even free.
  • 20.00 4 hermit crabs - they are social. You need 3, get more depending on how big your tank is.
  • 7.00 Instant Ocean from the aquarium section of the pet store - this is for salt water.
  • 6.00 Hiding log, just taller inside than your largest hermit crab = Biggie.
  • 10.00 Coco hut, textured for climbing, not the smooth ones, opening large enough for Biggie.
  • 15.00 Coco mat, 10 gallon size, climbing surface on back wall of tank.
  • 10.00 Flat glass lid (not mesh) to fit your tank.
  • 6.00 Fluker's moss from the reptile section of the pet store.
  • 25.00 Extra shells for the crabs - at least 2 each, more is better. The opening should be about the size of the current opening and some larger shells. Your crab should be able to duck inside without being lost in there, and have his big pincher cover the opening for protection from birds and such. Pet store, craft store, online sites, eBay. When you buy, ask for an extra "feeding clam shell" - a half clam shell that's fairly deep that you can give food in. Should be thrown in free.
  • 8.00 Driftwood or Mopani wood or Cholla wood for climbing - Target, craft store, pet store.
  • 4.00 Food dish from pet store - hamster/ferret/hermit/reptile bowls, just 1
  • 20.00 Temperature and humidity gauge, digital is best, reptile section.
  • 5.00 Calci-Sand, reptile section.
  • 4.00 Playsand from the Home Depot - 50 pound bag. Get one from indoors, near cement.
  • 2.00 Thin velcro strips with tape backs from the home improvement store.
  • 4.00 Natural sea sponge - painting section of home improvement store. Not fake!
  • 1.00 Gallon of distilled water from grocery store
  • 3.00 Two Gladware containers at 2/3 cup each, kinda deep, deeper than Biggie.
  • 5.00 Fake flowers from the craft store, include vines and whatever you think will look nice.
  • 4.00 Two soap caddies from the bath section of Target with good suction cups on them.
  • 1.00 Pebbles or glass marbles, just 1 small bag from craft or pet store.
  • 10.00 The good food - order it online HERE - type in your species and get the "mix". If you're confused, email the site, they'll get right back to you and suggest something. They will also send you loads of free samples to try out and see what your lil guys like for next time.
$190.00 Yeah, well...that's initial set up. After that, all you have to update is the food at $10 every 2 months or so. And if you feed them fresh stuff too, even less.

Ready to setup:
You got your supplies and you're ready to setup. Great!
  • You cleaned the tank, right? You can use vinegar and a sponge if it's used. Let air dry. Crabs are sensitive to smells!
  • Staple the strips of velcro to the coco mat all over the edges. Tape the other side to the tank. Adhere.
  • Mix about 1 Tbsp Instant Ocean with 2 cups distilled water. I find this amount stores nicely in a used water bottle for easy pouring. Fill a second used water bottle with regular distilled water for easy carrying. Label the salt container.
  • Pour enough sand in the tank to make it twice as deep as your largest crab is tall. Deeper is fine. Do think ahead to maybe you'll get bigger crabs at some point, just in case. Add salt water and mix by hand until it is sand castle consistency. You may need to make more salt water.
  • Arrange your coco-hut, climbing wood, hiding log, moss pit (just kind of toss it all in a corner, or however you like), water dishes (Gladware) with the glass pebbles divided between them to coat the bottoms, food dish, feeding clam shell, sponge, and shell bins (soap caddies with suction cups) so they can get to everything. Drape your fake flowers into the water dishes so even the smallest crab can climb out should it fall in. This part takes the longest. I highly recommend that once you get it all how you like it, you leave it alone. So play all you want now. Create lots of shade (I use a hemp hammock from HERE for extra shade and climbing surface) and hiding places. Make sure they have easy access to food, water, and shells.
  • Add the temperature and humidity gauge. Make sure you can see it with your decorations.
  • In the feeding clam shell, put some Calci-Sand. Calcium deficiency is the number one reason for cannibalism - and you don't want any of that! Its also a necessary nutrient for molting, which is necessary as to not die - good stuff.
  • In your food dish, at night time (they're nocturnal) give a pinch of your good food. If you also feed fresh, use a separate container to avoid spoiling. I replace the dried food (wiping out the bowl) every 2 nights. Fresh food must be taken out each morning. They like loads of fresh foods including fruits and veggies and plain meats - they're scavengers. Check THIS out for more information.
  • Make more salt water. Fill one dish with salt water (pick which one you'll remember - I suggest the one closest to the wall or the one on the side of the hand you write with - can't mix em up) and one with distilled water. See, isn't pouring from the little bottles easier? I think so.
  • Put shells in shell bins. I use a single layer, opening up. People do it all different ways. When your crabs need a shell, they'll figure it out.
  • Add lid.
  • Do all finishing touches.
  • Add crabs, gently.

Sounds like a lot of work, but if you like decorating / arranging, its not, not really.

And that's it. You're done. All you have to do is maintain now. Simple, huh? Yep!

You'll see them wander around for awhile then settle in for a good hide. At night they'll be up and roaming again. Some scratch the glass with their feet, so they may not be good in a bedroom. Mine live in the office of our house.

Some people will say you need a heater and lights. Lights are not necessary. A heater is necessary only when it is cold - and then depending on where you live. In South Florida I'll never need a heater.

My crabs love walnuts, honey, and plain popcorn. Its fun to try different things on them and see what they're drawn to. Remember not to give them preservatives or spices; go easy on their digestive tracts.

Here's my crabitat at present:Left side: shell bin, hiding log, shell big for large shells behind hiding log, digital gauge, substrate: Eco earth mixed with dry sand - tank is very humid.

Center: moss pit in plastic bath bin (to keep the moss out of the water dishes), mopani wood in the back, sea sponge, coco hut, hemp net held up by aquarium suction cups

Right: water dishes near front, fake flowers to climb out of the water, two cholla logs, coco hut, shell bin, food dish in back, two shell food dish in front corner attached to driftwood (worm casings in one side, calci-sand in the other)

1 comment:

FreedomFirst said...

Wow, thanks for the tip about vinegar! I hadn't thought of that. I know I can't use soap, so I wasn't sure how to handle the whole bacteria thing.

When I moved our crabs from the 10-gallon to the 20-gallon, I put it up on a higher shelf where it would get some indirect sunlight. And boy am I glad! Not only because the crabs seem happier, but also because my toddler just put a 2-lb. dumbell through the 10-gallon tank two nights ago!! Unfortunately we have a molter in there, which is why I still have it out; so I had to just clean up the glass and patch the hole with cardboard, and I'm hoping when he emerges, I find him before he finds the broken edges of the glass.

I'm going to replace it, since I have the screen top anyway, and use a divider to make two convenient ISO units in one. Out of our seven crabs, this will be five who have molted.