TIPS TO HELP KEEP YOUR CRABITAT CLEAN
Between your favorite little crustaceans dragging food into their hideouts, burying food, leaving a poop trail wherever they hang out, and the super moist, nutrient-rich, microbe-favorable environment, keeping a crabitat clean is no small feat. Yet a clean tank promotes healthy crabs, safe molting, and less discomfort for your hermit crabs. Here are a few tips gathered from several crab-keeping sources as well as personal experiences to help you in this important endeavor:
Keep Food Off the Sand
Feed your hermit crabs food in their little dishes. If you drop a moist treat for your pets directly in the substrate, be sure to remember to remove whatever is left over after they indulge. Although they may want to return to it later, you can relocate it to their food dish so it does not rot in the substrate. If you place the food dishes inside a larger dish, it is even more difficult for them to drag food through the sand and make a mess, (although not impossible for these clever little creatures).
Keep Humidity Within Acceptable Range
Humidity levels above 82% start to increase the risk of mold growing on your natural elements such as cholla wood, food and moss. Additionally, when the substrate becomes too moisture saturated, there is increased risk of bacterial overgrowth and fungus/mold in the substrate which can be harmful to your burrowing or molting crabs. They can develop bacterial infections which can affect the exoskeleton and spread to other crabs throughout the colony. Monitor the humidity levels in the tank and if they become too high, increase air circulation, stir the substrate (if there are no burrowed crabs), stop the misting, and remove some of your moisture traps until a new level is established.
Limit Exposure Time For Fresh Fruit and Animal Proteins
Hermit crabs are slow eaters, and may not like eating out in the open, so you should allow them several hours to eat the meals you prepare for them. However, there should be limits on how much time fresh food is allowed to remain in the warm, moist crabitat. Fresh or thawed animal protein, i.e. fish, bloodworms, mealworms, brine shrimp should be removed in 12 hours (after overnight feeding). Although the hermit crabs may like mushy, partially fermented fruit and vegetables, an alternative to leaving it in the tank several days is to allow it to become this way before placing it in the tank, and remove after overnight feeding. The odor of these foods are powerful attractants to insects, flies, and ants, which could lay eggs and produce a tank infestation if not controlled. Additionally, when mold and bacteria are present on the food surfaces, and the crabs eat and walk through the food and climb around the tank it spreads these microbes to all the surfaces they touch. Dried foods - dehydrated worms, nuts, grains, fibers and flakes may be left out longer than 12 hours, but they should still be removed and replaced from the tank within a few days.
Consider a Solid Lid
Good crabitat design has both creativity and functionality in mind. When it comes to covering the tank a solid, plexi-glass or glass lid deserves consideration. Although a mesh lid allows for air circulation, it may hinder humidity control(without saran wrap) and it allows openings for insects to enter the crabitat. On the other hand, a solid lid prevents air circulation, except when it is vented, however it prevents flies and other insects from invading the crabitat. A carefully considered approach is important when designing your crabitat.
Use a Specially Mixed Substrate
Many expert crab-keepers and crab owner societies endorse a specially mixed substrate in order to decrease the risk of bacterial and fungal contamination. The recommended mixture is 5 parts sand to 1 part eco-earth, with amendments added. Sphagnum moss should be kept as a stand-alone container (moss-pit) and not mixed in with the substrate, to decrease the risk of a fungal contamination**.
Clean the Substrate Surface Regularly
The tank won't keep itself clean, so grab a tiny poop scooper and regularly sift through the substrate surface, removing old food, crab poop and displaced moss from your moss pit. Or you can let isopods (aka. pill bugs, sow bugs, curl-up bugs) do the job for you. These creatures will help keep the crabitat clean by eating crab poop and food as they travel through the substrate. However, if you don't like the thought of adding these adorable (or scary) little pillbugs to your crabitat, be sure to stay on top of the sand mining to keep your crabitat clean and odor free. Just don't dig deep and disturb your molting crabs.
Have a crabitat Maintenance Plan
Whether or not a tank requires a deep clean often depends on who you ask and their unique crab-keeping experience. A deep clean typically involves removing all of the climbing and hiding elements from the tank and sterilizing them by boiling, baking, or microwaving, and removing part or all of the substrate to sterilize or discard and replace, and finally wiping the tank walls. It becomes more extensive to plan and more time consuming the larger the tank size, and more difficult to schedule the more hermit crabs there are in the tank and the more varied their molt cycles. However some crab-keepers swear by it, once or twice a year or every few months, as a way to keep the tank clean and the crabs healthy. Some experts endorse keeping a proper substrate and isopods to keep the tank clean; precluding the need for a deep clean. How often you should change your water dishes depends on how large they are (smaller dishes change more often), whether or not they are filtered, and how many crabs there are using them. Whether you decide to deep clean or some modified variation of the complete deep clean, there should be a plan in place for how the tank will be kept as clean as possible. MyHermiesKeeper-BETA TM app can help you keep on top of your tank care regimen, by keeping track of when you change water dishes, clean the substrate or deep clean your tank.
Inspect the Tank Regularly
The most important tip, however for keeping the tank clean and problem free is to inspect the tank regularly. Take a sniff to catch any unusual or unpleasant odors and look throughout the tank regularly to see anything which looks out of the ordinary, discoloration, fuzz or unrecognizable elements. This regular examination will help to inform you if your tank care and maintenance regimen is sufficient to keep away the bad conditions.
A clean tank goes a long way for keeping healthy crabs, safe molting conditions and promoting the longevity of your hermit crabs lifespan and comfort while in your care. Be sure to check with expert hermit crab care sources, forums and societies to determine the best ways to maintain your tank, prevent adverse conditions from developing, and treat them if they do occur.
Was this helpful? Are there other clean crabitat tips you would like to share? Send us a comment and let us know.