So I see a lot of different types of advice on how to clean/sanitize crabitats and figured I’d share my own. I use and slightly modified professional level aquarium cleaning methods.
For my glass and plastic items (tank, tote, plants, etc. – non-porous items – porous items can absorb bleach and then slowly leech it out over time) I use a 9 cups water and 1 cup bleach diluted solution. I soak the items in question for 15 minutes then use Prime treated water to rinse. Then I soak the items in Prime treated water for another 15 minutes. This makes sure bleach is broken down and removed from the items. An additional 48 hours of waiting will guarantee no residue is left. This sanitation process helps make sure that you’re not introducing harmful chemicals or bacteria into your crabitat. Just rinsing with water will not help.
Wood items should be boiled. Especially if it’s brought in from outside and not a store. You want to get rid of any foreign organisms that could invade your tank. Small wood items can be boiled for roughly a half hour then dried. The larger the wood the longer the boil…up to 2 hours of boiling for very large pieces of wood. Of course, you can also bake wood – especially if you can’t fit it into a pot to boil. Bake at 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. Watch the wood closely! This can be a fire hazard!
Substrate cleaning. Sand, typically play sand, is the sand of choice. It’s best to buy from a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes because often buying online comes with a shipping fee based on weight – it can get pricey. You can rinse the sand with regular water, allow it to dry, then bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for a half hour. Again, never leave an active stove or oven unattended!
The above recommendations are for starting a crabitat! After all is done and set up you really should not clean the crabitat beyond basic touch ups. I know people can be a little freaked out by bugs but springtails and isopods (isopods are actually crustaceans just like hermit crabs) make excellent clean up crews. Your tank can be bioactive (it takes care of itself) and all you have to do is maintain food and water and keep your heat and humidity at optimal levels (around 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and over 70% humidity). Higher than 80-85% humidity can produce mold, but with springtails and isopods you may not get mold at all – thus contributing to the overall health of your crabitat and it’s inhabitants. Don’t be surprised to see a hermit crab snacking on the little helpers though!
Now, I keep a small 10 gallon tank for medical emergencies and quarantine. After each use I disassemble the whole tank and go through the sanitation process. I don’t keep springtails or isopods in the small tank either, as it’s a place for recuperation and quarantine. But a clean tank for recovery and to monitor new arrivals can save your main colony from invasive organisms, so it’s a good investment.