Cleaning Crabitats!

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.

Be Kind to Hermit Crab Owners Who Seek Help

I’ve been joining various Facebook groups for Hermit Crabs, and many are helpful and kind. However, some are rude and some have bad apple members. This is not helpful to crab owners seeking help.

With the end of summer (even during summer) people are bringing home hermit crabs they purchased or won, or something their kids really wanted and bought. Especially those on vacation. Store owners sell them, quickly, using gimmicks like “Free Crab with cage purchase” or “Buy two crabs, get one free” type deals. The cages are small and portable. They’re sold bad food and told all the water/humidity a crab needs is in a sponge. Veteran owners know this is horrible advice.

Eventually some crab owners decide to look up information on their little buddies and find out to their horror…everything they were told is wrong! Of course Facebook is a big and attractive platform to many, so the hermit crab groups get flooded with the same questions. It can be tiring, I agree. But they’ve come for help and to hopefully change to give their hermit crabs better lives. It’s important to support that initiative and while answering their questions politely, teach them where to find care guides and navigate the files usually found in each group.

However, some groups admins get very nasty and rude when answer inexperienced crab owners’ questions. Some even go as far as banning the new owners without helping them, no reason why. This discourages people. It’s not helpful. Creating a negative and elitist environment scares people away from proper care.

Again, I know answering the same questions can be tiring. You feel like people aren’t checking the files or reading other posts of similar questions. But you have to remember we all come from different walks of life and we’re all learning. Some people might not be as computer savvy as you – some of the people asking for help are kids.

If you’re going to be an admin of a care group for living things you need to address issues with patience and kindness. I know there are trolls and rude people, I’m not talking about those. With so many different personalities online you need to carefully gauge interactions accordingly, but when asked for help try to give everyone a chance to learn.


The Crab Maid

Returning at the End of Summer

So, once more I’ve been MIA (health issues, family issues, COVID in general issues). But I’ve returned. I’m sorry for those I did not get to respond to in terms of adopting crabs.

Yes, I am still taking in crabs. Especially end of summer when people are getting ready to return to school and/or realizing hermit crabs require more work and investment for their set ups.

I don’t purchase crabs when they are adopted or rehomed to me – I have plenty of crab material and enclosures to house my own crab army! But I will take free material and even allocate some stuff to other crab owners in need.

I live in Wilmington, DE and travel up to 3 hours away for my crab cause.

Please remember – don’t purchase hermit crabs and then attempt to release them back into the wild. Even if the weather is permitting, they most likely were not harvested in the area you’re trying to release them into, this means they may not be compatible with the weather. This also means they could be invasive and compete with other species in the area. It also means they could bring diseases to an area. Even if you could pinpoint where the crab was harvested from, they may have picked up a disease along the way. Many crabs are forced out of their shells and placed into painted shells, or are painted while in their shells – this paint is often toxic and releasing a painted hermit crab is bad for the environment.

There is a great deal of wrong information out there on keeping hermit crabs as pets. People often think they’re cheap and easy and rely on those selling them to give them correct information. Truth is, most selling them don’t know the correct information. They use out of date information that is -very- wrong. It’s understandable in this situation that people want to rehome their crabs to more experienced owners.

HCA: Hermit Crab Association has an entire section devoted to helping people find adopters in their area. Please visit if you need to rehome your Hermit Crabs. Or just visit to learn more about proper Hermit Crab care and meet some awesome people!

Copper Sulfate and Invertebrates

Ahhhhh. It’s been a while since I’ve written!

While shopping for new things to feed my Hermit Crab army I got into reading ingredients. Specifically I wanted to avoid copper sulfate. It’s in -everything- because of what it does to food.

So what does it do? Why is it in just about everything? It fortifies food and adds mineral supplements. It’s also an antimicrobial agent and helps keep powdered foods from caking. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well…not so much for many marine invertebrates. And Hermit Crabs fall into this section.

I love referring to this stuff as Cookie Monster’s ashes at work…seriously, it looks the part, right?

Why is copper sulfate bad for marine invertebrates? Hemocyanin! Most aquatic invertebrates have hemocyanin to transport oxygen instead of hemoglobin. Hemocyanin uses copper the same way hemoglobin uses iron. In nature copper is a bit rarer to find, so invertebrates absorb it quickly and easily. Because of this, long term ingestion of copper sulfate in commercial foods for invertebrates can lead to toxic levels.

Of course it’s all complex and there are way more details than what I’ve written. But the jist of this post is to avoid foods with copper sulfate when feeding your hermit crabs. There are many options to feed them: hard boiled eggs with the shell are excellent for protein and calcium, and you can give fresh fruits and veggies (wash carefully to avoid any kind of pesticides or herbicides). Remember though – small amounts! Hermit crabs tend to forage at night and you may not even notice them eating as they are small. Cutting up their meals and refrigerating leftovers can go a long way.

Busy, busy, busy….!!!

So my silence has been due to classes starting, surgery, medical procedures, homework, cleaning, volunteering, and rescuing. @_@!! Oh my!

I’ve added four new crabs to my colony. Not directly yet, they have to pass quarantine first. I got to say though, hard boiled eggs with the shell on and crushed up = a universal favorite with crabs. And isopods…my orange isopods are flourishing.

The newest addition to my hermit crabs is huge compared to the rest. He looks to be interested in exchanging his painted shell for a natural look. I’m nearing my limit for my tank, I’ll have to start a new one if I keep taking in rescues.

I’m hoping to get my camera up and running soon. I should have done it months ago, but I got side tracked. Anyway, I discovered a text art hermit crab. ^_^

…//(  00 )\….. 

The “Toss Away Pet/Souvenir Pet” Concept

Now we’ve entered Summer 2019. Summer is a big season for picking up goldfish, betta fish, small reptiles, and hermit crabs. In the Northeastern area of the US at least it’s not uncommon to find these animals being given away as prizes at amusement parks, or sold cheaply at boardwalk shops. These animals are seen as easy to care for and short lived. But neither statement is really true.

Goldfish for example, if taken care of properly, can easily live for over two decades. The oldest known goldfish was 45 before passing away. Most parents that get fish for their children believe they can just be in a small water bowl and only have a lifespan of a few months. Hermit Crabs are not an exception to the “Toss Away/Souvenir Pet” concept.

While all pet owners should be responsible to do their research on any new animals they decide to get and prepare accordingly, sometimes they rely on the people they believe to be experts. I mean, obviously someone who sells hermit crabs must know a lot about them, right? If only.

Hermit crabs are most often encountered by people who are on vacation. They’re away from home, they see these awesome little guys in colorful painted shells, then they or their kids really want a hermit crab or two. And they’re in luck! They’re cheap, they only require a small cage, their food is cheap and lasts a long time, and you can leave them along for long periods of time without needing to check in on them. Dream pet, am I right? Check out this set up!

Totally cute and looks easy to deal with? A pair of little sea shell bowls for food and water, plus a sponge and you’re all set, right? It sounds like a dream pet. And the sellers are counting on vacationers to impulse buy because heck, when will they get out to the beach or boardwalk again? And the seller sounds really convincing about the little hermit crabs. They may even toss in a few items to make the sale.

Now the hermit crab(s) are ready to go home with their new family. The family may or may not research their new pet. If they do they’ll find out everything they knew and were told is wrong.

First, crabs are often wild harvested – if they’re being sold on the boardwalk, it’s pretty much a given that they’ve been harvested from the wild. The paint on their shells is not safe, and usually they’re pried from their natural shells and forced into painted shells. If provided new shells the hermit crabs will most likely change into a natural shell. This is because if they’ve been forced into a painted shell it may not be the right size for them.

Shell Guide

Second, the cage. Open cages are terrible unless you live in a warm area with high humidity. Hermit crabs do best in 72+ degrees Fahrenheit, and 80%+ humidity. Wire cages have a tough time retaining heat or humidity, heating pads and an enclosed habitat are a must in most areas. The sponge is often pushed to help with humidity, but tends to encourage dangerous bacterial growth.

Third, the substrate. Gravel is terrible. Hermit crabs need a sand and eco-earth coconut fiber mixture that is wet and pliable (think sandcastle building consistency). This mixture should be mainly sand as too much fiber retains water pockets which can drown crabs or encourage tank flooding. You need roughly 6~12 inches. Hermit crabs will bury themselves in order to molt. It’s dangerous for them to molt on the surface. And it’s dangerous to discourage molting, molting is how Hermit Crabs grow.

Crabitat / Hermit Crab 101 Care

Fourth is the food. Most commercial hermit crab food is mixed with not so good preservatives. Hermit crabs do best with fresh vegetables and fruits, plus proteins like eggs (raw or hard boiled), untreated meats, shrimp (raw/cooked), etc. There are many great food lists out there for hermit crabs. And lists for bad/toxic foods.

Good Foods

Bad Foods

Fifth is the water. Two large dishes are needed, one with saltwater and one with freshwater. People are often told to bathe their crabs weekly, but this isn’t efficient or good. They should be able to chose when they want to be in the water, how long, and how frequently. Water should be treated with a dechlorinator.

Water Guide

There is much more – adding hiding spots, climbing spots, etc. But we come down to the main question – would Hermit Crabs be a popular pet if people knew off the bat how much they will cost them for proper care? In my opinion, probably not. Hobbyists who put work into their crabitats aren’t numerous. People who buy hermit crabs as toss away pets are extremely numerous.

What do I suggest for new crab owners? Join the Hermit Crab Association first off. Try to get a proper set up. Or set your crabs up for adoption. People looking to get into the hobby should try adopting crabs and discourage the hermit crab industry. And don’t hit yourself for failing at the beginning, failure just means you have room to grow and learn. I especially encourage parents who get pets for their kids to research and teach their kids to do the best for their pets.

And never treat any living thing as a toss away. They have lives too. This might sound cheesy, but it is an important concept many people seem to overlook.

-Crab Maid

The Crab Maid

Hello, I feel I should do an introductory post. My name is Liz and I’m a maid to seven hermit crabs! I’m a marine biology student who is fascinated by coral, cephalopods, decapods, etc. Since getting into keeping Hermit Crabs I noticed a lot of misinformation floating around. And with summer 2019 here lots of new Hermit Crab keepers are going to pop up since Hermit Crabs are “summer fad pets.” Stores try to sell them cheaply with a lot of incorrect information. People buy them up thinking they’ll live a few months or a few years – but the truth is that proper care can make a Hermit Crab live for decades! So if you’re interested in my little side bit, feel free to subscribe and read on. 🙂

Say hello to the three Amigos that started it all.