Setting up your Crabitat
This is the most fun part of owning a hermit crab! This is where I will walk you through the basic steps of putting your crabitat together.
Cleaning the Tank
Either you bought a new tank or found a used one it still needs to be cleaned before adding substrate to the tank itself. For new tanks you can rinse it out with hot water and dry with a clean towel, for a used tank you'll want to clean it with vinegar and hot water a few times and make sure it's cleaned of whoever else lived in it before. Clean the tank inside and out and let it dry. Never use bleach or chemical cleaners since they can leave a residue in the inside of the tank!
Find a Quiet Low Traffic Area For the Crabitat
This is VERY important where you keep your crabs tank in your home, never place it in front of windows, heat vents or in a busy high traffic area, sudden temperature fluctuations and noise can stress out your crabs.
Placing the Heat Mats/UTH
This step is a must before adding your substrate, heat mats should ONLY be placed on the outside sides of the tank at least 4-5 inches from the bottom of the tank or the same height of the sub level, if you have smaller crabs the sub should be at least 5-6 inches deep so plan where to put the mats according to how deep the sub needs to be, you can use a ruler to measure this. Attach the mat to the glass and make sure you can still reach the mat when the substrate is placed into the tank since the tank will be to heavy to move once the mat is placed and if it needs to be replaced or moved in the future! I suggest keeping the tank at least 4-5 inches from a wall.
Mixing the Substrate
The substrate is one of the most important parts of the crabitat and keeping the crabs healthy. You should have a large bag of playsand and a brick of Eco Earth to do this next step. You will also need a bucket to soak the Eco Earth while it expands in water. You can use a separate bucket to mix the sand/eco earth together as well or you can do it in the tank itself.
1. First use a new/clean bucket and drop in the Eco Earth Brick and Add 1-2 Cups or either Dechlorinated warm tap water or light strength salt water to the bucket and let the brick of Eco Earth expand. (You don't want the Eco Earth to be sloppy or drippy wet, just moist) Depending on how big your tank is you can save the remaining Eco Earth for later use by storing it in a container or bag with ventilation to prevent molding.
2. Next you will want to add 5 Parts sand to 1 Part of the Moist Eco Earth or EE, you can do this by taking a few scoops of sand to the tank then a scoop of EE and mixing it until you get at least 5-6 inches of substrate in your tank. Just make sure both are mixed. Your sand should have a sand castle constancy and not be dark but "speckled" from the EE mixed in. If your sand is dry try misting it as you mix it together with Dechlor water. Never use high concentrated salt water to mix in the sub, it can cause burns, but diluted salt water can help to prevent mold in the tank.
Add Food/Water Bowls
Now that you have your heat mat and substrate ready in the tank you can go ahead and add your water bowls, food bowls and other Decor. Make sure to rinse off and clean all items before placing them into your tank. Cholla wood should be soaked in hot/boiling salt water and dried before placing into the tank to prevent mold. You can place items anywhere in the tank but remember to note which water is the fresh or salt! Hermit Crabs require both! If your crabs are very small add some pebbles or gravel to the water bowl for a way for them to get out of the bowls.
Adding your Temperature & Humidity Gauge
A Temperature/Humidity gauge is a required item inside your tank to help monitor the conditions in your crabitat. Digital gauges work the best and cost around $8 from any hardware store. They use batteries and are safe to use in the crabitat. You need to place the gauge on the substrate level (yes it will get knocked over but you can add decor around it to help keep it in place) You can also use a suction cup to place it against the tank wall an inch above the substrate to keep it in place as well.
Adding a Shell Shop and Moss Pit
For the Shell Shop you can use a plastic shower caddy with suction cups to keep your shells off the ground and keep them clean, just make sure they have a way to climb up to it by using a vine, or cholla wood. Moss pits are a great way to keep humidity levels up and to provide a place to hide for your crabs. You can use Terrarium moss in the reptile section at any pet store. Make sure it's not dyed green or an unnatural green color, never use peat moss or craft moss, it is harmful and can kill hermit crabs. For moss pits you can use the same idea as the shell shop or use a container and bury it slightly into the sand and fill with moist moss.
Covering the Screen Top (If a Screen top is used)
Depending on the size of your tank you can find a glass lid for your aquarium or you can choose to use a heat resistant screen top but if you use a screen you have to cover it to keep in the humidity and keep the heat inside the tank, a regular screen top will not achieve this. To cover your screen you will first have to decide what type of lighting you will use, if you decide to use Heat Lamps you'll have to keep a section of the screen open for the lights so they do not catch anything on fire, or use the heat lamps on the side of the tank aiming them at the sides. If you decide to use an aquarium hood light you can simply measure the light and cover the screen around the light.
To cover the screen you will need, Foil Insulation bubble wrap or something that can get wet and won't mold. I use Foil bubble wrap and tape that down to the screen, then I tape cardboard over the foil wrap and I have an opening for my light to fit so there is no gaps for the heat and humidity to escape. You can even use plastic wrap or something similar even plexi glass though plexi glass can warp.
You will also want to have something on the screen such as clips to prevent the crabs from escaping since they like to climb the screen tops upside down! :)
All Photo(s)/Content Copyright June Girardi/Hermit Crab Landing and May Not Be Used/Distributed in Anyway Without Approval