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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When you get time and feel especially chatty would you do a post on the hermit crabs? I'm kind of fascinated with them and like so many others know very little about them.

I might be the only one but who cares, it's a teachable thing.
 

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Absolutely! I'd love to! I'll get some good info and pics up this evening. I actually just lost one of my favorite little fellas, I called him Ten- after Tenford who was first to top of Mt Everest. (Yeah I'm a dork, I own it!) Not a clue what went wrong, they just don't always make it in captivity. Some do great for many many years, while others just- poof! You wanna talk about something we are just learning about... these. So much poor or misinformation out there, or lack of good info? Not lack of but not widespread. Just as you said, nobody knows a whole lot about them or their care. It's a learning process!
This is/was Ten. His abdomen was already dessicated when I found him today, I'm drying his exoskeleton now, since it's so close to done anyway! Poor fella- I lost a leg when rinsing but I'll reattach later somehow.


Thanks for asking- I'll load you up here soon!
 

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Serama King
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Add me o the list of people who would like to know more.

One of our teachers had hermit crabs in her classroom, but I was always so busy I never had the time other than to glance at them. Hers were never so big and colorful as yours.
 

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Hermit crabs are a vastly underrated pet, and most people see them as completely replaceable, or as we say, throwaway pets. The reality is much more complicated.

EDIT: I did not say this and should have, and put here for visibility. In order to grow, a crab must shed its entire exoskeleton; they split it across the back and slide it off. Ideally. Sometimes they can get caught in their own exo and perish, sadly. When they molt they are then soft until their new exoskeleton hardens. Usually the worst part is the first 24-48 hours, but they aren't fully hardened for a few days at the least. The process from above sand to back up can take anywhere from a few days to several months, depends on a ton of factors, but mainly each crab is different. Hope this fills in a blank or ten.
Hermit crabs can live up to and above 40 years in captivity. However, they do not readily breed in captivity, and every hermit crab you see is wild caught. We are only now finding how to get the crabs to reproduce AND be able to get those zoeae to land, in shells. Not mentioning getting through the molt after molt it takes to get beyond just pea sized is incredible! However, a lady named Mary Akers, along with some other brave souls, have started getting this down to a science- literally! We have had a few clutches of eggs (thousands of zoeae sometimes!) make it to adulthood en mass, and are now finding how to get the exotics to do the same! I can't wait to share the babies I am getting with you!! They're so incredibly delicately tiny, like a glass figurine the size of a pea. So cute. Here's her site if you're interested in knowing more about her work and attempts- really cool, and really cool pics too. She's an awesome lady.

http://maryakers.com/my-hermit-crab-breeding-attempts/

Molting. Oh joy. Pet sand, is the nickname for when they all go to molt! I don't see them between 1/4-1/3 of the year due to molt schedules. To summarize, when a crab molts, they dig down and around until they feel like they've found a good spot. Might take a few tries, too! Tank thrashers.... But once they do, they build a little molt cave for themselves so they have a little space to move freely. Then they begin the process, which takes some time, of shedding their entire exoskeleton. Once they've done this, then they briefly rest and begin eating it to recycle nutrients. This is why it is imperative to make sure they always get to eat their own exo, such as emergency situations where you might have to move them while molting. Ideally they don't get disturbed and they pop back up later on like Oh HI!!!

Conditions must be maintained around 80 degrees, and almost more importantly the humidity MUST be 70% or higher. Anything under this 70% and they die a slow death of asphyxiation. Crabs use modified gills to breathe, and when they don't have humidity they don't have 'working' air. I use a timer and lighting system for mine to simulate the 12 hours or so daylight they prefer. Let's see.... food. A large variety is best, but we have also come up with a basic crab pyramid. They need calcium and protein among other things, but they forage sooo much on regular leaves and wood and stuff too! Scavengers man. Some like it fresh, some like it a few days old and turning kinda icky, some like it in bigger pieces and some smaller. So they are picky as well! Mine all also use exercise wheels to help simulate the miles of beach they normally walk. They each have their little oddities and quirks, favorite spots, favorite buddy, etc.

I have 4 different breeds of crab. The most common is the Caribbean or Purple Pincher; this is what is mainlined to every boardwalk around the world it seems. They are NOT kept in proper conditions in most instances and they lose almost as many as they sell. It's sad. It's also why they don't usually live very long. It depends, but they go through so much abuse it's unreal. Don't even get me started on the industry. It would make you all sick too. Pulling the crabs out of their shells and literally stuffing them into new painted shells is only a fraction of it. Anyway.
One of my favorite breed is the Ecuadorian. They're a smaller more compact breed, with expressive eyes and varying colors. I'll add them second.
Third breed I have is Indonesian crabs, and they are cool too- they are vary brown-purple, and have an oversized big pincer, kinda cartoonish. I own 4 but only the one is with me. I'll post her third.
Last I have a strawberry crab, who actually belongs to my friend Kelly- she has one already so Ryder will go live with her. You'll see the name in the look, they'll be last!

Anyone wanna know how to sex a hermit?! On the underside of their walking legs is a pair of pin hole sized gonopores, and if you spot these they're a female. But to further confuse things, they are sexually dimorphic, and can change sex in certain conditions. Even worse, they aren't always visible! So it's not an easy thing unless you spot them right out the gate.

I could go on and on I'm sure, but here are some of the best part- the pictures! If you have any ?s feel free- I'll do my best to answer them. They're my other hobby, lol! I have been keeping crabs for 2 years now- there's a steep learning curve but they're not hard either. Just takes some research. Thanks for the interest!

Purple pinchers Dave, Small Sam, and mystery crab lol (can't recall!) Princess is also a PP. I am working toward her being an ambassador- I wanted to set up some hermit crab awareness tables at events this summer but Covid ruined those plans for me too. She is so attention-getting and educational, due to size/age, and so mellow about being handled she would've been perfect. Wait!! Crab #3 is my Barry girl. She's super duper dark in color, it's hard to capture correctly!




Ecuadorian crabs (Es- another common name) They're one of the fastest- they run in literally like 4 directions at once so they can change direction at any given moment- and do! I know the 3rd one is my James, though he didn't make it thru first molt. Es are also more sensitive to captivity and do not do well sadly. Average lifespan in proper conditions is still only about 5 years, and I feel there is something to their care we are still missing. But anyway. They're adorable with their comma shaped eyes, and they are the troublemakers and instigators lol. Just generally high speed!


 

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Sorry, had to break up the pics. I never mentioned that they are social in some regards as well. There is ongoing research to determine if it's simply safety in numbers or a necc component of care. However, older and larger crabs do show and teach the younger ones how to behave, where to find food, and climbing spots etc etc. pretty cool to watch!

A couple more of the Es there, and then
3rd is my Indo, Misserendoh. Cept we figured she's not a 'Misser' but a Missus! So now she is simply 'ME' hahaha.
You can see one instance where an E got themselves in a pickle-



Now the Indo- ME- Indos have a solid black eyestalk, you might be able to see the difference between Princess and ME in the third one. ME is a very purple toned Indo, and I have worked at that too! You can boost their colors, if not change them altogether depending on a few factors- more the PP and E but still.




Last is the strawberry crabs, Lessie and Ryder. Long story behind it is this. I adopted crabs from a guy which was supposed to include 2 straws, and my jumbos with ME. When I got there, they couldn't locate one of the straws after cleaning out the tank so we assumed a loss. Over a month later he contacted me bc they'd found it crawling around their basement nearly 6 weeks after I had picked up the others! I had sent the one up to live with Kelly already, and this kid lives in northern Va. I honestly didn't think I'd be able to take him, but the parents of the kid couldn't keep it either. My hubbs happened to be going to training the same weekend his parents were coming to see him at college, and so we worked it out. He's with me til he goes to her! So anyway- here is Ryder the COVID crab. Jk. I was being a dork as normal. Can you guess how they got their name? Can you?!?



 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you, OM.

I'm keeping this post up on my screen for a while. I have questions but not quite awake enough to be intelligent sounding. It did take me a long time to get through reading and looking, not because it was long but because it was so interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Not all of us know what a zoeae is. I had to look it up.

So besides having wheels to work off excess energy what are their habitat requirements. I'm guessing sand is important.

Do they all live in the same tank or do they need to be in their own spaces?

Diet requirements?

Don't worry, I have no plans on starting a new hobby. I'm just naturally curious.
 

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Not all of us know what a zoeae is. I had to look it up.

So besides having wheels to work off excess energy what are their habitat requirements. I'm guessing sand is important.

Do they all live in the same tank or do they need to be in their own spaces?

Diet requirements?

Don't worry, I have no plans on starting a new hobby. I'm just naturally curious.
Good stuff- thanks for pointing it out! I was trying to think of everything, and it's so easy to take for granted what I do know now.

Habitat; they can live together cross species etc. Not everyone and not every crab is successful, they're like most creatures and depends on who is in there with who. Some get along and some don't. They are not cannibalistic unless they are deficient. Once they are extremely low on certain things they will sometimes take advantage of a molting or weak crab.
Most crabbers use a mix of 5:1 sand and eco-earth (coconut husk & fibers.) this allows the sand to maintain a moisture level high enough that their tunnels and caves keep their shape. Some are slightly different, for example- the Indos are the most land based hermit and some prefer more of the coco fibers in the substrate. The straws are the most shore based hermit, and they do best with a good sized pool. More on that in a sec. they need things to climb, several extra shells apiece, they love moss and cholla wood, many of us use shower caddies to hang on the inside of the tank for more vertical space. Similar idea to chickens, but no wings!

Water requirements- can't believe I left that out! Hermit's have to have salt and fresh water (dechlorinated, and same as fish) that is deep enough to submerge in. They use this for different reasons but a big one is pre-molt; they take in water so they can separate the exo more easily. The straws like to swim and use it far more than any other type, and many keepers use a full fish tank setup with their pools. These must also have some type of grippy tamp or way to exit the pools, or they will eventually drown. A bubbler can help with this, but of course not indefinitely.

Foods; they are first and foremost scavengers. They love things like worm poop and bee pollen, lots of leaves, flowers, barks and woods, plants etc. Shrimp and fish and coconut and- hang on and I'll share the mass of items I use for them.... and I wrote out a full food guide a while back too.


Yes it's a disorganized mess, because I'm about to move all my Hermit's into one large 72 gallon tank (except for the Indos- they will stay separate.) tons of foods and food mixes from Etsy crab food stores, and eBay etc.
here is a copy of my handwritten food guide- most info derived from the Hermit Crab Associations forum/site. If it's too hard to read I can type some/all up, but figured this was accurate and thorough. I'm nothing if not thorough! Lol- I wrote all this out in my crab care book- I keep track of molt dates for each crab, and/or any health concerns.








Ask away! I'm happy to share about them- the more who know, the less crab deaths in the world. Can't complain about that!
 

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Also, I keep Isopods. I have a 'mother' colony, and I have I think precisely one billion of the little suckers in the jumbo crab tank! They are my cleanup crew though- those big crabs have a lot of poo! They also suicide themselves in the water and foul it up often. They are cute though- they are also crustaceans, so they work well living together. Really cool- except when you get overrun. Ha.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I quite frankly don't know what to say. There is no doubt you want them to thrive.

It's amazing that they can find all that you listed in the wild to maintain health and condition and as I'm reading I'm wondering, how? How do you take foods with some size to it and pair it down or mix it in small enough batches to not have tons left over.

And I had no clue they climb.
 

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Wow, that is so cool and you have put so much work in your research! I hope you are saving all your material in case you want to do a crab book someday, maybe you can could do a crab care component to your business.
 

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Awww thanks guys! I did just add an EDIT about molting itself in the first novel I wrote there, I should have done that before so this fixes that lapse on my part. I had no idea what a community there was for crabbing until I got into it. The people who like crabbing, LOVE crabbing. There is an annual CrabCon too! Pretty cool- lots of vendors and 2-3 days of talks from experts and experienced people.

Robin- there are plenty of middle men to get it all down to these smaller batches. I do mix some of my own where I can, the things they eat the most.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
From the looks of those couple of pics it looks like you do more of your own blending.

You do realize that once they're in their new home a pic is going to be asked for. Nothing like good pics to understand what we're being taught.
 

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Serama King
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I mentioned a teacher friend that had Hermit Crabs in her classroom. She complained that they did not thrive for her and now I know why. The teacher certainly did not do HER homework.

These posts were quite interesting as were the pictures! Thank you for sharing.
 

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The truly unfortunate thing is that most pet stores do not even know proper care standards themselves. As such, the information they pass along is poor at best, and people go home thinking surely the pet store told them the right way to care for a PET..... but no.

I will absolutely take some pictures- more than a few I'm sure! Once I get back I will pick up the rest of the sand for the tank- I'm estimating 350-400lbs of sand alone, then add the coco fibers, plus a bit of water to keep it moist ; they say sandcastle consistency, but that's not good enough info either- too vague. Instead, think sandcastle but only just enough to be such- they're great diggers, and don't need or want much water in it. Umm. Back to it- plus the 1.5 gallon pools (2) and it starts being significant weight to be sure!

Robin- absolutely they love to climb! Another name for them is tree crab, actually. They love it. My Barry sleeps in the shower caddy most days. The larger crabs don't dig much, it's just too much work, plus they are less of a target the bigger they are. I think anyway.

Here are a couple examples of further back on their bodies; note the smaller legs and then the soft abdomen tucked all the way back in the shell? Most crabs aren't this brave and/or comfortable, but my Dave is special anyway!

 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
How do you keep the sand and water clean?

How much of the crab is actually in the shell? Do the small legs help hold them in their home?

Not surprising a pet store has little good information on their care. Walk into any feed store and ask them about poultry keeping. They are wrong way more often than they're right.
 
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