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New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 4:51 pm
by cinecrab
Hi everyone. I recently got a pair of hermit crabs after saving for the setup for quite awhile. They came from Petsmart and the conditions there were poor. Maybe five gallons for a half dozen crabs, wood chip bedding, etc. The staff that assisted me were also rather indelicate with them.

Point is, I got these crabs on Tuesday night. Both crabs were moving around and active, one was very active and climbing everywhere. By the time I arrive home Wednesday night both were lethargic and the less active crab had lost limbs. Thursday night I found the less active crab had died and I haven't seen the other crab as he's hiding. I want to get some friends for him but first I need to make sure I'm doing things right!

There's a picture of my tank. According to the gauge, the temp is in the high 70s/low 80s. The humidity is always indicated at 80% or so. But the gauge fell down once and while I was gone and when I got home it listed the humidity at 60something but it went back to 80 when I put it on the glass. Am I getting an accurate reading there?

I've changed the waters everyday and use the stuff from the store to remove chlorine, etc. I've left crabs food out, bananas and celery over the past few days. I did have some grapewood in the tank that molded but I removed it almost immediately. Any ideas?

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:00 pm
by wodesorel
What are you using for substrate? It looks like it might be sand and cocofiber, but it seems awfully dark.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:13 pm
by cinecrab
wodesorel wrote:What are you using for substrate? It looks like it might be sand and cocofiber, but it seems awfully dark.
It's about 75% ZooMed Eco Earth (cocofiber) and about 25% calcium sand. I found out after I got the crabs that calcium sand is bad but I didn't think dumping the tank with all the recent stress was the right decision. I was planning on using just the eco earth going forward.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:19 pm
by wodesorel
Honestly, calcium sand in cocofiber isn't' too much of an issue when it's small amounts. We've had people who have used that mix for over a decade. There are a few other little things that should be tweaked before trying again, but none of it is serious enough that it would have caused deaths this quickly. I think you're looking at this being classic Post Purchase Syndrome - and with it being both crabs something bad could have happened to the entire shipment, such as being dropped, or getting too cold.

From our FAQS:
HCADirectors wrote:What is Post Purchase Syndrome?

Post Purchase Syndrome (also known as PPS) is a catch-all term used to describe the many reasons why newly purchased hermit crabs will often suffer from health problems and even death. All hermit crabs are wild caught, meaning that they undertook a huge journey from the beach or forest where they lived at the equator to finally end up in your tank. During this journey they would have passed through many hands and many locations, which means there were many opportunities for something to happen to them. Even if the store you purchased them at had ideal conditions, the damage may already have been done before the store ever received them.

Symptoms include leg loss, lethargy, not eating, not responding, slowing down, sitting in one location for days at a time. Sadly, even perfectly normal crabs will sometimes be found dead with no warning. Hermit crabs have a way of hanging onto life for weeks after a life-threatening occurrence. The damage that caused the death could have happened weeks or months ago.

The threat of PPS is over once the hermit crab molts successfully for the first time.

What causes it?

We don't know much about hermit crab diseases and parasites, but it's likely that they do suffer from both. Because of the stress of their collection and journey, and the fact that they were exposed to hundreds (if not thousands) of other crabs from different locations and who were of different species, they could have been exposed to something they had no natural immunity to. Both diseases and parasites can take over a stressed immune system, leaving the crab unable to fight off the infection.

They could also have been seriously injured during their journey, with no way for us to know if they are hurt until it's too late. (Aside from broken limbs, which most hermit crabs recover from completely.) Some hermit crabs are able to molt and repair any major damage they sustained, while others end up too badly hurt or just do not have the strength to heal.

Another issue could be dehydration or starvation from not being able to obtain enough food or water during their time in captivity. With so many crabs being packed so tightly together, the competition for resources is high, and many pet stores don't offer proper food or water for them to replenish themselves. These types of deprivations can cause permanent damage, and a weak crab may not be able to eat or drink once it gets home.

Temperature and humidity are important for them to stay healthy. If they had been kept too cold or too dry for too long it could have caused permanent damage. Low humidity especially can severely injure their gills. Often times there's no way to find out what the conditions were or how long they had been kept that way before they got to the store where you purchased them. If crabs were shipped during winter, they may have frozen during transport.

Hermit crabs need to be able to molt. If they put it off for too long a certain hormone builds up in their system, and if it builds up over time for too long the hermit crab can die from it. Since we have no way of knowing how long it had been since their last molt, this could also be a cause of PPS.

And finally, captivity is probably very hard to adjust to. Some hermit crabs may not be able to make the transition from the open world they came from to the tiny glass tank that we keep them in. There have been cases of hermit crabs who seemed to sink into a depression and simply gave up trying.

There are no veterinarians for hermit crabs. There also isn't much research into their health. We can only guess for now what the actual causes are, but all of the above are very likely scenarios and would explain why so many new hermit crabs pass away even when given perfect care. The HCA is always on the look out for new research that could explain why PPS occurs and how we can treat it successfully, and we will update as we learn more.

So what can you do to possibly prevent PPS, or treat the crab if it is showing signs?

Keep the new crab as stress free as possible. Do not handle him or her until after they molt for the first time. Try to keep the room where they are kept quiet, and stick to a normal day/night lighting cycle.

Make sure to offer as much healthy food as possible so they can gain the energy they need to heal. Great foods for this include:
Bee Pollen
Peanut Butter
Fresh Coconut
Fresh Apples and Pears
Mineral Supplements or Cuttlebone

Using dechlorinated water is essential. Offering saltwater along with fresh is important as well. (Saltwater should be made using a marine water mix - please see the Water FAQ for more information.)

The new crab will also need to be able to bury in order to destress or even molt right away. Make sure that the substrate is moist and deep enough for the crab to be comfortable. If not using the main tank for this, then a smaller ISO should be set up with substrate that is at least 2 to 3 times the height of the crab. (Please see the Isolation Tank FAQ and the Molting FAQ for more information.)

The debate about Environmental Stress

There are two differing opinions on how to maintain their environment while a hermit crab is new. One method is to adjust their conditions slowly from what they were in at the store to the conditions in your normal tank so they can adjust gradually. The other method is to get them into ideal conditions immediately so that they don't have to stay in sub-par conditions which could cause further damage to their gills.

Neither approach has been proven better than the other, but no serious studies have been done as to which has a better success rate. The choice of which to use has to be left up to each crab owner to decide which they are more comfortable with. The adjustment methods is provided below for those that wish to use it.

Please note - both sides agree that once a hermit crab has been put into good conditions, the adjustment method should not then be used. It's too much stress and shock for the crab to bounce around that much with heat and humidity. Never go backwards (lower) with conditions - only move the humidity and heat higher.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:47 pm
by cinecrab
Thank you for the reply and information. I knew the stress of transport and poor conditions could also be the reason, but as I indicated, I didn't want to purchase new crabs without checking.

Macho, the crab I have left, has at least seemed to move, so I know he's at least alive still under the shelter but he hasn't come out yet. And if anyone else has any ideas or suggestions for me to take action on, I'd still be grateful to hear them. :)

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:22 am
by Lburns
I hope Macho makes it! Go Macho!

I wanted to add a few things...

Your substrate looks shallow. It should be 6-8 inches deep. So, I would purchase more Eco Earth to increase the depth before getting more crabs.

Maybe check craigs list or the adoption forum here if you're in a big city. You may could adopt more crabs instead of going back to the pet store.

You said you got the crabs Tuesday night but got home Wednesday night. Is that correct? If so, what did you have them in for transport?

Here is the HCA care guide so you can double check your conditions before getting more crabs:

I don't think your humidity dropping (if the hydrometer is working) to 60 one night would harm the crab. I believe there is info on the best place to put the hydrometer in the care guide. I use this and really like it: ... ref=plSrch

Hope all will go well from here on out with your crabbing experiences! Sorry for the loss. :(

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 2:18 am
by wodesorel
The four things I can see that may cause trouble:

The shallow substrate like Lburns said. Ideally, you want it to be 4 times higher than your bigger crab stands tall. For average sized crabs, that works out to 6 to 8 inches of depth, for a 10 gallon tank, 1/3 to 1/2 of it really should be filled depending on how big the crabs are. Try adding a 50 lb bag of playsand from the hardware store (seriously!) - it'll be well under $5 and will probably be a little more than what you would need to get it to that depth. Cocofiber mixed with moistened playsand is the easiest substrate to use as it stays moist and allows the crabs a more natural substrate to dig in.

I've been spamming this a bit lately, but I'm a visual learner and I always think it helps to see what a tank should look like. This was set up for Quarter-sized crabs:

Water bowls should be deep enough so the crabs can submerge completely whenever they want, and they don't have to be anything fancy, they can be old margarine containers! Bathing stresses them out, but they carry water in their shells at all times so they need to be able to replish it at will. Sponges are okay to use, but they need to be microwaved daily to prevent bad bacteria from growing and are often more hassle than they are worth. Needlepoint canvas or plastic plants will allow crabs to get out of a deeper container, as they can drown if they get trapped. You didn't say what kind of salt you were using for them - hermit crab salt and aquarium salt don't provide them with the needed nutrients. Only a saltwater fish salt like Instant Ocean will have the 70 different elements found in seawater that are beneficial to them.

The two spare shells that are in the tank are not the right kind for a hermit to want to wear. They can be a little picky about the shape they like. We have a shell guide here with photos of their favorites: ... 25&t=92552

And as for diet - they need meats. They are scavengers and get as much protein as they do plant matter. Some sort of meat or seafood should always be provided, along with some sort of fruit. They do eat veggies, but not nearly as much.

There is a ton of articles here on every subject you can think about, and we are always here to answer questions!

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:11 am
by soilentgringa
Oh hey if you dropped your gauge on the floor you probably need to recalibrate it. You can do this by mixing some salt and water until just moistened in like a water bottle cap or shot glass and place it in a ziploc bag with the gauge for about 8 hours. The humidity should be 75%. If it isn't, you will need to adjust your hygrometer.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:05 pm
by cinecrab
Thanks again everyone. I put some additional eco earth in the tank and I'm trying out a new deeper dish for soaking. I went to a craft store and took a long look at what they had shell-wise (Pet store had terrible single options). I bought the best bag of shells I could find. He switched shells with a new one that ultimately seemed too big but he did seem more active while he was in it. I think Macho might just desperately need a bigger shell. I'll have to keep looking for something better, as I haven't found anything yet myself.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2015 5:03 am
by hermieluv1
Natural peanut butter and some honey will also do wonders for him. As well as other high quality dry food. I gave up on fruits except for an occasional treat. They don't seem to like them near as much as their dry food, and it attracts bugs.

Re: New Owner- Is it me/my tank or not?

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2015 11:00 pm
by DaTrininator
The petco staff know nothing about hermit crabs. They once asked me of I wanted them to pull the crab out of the shell. Thanks for rescuing the crabs and hope he makes it! :banana: