Archived information regarding hermit crab behavior.
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I rescued 9 hermits from deplorable conditions (wire tank, 100+, no food/water/substrate/place to hide, limbs everywhere). I drove 45 min. home, bathed and put them in a large tank. The next morning Stripe was dead. MamaLove changed shells, had a drink and a bite and retired to a log. A day and a half later she was pulled from her shell, her pincher leg beside her. I figure she died defending it since she picked the best one. The others forced their way behind the climbing wall or hung from the top of it. Happy stayed there two days and sadly fell victim when he came down to eat. I found him in the food dish, pulled from his shell, 3 legs beside him. Sad. Then I noticed mites too! Man!! I didn't see any in the first bath water. I bathed and moved them with clean food/water dishes to a rubbermaid tote for the night and found the killer when I saw them fleeing and acting defensive. (that's why Happy stayed on the wall). I've lost 2 more to stress and the the others are back in the tank but Sport is still in solitary 2 weeks later. I don't think he was establishing pecking order since MamaLove and Happy were unsuspecting and defenseless. Was he in a survival mode, trying to protect available resources since the former environment had none? I'm trying to rehabilitate him. I lift him gently, talk softly, give him play time outside the tank and a variety of food. I'm trying to socialize him, even put him in the tank for short supervised periods and he keeps to himself. I feel bad taking him out again but I'm afraid to trust him. I didn't rescue the others to have them die like that. Has anyone had success with rehabilitation? Sorry it's long but I felt the circumstances were important!Thanks, Friends!
It may have been the stress. I know when I brought two crabs home, Shorty made short work of his tankmate a few days later by tearing him apart and going cannibal. Therapy? I bought four or five more crabs not long after, and when Shorty tried to be agressive with THEM atop the pile of bricks I had, they kept shoving him off. I was afraid they would kill him, but he eventually got the point. He's meek as a lamb now. *shrugs*
Hey! I've heard of a number of people having very similar problems. Frankly, it's probably a combination of things. Shell-fights are unfortunately pretty common. If these deaths were the result of shell fights, you might want to think about buying a whole BUNCH Of shells, of varying sizes and kinds and putting those in the tank. Secondly, it most likely is due, at least in part, to stress. I would keep the agressive hermie in ISO for a long period of time (I know they are social creatures, but how social can this one be when he kills his fellow crabbies?). The best thing for all the hermits at this point is for the agreesive hermit to stay in iso. I would recommend a minimum of one month. He needs to COMPLETELY de-stress before he can be re-introduced into the main tank. The de-stressing period will probably be extra long because of the particulalry awful conditions that the poor hermits were kept in.I doubt that this was all the result of dominance...if crabs are trying to establish dominance, they usually wave their claws and make big gestures. As far as I know, dominiance doesn't usually result in attacks. Well, I hope this helped! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Thanks for the replies. They did need shells and I offered many but I think he felt he had to fight for surivial as a result of his circumstances, as you will see below.Two days prior to purchase I found the crabs in a beach gift shop - 100+, wood framed wire tank, lone dish coated with green slime and no substrate, huts or food. Dozens hung on a hard, dry sea sponge mounted on the back wall in search of water. Others crawled over lost limbs, a dead naked hermie and each other and the remainder scratched desperately at the lid. I politely pointed out that their urgent need for attention, then naively went to wait for it. I asked 4 or 5 total; nobody came. I even offered to clean it myself if they were busy (they weren't). Finally I sent my kids to appeal. They were told "we received a shipment yesterday. When we put them in, we'll give them water." I was furious and told them so. As I stormed out I told people all the way down the boardwalk to go complain. Two days later I went to buy and rescue som. I looked them over and chose 8 of the bigger ones in dire need of shells, and one tiny crab. I wanted them all and choosing was hard and sad but I figured if there was any food or water given at all, with the number of crabs it wouldn't be sufficient to meet the needs of the bigger ones. So...They went from wherever they came from, to shipping, to a terrible open air tank of crowding and death and nothing more. Then more were added. They travelled to my house in an empty tank with food, damp sponges and a towel so they wouldn't slide across the bottom as I drove. I set it down and ran out to buy more stuff. I bathed and moved them once more to a nice home of EE, food, water, humidity, shells, huts and a fiber wall, then did nothing more than spy, knowing they had to acclimate. That's when Sport lost it. I THINK he saw the hide-outs and food and felt they wouldn't be there when he needed them unless he eliminated the crabs that he perceived to be a threat - the ones that were using those items. I'm grateful I didn't keep Baby in there. I figured she was too small to be a danger, health or otherwise, and thought she'd be overly stressed with no little friends so I put her in an existing tank for the company of someone her size without ISO'ing her and she's doing well. Little ball of energy.I think I'll do as you suggest Imachere, and keep him ISO'd a while longer. Even if he's calmed down, I don't want the others stressing over perceived danger. And I plan to sample some meats as I've read in posts regarding aggressive crabs.Thanks for the help. I'll post my progress.
A great deal of cannibalism and aggression is caused by lack of nutrients.In most species of crabs, they will cannibalize if there is a shortage of food in their environment.The first and most likely cure is to give the crabs thawed silversides or krill (the whole animal) every 7-10 days. Silversides work best; you can find them in the freezer section at places like Petco. It's a disgusting feed, they smell, but the crabs really love it, and benefit from it. If you do this, you'll probably note that they eat the eyes, brains, and guts first -- which leads me to believe there are some amino acids and specific vitamins and oils they really need that commercial diet is not providing.If that doesn't work or doesn't do all the trick, the next thing to try is cellulose. They use cellulose to convert to chitin and lack of it in the diet will cause them to eat other crabs for their chitin. Cellulose can be provided in the form of popcorn, corn cobs (after you eat the corn LOL) or decaying dried oak, sycamore, or maple (including Japanese red maple) leaves.Nitrogen is a third possibility. They convert nitrogen to oil, which is stored in the hepatopancreas as reserves to live on while they're molting. If their oil reserves are low, they'll eat other crabs. Nitrogen comes from young plant shoots such as sprouts, decaying leaves (again), and dead and decaying animals such as the silversides.
Kerie,Awesome! Thank you so much. Lots of info there for me to aid my little pals. So you think his attacks were isolated incidents in response to nutrient deficiency and if fed a proper diet, he'll play nice eventually? He seems mellow now. Hardly the fellow I saw the others run from just a few weeks ago. I hope so. Being lonely is no fun... When I take him out, he heads for my two tanks and tries to scratch his way in.Thank you!