Whether your hermit crabs live in water or a dry tank, their aquarium must be cleaned regularly.
Hermit crabs like to remain hygienic, growing distressed in unsanitary conditions. What’s more, a dirty habitat can be hazardous to the health of hermit crabs.
A hermit crab tank should be spot cleaned every 2-3 days. This involves wiping down walls and accessories and scooping substrate to remove any feces and uneaten food.
A deep clean is necessary every 3-6 months. This involves scrubbing every surface of the tank down with vinegar, baking the substrate, and boiling any accessories in water.
Get into a regular cleaning regime for your hermit crabs’ habitat. Prevent dirt and mold from building up and ensure that you use appropriate cleaning materials.
Does a Hermit Crab Tank Need to be Cleaned?
Hermit crabs need to live in clean, sanitary conditions.
Failure to meet this basic standard will cause distress to hermit crabs. What’s more, it can be harmful to their health. Bacteria and mold kill hermit crabs.
There are many reasons why a hermit crab habitat will require cleaning. Common messes include waste and uneaten food. Hermit crabs shed limbs on occasion. Clumsy crabs may spill water, which means the substrate will need to be changed.
An unclean tank will become a breeding ground for parasites. The Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology confirms that hermit crabs can attract up to 149 species of pests. Mites, in particular, often infest a dirty hermit crab aquarium.
Once an infestation takes hold, it can be troublesome to shift. These bugs will make your hermit crabs miserable and may cause ill health. All of this can be avoided if you undertake a regular cleaning regime of the tank.
How Often Do You Need to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank?
The cleaning of a hermit crab tank takes two forms – spot cleaning and deep cleaning. Spot cleaning is a basic spit and polish to remain on top of any dirt or grime. Deep cleaning is a thorough scrubbing of the habitat.
How often you need to perform these tasks depends on how many hermit crabs you keep. As hermit crabs are social, they are best kept in groups. Naturally, more hermit crabs will result in more mess.
If you keep multiple hermit crabs in an enclosure, you should perform spot cleaning no less than 2-3 times a week. If you only have one or two hermit crabs, you may get away with doing so once a week. Spot cleaning involves such basic tasks as:
- Removing fecal matter and uneaten food
- Raking substrate
- Wiping down walls with a damp cloth
- Washing and cleaning and food dishes and water bowls
A deep clean should also be conducted periodically. This needs to be balanced with the fact that it’s quite stressful for hermit crabs. To perform a deep clean, hermit crabs need to be temporarily removed from their home.
If you perform regular spot cleaning, you can limit a deep clean every 3-6 months. It depends on the conditions that they live in. Some of these animals are messier than others and will require more regular cleaning.
It is important to note that these timeframes are just guidelines. You’ll need to use your own eyes and nose to detect when a habitat requires cleaning.
When Should I Clean My Hermit Crab Tank?
Common signs that a hermit crab aquarium is due for a clean include:
- Cloudy, murky water in the aquarium of aquatic hermit crabs
- Excessive algae obstructing the view of a tank
- Mold appearing on the walls of a tank
- A foul smell emanating from the tank
- Any of your hermit crabs molted within the last two weeks
- The presence of mites in the tank
- Hermit crabs hiding constantly, stressed by unsanitary surroundings
Spot cleaning can typically be undertaken at any time. This involves minimal disruption to your pets. A more thorough scrubbing must be managed with a little more care, though. You’ll need to schedule a deep clean appropriately.
Avoid a deep clean of an enclosure while any of your hermit crabs are molting. Molting hermit crabs burrow under sand and should never be disturbed. Removing hermit crabs from their home mid-molt will have major repercussions.
If you suspect that a hermit crab is due for a molt, remove it in advance and house it alone. This solitude will be welcomed by molting hermit crabs, as this is a vulnerable time. Signs that hermit crabs are set to molt include:
- Growing lethargic
- Excessive consumption of food and water
- Enhanced digging behavior
- Exoskeleton fading to a dull gray
- The eyes taking on a milky glaze
If you are confident that none of your hermit crabs are scheduled to molt, you can proceed with a deep clean. Consider starting the process at night. As hermit crabs are nocturnal, this is less likely to disrupt their sleep.
How Do I Know if There are Mites in My Hermit Crab Tank?
Mites are common in hermit crab enclosures. As per the Russian Journal of Marine Biology, some hermit crab species are more prone to infestations than others.
It should be noted that not all mites are bad. Some species of mite will feast on uneaten wood, moss, or food in an enclosure. This will aid with keeping the tank clean. You may notice small, moving specks of what likes like dirt in a tank. These are mites.
Problems arise when mites physically attach to hermit crabs. These mites are small, but just about detectable by the human eye. They will resemble ticks, usually fastened to the mouth or eyes of a hermit crab.
Introducing predator bugs to a hermit crab tank can resolve this concern. This will serve two purposes – eliminating pests and providing an additional food source for your hermit crabs. Just do not let these bugs reproduce to the point that they dominate a tank.
Regular spot cleaning should prevent mites from taking up residence in a hermit crab enclosure. Also, ensure your hermit crabs have plenty of saltwater for bathing. This will kill mites, ensuring that your hermit crabs stay clean and healthy.
Why Does My Hermit Crab Tank Smell?
If you notice a foul smell from your hermit crab tank, investigate why. Happy and healthy hermit crabs should have a comparatively neutral scent. If there is a stench emanating from an aquarium, something is amiss.
It may be simply a case of your tank needing a spot clean. Hermit crabs grow stressed when living in squalid conditions. Anxious hermit crabs release pheromones, as explained by Crustaceana.
You also need to ensure there are no dead hermit crabs in the tank. These animals can be delicate and are not always cut out for life in captivity. Hermit crabs die for many reasons.
A dead hermit crab will release a distinctive odor akin to rotten fish. Perhaps more tellingly, your other hermit crabs will surround the shell of their fallen comrade. These other crabs are aware that a shell is now available. They are lining up to try it on for size.
Sometimes, the smell of a hermit crab tank isn’t quite so severe. It may be due to an overgrowth of mold or algae. These issues are easier to resolve but must be taken seriously.
How to Manage Algae in Hermit Crab Tank
Algae are living organisms that live in water. Algae are found in natural water sources. They also thrive in an aquarium with aquatic hermit crabs.
Algae are not necessarily a cause for concern. Algae can be aesthetically pleasing and produce oxygen for hermit crabs and any fish that live with them. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, though. Do not let algae populations grow out of control.
Hermit crabs eat many forms of algae, so they’ll help you manage levels. Do not rely on hermit crabs to deal with algae alone, though. Not all forms are edible. Some are known as cyanobacteria and will be avoided.
Manage algae levels by controlling light in your hermit crab tank. Hermit crabs need direct light and dark contrast – 12 hours of each. Excessive light encourages algae to grow to uncontrollable levels.
If necessary, scrape away excess algae growth by hand. If the algae multiplied once, it would do so again. It may be time for a thorough deep clean of the tank to manage this issue.
How to Prevent Mold in a Hermit Crab Tank
Mold in a hermit crab tank is a result of bacteria. This usually stems from waste or uneaten food rotting in the warm conditions of the aquarium. Left untreated, this will start to smell and damage the health of hermit crabs.
Mold will often first appear on the substrate. This is one of the reasons that spot cleaning is so important. If you remove any moldy substrate, the spores have limited opportunity to multiply. It’s easy to miss these, especially in a large tank with many occupants.
Ensuring your aquarium is appropriately humid is one way to stave off mold growth. Providing a fresh air source will also help. Mold thrives in stagnant conditions.
Consider investing in an air pump, affixed to air stones. Keeping these stones in water dishes also keeps drinking water fresh. You’ll be able to pick up air stones from any pet specialist that sells aquarium supplies.
How to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank
Deep cleaning a hermit crab tank is a process of 8 steps:
- Waiting for the opportune moment, creating minimal disruption
- Removing your hermit crabs from the tank and placing them in temporary accommodation
- Preparing your cleaning materials
- Completing a thorough clean. This includes the walls, substrate, any spare shells, accessories, and toys
- Leaving the tank, the substrate, and any accessories to dry out
- Restoring substrate, shells, accessories, and toys to the tank
- Ensuring the tank is of the appropriate temperature and humidity levels
- Returning the hermit crabs to their home
Ensure that you are ready to complete all of these tasks before you get started on cleaning. Your hermit crabs will not be happy about being moved. Don’t force them out of their home for longer than necessary.
Once you are ready to start a deep clean, follow the steps below. This will give your hermit crabs the best chance of flourishing in captivity.
What Do You Use to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank?
Use as many natural products as possible. The tiny lungs of hermit crabs do not cope well with chemicals. Wherever possible, avoid using bleach. Cleaning a hermit crab tank with vinegar is just as effective and much safer.
If you must use bleach, wait an additional 48 hours before returning the hermit crabs to their habitat. Any traces of the bleach must have evaporated.
Relocating Hermit Crabs
Before you can clean a hermit crab enclosure, you’ll need to remove its incumbents. As discussed, this cannot be done while hermit crabs are molting. If this process is underway, stick with spot cleaning until the molting hermit crab re-emerges.
A second home for hermit crabs does not need to be another aquarium. That will be costly and require a lot of space. It must be big enough to comfortably house all your hermit crabs, though. These crustaceans are social but still require space.
A large plastic crate will usually be fine. Fill this crate with around 4 inches of the substrate so that your hermit crabs can burrow. Provide fresh and saltwater for drinking and bathing. Provide toys and climbing apparatus for recreation, and manage humidity with a misting spray.
Preparing to Clean the Tank
Prepare the temporary home for your hermit crabs, get them settled, then line up your cleaning products. You’ll need:
- A cloth
- A solution of diluted vinegar (one part vinegar, one part water)
- Boiling water
- A preheated oven
Once you have everything prepared, you can start the process of cleaning your hermit crab tank.
Cleaning the Walls of a Hermit Crab Tank
Before you start cleaning the walls of a hermit crab tank, it must be emptied. Remove the substrate, accessories, and spare shells. Shells and accessories can be retained. How you approach the substrate is up to you. You can bake it and recycle, or provide a new substrate.
If you have mold or stubborn algae on the walls of the tank, scrape these off with a knife. Once the walls are as clear as you’ll get them by hand, start cleaning with your vinegar solution.
The easiest way to apply this is through a spray bottle. Mix up a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. If possible, use bottled water. The chlorine and copper in tap water are fatal to hermit crabs. By using pure water, you remove any risk of lingering traces.
Spray this solution liberally around the tank, leaving it to sink in for a minute or two. Wipe it down with a cloth until you are comfortable the walls are clean. Once this is done, allow the tank to dry. Natural sunlight is best, so wait util morning and place the tank outside.
Cleaning the Substrate of a Hermit Crab Tank
During a deep clean, the substrate must either be replaced completely or baked and recycled. Which process you undertake is up to you. If you do recycle substrate, it must be done properly. Learning how to bake hermit crab sand will ensure your pets stay healthy.
To bake substrate from a hermit crab tank, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees and place it in an oven-safe tray. Leave the substrate in this oven for around 30 minutes. This will kill any bacteria or insects living within.
Under no circumstances immediately replace the substrate. Hermit crabs have soft underbellies, and the heat will kill them. The substrate must be completely cooled, ideally outdoors, before reapplying to a tank.
Cleaning Toys and Accessories in a Hermit Crab Tank
Any accessories in your hermit crab tank, such as wooden logs, must also be cleaned. These may be the host of all manner of bacteria or mites. Boiling water is recommended.
Avoid dropping these items into a pan. Instead, pour boiling water over them and spread it around with a cloth. You can also use this technique to clean any food or water dishes.
Toys, on the other hand, should be boiled. Drop these into a pan of boiling water for around 3 minutes. This will kill any bacteria.
Once you have completed this process, apply your vinegar spray to be on the safe side. These accessories can then be left to dry in the sun with your tank.
Cleaning Spare Shells in a Hermit Crab Tank
In addition to conventional accessories, you should clean any spare shells in an enclosure. Hermit crabs are happier when they have a choice of shells. Even if they go unused, knowing these shells are available keeps them calm.
Like toys, shells should be boiled. Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology explain that hermit crabs find boiled shells more accommodating. It’s important to know how long to boil hermit crab shells, though. Too much heat can crack and damage shells.
As with toys, boil shells for 2-3 minutes. This softens the shell enough to make it inhabitable without risking the integrity of the covering.
Returning Your Hermit Crabs to a Clean Tank
24 hours after you began the cleaning process, your tank, shells, and accessories will hopefully be dry. If this is not the case, be patient. Everything must be completely dry and devoid of chemicals before hermit crabs can return to an enclosure.
Once the tank is ready, reapply the substrate and return any accessories. These do not need to be in the same place as before. Your hermit crabs will enjoy exploring terrain that has changed. Move things around a little. It will be like a new habitat.
Ensure that the temperature and humidity of the tank are safe. Your hermit crabs cannot inhabit the tank until it is heated to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at 80% humidity. You can then return your hermit crabs to their home.
Hermit crab tanks need to be cleaned regularly with natural ingredients. Regular spot cleaning will ensure you can make deep cleans more sporadic. Do not allow a hermit crab tank to grow murky or dirty as this is unsanitary.