A hermit crab enclosure should be spot-cleaned daily, removing fecal waste or uneaten food. A slightly more thorough clean should occur around once a week, with a full deep clean at least every 6-8 weeks – once a month if you have a particularly active habitat.
Deep clean a hermit crab tank with mild bleach to sterilize it, diluting one part bleach with nine parts water. If this isn’t an option, consider cleaning the hermit crab tank with vinegar, but you’ll need to do this more often. Rinse the tank with water and leave it to dry in the sun for 24 hours.
Do You Need to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank?
Cleaning a hermit crab tank is a non-negotiable part of pet ownership. If you fail to keep a hermit crab tank clean, toxic mold will grow on the walls.
Dirty habitats also attract pests. The Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology explains how 149 different unwelcome parasites can enter a hermit crab enclosure.
The cleaning of a hermit crab tank takes three forms. Spot cleaning should be conducted daily. Assess a hermit crab enclosure’s surface layer, removing fecal matter or uneaten food.
If you skip a day’s spot cleaning, it’s not the end of the world, but try not to let two days pass. While conducting a spot clean, take a more detailed look at the tank. Ensure you don’t see any warning signs of mold growing on the walls or ceiling of the habitat.
More elaborate cleaning should take place at least once a week. During this time, rake the substrate, clean any food bowls, change bathing and drinking water, and wipe down the walls.
Deep cleaning is an elaborate process that takes over a day, so your hermit crabs will need to be temporarily rehomed. This can be stressful for your pets, but it remains necessary.
Deep clean a habitat around once a month if you have more than four hermit crabs.
How to Properly Clean a Hermit Crab Tank
Patience, dedication, and suitable materials are the key to properly cleaning a hermit crab tank. To minimize disruption, you should always line up everything you need before getting started.
Here’s a checklist for what you’ll need before starting a deep clean on a hermit crab tank:
- A spare habitat, fully equipped and ready to house your hermit crabs.
- New substrate (typically a bag of sand) that’s clean and ready to use.
- Liquids and sponges for cleaning the walls and floor.
- Access to water and an oven to clean any decorations, such as rocks.
Cleaning a hermit crab tank should never be something you rush. Ideally, leave yourself at least a spare morning to clean and 24 hours or longer for the tank to dry afterward.
What Can I Use to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank?
Bleach is the best option if you wish to clean a hermit crab tank thoroughly.
The Journal of Crustacean Biology confirms that bleach can be used to control disease outbreaks among hermit crabs and reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
Bleach is caustic and toxic, so you must remove your hermit crabs from their tank before beginning the cleaning process. Vinegar is also helpful when cleaning a hermit crab tank.
If you’ve applied bleach to the walls of a hermit crab enclosure, wash them again afterward with vinegar. This removes all traces of bleach, making it safer for your hermit crabs to return.
Whether you use bleach or vinegar, your hermit crab tank must be aired thoroughly before returning its inhabitants. If bleach or vinegar fumes remain in a tank, or even traces of tap water that contains heavy metals, your hermit crabs’ lives will be in danger.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Deep Cleaning a Hermit Crab Tank
You can deep clean a tank any time unless the habitat contains a molting hermit crab, which shouldn’t be disturbed under any circumstances. Step up your spot cleaning and sponge down the walls with greater frequency until the molt is complete.
Follow these steps once you’re ready to start deep cleaning the hermit crab tank:
Step 1 – Rehome Your Hermit Crabs
If you’re keeping hermit crabs, you should always have a second enclosure to transport your pets to during cleaning. This tank can also quarantine sick hermit crabs or provide privacy during a molt.
Your hermit crabs will only live in this second tank for 24 hours, which means the enclosure won’t need all the accessories of a primary habitat. It still needs essentials, including:
- A temperature of 80OF
- A humidity level of 80%
- Disparate opportunities for light and darkness
- Lack of noise or stressful stimulation
- Substrate thick enough to burrow under while sleeping
- Enough entertainment to stave off boredom
- Water for drinking and bathing
Move your hermit crabs before starting cleaning. Wait for them to wake up, so you’re not disturbing their sleep, then move and feed them in the new tank.
Bear in mind that this may be stressful for hermit crabs. Wear gloves while moving them, in case you are pinched in fright.
Step 2 – Empty the Tank
Before deep cleaning a hermit crab tank, remove everything, including the sand, decorations, toys, and spare shells. The enclosure needs to be completely bare.
Used substrate should be thrown away and replaced with fresh alternatives.
Inspect any dishes, toys, and decorations for damages. Set them to one side for cleaning if they’re in perfect condition. If they’re cracked or broken, throw them away and replace them.
Step 3 – Clean and Dry the Tank
Thoroughly clean every inch of the hermit crab tank using a solution of bleach and water (1:9 ratio). Then, wash off the bleach and sponge down the walls again with vinegar, wiping down the walls and removing all traces of chemicals.
Once the cleaning process is concluded, your tank needs to dry. You can start the process with a hairdryer if you wish, but the enclosure will need to air dry for at least 24 hours. Weather permitting, leave the tank outside and open throughout this period.
Step 4 – Clean Decorations
Decorations, such as rocks, should be cleaned as part of this process. Run hot water and wipe the rocks thoroughly, as well as any plastic plants and toys found in the enclosure. Add some antibacterial cleaner if you can, wiping it completely off afterward.
Spare shells should be boiled in water for around three minutes, as this will kill any parasites (such as mites) that have crawled into the shells and sanitize them. Anything you wash can be left to air dry along with the tank.
Step 5 – Replace the Substrate
Once the tank is completely dry, you can add a new substrate. If your hermit crabs are used to living in sand, offer more of the same. Provide the usual six inches of substrate at a minimum.
Quikrete all-purpose sand is pre-cleaned; it can be applied straight to a hermit crab enclosure. Bagged playground sand is also fine, though it’s advisable to wash and boil this for 20 minutes at a 200OF heat to ensure it is devoid of fungi or bacteria.
Step 6 – Return Your Hermit Crabs
Once the tank is dry and fresh substrate has been laid down, you can repopulate the habitat with decorations – and, more importantly, return your hermit crabs home. Consider changing the layout from how things were previous to make life interesting for your pet hermit crabs.
Don’t disturb your hermit crabs or move them while asleep during the day. Lay down food at dusk, and move them once they’ve finished eating. Leave the hermit crabs alone for the rest of the night so they can readjust to their habitat.
Hermit crabs aren’t dirty pets, but this doesn’t mean you can skimp on cleaning.