Preparing Items

Preparing your crabarium and items for your hermit crabs is a very important part of hermit crab care. It is important that any item you introduce to your crabarium can not harm your hermit crab. Chemical residue could be fatal to these gentle creatures so it is recommended that you rinse, wash or boil the following items:

The Crabarium (tank)

If the tank is to heavy to lift it out, I usually spoon the sand/gravel into a plastic bag -lined bin and then wipe out the tank with a vinegar and water solution and then a cloth scented with pure vanilla essence. Just a drop is all you need to freshen up the tank, and since Vanilla is known as a natural antibacterial agent it helps fight those germs! I then wipe out the tank with paper towels and allow to dry.

Once the tank is dry I gently pour the alternate substrate I prepared earlier (lol) since I have two batches. That way you can clean your tank, put the clean substrate in and you have time in the next month to get the other sand clean and dry. It is a little bit like the two seasponge method, where you take the smelly sponge out and replace with a clean and dry sponge and go out and see to the smelly one. I prefer to sun dry my sponges as they not only last longer but absorb more water when you most need it. It also cuts down on bacteria since the sun's rays partially sanitise them.


Basically the method is a sift, wash, drain and dry - most experienced hermie owners wash new substrate and then set it to dry in the sun or bake it to dry and sterilise it

For the washing of my substrate, say gravel, I usually take the bucket of substrate outside in the backyard on a grassy area and hose some fresh water into the bucket (after removing the plastic bag) and stir with your hands or a thick stick/spoon until the water runs clear. Stir it up really well again and rinse one last time. Now you need to dry it without it blowing away :)

One ingenious method I have used that a friend shared with me, was to use a piece of perspex/flexiglass over the top of a paint tub/kitty litter tray. The sun dried the substrate in batches and then I lay it out on a clean but raggly bedsheet to absorb the rest of the moisture. Then when it dried I then poured the sand into a plastic bag and took it back inside. Before I moved to Tasmania I lived in a second floor apartment and did all my substrate cleaning on the balcony. Talk about a balancing act!

Some use beach sand or play sand and just recycle the sand in the garden or compost, while others use a strainer or colander to sift the junk out, then rinse and bake it. Just make sure that once you have rinsed it that you dry it quickly, because it can develop a musty smell otherwise. In case you can't dry it outside you can use the methods my friends in a dorm have used, and that is to remove the hermit crabs to a 'play pen' for either treats or obstacle course while you clean and dry the sand. Some use a higher bulb than the usual 15W bulb in a ReptiClamp lamp over a glass tank full of the substrate while having a heatpad underneath at the same time. It will soon dry but you have to remember to stir through (even to the bottom to stop it caking) the substrate every half an hour or so and just be careful nothing overheats. Once it is fully dry and cooled, you can ten return the dishes, bowls, caves, etc and then the Hermies! It is a lot of work, but when you don't have the suitable amenities you often have to improvise!

Natural Sea Sponges

My method is to rinse in dechlorinated water and squeeze dry. Then soak in dechlorinated and squeeze dry a second time before lowering the sponge into the waterdish . Carefully cover with dechlorinated water for drinking.

As mentioned above, you can use a 'two seasponge method' first suggested by Crablover Don, where you take the smelly sponge out and replace with a clean and dry sponge and go out and see to the smelly one. Some crabbers microwave their sponges but I prefer to sun dry my sponges as they not only last longer but absorb more water when you most need it. It also cuts down on bacteria since the sun's rays partially sanitise them and they don't fall apart.


Another rinse, boil and dry method. Sometimes when you buy seashells there is a gunk inside from the mollusk that had inhabited it, other times there is just dust or bits of seashell. Even if there is no noticeable gunk inside it is always best to sterilise the shells before offering them, and perhaps leaving a small amount of water in the shell if placed 'hole upright'. I always start off by tapping the shell against the driftwood after making sure there isn't a hermie inside. Any substrate or bits that sometimes get caught inside the spirals are dumped into a 'refuse' bucket and then I rinse the shells and soak for a while, ready for boiling afterwards. You don't have to boil but it helps if you have stubborn 'gunk' within the shells. Sometimes if the shell is relatively clean I pour boiling water into a heatproof container (like Pyrex) filled with some shells, then repeat a few times after rinsing.

Climbing Toys

If made of wood I often rinse and either place in the microwave or sit in the sun to dry out. Some crabbers like to soak the wood before placing in a microwave in case the wood catches fire (yes it has happened before) and still others like to place the item within a plastic bag so that the steam actually helps to sterilise the wood and keep it moist, rather than evaporating off and leaving the wood too dry and thus catching fire on thin pieces.

If made of plastic, you want to be careful with the preparation method. Most plastic items are not boil friendly and defiitely not bake friendly, so I often just pour some 'recently boiled' water onto them and let them soak for a bit

Water and Food Dishes

During the daily regime of removing the food and water dishes to replenish, I always empty excess or old food into a plastic bag-lined bucket/container and scrape with a piece of shell or plastic spoon, then wash them in water that is rather hot and with a drop of Tap Water Conditioner (or other dechlorinator) and set them to dry, either outside or on the windowsill. The ReptiDish water dishes I use often develop a layer of 'scum' or residue from the bathing of the hermit crabs


Rinse in boiling water with a little salt and then dry on the windowsill before returning clean and dry to the tank. You can grate some calcisand into the food dish or even to the water dish if the cuttlebone is in good condition. Hermit Crabs often climb on cuttlebone and eat it, so always make sure not to touch the cuttlebone or other items after handling chemicals or perfume, etc as it will go straight into their systems.


Similar to Coral, some boil water and then pour it over the coral and let it sit for a while, especially if it has been bleached to whiteness and there is the faint smell of chlorine. Hermit Crabs often eat the coral and they definitely love to climb all over it. Try to be careful with the coral while cleaning as it is fairly fragile and usually expensive.

Plastic Items

Items such as Dwarf RunAbout exercise balls, feeding syringes, tank items and everything plastic that isn't microwave proof should be treated with boiling water and left to sit, then rinsed and dried. If you have used it in the takn with damp sand or gravel or foodstuffs, it is often a good idea to add a little bit of vinegar and/or salt but make sure to rinse well before returning to the tank or using again. Whatever you do, don't boil the exercise balls, or you will need to buy more.

Resin Items

Resin Items should be treated similarly as Plastic Items, especially if they are delicate. Because they are usually artificial rock or wood they are usually pretty easy to clean. You can use a scrubbing brush to get into small parts with any gunk, and remember to check for dust on a regular basis.

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