Hermit crabs make great pets. They are very active and fun to watch and interact with. However, as with any other type of pet, pests can sometimes become an issue. Mites are quite common when it comes to owning and caring for hermit crabs. Unfortunately, when they invade your tank, they pose a health threat to your hermie, not to mention they are just annoying. Luckily, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to properly rid of them for good.
How Hermit Crabs Get Mites
Unfortunately mites are quite common in hermit crab tanks. Even the cleanest crabitat can become infested with these nasty little pests. Typically, mites visit crab tanks because they are attracted to the warm and moist environment, and also enjoy the availability of food and water. Once mites settle in, they lag eggs and colonize your poor crab’s home. The only way to get rid of them is to thoroughly sterilize your crab’s tank.
How To Recognize Mites
Mites can be easily recognized by their small size and colors:
If you see small green, gray, or black bugs crawling on your hermit crab or around their crabitat, and/or if your crab is behaving unusually, chances are your tank probably has mites.
Getting Rid Of Mites
The most reliable method for eliminating mites is to throw out all infested substrate and sterilize everything.
To do this, here’s what you’ll need:
- A bowl or small container
- New substrate (sand, gravel, moss, dirt, etc.)
- New climbing walls, huts, and/or other accessories that are not washable
- Bottled distilled water
- A towel, cloth, or paper towel
How To Properly Sterilize Your Crabitat
In order to sterilize everything, the first thing you will need to do is remove your crabs from their crabitat and place them in a small bowl or container, temporarily. Then follow the next steps:
- Take the distilled bottled water and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Be sure to remove the cap first. The water should be luke warm afterwards. If it feels too hot, let it sit for a few minutes to cool down a bit.
- Next, pour the water into the container that your crabs are in. Let them soak in the water for awhile, then put them upside down so the dead mites fall off. Be sure to let all the air bubbles out. This process can be repeated as many times as necessary, but usually 2 baths are adequate for completely removing mites from your crab.
- Dry your hermit crabs with a towel, but do not put them back in their crabitat yet, as they will only be re-infested with mites.
- Empty out your tank and throw away any old substrate and/or climbing walls, huts, shells, and other accessories that can not be washed. Place your tank in a sink or under a faucet and fill it up with luke warm water. Rinse, dump, and repeat until all mites are dead and have been removed. Some items can also be boiled in hot water for 5 minutes. Pieces of wood can be sterilized by placing them in a microwave oven for 2 minutes, or in a regular oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. You should keep a very close eye on the wood during this process, so as to make sure that it doesn’t catch on fire.
- Wipe the tank out with a cloth or paper towel, squishing or removing any remaining live mites that might have survived. Then set the tank aside.
- Next, wash off all decorations, accessories, and food dishes with water and dry them off with a towel.
- Replace your tank with brand new substrate and re-decorate your crabitat with new accessories.
- Once you are sure your crabitat is 100% mite free, you can return your crabs to the tank.
Important Tips About Eliminating Mites
When you are cleaning out your tank, it is especially important to pay close attention to the corners, as mites love to hide. Another option is to use a vacuum hose to suck the substrate or remaining mites out of the corners. Placing the tank in a sunny spot to dry is also ideal, since mites hate sunlight. Letting your tank thoroughly dry in the sun for awhile will encourage mites to vacate the crabitat.
Sterilizing Substrate Vs. Buying New
If you can’t afford to buy new substrate for your tank, there is always the option of sterilizing the old substrate using an oven. This method can be done by preheating your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and spreading the infected substrate onto an old cookie sheet to a depth about 1/2 inch. Bake in the oven for a half an hour and let cool. This method can be repeated as many times as necessary until you are absolutely sure that your substrate is 100% sterilized and ready to be returned to the tank. Be sure to clean your tank thoroughly before replacing substrate.
Preventing Future Infestations
The best way to prevent future mite infestations is to keep your crabitat very clean. Eliminate anything that could possibly attract them. Food is a huge thing to consider in this case! Once your crabs have eaten a bit of their food, dispose of it until their next feeding time. Leaving old food in the tank to rot, is sure to bring mites back. Also beware of dried shrimp and plankton type foods, as their strong odor also tends to attract mites. Always remove food before it has the chance to spoil or get moldy.
Crabs are notorious for burying morsels to save for later, so be sure to do a thorough check, a few times a week for any hidden food items that may be out of sight. Be sure to clean crab droppings and replenish water dishes on a regular basis as well. Replacing your sponges in your crabitat on a regular basis is also key to avoiding mites. Do a smell check for a dirty or moldy sponge, and replace it right away if you notice a foul odor. Live plants and other vegetation should also be kept out of and away from tanks, as these too attract mites. If your tank has a glass lid, be sure to dust it on a weekly basis to prevent dust build up, and prevent mites from re-infesting the area. Taping lids down is another great way to keep mites from entering and hiding in the corners of your crabitat, as it provides a great barrier that they can’t get through.
Change Your Crab’s Feeding Routine
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest triggers for mites is spoiled food. The easiest way to prevent this problem is to change your crab’s feeding routine. Rather than feeding your crab in the morning and leaving the food sit for hours or days at a time, try these next few methods:
- Offer fresh food in a separate container outside of the crabitat. This is especially helpful if your crabs are messy eaters, or well known for burying their treats to save for later. This makes cleaning everything up a breeze and is a great way to prevent odor, bacteria buildup, and mites in your crabitat.
- Feed at night. Place your crab’s cut up, fresh food in a bowl at night, and then remove it as soon as you wake up in the morning. Be sure to check for buried food, and to wipe everything clean if necessary.