The Importance of Baths
Land Hermit Crabs can drown if submerged in water for an extended time (fishermen say around an hour), but they have been observed bathe themselves in shallow pools to replace shell water and wash out any foods and wastes from their shells when in the wild.
Hermit Crabs urinate through their antennae, so any water spills during handling are shell water. Hermit Crabs have an anus located on the end of their abdomen and have been observed to flick any wastes (droppings) out of their shells. These faeces are often brown coloured and look like small sausage or ball shapes which consist mainly of sand and undigested foodstuffs.
It is important that the water you use is tepid or lukewarm. Cold or warm water can stress your land hermit crab. If possible it is recommended that you add a drop of water conditioner which will remove Chlorine, Chloramines and heavy metals as well as ammonia.
Methods of Bathing
Sometimes it helps to gently tilt the hermit crab upside down, by the time they upright themselves air-bubbles lift from inside the shell, along with a gentle movement in the water to dislodge any gunk or mites which should float and be scooped out. I do not use the submersion method unless I believe there is a reason, such as faeces or mites. It can be a little stressful for some land hermit crabs, so you might prefer to follow one of the more gentle methods of bathing.
Lower the hermit crabs into a ‘bath’ container such as a clean plastic tub or a commercial product such as the bowls pictured above. The hermit crab then wades through the water and after a few laps they are taken out. This method should be done under close supervision, especially if the container used as a ‘bath’ does not include a section for the hermit crabs to be able to climb out onto ‘dry land’ after making their way around for a few laps for some solid ‘leg kicking’. I recommend this method
If you do not feel comfortable with either the submersion or wade-through methods of bathing, an alternative method is to lower the hermit crabs into a water dish (or other container) filled with and allow them to wander about naturally for a few hours. The water dish must be one that they can easily get in and out of, and perhaps has items such as marbles, sea glass, pebbles, piece of cuttlebone or another item that will aid in their safe departure from the water, lest they drown. Make sure to replace the Stress Coat-treated water with fresh after a few hours, which brings me on to the next topic.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Some people reason that if Stress Coat is beneficial to their hermit crabs, why not put it in the water all of the time? Think of Stress Coat as a weekly moisturising treatment. Just as we apply moisturiser to skin that is dry from the effects of saltwater from a day at the beach, Stress Coat helps to repair the damage to tissues as ‘natures bandage’ as well as create a layer that helps to protect our skin from drying out. We do not bathe in moisturiser, nor do we drink it*. Stress Coat is not meant for their every day drinking water (fresh is best) it is important to replace with fresh water for the remainder of the day.
Once they have been bathed, set them down into a drying-off tub or container lined with fresh substrate, clean towel or other substance for traction and allow the hermit crabs to walk about and drip dry. If you placed them directly within the crabarium, you would find that it would soon be water-logged from all the excess water from within the seashells of the freshly-bathed hermit crabs. The substrate should never be wet, only damp. Wet substrate with foodstuffs can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.
Bathing after purchase
If it is the first bath of a hermit crab fresh from a pet store or website then you will need to increase the depth of water so that you can do your test for mites at the same time.Always use lukewarm water, de-chlorinated and a drop or two of StressCoat with Aloe Vera, such as made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, although many brands have similar properties. When you think of the conditions the hermit crabs had been in, coupled with dehydration on the trip home, it is common sense to give your hermit crabs a bath on their arrival. You can be sure that after a long, dry journey I would want to go for a nice dip and rehydrate too!
* You can now buy Aloe Vera inner gel juice (99% real inner gel) from health food stores which has been proven to be effective in reducing discomfort in people with problems such as I.B.D., the irritated lining of the stomach, etc when drank. So far there has not been any research done on the effects of Aloe Vera and hermit crabs drinking it on a constant basis, so for the meantime let’s stick to externals until the results are in.