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Artemis still has eggs today. This is now 28 days post-mating (Artemis and Kermit mated on August 17th). The eggs are extremely dark gray (you can see them as the uneven mass back in her shell on the right side) which means they are well developed and it’s time for her to spawn. The gray color is mostly a combination of the development of relatively large-for-their-size eyes and the dwindling of the orange yolk sac. They may hatch hungry. I would love to get a video of her spawning, but I’ll have to see how late I can stay up. If I miss it, I hope they survive until morning. I want to be sure that as many of Artemis’s larvae survive as possible. She is my most social and friendly crab. She comes to the sound of my voice and takes food from my hand. If I’m going to breed captive hermits, I want to do my best to select for the traits that will make them better pets than wild animals.

My first morning water change (1/2 gallon out of 2 1/2, so 1/5 of the volume) went fine. A little hectic with Molly (our new rescue pup) helping, but the first few days always feel 100% frenetic until I get in the groove (at which point it becomes only 75% frenetic). The larger tank volume is definitely nice, but I already get the sense that the Kreisel will be much harder to get and keep clean than the jars were. I fed three times today, small amounts, but I could make them even smaller and will try to do that tomorrow just to cut down on the waste. I feed a tiny drop each of Marine Snow, Nannochloropsis, and Decapsulated brine shrimp and watch it disperse. All three stay suspended well in the water column, which is helpful. Oh, I also hatched some live Artemia and added a dropperful of those to the tanks to encourage hunting behavior. I didn’t get a chance to watch for eating as Molly got very jealous very quickly.

Oh, and someone spawned in the fresh water last night. 🤢🤮😭
That was a sad and stinky affair (they can’t survive in freshwater). Thousands of dead and already rotting zoeae. I had to pull out the whole pool and clean it top to bottom. Too much stank.

Oddly enough, I think it was Lola who spawned in the freshwater (she was the one who dumped on the sand last year). And now that I think about it, all that weird guarding that Kermit had been doing of Lola for three whole days took place mostly near or right beside the freshwater pool. Was he trying to keep her from dropping in the freshwater?? I hate to ascribe too much “intent” to the actions of invertebrates, but this is certainly a curious possibility…

Off to do another 1/5 water change. Hoping that will hold them for the night. I have noticed that in the tank with the Nannochloropsis growing on the floor, the larvae appear to be dropping down and eating some of it. I’ll be able to tell for sure if their bellies turn green.

Breeding Update

Posted by on 2:36 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

106 days old.

This adorable little guy is 106 days old. My last full count (January 8th) showed 204 survivors (out of 244 that exited the water in shells and walked onto land). A full count takes many hours, a complete tank change, and several days of follow-up because when they are this small some are always underground molting. These counts are time-intensive but important since I’m tracking survival rates over time for these very unique captive-bred individuals.

Most of the Caribbean hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus) babies have moved into 4-5 mm opening shells but many of the Ecuadorian hermit crab (Coenobita compressus) babies are still in smaller 2-3 mm shells like this one in the tiny turbo. Es are definitely a slower growing crab, even though they eat everything. This feisty little fellow was even picking off and eating tiny bits of dead skin from the callouses on my palm. Yikes. If it wasn’t clear by now, I’ve definitely got some skin in this game.

Day 79, etc.

Posted by on 10:09 am in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 2 comments

Quite a few climbing on the fresh lichen.

92 new babies now in shells have been moved into the land tank. I fired the kiln yesterday and finally got some crab pottery stock back up at my Etsy shop.
Super tired tonight and hitting a wall. Tomorrow is another day. Thanks to all who have provided encouragement.

The land tank from above. About 20 new landlubbers are visible.

One in a shell on the ramp exiting the water for the first time.

So many are congregating on the rock in the corner, waiting to climb out.

Day 77, etc.

Posted by on 8:56 am in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

This video shows the fashionista crablet from that first spawn who keeps switching shells. He/she is now 77 days old, getting some color, and the antennae are working overtime.

There are also now 66 teeny tiny babies in shells from the two later spawns. They are in the land tank as of 7:30 tonight. And when I say teeny tiny, I mean SERIOUSLY teeny tiny—not just your average teeny tiny.  It’s nerve wracking even trying to pick them up. The plastic tweezers I have grip really well, but it’s still hard to get the pressure just right—firm enough so that you don’t drop them, but soft enough so that you don’t squish their fragile little shells and see-through bodies. But they are coming out of the water quickly now, and regularly. It’s like The March of the Penguins in there. The number 66 astounds me and even scares me a little.

I will likely try this all again next year in hopes of getting an easier system down. My crabs are reliable late-summer-only breeders so I have a year to decide, but I’m pretty certain I’ll give it a go again. My long-term goal is to get the process down to a number of reliable steps that anyone can do. A (relatively) foolproof system would be a success and the more attempts I make the better I can refine the methods for those that follow me.

 

Day(s) 79, 46, 43

Posted by on 6:41 am in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

November 30th, 2018. This little guy may be the tiniest landlubber yet. That’s my finger he’s on—my very wrinkly, salt-dehydrated finger. He’s so small the ridges of my fingerprint whorls are a gripping surface for his itty bitty toes.

I do believe this one is an Ecuadorian baby. I’m pretty convinced now that my little E in the green shell (Miriam’s old shell) did make that final spawn that I almost didn’t try to save because I was so exhausted and pretty certain it was another PP spawning. Boy, am I glad I did now. (And they are truly tough because they spent almost a week in “holding” in various unheated tanks that I barely fed or changed the water in because I was so overwhelmed with the losses from the first batch.)

The ones I think are Es are smaller, and as stage five zoea they were blue, and they are much faster swimmers and feistier with the pipette. These are characteristics of adult Es, so it’s interesting to note that the differences are there from the moment they hatch.

Stacy Griffith, my Coenobita ID go-to gal tells me that she thinks this is an E because of the dark spot behind the eyes which is also something that adult Es have. So I’m feeling pretty confident now that we have a good number of Es in this batch as well as PPs.

See my pretty claws?

Posted by on 6:37 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 2 comments

And I knows how to uze dem!

Day 67, 34, 31.

Posted by on 8:33 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

All good overnight. I now have almost 400 megalopa in the new transition tank. Some in the kreisel had actually done the last molt to become hermits—but in the water. They look so different, it was easy to tell. They drowned without taking a shell as a result. I think it was because I had a smaller volume of water in the kreisel that was also closer to the heater. The warmth pushes them to progress faster. It’s now set at 78 in the new transition tank which should help.

This first picture is the very first little one from this second batch of eggs to choose a shell and come on land. The light-colored legs make me think this one might be an E. Time (really will) tell.

The second picture shows the second one to come to land. He/she is in the pink shell, center of the picture. The little crabby pulled into the shell when I loomed over with the camera, but you can see the legs still propping up the shell.

My holiday company starts arriving tomorrow so I probably won’t be posting much during the coming week. I still have SO much to do to prepare for that.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. ❤️🐚🦀 👶

Day 66, 33, and 30.

Posted by on 9:17 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

Spent most of the day trying to brainstorm a better way to do things and then implementing it. Went to the store, bought some things, came home, got crafty, got super sweaty and nervous trying to make the changes, but I’m feeling like I’ve got a pretty good transition tank set up now, positioned inside the 55 gallon tank. Good for them, but also good for me. The crabs will have to do a little more work to get to land, but with my holiday company arriving on Monday I really needed something that could go longer between water changes and feedings. So I have a much bigger volume of water, 1 1/2 gallons in a plastic bin, and a long reptile ramp. Decided it was time for a head count (or…thorax count) and I moved 187 megalopa in there!! Whew! (That’s 1,870 legs! 😂) And that doesn’t even count the newer megalopa that I decided to leave in the left-hand kreisel overnight in case there turns out to be some unexpected problem with the new transition tank that I didn’t foresee. These guys always show me new ways that I’m not meeting or anticipating their needs.

They are SO hard to catch now. Good grief. Those loop-de-loops, handstands, and super-gripping legs are really cute until you have to catch and move them. You have to sneak up on them from their tails, or they throw their legs wide and grab the rim of the siphon opening and then there is no budging them. Some will also play dead, like adult hermits, not moving and curling up their legs on the bottom, even if you puff them with water. But if you gently touch them, they shoot away and swim their crazy loops and then you have to chase them down. Some grab onto anything they can—other dead megalopa, food, dirt, shells, the roughened edge of my plastic pitcher. They are stubborn and frustrating, but fortunately for them I am more stubborn and more persistent and I insist on saving them anyway, the twerps. Many had already climbed out of the water, onto the sand ramp of the mini paint trays, and since they were dry I couldn’t siphon them up, so I carefully moved those with a toothpick. Little, minuscule glass-legged critters. Takes a gentle but steady hand, I can tell you that. It’s nerve wracking. Sometimes they’ll grab onto the toothpick themselves but usually I have to find a way to gently lift them without hurting them. They are both sturdier and more fragile than you think—if that makes any sense. Maybe you can imagine what I mean.

Anyway, many are still swimming today. Thank goodness. ❤️

Day 65, 32, 29.

Posted by on 10:31 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

Ugh. I don’t even know where to start. Was feeling so good about everything yesterday when I closed the door and turned off the light at 8pm. Woke up at 3:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep for thinking of all the things I have to accomplish and how I might do that. Finally got back to sleep sometime after 5, then overslept and didn’t start the first water change until 8:15. Went to light up the newly hatched brine shrimp only to discover that somehow the air pump had gotten knocked last night and stopped working–lots of brine shrimp, but all dead and already stinky. Couldn’t feed those and that is currently the only thing the zoeae are reliably eating–probably because they are such killing machines they like their food alive and kicking.

The later water change (from oversleeping) meant that at least 300 megalopa were already dead because they had morphed and gotten killed by the blue stage-five zoeae while I wasn’t there to intervene. SO. MUCH. CARNAGE.

And they aren’t just killing for eating anymore, it’s clear, They target them and dispatch them quickly. it’s just straight up killing. I think it’s a resource competition thing…or the fact that once the megalopa harden up, THEY start to kill the zoeae. I don’t believe in an ONLY competitive model of animal survival (cooperation is seen a lot, too, just not generally in babies). When it comes to babies of any species, that selfish gene rules the day. Babies will do anything to outcompete their siblings because it really is a matter of life and death. And these zoeae aren’t even siblings of the PPs (I don’t think–still pretty convinced they’re Es). But I think they are “smart” enough (in a selfish gene sense) to know that it’s kill now or be killed later, so they are killing now with a vengeance.

And the carnage isn’t even the problem. per se–there are still tons of zoeae, and truthfully I couldn’t handle 300 more megalopa right now. I’m already incredibly overwhelmed just by the ones I’ve managed to save. BUT once dead, the carcasses foul the water quickly and then more die just from the fouled water. OR I work my butt off changing the water SO MANY TIMES …you get the idea. Woe is me.

Threw out my back around 9am–putting on a sock. How does that even happen? That made the water changes even more fun.

Had a 10:30 appointment for my back that I barely made after the carnage. Got home around 12:30 and got right back into it only to have more catastrophes. I’m too tired to relate that whole story (still ongoing), but suffice it to say that the transition tank collapsed, creating an IMMEDIATE emergency with no quick solution. So exhausting, so nerve wracking. I’m getting tired of continually being forced to think on my feet and avert disaster. And sadly it wasn’t entirely averted, but I did my best. I sure hope we have some left come morning, but I am absolutely burned out. Hopefully the backup brine shrimp will start hatching soon.

Day 64, 31, 28.

Posted by on 5:35 pm in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 1 comment

🎼Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64….days old?🎼

Apparently, yes, I will, little crabby. One of the land babies was out today, pushing shells and seeds into the pool. Apparently they hatch knowing how to be mischievous. Maybe that one should be Loki.

Lots of megalopa doing handstands at the tideline, drying their butts and I guess practicing land breathing. Several streakers, but I’m thinking tomorrow I’ll see the first ones from the second spawn event start to come to land. I also have to sneak up on them when I need to siphon them up. I have to get them from behind. If I don’t, it’s like trying to get a cat in the bathtub. They spread their legs wide and grab onto the end of the pipette like, “Uh-uh! Nope.” And they will not budge.

Lots of water changes in the right kreisel, which is SO full of zoeae still. I’m ready for them to transition!

I am incredibly behind on everything. Yeesh. I hate that feeling. And my Thanksgiving company starts arriving Monday. Whew. Somehow we’ll make it all work.

Day(s) 63, 30, 27.

Posted by on 7:13 am in Animals, Blog, Hermit Crabs | 0 comments

I did a lot of rearranging today. So many megalopa transitioned this morning I lost count—and there will be at least as many tomorrow—so I needed a new plan for them and an easy way to see when they were taking shells. I cleaned the left kreisel and put all the megalopa I could find into that with shells and about five inches of water. The right kreisel has all the remaining zoeae. It will mean extra cleaning in that, but only for a day or two, because as they transition to megalopa I will move them to the left kreisel—provided I can get to them before the murderous zoeae. Since they transition mostly in the morning, I expect tomorrow morning to be busy.

Oh, and I also have a plan for a second transition tank to place in the 55 gallon which keeps temp and humidity good. I siliconed the ramp and added sand for gripping texture for little crabby toes. I’m hoping it will be cured enough tomorrow. I think it will be fine given that my earlier emergency kreisel repair (that now seems SO long ago!) only had 30 minutes to cure and was fine—no zoeae died.

Still nobody on land in a shell, but several streakers keep trying. Maybe tomorrow.