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We’re getting so close!! The first megalopa has taken a shell and climbed out of the water onto a rock!! I am so ridiculously excited!!! The final stage to becoming a fully formed hermit crab will occur when the megalopa crawls onto land and molts in the sand. That on-land molt gives him the final hermit crab touches of two sets of antennae, land gills, shell legs, and pleiopods. Go little guy, go! In the first photo, my finger is pointing to the shell for scale—to give you an idea of just how incredibly freaking small this little critter is. The second picture I took with a clip-on iPhone macro lens so you could see some of the actual crab details. The megalopa is right at the water’s edge so he’s soaking wet, but you can just make out the walking legs—holding both him and the shell upright—and one black eye wondering, no doubt, what the heck I am doing. Although, come to think of it, for the past 35 days I’ve been siphoning him up through a narrow 30″ tube then shining a bright light on him and sucking him up again to deposit him back in the water, so perhaps nothing I could do would faze this little guy. After taking the picture, I put a single defrosted brine shrimp at the top of the rock (using a toothpick) and he climbed up and ate it! (I may die of cuteness overload.) He has since crawled back down the rock and into the water. This “land practice” will likely happen for a few days (much like a tadpole turning into a toad exits the water a bunch of times as his legs grow before becoming a full time land dweller). Stay...

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So stinkin’ cute—am I right? This was taken in a small Pyrex ramekin and this little larval crabby is tenaciously hanging on to the tiniest ridge of glass that runs around the inside. They are also super fast and shoot around the surface of whatever container they are in. Today there are a total of 18 megalopa (like this guy) in the transition tank, along with some day two zoeae from Lola’s second batch. They are mostly in there as a way to monitor conditions at a glance (canary in the coal mine), and also to serve as live food for the megalopa so they (hopefully) won’t eat each other anymore. There are also a bunch of shells in there with them. No takers so far, although I thought I saw one shell moving. I think I need to set up a time-lapse camera to record if they are in shells and moving around. There are also thousands of day two larvae in the two kreisels. We’ll just see how it...

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Three weeks. If nothing else, I’ve done that. Today was deep-clean day and I had a semi-emergency. Took almost five hours to complete because I realized (after completely wiping clean and drying it) that the left kreisel had sprung a leak. Freshwater was dribbling in. I must have wiped a little too vigorously at the silicone (it was filthy). I was home alone and needed about five hands, but somehow I managed to plug the outside (under water) with one hand, dry the inside completely with a second hand, and silicone the leak with a third hand. Still not sure how I did it. It was one of those emergency out-of-body reactions like lifting a car off of your child.  I let the silicone dry for 30 minutes and things looked good, then I added some water, put a few brine shrimp in, and when they didn’t die I added a handful of zoeae. I waited a few more hours before moving over half of them just to make sure the fresh silicone wasn’t going to be deadly. (It wasn’t.) And after staring entirely too long into the newly-cleaned water of the other tank, I’m confident saying that we are entering stage five. Next stage is megalopa!! (That’s when they get claws and start looking for shells.) Very excited/worried about that. Rough population count puts the total at right around 500. Deaths will go up today, because of the stressful deep clean of the tanks, but it’s always a balancing act between more dying from NOT cleaning the tanks versus more dying from cleaning them…and they had gotten pretty slimy and gross. The other source of additional deaths today will be from the difficulty of entering stage five. This picture shows one that’s half stuck in his exoskeleton (the shed exo is the pinker tail going vertical—the new, freshly molted tail is almost clear and extends behind the orange abdomen). It’s just hanging on, probably stuck on the new leg structures. I’m seeing this a lot today—as their bodily structures become more complex, the sheds become more difficult and dangerous. This is one of the reasons I went with reef salt, because it has higher calcium which I thought would help them to have sturdier exoskeletons. I did a calcium test just to be sure, and the numbers are good, even a tad higher than a normal reef. Now I need to go stream some mindless tv. I’m pushing the limits of my sanity once again, but thank you all for taking this trip with...

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Day Eighteen. Finally got a really good closeup shot today of one that I think is at Stage Four. I’m placing it side-by-side with a drawing of the various stages provided for verification. (Credit for the diagrams goes to: “The Larval Development of the Tropical Land Hermit Coenobita clypeatus (Herbst) in the Laboratory,” Author: Anthony J. Provenzano Jr.)...

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Everyone seems fine. Minimal losses still. More sheds today but just late bloomers to Stage Four, I think. No pictures to share tonight—I’m just barely keeping up, but we’re still on track and there’s nothing new about their development to report. I’m starting to put a lot of energy and research into the next stage. If my survival rates stay this good, I am definitely going to need more teeny tiny shells. I do have a bunch, but I need to sort and clean and organize what I have and then figure out how/where to order more.  I found some larval lightning whelk shells on Etsy and those have arrived, but it was only like 25, and not all will be usable. I’ve already got some that I picked out of live sand last year, I bought some tiny turbos from Alaska Hermit, and ones a friend picked out one-by-one for me from a whelk egg casing. I’ll try to take some pictures of the shells I already have and share them soon. Bear in mind, the shells that are in Michael’s and the Dollar Tree LOOK really small, but those are several sizes too large, actually. I need shells that look approximately like SAND. I’m also getting concerned about what they will eat once they reach the glaucothoe stage and get claws instead of their little feathery hands. The things I’m using now are great for planktonic larvae, but won’t really work for clawed creatures. I’m thinking I may move my one E that’s up over to the big tank and use the 55 as a baby hatchery if I get a ton of megalopa. I’ve been watching YouTube videos from Curlz about the megalopa stage and trying to plan. Getting nervous and I’m not even there, but hers came at day 24 for PPs, and that’s only a week away. But I do realize these are all good problems to...

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Day Twelve. This is a slow-motion video capture that shows the legs and swimmerets furiously swimming, and then right before the video ends (at about 40 seconds), one of the shed exos drifts past. It looks like an eyeless, opaque, ghost zoea. I’ve been trying to capture one on film for days and am thrilled to have caught one. On shed days, there are hundreds of these in the water and it requires double cleaning sessions just to keep the water somewhat...

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