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.
🎼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.
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.
Crablandia is out of control. The megalopa in the transition tank are climbing out of the water naked. The stage six zoeae are killing the megalopa in the kreisels as soon as they transition. The babies on land are MIA. And I have no clue what to feed anyone anymore.
Some of the bizarre things I spent today doing:
1) Sitting in front of the kreisels, pipette in hand, waiting to spot a newly transitioned megalopa swim past so that I can reach in and whisk it out of the kreisel before a stage five attacks and kills it.
2) Performed 4 exo-cisions, a special procedure by which when I spot a megalopa stuck in his exo (it usually hangs off the claws and if they can’t remove it, they eventually drown), pipette him out and into this tiny antique salt cellar, move it under a bright light, and using a toothpick very carefully pin down the exo. Normally the megalopa backs up and separation is completed. If not, I drag him a bit, using his body weight to help release the exo. Then pipette him back into the intermediate tank.
3) Spent several hours sifting through my bag of live sand in search of miniscule shells. Then carefully determined if they were intact, with no holes, if so, I then used a straight pin to clear the opening, trying not to push it through the other side and make a hole in the process.
4) Carefully constructed a “shell wall” of sorted and cleared shells at the border of the sand in the transition tank, thereby insuring that if a crab insists on crawling out naked, he will at least have to climb over a wall of appropriate shells, opening side facing up, so that in the process of streaking he might accidentally slip, drop his butt into a shell, and think, “Hey, something about this just feels right!”
5) Doubted everything I’m doing, sweated, worried, and fretted because each time I managed to stabilize conditions in one tank, something went haywire in another.
6) Finally called it at 7:30pm (they will have to do on their own until the morning), finished dinner, played with the dog, then opened a beer and found a perfectly timed message under the cap.
Here’s a video with info and a quick tour. It’s the fastest and easiest way for me to do this. Mondays are really busy days here and I’m staving off a meltdown today. I really, really, really, REALLY wish I knew what I was doing!!! Gah, some days are just so freaking hard. Everything is always changing, each tank has different needs, sometimes they start dying and I have no idea why. 😭😭
I know how miraculous this all is and how lucky I am to be able to experience it and to have the time and resources and support to take it on…but Lordy, some days. Honestly, it’s pretty consistently awful drudgery, punctuated by moments of sublime wonder and excitement. But this constant uncertainty and so many little lives in the balance and all the unknowns make me crazy!
A big part of why I’m doing this is to make it easier for those that try after me—creating a record of what worked and what didn’t to take away some of the guesswork for others—but day-to-day that goal gets subsumed as I fret and worry and try something new when the old stops working. Ugh.
I’m not someone who likes playing god (except in my fictional worlds) and the other day (to get through a rough patch where I couldn’t save all of them) I told myself, “You aren’t playing God, you’re playing Ocean.” Adopting that slant helped some, especially when I thought about all the times I’ve been in or on the ocean. Sometimes the vast ocean is comforting, a cradling, crackling, salty womb, but other days it’s wild and dirty and scary, completely indifferent to my piddly little life to the point of seeming mean. On those days when I’m struggling hard and losing some of the zoeae without knowing why, or fumbling in my efforts and causing unintended issues, I just tell myself, “You’re the ocean, Mary. And today the ocean is dirty and mean.”
I noticed today that a couple of the stage five zoeae aren’t orange like all the others have been, they’re an unusual blue (sort of grey-blue like an uncooked shrimp). In this picture, you can see the blue one above the two shells (center) and an orange one just to the right of the shells for comparison. Quite a difference. More than just a food thing (because they are all fed the same), I think this means that the last surprise spawn actually WAS from the small Ecuadorian that I saw near the pool (I adopted three late this summer and have been mostly leaving them alone so they could adjust to the new digs). I’m not prepared to call it as 100% an E, but I think this makes a lot of sense, especially given the level of cannibalism I’ve seen in this newer group. It’s off the charts—and they are fierce about it, too. Plus, many of the zoeae have been extremely fast and acrobatic in the wastewater when I try to put them back in the tank and many also haven’t colored up as quickly as the last batch. If so, I’m really stoked that this may be the case, but also worried for all the remaining PPs that are currently transitioning and getting eaten before I can even get to them to move them to safer waters. I probably lost several hundred today. Since they tend to transition first thing in the morning after I turn on the light and feed them, my new strategy is going to be trying to spot as many as I can (first thing in the morning) either pre-molt or mid-molt and move them over to the intermediate tank where they actually have sand and small shells to hide in while they harden up. Let’s hope it works.
Both of the land babies are now in black turbo shells so I can’t tell them apart anymore, but both are still happily climbing and eating.
Numbers are down somewhat in the kreisels (predation) and a few of the megalopa that I moved to the transition tank are still looking good and strong.
Also set up an intermediate tank just as an experiment. Some of the stage five that looked very ready to transition to megalopa (they get sort of bulgy and pregnant looking with all those extra legs ready to pop out…and/or their eyes start to get farther apart) I moved into that intermediate tank. It’s a 2 1/2 gallon beta tank with sand and shells in the bottom and about 3” of heated and aerated saltwater. The idea being that they will have more camouflage and places to hide and will hopefully be better able to transition without getting eaten. After they are megalopa I can move them to the transition tank.
So, yeah, I lied when I said it got easier today, because I made another tank for me to monitor. Doh! Let’s see… that’s how many now?
1) big tank
2) kreisel #1
3) kreisel #2
4) transition tank
5) baby tank
6) the intermediate tank.
Oh, and two mason jars of brine shrimp I have to keep warm, aerated, and hatching and spaced out so there’s overlap. Yowza. My crab room is full of air pumps, heaters, lights, and bubblers. 😜
I’ve set up the transition tank and moved a few zoeae over just as an experiment. I’m having a weird issue that isn’t currently a huge problem but it does concern me. Lots of the stage five zoeae are transitioning into megalopa, which is good, BUT the other ones that are still at stage five appear to be attacking and eating the megalopa as they are molting so that I’m only seeing dead ones. I currently have way too many zoeae in the tank, so it’s not a problem to lose a few, but it just seems weird. Last time, it was the megalopa that were eating the stage five, which makes a lot more sense to me. I don’t know if the fact that my population of survivors is so much higher this time around is part of the issue, or what. There’s no other obvious reason that I can discern. I’m feeding mostly newly hatched brine shrimp since they are losing interest in the other stuff. Also did a full clean of both kreisels today.
The two already on land are okay as far as I can tell. Saw the one in the little dark turbo shell, but didn’t see the one in the spiral shell. Gave them their first popcorn and it was like Mount Rushmore to them—the big rock popcorn mountain. Ha! Also tried a tiny dab of organic, grass fed ground beef. Didn’t see any interest in that. May remove it before I go to bed.
Still keeping them alive, but really ready for it to start to wind down.
Still good. Eating in the food dish—spirulina, dried brine shrimp, dragon fruit powder, and powdered cuttlebone. Still no megalopa in the kreisels, but I feel like tomorrow will be the day that I will see the first one. Just trying to keep ahead of the sheds and the poo. Mostly succeeding. Lots of cannibalism again (must be the stage) but numbers are so high still I’m not concerned.
I wish I had some way to know how often they will be molting on land. It’s happened at least once, but I’m not even sure how long molts take when they are this tiny, if they tunnel down, or what their molting behavior looks like. They are super difficult to keep track of at this size. If I catch them out and about, I feel lucky. Otherwise, I let them do their thing. They are way too tiny to handle without hurting them. I’ve been struggling to come up with some common object to give as a size reference (since pictures don’t accurately convey their size) and the best I can think of is a peppercorn. Shell and all, he is smaller than a peppercorn
Still plugging along, just hanging out on a rose petal. No megalopa yet in the kreisels. Still a poop-a-palooza party in there. Hopefully we’ll have the first megalopa soon. Got the transition tank cleaned and ready.
I keep turning ideas over in my mind for how to streamline this process and make it easier/faster/more efficient for myself and others. I tried pouring the water through a small fishnet (didn’t catch the sheds—they just went right through the netting), I tried pantyhose on the end of the siphon—but then the sheds don’t get removed and that’s super important to water quality, and I tried hovering the siphon in the “dead zone” where the waste tends to circulate, but I got tons of zoeae that way, and it’s such a monumental pain to pipette them out of the wastewater and back into the kreisel that I would rather spend the time (and crank my neck for fifteen minutes) to avoid getting them in the first place (as much as is possible).
And I’m officially beyond exhausted. Kreisels are still good–they are pooping SO MUCH! And it’s multicolored poo, just like adult crabs—influenced by what they are eating. Each poo looks like a little tiny stinger from a bee and so it looks like the water is filled with beard stubble from a man who has a beard that grows in black, brown, and red.
The dark megalopa with the wonky legs was dead this morning. He never did take a shell despite hours of me trying and encouraging him to by placing them near him and even isolating him with shells on two different days. On the bright side, at least I can clean the transition tank tomorrow. I should be needing it for the newer batch soon.
Saw one of the on-land babies a couple of times today (the one in the spiral shell). He looked good. Didn’t see the other one, but I’m not about to go looking and smash him or accidentally bury him. They are so freaking small and hard to see that going into their tank even to change out food is terrifying.
In the kreisels I’ve had three shed days in a row now. Losing my mind over that. I’m not sure why no one else who wrote about this process ever mentioned shed days. Maybe they didn’t keep enough in the tank to notice them? Maybe they just thought the water was murky? But with my bright light, they are clearly sheds—thousands of them. And trying to siphon them up is like playing the worst game of Fruit Ninja you can imagine. And it’s always the bonus round where you have bombs and apples and everything all flying at you simultaneously. (I’ve never actually played fruit ninja—I’m just guessing from what I know about it. But really any bonus round on any video game would work as an analogy. Just imagine everything looks alike, with only slight differences, they’re all moving fast and similarly, and you have to distinguish which is which in a split second.) It’s kind of fun the first six or so times you do it. A real challenge. I’m a zoeae ninja!! But I’ve been playing this darn game for an hour or two at a time, three times a day (or more) for the past 53 days. I want to be done!! And thankfully, I almost am. I just keep telling myself that the water-only, molting-every-couple -of-days stage is nearly complete.
It cannot come soon enough.