Summer 2021 Breeding

In May of 2021, I moved Hermit House Breeding and Earth Water Fire Studio to Blacksburg Virginia. It was a difficult move for the crabs (and the humans) but we arrived in time to set up for Crab Con and spawning in the new tanks began in earnest in September.

9-28-21 and 9-29-21 spawn: The first to spawn this year was a 2018 captive-bred C. clypeatus baby, and it occurred in the 2.5 gallon saltwater pool with live rock and amphipods, which they seem to like a lot. At three years old, the captive-bred babies are clearly able to reproduce, although with much fewer offspring than the larger, adult females. However, this batch represents the very first second-generation of captive bred C. clypeatus, which is no small feat. In 2019, I selected specific 2018 babies to keep for my breeding stock, based on three criteria: 1) intense coloration, 2) sociability/diminished fear response, and 3) slower growth/remaining at a smaller size longer. Hopefully we can encourage these three traits in future generations of captive-bred C. clypeatus.

10-1-21: All of my breeding efforts have been moved to my garage in the new, smaller house. It’s all kind of a hot mess. Turns out it’s really hard to move an established routine and redo everything. I had hoped to build a new kreisel, but with all the work the house required and Crab Con, to boot, something had to give. The garage temperatures won’t be an issue as long as the weather holds, but if we go into the cooler months, I will have to figure out a way to move the kreisel indoors. In Lockport, the kreisel was in front of a window. In my garage, they will be kept under 100% artificial lighting.

10-16-21: Day 19, and I’m finally seeing the first megalopa. This was delayed, I believe, by running out of nannochloropsis halfway through. Shipping and supply chain issues from the pandemic have made it impossible to get enough nannochloropsis for my needs.

10-21-21: New Spawn, C. clypeatus.

10-23-21: New spawn, C. clypeatus.

10-24-21: New spawn, C. clypeatus. I can’t possibly raise all of these zoeae and subsequently put out a plea on Facebook for someone to help out and give raising them a try. There are no takers. I add a thousand or so (mixed spawns) to the kreisel in the name of genetic diversity, and discard the remainder. This may be one of the hardest parts of raising hermit crabs. If you try to save them all, you often lose them all. I’ve had to learn to limit the numbers in order to get the maximum survivors.

Also 10-24-21: First two megalopa to walk onto land in shells are moved to the land tank. Over the next week, 158 megalopa in shells are moved to the land tank.

10-25-21: Day 28 from the first spawn, and 372 megalopa have been moved to the transition tank.

Also 10-25-21: Partial spawn, or that of a captive-bred small individual, C. clypeatus.

10-30-21: New spawn, C. clypeatus. I am drowning in zoeae.

10-31-21: New spawn C. clypeatus.

11-13-21: 138 survivors (from the late-September spawns) are moved to the 20-gallon tall tank.

11-14-21: Without nannochloropsis, the zoeae are failing to thrive and failing to transition, despite my best efforts. Survival numbers drop precipitously. Only ~500 from the mid-October spawns and ~400 from the late October spawns remain.

11-15-21: Nannochloropsis finally arrives. I dose all tanks liberally. I have seen no new megalopa up to this point, despite them being more than a week beyond the usual point of transition. I suspect the lipids in the nanno may play an important role in that big molt to megalopa and eagerly await the morning.

11-16-21: I see my first 3 megalopa and move them to the transition tank. By 11-26, (over the next ten days), there are 442 moved to the transition tank. The transition tank is not working well (new space issues, cold garage issues, available tank issues, big family Thanksgiving visit, etc) and only 138 survive long enough to make it to a better transition tank.

11-17-21: New spawn, C. clypeatus, believed to be from a 2018 captive-bred baby as the number of zoeae is very small.

12-2-21: Megalopa from the October spawns begin to take shells and come onto land. Over the next eleven days, 48 survivors take shells and are moved to the land tank located inside the 20-gallon tank. Later, an issue with small phorid flies appears and there are many empty shells on the sand under the cocohut. I realize the flies and/or larval flies have been killing the new baby crabs because they are so small and delicate. Many are lost. The realization is devastating.

12-31-21: I can only give the remaining baby crabs the best conditions possible and let them be crabs. I will do a count in 2022 to see exactly how many survivors remain from this hugely difficult, disappointing, and frustrating summer. After all is said and done, I believe the number will be fewer than 100, despite all the successful spawns by my crabs, the months of early mornings, late nights, and mind-numbing work, and the exhaustion of caring so much.