Since the new year (January), there has been a significant increase in the number of crabs that emerge from molt with an infected patch of exo or they are rough and colorless, with cankerous scabbing appearing later, or a blackening of leg tips etc. I have been trying to source out why there would be such a significant increase of this typically rare occurance in captive populations.
There have been 17 cases brought directly to my attention, and in reading several site forums, I have noted at least 9 more likely similar occurences. All crabs seem to have been bought roughly between Mid November 2005 through to March 2006. With some of the information I got from individual owners, I have been following up with pet stores to see if they “treat” crabs with a tetracyclene bath or if they have such a procedure. There are 8 States involved. 2 on the east coast (NY and PA) and most in the midwest. It appears that the supplier originates in TEXAS, but this has not been fully confirmed yet. Due to the laws about livestock importation, it is likely that the exposure to the bacteria is occurring from the distribution centre in the US. This could be because they do not adhere to proper care and handling procedures.
This is not the only potential issue. It has also been confirmed that ECO Earth has begun to mix their bedding product with loam and peatmoss. These do not work well in a hot/humid environment! They break down quite quickly and create a bacteria which in all likelyhood contributes to weaken a crabs exo.
Now there has been some discussion about MELAFIX. Several members at various sites have touted it as a curative for bacterial infection. For hermit crabs, this product has been tried at various times with mixed reviews. I have talked to a marine biologist and a vet about use of this product. I am willing to trial use of it but it must be a controlled study! I am going to share the criteria about MELAFIX’s use, because I am concerned over the fact that some people have been telling other people to use it, without the benefit of understanding exactly what the procedure should be and WHY!
First off, Melafix by itself WILL NOT cure an infection. Melafix’s main function is to increase permeability of cells so that an antibiotic agent can get to the the infection and kill it. There is a natural anti-fungal agent in tea tree oil, but it is not really strong enough to kill all types of bacteria. For this reason, it was suggested by the biologist (and vet), that pictures of the afflicted areas on the crab be taken, so that they have an opportunity to identify the type of bacteria. NOTE: that Melafix is NOT recommended for injuries where crabs are bleeding.
Once the crab has been looked at, these professionals (who have volunteered to assist us) can recommend one of 2 different types of antibiotic ointment to employ in conjunction with the MELAFIX! One is a specifically targeting one, the other for general Staphococcol infections. It must be administered for a specified time frame, and there are isolation considerations to be made as well. If you all go off doing this without knowing the information specific to your crab, even if it WORKS there is no way to record and track what was done. This does not help build data for us to utilize in the future! These professionals do not want to outline a procedure for this treatment yet, as it is a trial, and to be set up as a CASE-BY-CASE scenario for the first few trials. Then they review what was actually done and progress from there. We are sabotaging this effort with our unlearned enthusiasm to cure our crabs! Please consider this!
So, if you suspect that your crab has a bacterial infection, or if you hear from someone else who may not be a member of a forum, direct them to me! This is what I need:
1. A photo of the crab in question
2. History of where the crab was purchased and when
3. Stats on tank conditions: temp, humidity, substrate, food, water, light, tank size, crab population
E-mail them to me at sue[at]coenobita[dot]org. I will forward them to my vet, and then we can move from there. I will set up a forum (once I have approval from my consultants) to publish the results of the trials. This information can at that time be shared at other sites as well.
Thank you all, I am grateful for all the caring people we have in our community!!!