Setting up a large crabitat without spending a fortune

This is an article I wrote for E-How and am posting here for my faithful readers.

A new 50 gallon tank will cost you at least $209.00 at Petsmart. I bought my 150 gallon tank out of the newspaper for $60.00.

Places to buy used or inexpensive new items:

  • Yard sales
  • Flea Markets
  • eBay
  • Freecycle or ReUseIt (yahoo groups)
  • Thriftstores (Goodwill)
  • Dollar stores

There are places where you absolutely should not cut corners.

Gauges – A high quality, accurate hygrometer will run you about $25.00 on most cigar websites

Lid – use glass or plexiglass (available at home improvement stores, low in cost and they will cut it to size)

Light fixture- you need day and night bulbs and combo hoods are perfect for this.

Heat source – UTH or lights (Heating and Lighting Article)

Substrate can be an ongoing expense. Playsand or ecoearth is the least expensive. Eco earth or coir fiber can be purchased online in bales at very reasonable prices. If you have invested in a more expensive substrate such as aragonite and want to continue to make use of it, you can divide your tank into different substrate areas. You can use plexiglass,legos, natural stones, driftwood or grapevine to make an inexpensive divider.

Bowls or pools don’t have to be expensive reptile dishes. You can use nearly any sort of glass or ceramic people dish that is the right shape and size. You can use empty scallop shells as food dishes or the clay trays for flower pots. A soap dish from the dollar store or clearance aisle works as a food dish. For pools you can use plastic paint trays or Tupperware dishes. To make them safe for all size crabs you can use aquarium sealant and glue river rocks or other items to the inner walls.

You can get really creative with your decorations. If you pick up stones or driftwood be sure to check for insects and bake or boil first to sterilize. Buy your vines and plants at a craft store. Flowerpots, bowls and cups all make good ‘caves’. PVC pipe has been deemed unsafe and I can no longer recommend its use. You can convert Tupperware bowls into Humid Hides very easily. Natural fiber baskets provide a place to hide and something to climb on but check them regularly for mildew if your substrate is very damp. Use things like zip ties and suction cups to anchor decorations.

Second or third levels are a great way to maximize the use of the space in your larger tank. There are so many different ideas out there for creating usable space out of thin air! A couple items to consider: plexi glass, plastic gutter guard, netting (fish or hemp) plastic canvas grids (like for latchhook rugs), plastic coated mesh wire and wooden dowels.

Skip the expensive backgrounds sold at the petstores and instead use a very clever idea submitted by one hermit crab owner: shower curtains! Vinyl shower curtains come in an array of designs and can be found dirt cheap at close out stores or dollar stores. Simply cut it to fit and affix to the outside of your tank. Soaking or washing first to remove the odor is recommended. If you are talented enough, consider painting a mural on the exterior of your tank. Use non toxic paints!

Things to ask yourself:

Will some items be too hard to clean around?

Should items be permanently affixed?

How heavy is the sand? How far do I have to carry it? Where will I dispose of it?

Can I easily reach the food and water dishes?

How much does substrate cost and how much will I need? How often will I replace it?

How will I clean a reusable substrate?


Take into consideration how your design will impact your crabitat cleaning.
Clean and sanitize anything you put in your tank.
Shop online first. Light bulbs and fixtures are traditionally less expensive online.


Keep metal away from food and water dishes

Watch for rust-remove anything that shows signs of rusting

Check wire coating to make sure the crabs aren’t eating it –remove if they are

Avoid putting any sort of paint in the tank. It peels and the crabs will eat it.

Avoid items that will easily mold or mildew

Avoid toxic woods

Don’t make the second level too high or your crabs [b]will[/b] escape

Don’t think for a second that your crabs will respect how feng shui their crabitat is and NOT completely destroy it.


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Setting up a large crabitat without spending a fortune