Skip to Content

How to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank (Step By Step)

How to Clean a Hermit Crab Tank (Step By Step)

Share this post:

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Hermit crabs make for great pets. Not only do they look cute, but they’re also friendly and don’t display much aggression.

However, keeping a hermit crab comes with the responsibility of cleaning the tank on a regular basis. Luckily, the process is straightforward.

To clean the tank, you need to take the crabs out first and scoop out the substrate. Then, scrub the tank very well and place the hermit crabs in the tank again. We also recommend placing live plants in the tank to keep the crabs happy.

Read on for an in-depth guide on how to clean a hermit crab tank and when and why you should clean the tank. Let’s get started!

The Process of Cleaning a Hermit Crab Tank

Even though it takes some time, cleaning your pet crab’s tank is an easy procedure. Here’s how to do it:

1 – Remove the Hermit Crabs

You must first remove the crabs from their tank before cleaning it. You don’t want the crabs to obstruct your cleaning efforts. Not to mention that the cleaning materials are hazardous to them.

Consider cleaning late at night. This is less likely to disturb hermit crabs’ slumber, as they’re nocturnal.

To begin, put the crabs in a commodious container with thick walls to prevent them from fleeing. To allow your hermit crabs to burrow, add about 4 inches of substrate to the container. In addition, you should add fresh water and other minor tank decorations.

You should pick up your crabs with caution. Hermit crabs dislike being touched and can easily pinch you. When handling hermit crabs, make certain to approach at a slow pace. Then, with your index and thumb fingers, pick up your crabs and place them under your arms.

Ensure to pick up the crabs from behind and avoid touching its head, claws, or body.

2 – Take Out All the Tank’s Decorations

Before you wash the tank, you must first remove any decorations. Although you will have to clean the decorations regardless, it’s advisable to do it separately. These items may be home to a variety of bacteria or mites, necessitating a different type of cleaning.

Set the decorations aside for now, and pour some boiling water over them.

3 – Remove the Substrate

There will be a lot of dirt and bacteria in the substrate, so you need to remove and sanitize it as well. There are two options to choose from at this point: reusing your substrate or replacing it.

Reusing your substrate is the first choice. To do so, preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and put the substrate in an oven-safe container or tray.

Allow roughly half an hour for the substrate to bake. The heat gets rid of any germs or bugs that are lurking within. Make sure it’s entirely cool before returning it to the tank, as the heat could kill the crabs.

The alternative option is to replace the substrate with a new one. On average, you should change substrates at least three times a year.

4 – Scrub the Tank

Now that you’ve removed everything, you can start washing your tank. The live plants in the tank will consume any of the nutrients that algae rely on.

However, too much algae can be a problem, so you should get rid of any algae that has grown on the tank.

Scrape the glass and scrub the tank very well to remove the algae. To clean the rest of the tank, you can purchase a 3% bleach solution at any store. Wipe down the walls of the tank with a damp cloth dipped in the solution.

Another healthier option is to mix equal parts of vinegar and water and pour them into a spray bottle. Spray this solution thoroughly around the tank. Wait a couple of minutes for it to soak in, then wipe the tank down with clean water until the bleach scent is gone.

5 – Dry the Tank

Dry the tank when you’ve finished scrubbing. Using a clean cloth, wipe it down the tank’s sides until it’s fully dry. You shouldn’t add anything again to the tank until it dries.

Usually, it’s best to leave the tank to dry for a full day. If it still hasn’t dried yet, you can place it in the sun to air-dry.

6 – Clean All the Decorations

We can now proceed to wash the decorations. Clean all of the decorations, as well as any cave ornaments. You’ll need a diluted solution of plain bleach. The bleach shouldn’t have any extra chemicals, and pick one that has sodium hypochlorite as an active component.

Make sure you wash the decorations well before rinsing them with water till they don’t smell like bleach anymore.

Chlorine can be detrimental to hermit crabs, so make sure you use dechlorinated water. Chlorine and chloramines cause hermit crabs’ gills to burn, causing serious injury.

Make sure to dry the decorations well and that they’re devoid of chemicals before putting them back in the tank.

7 – Place New Substrate in the Tank

Now that you’re done with all the cleaning, you’ll want to refill the tank with the substrate that was taken out. Pour the baked-in-the-oven recycled substrate or add a brand-new one.

The depth of the substrate should be at least 3-4 inches. The depth will be sufficient for live plants to root without drifting away, as well as for hermit crabs to dig in.

The size of the crab usually indicates the amount of substrate needed. The substrate should be about three times the height of your biggest crab.

8 – Return Your Crabs to the Tank

Before returning the crabs, ensure that the temperature and humidity of the tank are suitable. During the day, the tank should be 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and at night, it should be 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity is also essential. The crabs require a humidity level of 70% to 80%. You can get a humidity meter to keep track of it. After everything is set, you can now safely return your crabs to the tank.

Why Hermit Crab Tanks Need Cleaning

A clean tank provides a pleasant appearance and offers your crabs a comfortable place to live. Chemicals such as nitrates can accumulate in your tank over time, resulting in a murky look that will certainly annoy you and your crabs. Even if you install a filter, you should still clean your aquarium manually.

Exoskeleton molting remnants, waste accumulation, and uneaten food can all pollute a tank. This may result in unpleasant odors and harmful germs development. Hermit crabs can be in a lot of danger, as they can attract up to 149 species of pests.

Also, an unclean hermit crab tank can invite mites. All of the previously mentioned problems can cause stress in the crabs. If the crabs are constantly anxious, they’ll be more susceptible to sickness.

When Should I Clean My Hermit Crab Tank?

Routine cleanings are necessary to keep a hermit crab’s living environment in tip-top condition. Daily shallow cleaning is advisable.

Depending on the ecology and the condition of the crabs, extensive cleanings may vary. It can be necessary to do it monthly or perhaps every several months.

If you’re not sure when to clean your hermit crab tank, here are some prominent indicators:

  • The water in the tank is cloudy and foggy.
  • Hermit crabs are often taking cover.
  • In the previous two weeks, the crabs molted.
  • Algae growth that’s out of control.
  • The walls are covered in mold.
  • The tank is emitting an unpleasant odor.
  • The presence of mites.

How to Keep a Hermit Crab Tank Mold-Free

Mold is something that you may experience frequently. This is usually a result of decomposing and uneaten food. The mold can form on the decorations and substrate, as well as on the hermit crabs directly.

If your beautiful hermit crabs remain in that water for a long time, they’ll be more prone to infections. Shell Disease Syndrome is one of the fungal infections that can occur. This infection forms on your Hermit crab’s shells as a result of the mold.

The fungal infection can cause your Hermit crabs’ shells to weaken and crack. This is very dangerous to them, and they might die. The infection can transmit from one Hermit crab to the next. Therefore, keep in mind that you must quarantine the diseased crab.

You can prevent mold in several ways. Here are some examples:

  • Replace the substrate, as mold commonly appears on the substrate first.
  • Purchase an air pump to ensure appropriate air circulation.
  • Don’t overfeed to avoid accumulating too much food.
  • Always wash the tank’s lid
  • Make sure the tank is suitably humidified.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips that can help you when it comes to cleaning your hermit crab’s tank:

1 – Avoid Cleaning When Your Crabs Are Molting

Whenever any of your hermit crabs are molting, avoid cleaning their tank. Molting is how crabs grow. Their exoskeletons need to shed or molt in order for the crab to develop.

During the molting stage, which occurs at least once a year, hermit crabs demand extra attention. As a result, any disruptions may cause issues.

Molting hermit crabs, for example, dig beneath the sand to complete the process. They may break apart if you pick them off because they’re fragile at that stage.

Their new limbs may fall off, rendering them without a feeder claw for the duration of the phase. If that occurs, they may die.

If you suspect a hermit crab is about to molt, you’ll need to reschedule the cleaning. The following are some signs that hermit crabs are about to molt:

  • The body is sometimes pushed partially out of the shell.
  • The gel limb of the crab will get bigger and more distinct.
  • The eyes of the crabs will appear cloudy.
  • Their claws and legs may appear drooping or frail.
  • Their exoskeleton is growing paler, a dreary gray color.

2 – Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners

Chemicals are toxic to hermit crabs. Hence, try to use as many natural agents as possible while deep cleaning. Hermit crabs’ gills don’t tolerate chemicals well. Therefore, using vinegar or biodegradable cleaners is advisable.

You can use environmentally friendly items to clean your house daily. Here are a few things you can place in the tank:


Bio-stones are eco-friendly stones intended for tanks. They efficiently clean water, reduce odors, and provide a clear and fresh habitat. The makers also add friendly bacteria, which react to the bio-waste in the water.

Live Plants

You can also add some live plants to help filter out the water. The plants require nutrients from the water to live. Algae that grow in your tank compete for these resources with the plants.

When the tank has many plants, the algae may not obtain sufficient minerals to thrive. This way, your tank will stay clean and fresh.

Water Purifier

Purchasing a water purifier cube is a good call. The purifiers are placed near the pump’s water input and filter impurities.

The purifiers will keep the water clean and keep the pH levels in check. They’ll also get rid of any unpleasant odors.

3 – Reposition the Decorations

When you’re ready to place everything back in the tank, rearrange the tank’s decorations a bit. This will offer the hermit crabs more stimulus, leaving them happy and active.

Make sure to balance the decorative item in their placement. Place the larger objects first in the tank to get a sense of how the decorations will look. Don’t place large objects in the middle of the tank, as this would make it appear unbalanced.

After that, add live or fake plants, small pebbles, and other decorations and toys to bring the scene together.

Final Thoughts

Your crabs will be happier now that you know how to clean a hermit crab tank. All you have to do is pick up your pet crabs and then put them in a secure location. After that, you’ll need to clean the tank and scoop out the substrate. Remember to clear up all of the decorations as well.

Return your crabs to the tank once everything is dry and ready. Consider bio-stones and live plants if you want to use environmentally friendly cleaners.

Now that all is done, your hermit crabs will enjoy a happy and safe home.

Share this post: