Deep Cleans.....Not really necessary?

This is where you discuss the conditions of your crabitat -- temperature, humidity, substrate, decorating, etc.

Topic author
Guest

Deep Cleans.....Not really necessary?

Post by Guest » Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:04 pm

I know I'll get flamed for this one, but here goes.......

Now, I started out as an aquarist, before I had crabs. I have a huge saltwater reef tank with a large mangrove/macro-algae refugium, as well as some freshwater tanks. One of the first things you learn in fish-keeping is to NEVER do a total water change. It totally destroys all the good bacterial colonies, and makes room for harmful bacteria, as well as stressing out the fish, because it is next to impossible to exactly match the previous temperature and pH and so forth. The problem is not that they can't handle a huge drop in the nitrates and toxins (THAT is a good thing for them to have), but that they can't handle the change in water pH, temperature, hardness, and bacterial makeup. It is advocated that you next to never do a change of more than 30-40%, and it is much better to do more frequent, smaller, water changes.

I propose that cleaning a crabitat is much like cleaning a fish tank. Both have the same reasons for being done, i.e. bacterial buildups, and toxin and waste accumulation. Both, when done in entirety, have the potential to stress out if not kill your more delicate animals, and both can deplete the good bacteria in the tank and make room for worse bacteria than were there already. I suggest that the two are similar, in that substrate, like water, is a good breeding ground for both beneficial and harmful bacteria; that crabs, like fish, spend a lot of time in that substance, and thus can be helped and harmed by the makeup of the medium; and that both need cleaned, because, as in all closed systems, there can accumulate in a short period a great many harmful things, from toxins to wastes to bacteria.

If we assume that cleaning a small, closed environment in which fragile pets live, and wastes and bacteria build up, is much the same from tank to 'tat, then we have some more conclusions that we can make.
In fish-keeping, it is considered a good idea to start your tank "seeded" with good bacteria. With a reef tank, this can be accomplished with "live" sand and rock, teeming with bacteria and small lifeforms. With a freshwater tank, this can be done with water from an existing tank, or, hard to find and hideously expensive, with "live" substrate for freshwater. In gardening, also, "seeding" a garden with beneficial organisms and bacteria is recommended. This is especially important when organically gardening, as you cannot rely on chemical solutions to combat negative bacteria and pests. Similarly, in a crabitat, there is no reason why the tank cannot also be seeded. Perhaps a handful of sand from a local beach or desert, or a handful of soil from your own pesticide free garden or forest. Something to introduce the live organisms and beneficial bacteria that will out-compete the harmful ones, as they will already have a foothold in the closed environment. Yes, using seed cultures from uncontrolled locales will introduce the possibility of "bad" hitch-hikers, but a)there are very few "controlled" sources for cultures, unlike with fish, and b) there are ways to mitigate the harmful things, and help propagate the positive ones, as we will discuss next.

Again, in aquaria, there comes up the issue of how to feed your good bacteria and critters while getting rid of the bad ones. The solutions are 2 part, environment and husbandry techniques.
Environment: So you have a fishtank full of micro algae. You can add a chemical control, a biological control, or a mechanical control. You can dose the tank with an anti-algal product (chemical). This isn't the best option, as some are harmful to the more delicate organisms in the tank. It would be like spraying pesticide in the 'tat to control mites. You can pick and scrub all the algae you can get to off (mechanical). This leaves the issue of the spores you didn't get, the bits you didn't see or reach, and so forth. The problem will come right back up. This is akin to picking off all the visible mites and eggs with a tweezers. The third option would be to get an algae eating fish, some snails or shrimp, and/or live plants (mangrove, macro-algae). The plants will out-compete the algae for food, the animals will eat it, any comes back up, they eat it too, and they all help process wastes produced by the other inhabitants of the tank. This is akin to getting the Hypoaspsis miles and seeding the 'tat with them. The best option all around, and the most natural option. It increases the bio-diversity of your environment, and helps to more closely mimic a natural habitat, leading to an increase in health.
In crab-keeping terms, a biological solution to some common problems is similar. Put live plants that will help process wastes and uneaten food in. Add beneficial insects, which, in addition to being an extra protein source, will help eat wastes, uneaten exo, and other detritus. Make sure you have good airflow, because humid, warm air with no circulation is a BREEDING ground for disease. Make sure you have good lighting, most harmful organisms prefer dark. The live plants will an occasional food source, hiding places, fresher air, and a more realistic 'tat, as well as provide your "canary in a coal mine" for bacterial buildups and toxin issues, and the insects will keep the substrate aerated, consume harmful toxins and bacteria, and help keep the 'tat nice and clean. Tree snails will also provide shells when they die :-) The air circulation will let the crabs breathe easier, cut down on smell and mold, and keep the plants alive, as will the lights. Plus, it will be more like a natural day cycle. Think how bright the sun is in most tropical locales.. A much cleaner tank for nothing but an initial outlay of effort
Husbandry: The hard part of the equation. In fishkeeping, this means regular small water changes, not over-feeding, removal of debris, occasional manual removal if problem organism populations get too high. As far as crabs go, it's pretty much the same. Remove uneaten food from the substrate. If you like to let stuff get good and stinky in the dish, that's fine. Clean the substrate around it, don't let it get in there and mold. No rotting food to live in=less bad bacteria in the 'tat. Remove any bad bugs or mold you see. Instead of changing out the whole tank every few months, consider removing it a bit at a time. That can be done without removing crabs. Area under the food dish looking mucky? Remove that chunk of substrate this week. The whole chunk, down to the bottom, and replace it with fresh. Mix the fresh in!!!! Everybody up?? Replace the top layer of substrate (inch or so) and again, mix it well. One of your crabs come up from molting? Take the chunk of substrate he molted in out this week. Again, replace with fresh, and mix well. Aerate the soil EVERY week, just like compost, to distribute beneficial bacterial growth throughout the medium, and expose new sections to sunlight to get rid of the bad bacteria. Replace about 10-20% of your total substrate every week. Boil or bake a few of their toys and hides each week. Clean your shells. Clean your dishes. This method is a LOT more work, but a lot less stress on your crabs (and the insects and plants you have with them). You never have to take everybody out and put them back in a "sterile" environment that VERY quickly turns into a bad-bacteria-and-bug-fest.

Just as people on antibiotics get secondary infections (like yeast infections in women), just like anything that de-populates "good" gut bacteria leads to an upsurge in the bad ones, removing the good bacteria breeding in your closed environment leads to a problematic increase in bad bacteria. A rah of bacterial infections, mold, and other issues can result. Just as doing a massive water change kills fish from the shock and stress, doing a "deep clean" puts your crabs into temporary PPS. You take them from a good environment, put them in a less than optimal one for a few hours, and then put them back in a tank that is all new, good bacteria free, waste product that they like to eat free, and expect them to be happy. Yes, in a closed environment, waste and bad bacterial counts can quickly go through the roof. However, by utilizing good husbandry techniques, and adding beneficial organisms, we can regulate our systems to the point which a total "do-over" is never necessary, rather, constant preventive and occasionally reactive maintenance will be sufficient to combat any issues. With use of live plants, you can control levels of nutrients in the substrate that allow for bacterial growth, as well as have a gauge for when things are going bad and more strenuous measures need to be taken. With use of a "seed culture" of beneficial bacteria and organisms, you can furnish a tank already so well stocked with life that the harmful organisms can't compete for space. With good lighting and circulation, you can further reduce the populations of harmful life, while supporting the beneficial life, including the crabs themselves. If one is to take as naturalistic an approach as one can to crab-rearing, and have any kind of shot at crab-breeding, which I hope we all aspire to, one must apply principles gained through many years of experience in related fields of delicate animal keeping and propagation. One of the things that all these disciplines share is to NEVER totally remove and replace with new an organism's environment and living medium, be it a flower's soil, a fish tank's water, or a crab's substrate!

Just a few thoughts........Please feel free to share your findings on the subject!


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:35 pm

I like it

Thats pretty much what i thought about when settin up my tanks

except i dont change the dirt out ... and the crabs airate it bye digging... I have fans to circulate the air... I remove all fallen leaves from trees, once a week.

The only deaths i have had are from PPS and PMS.

However, i have only been Seriously crabbing for almost 3 months


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:12 pm

Nobody better flame you cisnegra! It's not allowed here, one of the many things I like about the HCA!

I've thought about this a lot too, and I appreciate you bringing it up.

I've been kind of playing around with the ideas you mentioned here a little bit.

Unfortunatly I had to do a deep clean in my 45 gallon tank since there was a chitlin eating bacteria that I was taking no chances with. I had to bake all the sand and clean the heck out of the tank itself. May be I'll go into the backyard and grab a handful of sand and put it in the tank today.

I've been doing a lot of what you mentioned already.

I clean only the top part of the sand and replace that portion. It cheaper this way too. :) I've been using agronite sand as the replacement sand as I go. I mix it up as much as I can to airate it, and I have not found that tunnels are collapsing and killing molters. I had just figured that didn't happen very often since crabs on the surface and mow over the openings to tunnels in an hour or two it wouldn't matter if I smothed the sand over them instead when I was attempting to airrate it by mixing it.

I've added the lighting, and was thinking recently about adding some plants.

Cleaning things on the surface and shells weekly is something else I've been doing, and you are corect, is does add a lot of time! It takes me 3 hours a week to do all the tats this way, but I kind of enjoy it, so no big deal.

I have been doing "semi deep cleans" every three months or so (longer for the bigger tanks) instead of the traditional deep cleans. The sand comes out, if there are exo bits or such, burried shells that gets taken out. I do not bake it or wash it, but it's getting lots of airration this way when it's put back, w/o disturbing the bacterial balence.

The bacterial infection my E had I felt was something that may have been contracted before I got the E. I feel that it was growing under her new exo while it was forming under the old one when she molted there it was.

Actually, I was starting to doubt my method and you just kind of reinforced why I was doing it. Thanks. :)

User avatar

Tremors
Administrator
Administrator
Posts: 273
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:29 am
Location: Planet Jane-tune (aka NW USA)

Post by Tremors » Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:35 pm

It makes a lot of sense to me. :) Thanks!

I don't think I would aerate my soil by mixing it around though, just because I usually have no idea where my molters dug down (and even if I do, they tunnel underground) and I don't want to disturb them. :)
4 PPs: Petra (11 years), Big Crab (7 years), Rambunctious Crab (7 years), John Smith (1 year)
3 Es: Pacman, Captain Janeway, Googely-Bear (2 years)


Topic author
Willow

Post by Willow » Sun Jan 14, 2007 7:08 pm

Yeah, I decided a while ago that I'll only change out half of the substrate at a time, rather than doing the entire tank. I'm certain there's something to the beneficial bacteria idea, although I'm not great with the specifics. I do notice that my crabs are healthier the longer I go without changing the substrate. I'd like to stir up the substrate once a week, but with 37 hermies in there, there's always a significant number of them down at any given time, so the risk of digging up a moulter scares me. I usually manage to do it about once every 3 months.


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:37 pm

Well, obviously you don't want to dig up a molter :-) But if, say, you know no one is in a given section, stirring that is fine. Even just mixing the top section of substrate helps, or if you have hermies that dig A LOT, don't worry about it all, they'll mix quite well on their own :-)


starmaiden
Posts: 419
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:41 pm
Location: Washington State

Post by starmaiden » Sun Jan 14, 2007 9:07 pm

I think your ideas are good cisnegra. I decided to try to go at least 6 months between deep cleans because I felt that they disturbed crabs too much. So I put lots of substrate so that it's good and deep and remove the top inch or so and replace with fresh substrate every month or two. I also try to have lightly populated tanks as I think that helps cut down on the waste and whatnot.

However, I have not seen my micro PP peewee for over 2 months now, so I may have to do some exploratory digging in that tank. :(


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Sun Jan 14, 2007 9:14 pm

I think, like you said Starmaiden, that paying attention to number of crabs is a good idea. In fish, it's usually called "bioload". Sometimes you hear the 1" of fish per gallon rule. That is really not the best way to look at it. For example, a goldfish produces a LOT of waste, whereas many detrivores consume almost as much waste as they produce, so there is a big difference in bioload between the two. You can keep more cleaner critters than goldfish, but either way, if you overload the system, IT WILL CRASH! If you're going to try to avoid deep cleans as much as possible, then you have to take into account how MUCH waste is being produced. In an overcrowded tank, it just won't work!! Calculating your bioload will tell you how feasible it is to do a self-sustaining system. You need to have enough floor space for living, eating and molting for each crab, PLUS space for plants and LARGE water systems. I personally don't think, unless we're talking someone with LOTS of experience in Nano-tanks, and with a LOT of time to devote to maitenance, that a mostly self-cleaning system is feasible with anything under a 40B-55 gallon tank. The smaller the system, the harder to maintain it is, and the harder to achieve the necessary biodiversity to get a stable environment.


starmaiden
Posts: 419
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:41 pm
Location: Washington State

Post by starmaiden » Sun Jan 14, 2007 9:33 pm

I think, like you said Starmaiden, that paying attention to number of crabs is a good idea. In fish, it's usually called "bioload". Sometimes you here the 1" of fish per gallon rule. That is really not the best way to look at it.
Yeah, I know what you mean. Most of my crabs have on average about 5 gallons each. My 'most crowded' tank right now consists of 7 teeny, 1 small, and 1 micro in a 20L. It comes out to about 2.22 gallons per crab. I'm already planning on adding another large tank for my jumbo PP, hopefully in march when my birthday rolls around, so the 20L will soon be upgraded to his old 40B. :)


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:59 am

Thanks for adressing the deep clean issue and starting this thread cisnegra. I have been thinking of doing a partial deep clean, primarily the surface and baking climbys and hidies but was afraid I was just being lazy! My tank needs some serious attention but I am also in the middle of a move. For part of this, the crabs are going to there Grandparents house for a few days and then to the new apartment and I was afraid that all of this in conjunction w/ a deep clean could really freak them out, resulting in losses. You guys have made a huge source of stress for me, less stressful! Thanks- :wink: ! That's why I keep comin' here!!


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:00 am

lol no one will flame you, we're all too nice for that!
I agree that deep cleans aren't always needed. I personally don't do them, partly b/c I'm too lazy and partly b/c I dont' want to stress my crabs. I've noticed quite a few people lose crabs after deep cleans. The only time I would do one is if I got mites or some sort of disease in the tank.
I consider my tank a "closed system" since I haven't added any new crabs since early November and I'm not planning to, and the tank is pretty well sealed, the only time I open the lid is to change out food and water. Once in a while if the crabs have really trashed the place I'll pic up anyone who's out and about and put them in a play pen and tidy up the joint. So I fluff the first inch or so of my cocofibre stuff and I smooth out all the sand and generally straighten stuff out.
Personally I think the fact that I don't bother the crabs all that often attributes to my low mortality. I have 6 crabs that are celebrating their 1 year anniversary with me this month and my only death so far is of one of my straws I got back in November, he was trying to molt and couldn't :(
I do like that you started this thread because I figure there's probably other people out there like me, who thought they were neglecting their crabs by not deep cleaning. It's nice that you rationalised the reasons for not deep cleaning :)
Oh and the only other time I mess with their substrate, outside of when I redecorate the 'tat, is when I notice the top layer getting a little dry. Then I'll carefully turn over the substrate so some of the wetter bottom stuff is up at the top and the dryer stuff is down near the bottom where it gets damp again :)


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:36 am

As always GREAT info!!


Questions:

You said that this is probably best suited for tanks over 40gallons... I have a 20L what can I do?

Would live plants be a good idea (in a smaller tank)? What are the risks of roots molding and that causing problems?

I've had mangrove plants in water in my tank but they died. I got information later that makes me think that I should have asked what kind of water they were grown in before I just stuck them in saltwater... :oops:


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:06 am

A 20L should be alright to start with, BUT make sure that you have an undergravel filter of some kind under all your substrate, with some way for it to drain excess water. Mangroves are fabulous, but the specific gravity they had as stage 1 propagules makes all the difference :-) I would say go with plants that can be food as well as cover, and large bromeliads are always good. I think that it is important to provide vertical space as well as just ground level, since several species of crab spend a lot of time arboreally. That's why I did the background. Just try to maximize your space as best you can, and make sure that your roots have adequate drainage :-)


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:33 am

Thanks! An undergravel filter plate is something I would have never thought of. Will it matter if substrate falls through the cracks and fills it up? Drain excess water how? Like drilling a drain in the botom of the tank?

I think my climbing stuff is pretty good... i have a hemp net shelf, coral, long piece of grapevine that leads to a coconut with a hole drilled out like yours that is attached high in the tank... and a nice piece of coral rock (?) maybe called something else looks like shells crushed together to form a rock cave. it's about 13" L x 3" W x 8" H with two holes carve out to climb through. Oh, and a large sea urchin skeleton that still has the bottom and most of the sides and top the way they have it, it looks like an escape tunnel. They have to climb it to get in or out of it. So funny!

**I wanted to get more hemp net but the lady that I bought mine off of on ebay hasn't been selling them anymore.

Thanks again for the info. I am still thinking about the part where you talk about foraging in your blog. Lots of people complain their hermits are not active... I think that if we do as you say and move the food regularly then they will be more active.


Topic author
Guest

Post by Guest » Wed Jan 24, 2007 12:38 pm

I got the idea for moving the food from someone on the CSJ board. It seemed like a good idea, especially when I thought about how much exercise they are used to, vs. how much they get in captivity, and how everything is handed to them. You find that with fish too, that some of them that are not captive bred will not eat if they are bored. They don't get enough exercise to feel hungry, and then they have metabolic issues. I feel in all things that it is better to prevent a problem than to have to figure out a cure.

Locked