What is the best way to heat my crabitat?
Last Updated: 01/01/2012
How you heat your crabitat will depend on how cold the room is where it is kept. Your solution may end up being a combination of several different heating options.
Explanation: We have not come across a complete, off the shelf, heating solution for heating your crab's environment. The challenge is to create warmth without sacrificing humidity or disturbing their natural day / night cycle. It is important to have a reliable temperature/humidity gauge inside your tank to monitor tank conditions. As you begin to add heat to your tank we recommend that only a portion of the tank be heated directly by the heat source. Then watch the behavior of your crabs. If they gather under the heat it may mean they are cool and you can safely add more heat. If you find that they are often away from the heat source you may need to decrease the heat. Ideally, your tank temperature should be around 78 degrees... a 10 degree variation in either direction is acceptable.
Heat Mat (often called UTH or Under Tank Heater) Heat mats are good for raising your tank temperature a few degrees. However with hermit crabs you put the mat on the outside back or side of the tank and not underneath. We recommend placing the heat mat so that 1/2 the mat is "above" ground and 1/2 the mat is "below" ground, which will allow crabs above or below to move toward or away from the heat source as desired. If you were to put it under the tank heat build up may cause the glass to crack. Also since we use deep moist substrate in hermit crab tanks very little of the heat would reach the surface. Additionally when crabs bury to molt they tend to bury all the way down which would put them too close to the heat source and possibly cause them to resurface in an attempt to get away from the excess heat.
A fixture with incandescent red or black heat bulbs or a ceramic heat emitter This option requires a metal screen lid for the heat to move through. You can not use this option through a glass lid which could crack and you never want to place a heat lamp directly on top of plexiglass since it could melt and be a potential fire hazard. Typically they are used in a hood that is placed directly on top of the tank screen lid or in a lamp that is suspended above the tank. The fixtures will have ceramic sockets to withstand the heat and will have a maximum wattage rating. Obviously this option creates more challenges with maintaining humidity, so we have designed plexi covers for use in conjunction with screen lids and different heat lamp types. According to the manufacturer for a given wattage, a ceramic heat emitter creates twice the heat of a red bulb and black bulbs are slightly cooler than red bulbs. If you are using a hood directly on the tank top black heat bulbs will create gentler heat. If no visible light is desired then a ceramic heat emitter works well. Both incandescent heat bulbs and ceramic heat emitters are suitable for 24 hour operation as they will not disturb the nocturnal behavior of the crabs. The use of a thermostat with these options will prevent tank overheating.
A space heater This option is practical if the area to warm is not too large. Many small space heaters have built in thermostats which prevent over heating when the area warms up during the daytime. There are no light considerations and also allows for a glass lid to be used for humidity retention. Crabs can move towards or away from the side where the heater is. Modern heaters appear quite safe, there are no exposed hot parts and they all feature anti tip circuitry that shuts the heater off if it tips over.
As with any heat device, double check to make sure it has all of the safety features you want. When using any heat device on your tank, always use a temperature/humidity gauge and keep a close eye on your tanks internal temperature.