Pete Giwojna

Dear Jim:

I’m sorry to hear about Peanut’s run in with the hermit crab. If you want to keep hermits with seahorses as aquarium janitors, it’s always best to stick with the micro-hermit crabs that don’t get any bigger than the size of a marble (including their shell). Otherwise, even a small hermit crab can cause a lot of trouble as it grows. They may double in size following a molt (i.e., ecdysis) so they grow surprisingly fast, and even a tiny hermit crab that’s completely inoffensive can grow large enough to turn predatory almost literally overnight if it’s a species that reaches a respectable size. One day it’s a miniature hermit that’s cute and entertaining in its own bumbling sort of way, and the next day following a successful molt, it can become a dangerous bully.

When it comes to sanitation engineers, I prefer an assortment of snails with just a few hermits. Acceptable species for a seahorse tank include the Dwarf Blue-leg (Clibanarius tricolor), Left-handed (Calcinus laevimanus), Mexican Red Legged Hermits (Clibanarius digueti) and above all, Scarlet Reef hermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati), which are my personal favorites.

The Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati) is a colorful micro-hermit that’s a harmless herbivore. So cannibalism isn’t a concern at all for these fellows, nor are they likely to develop a taste for escargot. As hermits go, most of the time the Scarlet Reefs are perfect little gentleman and attractive to boot. I even use them in my dwarf seahorse tanks. Best of all, they eat all kinds of algae, including nuisance algae such as red, green and brown slimes, as well as green hair algae.

Stick with hermits like the above, which are known as micro hermits because they start out tiny and stay small. Avoid Anomura species of hermit crabs no matter how small they are, however, because they will kill Astraea snails to obtain their shells.

And always bear in mind that medium-to-large crustaceans are never completely trustworthy in the aquarium. Even the most harmless and seemingly inoffensive crabs can cause trouble under certain circumstances. For example, not long ago I heard from a hobbyist that had been keeping a decorator crab in his seahorse tank. All went well at first and there were no problems of any kind for months until, for no apparent reason, the crab suddenly began to quite deliberately amputate portions of the seahorses’ tails. It was not attacking the seahorses as prey or attempting to eat its mutilated victims, it was merely methodically harvesting portions of their anatomy with which to adorn itself! It was simply doing what all decorator crabs do — snipping off and gathering bits and pieces of its immediate environment to attach to itself as a form of natural camouflage. It just goes to show, with crabs you can never be sure how things are going to work out…

If Peanut has not been too badly mangled and you can keep its wounds from becoming infected, there’s a good chance she can recover. It’s a wise precaution to isolate her in a critter keeper so she won’t have to compete for food. I would recommend target feeding her plenty of frozen Mysis enriched with Vibrance, which will assure that she gets a daily dose of beta-glucan to boost her immune system and speed her recovery, and I would treat her wounds topically using Biobandage. That’s a product that consists of a combination of neomycin, a vitamin complex, and unique polymers that form a sort of "biological bandage" that binds the medications to the wound, thus helping to prevent infection and promote rapid healing. Biobandage can be obtained online from the following vendor:

Aside from her injuries, if you suspect that Peanut is ill or may be becoming ill, then it would probably be best to treat her with a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as kanamycin or neomycin in your hospital tank. That would help protect the rest of your herd from being affected by what ever is ailing Peanut.

Acriflavine and methylene blue can also be useful in cases like this, just as Greg suggested, but those medications are best administered in a hospital tank as well. The methylene blue is harmful to the beneficial nitrifying bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle and will have an adverse impact on your biological filtration if you use it to treat the main tank.

Best of luck healing Peanut, Jim. Here’s hoping your upgrade to the larger aquarium goes smoothly from here on in!

Pete Giwojna

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