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Tarantulas, Scorpions, and Hermit Crabs...
It is ironic that we humans feel that we are the supreme controllers of this planet. This is a vain assumption on our part as humans are vertebrate animals and all the vertebrate species on this planet are but a very small fraction of the number of animals on planet earth. The invertebrate animals or animals without internal skeleton win the prize as the true rulers of the planet. They were here long before us and will be here long after we are gone.
Most humans look upon invertebrate animals, with either disgust, as in cockroaches, food such as Shrimps and Lobsters, or admiration as in butterflies. But there are some invertebrate animals that people keep as pets!
An invertebrate animal that has a great deal of economic importance is Crickets. People in the far east will keep a male Cricket in a little Cricket cage as a household pet, as it is believed to bring luck to the house hold. You can also tell the air temperature by counting the number of chirps. They are also used as burglar alarms. If a Cricket is chirping all is well, if the Cricket stops chirping that means that an intruder has come into your house. However, in the United States Crickets are or intensively farmed and used for food for reptiles and birds. Today, the Cricket business is a multi-million dollar industry.
Other invertebrates that people keep are a bit more shocking. Tarantulas and Scorpions have a bad reputation and certainly have not earned it. The two that are most commonly kept as pets are the Rose Tarantula and the Black Emperor Scorpion. Although there are Tarantulas and Scorpions that do have lethal bites, they are by far in the minority. The Rose Tarantulas and Emperor Scorpions are quite gentle and can be safely handled. The Tarantulas are in the Arthropod family and differ from insects like the Crickets, in the fact that they have 8 legs instead of 6. They do spin silk but do not use it to create a web to trap their prey. They are hunters and stalkers that creep up on their prey of small insects and ambush them.
They are fascinating to watch and observe and are quite easy to care for. A ten-gallon tank with a locking screen cover and a layer of Aspen bedding at the bottom is sufficient.
They come from tropical areas and need a heat source. They dehydrate rapidly and must always have fresh water available to them in low-lying bowls that have a sponge in it. The sponge makes it easier for them to drink because it allows them to drink by sucking the water. A few Crickets to eat each week is all the food that they need. With this minimal care they can live as long as ten years.
By now most people are thinking, well this is interesting information for a Biology class and I couldn't care less about invertebrate animals, lets learn about puppies instead! However, there is an invertebrate animal that every mother in the United States had tried to keep as a pet and that is the terrestrial Hermit Crab.
Most of the Hermit Crabs live under water in the ocean but there are some land dwelling species, the make their home on the Southern beaches of the United States and the Caribbean. They cannot be considered 100% land dwelling as they have to lay their eggs in the Ocean, but as adults they live totally on land and extract oxygen from the air as long as they can moisten their gills daily.
Unlike the Tarantulas, they are considered decapods as they have 10 legs, although you never see all 10 at one time because most of the legs are inside the snails' shell that the Hermit Crab calls home. The surge in popularity of Hermit Crabs occurred when the sales of baby turtles was outlawed. Mothers who once would have bought a baby Turtle or two as a pet, mistakenly thinking that they were easy to keep, now buy Hermit Crabs. The nice thing about Hermit Crabs is that they are easy to keep. You have to keep in mind though that these little guys did not ask to be plucked off the tropical beaches that they call home. So it is MUST that we give them the best lifestyle that we can.
Their needs are simple but important. A glass tank with a glass lid is the basic setup. A layer of sand on the bottom of the cage is the second step. The depth of the sand should be at least twice the height of your largest crab. Some driftwood or coral pieces for them to climb on is next. You also will need food and salt water dishes that are shallow enough for the Hermit Crabs to crawl into. They must be able to wet their gills everyday. Water must be treated with an anti-chloride treatment or aged, chlorine will eventually burn and kill a hermit crab. The salt water is preferred.
The last thing to think about is heat and humidity. Hermit Crabs come from a tropical environment and if you want them to be active and entertaining for your child they must be kept warm. At 80-85 degrees (Fahrenheit) Hermit Crabs are very active, and 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) they hardly even move. It's best to use a heater that is placed under the tank to keep the Hermit Crab at the optimal temperature. Being nocturnal a moon glo bulb is good on top the tank.
Ways to raise humidity include: Larger water dish, a sponge in the dish, an air stone in the deep end of the water bowl, misting the sand and sides of the tank. The Hermit Crabs themselves really do not like to be misted directly.
In nature, Hermit Crabs are omnivorous; they eat everything. But you do not have to feed them everything. There are a great deal of commercial Hermit Crab foods available. Fresh Water all the time is essential, and a light misting from a plant mister everyday is also a must. Every 2 weeks or so you must empty the sand out and replace it with nice fresh sand.
One aspect of the Biology of Hermit Crabs is the molting process. Hermit Crabs can grow in spurts and they cannot grow until they have crawled out of their old skin. Many of us wish we had the same ability. If your Hermit Crab burrows under the sand and looks limp for a few days, do not just throw it in the garbage! Just leave it alone and in about 10 days the new exoskeleton will harden up and the Hermit Crab will be as good as new. You will notice that the size of your Hermit Crab increased, thus it there is a possibility that it might need a new and larger snail shell to crawl into. So be sure it has a few to chose from. Other than the molting process there is very little that can go wrong during the life of the Hermit Crab, and there is also very little that you need to do while taking care of your Hermit Crab. Hermit Crabs suffer from no diseases and can live up to a decade.
I hope that you have acquired enough knowledge so that your little strange critter can live a happy and healthy life.