Choosing a Substrate for my Land Hermit Crabs
There are many different kinds of hermit crab bedding sold in pet stores. Below are substrates that I have used and prefer.
Small River Pebbles - easy to clean and less messy than sand.
If you are able to locate these at your local pet store I would suggest their use. They are small enough for your hermit crabs to bury themselves beneath yet large enough that they do not stick to a hermit crab that has crawled out of their water dish like sand. They should be very small and smooth to the touch.
Calci-Sand - calcium added to sand for reptiles and hermit crabs.
Calci sand can be expensive but if you can afford it, I believe calci sand is worth it. You can re-use calci sand by rinsing and drying it. It is a "100% digestible extensive calcium delivery system, made from a fine granular calciferous sand specially prepared to be the ideal reptile cage substrate for snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles [and hermit crabs!]. It is also safe for use in direct contact with heat and has the added benefit of not harboring mites nor the growth of mold or fungi. Calci-Sand makes spot cleaning a breeze, as it readily clumps wet waste material, drying it and preventing it from being spread. 2.25 kg Bags. Available in Natural, White, Red-Rock, Blue, Green and Black.
If you wanted to you could simulate a desert atmosphere using the orange-red calcisand with some choya wood and plastic cactus ornaments. Add a desert background and you have a stunning display for your hermies. Experiment with colors to make your crabarium a hermit crab dream house.
Beach or Play Sand - a favorite with hermit crab owners.
Beach sand is cheap and re-usable. Cleaning and drying sand can be messy. Most rinse their sand and then dry it before returning it to a cleaned crabarium. Sand is attractive to look at, especially after some heavy hermit crab traffic, with their little marks in the sand. Hermit crabs love tunneling down in sand but you must be careful that you do not mist your hermit crabs inside the tank or the sand will become damp and may harbor bacteria. This would lead to weakened and stressed hermies and can mean possible death.
Gravel - a good substrate.
There are many different types of gravel but I have always chosen the smallest, smoothest gravel available. Gravel can be re-used and is easier to clean than sand. I do not suggest you chose gravel that is too heavy for your hermit crabs to bury themselves under as they sometimes like to hide beneath the substrate as they molt or hibernate in colder weather.
Reef Sand/Gravel and Crushed Coral - good alternatives
All are larger grit substrates rich in calcuim and trace minerals, crabs love it. Reef sand & gravel are often very dusty so you have to rinse & dry before use of shake it out well (I used to use a strainer outside to shake out excess dust) It is very porous and holds water so when washed it takes FOREVER to dry. Also much of it washes away when you rinse it, it does not hold up well for repeated washings.
Other Substrates which I DO NOT recommend are:
Corn Shavings, Cedar, Damp Moss, Wood Shavings and other reptile beddings. Never, ever, use corn shavings, pine or cedar shavings as a substrate. This dries out the hermit crabs excessively and has resulted in death. Damp moss should also be avoided as it has a strong smell and tends to promote bacterial growth as well as to attract mites and other bugs.