Our son’s fifth grade science class just finished a unit on habitats. They made habitats for three kinds of animals – fiddler crabs, African dwarf frogs, and millipedes. Now that the unit is over, the students were invited to adopt the animals and take them home. (I sort of hoped Al would only bring home a millipede, because I don’t think we’d feel too bad if it died.) But Al requested a fiddler crab, and yesterday he came home with one in a plastic cup, plus a bag of sea salt and a bag of food.
I knew nothing about taking care of fiddler crabs, so we had to learn in a hurry. They need sand and brackish water. Sand wasn’t too much of a problem – for years I had kept a box of play sand that my son played with when he was little. I finally dumped it out next to the shed last summer, but it wasn’t too hard to shovel it back into a new box.
Brackish water was another matter. I had no idea that brackish meant slightly salty – I always imagined it meant muddy, and probably full of debris like twigs and leaves. Brackish water isn’t as salty as seawater – from what I read, it’s about one fifth as salty. That didn’t help much, though, in figuring out how much of the sea salt to add to the water. Finally I found instructions to add about a teaspoon to a gallon of water. Plus if it’s tap water, it either has to be left out for a day, or dechlorinated with drops from the pet store (which I bought today).
Lacking either the drops or time to let it sit out, I used tap water yesterday rather than leave our pet with no water at all. Hopefully the chlorine didn’t bother him too much – he certainly wasted no time about immersing himself in the water as soon as it was available. Then I realized that he might need help getting back out, so I found a stone and a shell for him to climb up and out.
I really wanted to include a photo here, but he has burrowed into a corner of the sand (obviously he did manage to climb out of the water). Al can see him, but to me he looks like just another lump of sand. It’s kind of hard to tell how much of his dried plankton he has eaten, but so far he seems to be in good health – the few times he’s been out and about he scambles away very fast when my hand is hovering nearby.
When the students first got the crabs in the classroom, they gave them names. Al named one Edward Pincherhand, but a few days later he sadly reported to me that Edward Pincherhand had died. That is why this crab is Edward Pincherhand II. I certainly hope he lives longer.