From 2006 to 2007, Kathy coordinated the Teen Docents Program for local high-school students at the nonprofit organization Artspace. One of the docent activities was a trip to Long Wharf in New Haven, Connecticut to collect objects for an aquarium art display they created. Of those objects were crabbies.
These spoken-of crabbies are Japanese shore crabs (also known as Asian shore crabs). They are an invasive species to the United States and can now be found all along the East coast, especially in the Northeast. They are a very competitive threat to native crab species because of their hardiness. Their kind did make it all the way to the U. S. from Asia, after all! Japanese shore crabs live in rocky zones – and Long Wharf is the ideal habitat.
After having such fun with the teens, Kathy begged Silas to go back to Long Wharf so that they could catch a few of these crabbies as pets. He was reluctant at first: What would these crabs eat? Where would they live? How do we take care of them? Can they survive indoors? Do they smell? After completing thorough research (or as thorough as we could manage, since there aren’t many web pages about raising Japanese shore crabs as pets), we decided that crabbies may be a good idea. And so we embarked on the Crabbie Expedition of 2007. We weathered the coldest, windiest day possible to turn over rock after rock in search of the scurrying creatures. At the end of the day, we took them back to Silas’ place in a tupperware container. Oddly enough, we had a seafood dinner on our way home but no worries – we both refrained from crab.
We learned about ideal habitats for crabbies and modified the information we found to suit our particular species of invasive crab. Fortunately, these things can apparently survive anything so we’re sure that all of our mistakes in their care were kindly overlooked. The habitat we created for the crabbies included a round, old-fashioned goldfish bowl and a couple of tall jars. The bottoms were lined with fish tank gravel and rocks from the wharf. We also purchased Instant Ocean salt water mix, a couple of chemicals, and fish food to start us off.
Our very first crabbies were tiny! In fact, one was no larger than the word “crab” in 12pt. Times New Roman font. But they were our first ones and we were very excited to have them. After we were more comfortable in our ability as adoptive parents to the crabbies, we set the smaller ones free to thrive and grow in the rocky waters, and we brought home larger crabs to care for. The bodies of these were slightly smaller than a quarter, as you can see from the image.
No, crabbies aren’t cuddly. And they don’t exactly come bounding across the grass at the sound of your voice. But trust us – they really are great fun! We enjoyed watching the crabbies play with each other, hide between the cracks of the rocks, and eat with their mini claws. When they molted, we collected their beautiful shells, a perfect but lifeless replication of our little pets. We learned to separate the suddenly soft post-molting crabs, since we learned from a cannibalistic tragedy with the first crab that molted.
If you don’t have the room, the time, or the permission for raising a dog or cat, perhaps you should try shore crabs!