I was collecting veggies for my hermits and crab, and out that far, the harvest was good; a varied menu, fresh and green. I brought home two varieties of sea lettuce, a handful of eelgrass with its roots, eelgrass with diatom fuzz, a bit of green tuft, a complete rockweed attached to a shell, and a "head" of sea hair. And for the three whelks that have grown up in the tank, I collected several clamshells hosting colonies of barnacles.
I washed everything at home, and planted the greens in the aquarium. There were too many clamshells, but I put the best in the tank and left a couple in the washing water while I decided what to do with them.
A while later, I saw movement in the sand and shreds of seaweed in the bowl. It was odd; not the curving, speedy swimming style of an amphipod, nor the jittery dance of a copepod. Not the frantic waving of a worm; not a snail dragging its shell along; something walking. The animal was too small to see clearly, in the muck and underwater. When I tried to collect it with my eyedropper, it scuttled away. Definitely not a swimmer.
With the lens, I could see a hint of transparent legs. And it ran backwards, like a hermit.
I eventually trapped it, and examined it with the microscope. It is a hermit crab, less than 1 mm. long. And it was nude; a precarious state, making him a tasty morsel for any passing critter, even a barnacle.
I can't resist the collector's bug. I have boxes and bottles of little shells. And one small box holds pinhead shells. I went through them with a tiny paintbrush, collected all the snail shells and gave them to the hermit. Within a few minutes, he had moved into one, and was examining a second. Hooray!
I found a second hermit, a bit bigger. He joined the first, and chose the largest of my pinhead snail shells.
|Two hermits, with extra shells. The larger one is checking out an alternate shell. He didn't like it, and has kept the one he's wearing here. Shell and all, he's just over 2 mm. pincers to tip.|
I'm keeping them for now in a half-cup of water, with a few fragments of sea lettuce and hair. They seem contented enough, so I'll give them a chance to grow up a bit before they join their cousins in the tank.