What material is appropriate for a hermit crab fountain?
March 20, 2008 6:29 PM   Subscribe

What material should I built my small fountain out of? Should be easy to work with, durable, waterproof, and hermit crab safe!

As a reward for hanging on despite my half-assed attempt at a decent environment, I'm going to build a dream crabitat for my hermit crabs. I'm purchasing a 20 gal. long aquarium off craigslist to replace their 6 gal. slum, it'll have a huge volume of sand for burrowing -- and to satisfy their humidity/moisture requirements, I'm going to build them an aquatic amusement park at one end of the tank.

Here are the plans I've drafted. (don't laugh)

I already have the mini-pump with tubing. I can assemble parts with aquarium-safe silicone cement and silicone. But I have no idea what material I should use to build the walls out of! Glass seems like a huge bother to work with. Wood would maybe leech bad stuff into the water and likely rot. Tarp material (+wood) seems like it would be too easy for the crabs to poke holes in/eat/disassemble/burrow under. Some thick plastic or pvc would seem to fit the bill. But is it non-toxic? Where do I get it? How do I shape it?

*Bonus points if you can also think of a good way to make the water fall in fine, separated droplets from the 'terrace' instead of a boring one-sided dribble. The pump isn't very powerful...imagine a lazy drinking fountain. How do I get Trevi out of it?

posted by cowbellemoo to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by IronLizard at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2008

This sounds awesome. No advice, though. I had a crab once (RIP Carmelita) but she was eventually successful in her escape attempts and we found her in the corner, dried up dead, when we moved. Very sad.
I'm happy that you're so excited to do this for your crab(s). I mean, hermit crabs.
posted by hulahulagirl at 6:50 PM on March 20, 2008

is there some kind of mister you could incorporate into the fountain?? or use a short piece of soaker hose? maybe make your own by poking a bunch of holes in some tubing?
posted by hulahulagirl at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2008

If the pump can only manage to move water like a lazy drinking fountain, then I'd guess that a one-sided dribble is probably all you can do with it. The top box, in your drawing is perhaps 6" on a side, right? That would be 24" of perimeter. It would take quite a lot of water to constantly overflow all the way around that... I'm thinking several healthy water fountains worth.

Setting the bonus points aside, if you'd settle for round rather than square then you could assemble it from PVC pipe parts that are cheap and common. Square calls for a clear plastic sheet material; polycarbonate would work nicely, but acrylic (plexiglass) is cheaper and easier to get in most localities.
posted by jon1270 at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2008

What if you had the motor pumping the water up through the middle of the box? If you used a cut up pipe for the top box, like job1270 suggested, you could use another piece of cut pipe to hide the motor, and then I'm envisioning the water coming up from the middle and therefore falling down all around more evenly, rather than being pumped in from one side. Also it would look cool. Unless I'm misunderstanding your blueprint.
posted by amethysts at 8:21 PM on March 20, 2008

Use Acrylic (plexiglass) or Polycarbonate (Lexan) for the parts. It's reasonably cheap and easy to cut to size. Most hardware stores carry it and many will do all the cuts you'll need for you. Both are routinely used for eating utensils. You can assemble the pieces with aquarium caulk. The downside is that your fountain will show mineral deposits and algae that will be a pain to remove.

You could also try to make something more free form out of concrete. If you get the smallest bag of concrete and sift out the pebbles (or maybe use plain mortar) can and sculpt it around a hose or tube, you could make a "water volcano". After it sets, I would let it soak for a while to leech out anything that might be troublesome, and mineral deposits and algae will look in-place on it.
posted by plinth at 5:54 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks, hulahulagirl. I remember now seeing something like a mister hose in my local fish store's reptile section. Even with my weak pump, I think I can get some fine jets of water out of them. I may also see if I can afford a larger pump.

I've seen acrylic (and other 1/4" clear stuff) in home depot, but I've never tried to cut it apart. Is it possible to just score it with a kitchen knife/razor and snap it apart? Or do I need a little hand saw or something?
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:12 AM on March 21, 2008

Home Depot should be able to cut it for you or call a place that just specializes in plexiglass. I think you can do it yourself, but it'd probably be easier to have them do it and you'd get a smoother edge that way.
posted by hulahulagirl at 12:34 PM on March 21, 2008

I'd love to see the finished product!
posted by hulahulagirl at 12:34 PM on March 21, 2008

If you end up using acrylic, try to use distilled (or at least filtered) water. The eventual lime/scale buildup will be almost impossible to clean without scratching or damaging such soft plastic.
posted by IronLizard at 10:04 AM on March 23, 2008

Thanks IL. I don't mind if it gets crusty, but I've taken a razor to enough glass tanks to know what a pain it can be.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2008

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