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SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium in Carlsbad, CA Opens Claws Exhibit

Five new displays showcase various clawed creatures from around the world.

By John B. Virata | March 8, 2012

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japanese spirder crab

The Japanese spider crab exhibit's filtration features a wet/dry sump with filter bag, protein skimmer and UV sterilizer. Photo credit: SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium

The SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium in Carlsbad, CA has just opened a new exhibit dedicated to arthropods. The Claws exhibit features five displays centered around interesting arthropods, including Japanese spider crabs (Macrocheira kaempferi) that can grow to 13 feet across from claw to claw, coconut crabs (Birgus latro), land crabs, American lobsters (Homarus americanus) and nephrops also known as prawns.

The Claws exhibit, which opened March 1, includes an interactive floor projection that enables visitors to interact with the images that are projected, a touch display that enables visitors to feel the shell textures of various crabs, and daily presentations. FishChannel spoke with Bob Burhans, curator of the Claws exhibit about some interesting aspects of the animals in the exhibits as well as the exhibits themselves.

FishChannel: How many gallons is the Claws exhibit for the Japanese spider crabs and what kind of filtration is required to keep the waters of the exhibit pristine? Are there any type of water requirements for the spider crabs? Do they do better at a specific temperature and pH?
Bob Burhans: Our new Claws exhibit has approximately 1,200 gallons of water. The Japanese Spider Crabs on display are in a closed system tank with a temperature of 52 degrees F. We maintain the PH at 8.0 to 8.2, salinity 32-35ppm. Our filtration is a wet/dry sump with a filter bag, protein skimmer and UV sterilizer. The Aquarist team completes water changes as necessary depending on NH3, NO2 and NO3 levels. The display is made up of artificial rockwork that has plumbing under it to allow water flows to reach all parts of the tank to prevent any detritus from collecting on the bottom.
 
FishChannel: What is unique about the Japanese spider crabs that are different than, say the local spider crabs that can be caught off the California coast?
Bob Burhans: What makes Japanese spider crabs truly different is the large size that they can grow to. For example, the creature's body can grow to the size of a basketball and can reach a leg span of up to 13 feet from claw-to-claw. Our Japanese spider crabs are a bit smaller than that but are already larger than most California crabs would ever grow.
 
FishChannel: How big does the coconut crab get?
Bob Burhans: Coconut Crabs grow up to 16 inches and 9 pounds; the males are larger than females; and they achieve their maximum weight between 40 and 60 years of age.

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coconut crab
The coconut crab can climb coconut trees and split a coconut shell to get to the meat inside. Photo credit: SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium
FishChannel:  Does the coconut crab require any special water requirements?
Bob Burhans: We give our Coconut Crab fresh water and ensure the display recreates a moist tropical environment so their gills do not dry out and inhibit breathing.
 
FishChannel: What countries are coconut crabs native to? The coconut crab can crack open a coconut with its claws. Does the coconut crab eat coconut?
Bob Burhans: The coconut crab occurs on the tropical islands of the Indo-Pacific. This type of crab gets its name from being able to climb a coconut tree, knock the coconut down and open it! The coconut crab does this by wedging its claw in the three depressions on the shell and adding pressure to crack open the coconut. Coconut crabs eat coconut as well as other fruits and they will even eat small mammals.
 
FishChannel:  How often are they fed?
Bob Burhans: We feed our coconut crab daily.

FishChannel:  What is the more popular Arthropod in the exhibit?
Bob Burhans:  Certainly our Japanese spider crabs are the most popular creature in the new Claws exhibit. The fact that they grow so large and live in depths of up to 2,000 feet really captures the interest of our guests. A very close second would be our coconut crab because its large claws and highly armored body is truly amazing to see up close.
 

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lobster
The American lobster exhibit. Photo credit: SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium
FishChannel:  What other unique aspects of the exhibit are available to visitors?
Bob Burhans: Besides being able to observe some of the larger species of clawed Arthropods, Claws is an interactive and educational experience for families visiting SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium. The new exhibit features Japanese spider crabs, a coconut crab, an American lobster, fiddler crabs and nephrops along with information on the aquatic creatures’  habitat, range, behavior and adaptations. Claws also includes a touch display allowing guests to feel the shell textures of different crabs; a mechanical claw that guests can control and use to pick up objects; plus a new daily educational presentation.

For more information about SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium in Carlsbad, CA, visit /redirect.aspx?location=http%3a%2f%2fwww.visitsealife.com%2fCalifornia.

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SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium in Carlsbad, CA Opens Claws Exhibit

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Reader Comments

Autumn    Minneapolis, MN

3/12/2012 4:07:50 PM

That is pretty impressive

Carl    Livermore, CA

3/9/2012 11:15:50 AM

Coconut crabs live for 60 years or more, WOW.

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