This morning I found one of my berried crabs dead, or very nearly so. I removed all of the remaining females to the main tank and tried putting the immobilized crab in a container of clean tank water, but no luck. I don't know why she died, the water tested clean and the other inhabitants were perfectly fine.
While it was disappointing to lose a crab, particularly a berried female, this gave me an opportunity to try hatching the eggs artificially. I broke out my dissecting microscope and went to work, and I took a few pictures along the way. My camera is nothing special at all, and the pictures were taken by holding it up to an eyepiece, so these are not works of art, but they are instructive. The view through the eyepieces is much better, both wider and clearer.
A dorsal shot of the crab.
These crabs are described as setose or pilose, because they have a number of hairy protrusions called setae. This species in particular is very pilose, thus its genus name Limno (lake) pilos (hairy.) This is a shot of one of the chelipeds. This individual is not particularly setose compared to some that I have, but the setae are very easily seen.
A ventral shot of the crab. The entire yellow portion of the body is actually the tail, curled under the crab's abdomen. Immediately above the tail are two small openings called the gonopores (which I really wish I had gotten a picture of) through which the eggs are deposited on the tail.
Because the animal had been dead for a time, its body was relatively stiff. I tried to get an image of the tail while it was still attached to the body, but couldn't manage to get the camera and tweezers to cooperate. I removed the tail.
In spite of its appearance as being completely laden with eggs, none of the eggs are actually attached to the tail. Instead of depositing its eggs on normal pleopods, this species appears to attach them to special, feathery protrusions (more setae? very oddly adapted and attached pleopods??) from the edges of the tail. The eggs are attached to the protrusions in groups of 20, with perhaps 10 or so of the protrusions present. Here is an image of one of these feathery protrusions, with eggs and the tail present for comparison. Any eggs not attached directly to the feathery protrusions were directly attached to other eggs.
After removing the eggs, I placed them in a container of tank water and installed an air stone. The eggs are too small to hatch by tumbling, so I intend to keep the water in the tank well aerated and circulating, and to stir the eggs several times daily. The vast majority of the eggs are detached from everything, but 10-20% are in small clumps still. I've got my fingers crossed, both for the eggs and the remaining females that are back in the tank.