Hermit crabs are small, delicate crustaceans you might see at the beach once in a while. But for some people, they’re beloved pets that make things extra interesting at home. Sure, you can’t cuddle with them or take them on walks, but they’re fun to play with and intriguing to watch.
Endearingly referred to as “hermies,” hermit crabs are easy to take care of, so they’re perfect for people looking for low-maintenance pets. That said, you still have to know the ins and outs of how to take care of hermit crabs if you want to get a couple of them as pets.
Today, we’re giving you the lowdown on how to take care of hermit crabs at home.
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Hermit Crabs Make For Interesting Pets
A hermit crab is a special kind of crab that has soft, delicate abdomens. Because their abdomen is exposed and makes them vulnerable to predators, they “house” themselves inside a shell to protect their bodies. They can grow to be as big as four inches long and live up to 15 years!
Although you’ll often see hermit crabs near bodies of water, these little crustaceans actually live on land. That makes it very possible to care for them as pets. They’re easy to keep an eye on because they spend most of their day in their tank.
Hermit crabs are social creatures, so it would be an excellent idea to have two or more crabs as pets living together in the same tank. They also have unique quirks and personalities—much like humans—and it’s a lot of fun getting to know each of your hermies as you care for them.
Building A Home For Your Hermies
The first thing to do to take care of your hermit crab is to build them a home.
The best habitat for these small crustaceans is a terrarium. A terrarium is a sealable glass tank much like an aquarium but isn’t filled with water. Instead, you can put soil, plants, and other hermit crab essentials in it.
You can buy a terrarium at your local pet store. Make sure it’s spacious enough to house all your crabs (allot around 3-4 gallons of space for each hermit crab). When setting it up at home, make sure you place it in an area without direct sunlight.
The foundation of your crabs’ new home will be the substrate. This is the layer of powdery sand and soil your crabs will live on, dig through, or hide in, depending on their mood. It mimics the sand of a beach, which any crab is used to living in.
You can use arrogate sand or coconut fiber as substrate, or perhaps a mixture of both. Pour all the substrate into your empty tank until it’s about five times the height of your biggest crab. Then, wet your substrate with salt water for a bit of dampness and humidity.
2. Light and heat
Use a thermometer to frequently check on the temperature inside your tank. The optimal temperature of your crabs’ tank should be around 25-29°C (77-84°F) in the daytime and 18°C (64°F) at the lowest at night.
As for lighting, make sure the terrarium is well-lit for about 12 hours each day. You can attach a fluorescent light bulb to the lid of your tank and switch it on during the daytime.
3. Humidity levels
Hermit crabs need to live in a humid environment to thrive. Make sure the terrarium is always at 70-85% humidity. A hygrometer can help you gauge whether you’re achieving this moisture level for the tank.
Anywhere below 70% humidity might suffocate your hermit crabs, which can cause a lot of discomfort and pain for them.
To boost humidity levels in your crab’s home, leave a clean, wet sponge in it. You can also add moss to the tank, which can serve as both décor and food for your hermies.
Now for the fun part—decorating your tank. Add some plants to your terrarium to add more life and vibrancy to it. Give your crabs some simple “toys” to climb and play with, like big pieces of driftwood, rocks, or some rope. That way, they’ll enjoy their time in their crabitat.
What To Feed Your Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs aren’t fast eaters. In fact, they wait until nighttime to eat and then take their time as they munch on their food. Here are some of the foods you can leave in their tank when they get hungry.
1. Commercial food
There are a ton of hermit crab pellet food options you can find in your local pet store. It’s perfect if you don’t have enough time during the day to cut up some fresh food for your crabs.
If you have very small hermit crabs, make sure to crush the pellets to make it easier for them to eat and digest.
2. Fruits and veggies
Crabs also love fruits and vegetables. You can feed them raw and unseasoned veggies like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and kale. Your crabs might also have a sweet tooth, so give them some fruits like apples, bananas, strawberries, papaya, coconut shavings, and more.
To ensure your crabs don’t eat any preservatives, make sure to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly before chopping them up into small, thin pieces. Place the food in a shallow bowl and leave it in the terrarium overnight.
Of course, hermit crabs need protein, too. They love freeze-fried shrimp, silversides, plankton, and even boiled chicken. Just make sure you serve these to them with no seasoning.
You can also cook soft-boiled eggs and serve them in the eggshell. They’ll eat the cooked eggs and the shell, which will help them build a harder outer shell for their bodies.
4. Fresh and salt water
Hermit crabs need to drink both fresh water and saltwater to balance out their saline levels. Make sure you have two water bowls in the tank at all times—one filled with tap water and another with salt water.
Always double-check that the water you serve has no chlorine. Chlorine is extremely bad for crabs. It can inflame and cause blisters on their gills, which can end up killing them.
What To Do When Your Crab Is Molting
Hermit crabs have an outer layer of shell covering their bodies called the exoskeleton. As they grow older and bigger, they’ll need to shed that exoskeleton and grow a bigger one. To do that, they go through a process called molting.
When your crab is molting, they dig a hole for itself in its substrate and hide there for a while. This is because when they shed their skeleton, their bodies are more delicate, making them vulnerable to predators.
Don’t disturb them while they molt. It may stress them out if they want to hide and be alone. They’ll come out again to eat and play when they’re ready.
Also, never throw out the exoskeleton that they shed. They have to eat it to harden the new outer shell that they’re trying to grow.
Helping Hermit Crabs Move Into New Shells
Aside from their exoskeleton, hermit crabs also need to replace their seashells over time as they get bigger. They’ll evacuate the shell they’re living in to move into a slightly bigger, better-fitting shell—one that you’ll have to provide.
Make sure you furnish their tank with at least three clean seashells your crabs can move into when they have to “upgrade” their shell. Put the shells where your crabs can easily locate them so that they can move into the optimal shell whenever they’re ready.
What To Do When Your Crab Pinches You
You can’t learn how to take care of hermit crabs without being prepared for their notorious pinching habits!
When playing with your hermit crab, you might feel a sharp, painful bite on your hands. But crabs can’t bite people. They’re actually pinching you with their claws. They do this when they’re scared, stressed, or feel like there’s a looming threat around them.
Don’t scream and panic if your crab pinches you. If you try to pull them off of your hand, they’ll only pinch down harder and hurt you more because they’ll think you’re attacking them. Don’t shake them off either—you might injure your hermies.
Instead, calmly walk to the terrarium and stick your hand in so that they can get to their home safely. This will signal to them that you mean no harm and are delivering them to a safe place. They should let go and crawl back into their crabitat immediately.
There are many things you need to stay on top of if you want to take care of your hermit crabs properly. You need to build them a home, feed them all the right food, and ensure they evacuate and move into new shells when they need to.
To sum up this guide, here are some of the non-negotiables on how to take care of hermit crabs:
- Set up a terrarium for them with high-quality substrate and optimal humidity levels
- Prepare healthy food for them, from fruits to proteins
- Make sure they have both fresh water and saltwater
- Allow them to molt and move into new shells without disrupting their process
Lastly, remember to show them love and play with them now and then. Hermit crabs aren’t the most common pet, but they still deserve the utmost attention. It’s one of the best ways you can care for them.
Got any more questions about how to take care of hermit crabs? Leave them below!