Hermit Crab Care Advice
Caring for your Hermit Crab
All pet owners have a responsibility to look after and care for their pets. When considering a Hermit Crab as a pet, learn as much as you can about how to care for them before you buy, taking your lifestyle and household into account to make sure you can offer a Hermit Crab a good home. This leaflet runs through the basic needs to help you decide is a Hermit Crab is the right pet for you…….
Hermit Crabs as pets
Hermit Crabs are ideal pets for children. They have no smell, are fur, feather and dust free so will not cause any of the allergic reactions that may be associated with other pets. They never bite but have powerful claws and can nip strongly. With the correct care Hermit Crabs will live for many years depending upon the species. The largest Hermit crabs may be over 20 years old!
Do I like company?
Hermit Crabs are social animals and, although they can be kept alone, but as they live in large groups in the wild they are best in groups of three or more.
Where do I like to live?
Hermit Crabs need a humid but well ventilated environment so a glass or plastic vivarium with a secure mesh lid is probably best. Hermit crabs are very active at night so always choose the largest home you can afford. Any Hermit Crab home will also need to accommodate a substrate of at least 25mm. The vivarium needs to be heated via a thermostat set to about 25’C. If a heat mat is used for this it should not heat more than 50 to 75% of the floor area.
The substrate should be either washed river or silver sand or normal washed but uncoloured aquarium gravel. Hermit crabs need to bury themselves whilst they are shedding their skin which means that the sand substrate needs to be at least twice the depth of the largest crab. If a shallower substrate such as gravel is used this burrowing behaviour needs to be allowed for by providing a deep plastic box filled with damp sand.
The base of the Vivarium should be damp on the surface (rather than wet) such that a humidity level of 70 to 80% is consistently maintained. Hermit Crab enclosures should be misted daily using warm dechlorinated water every evening. Relative humidity should be monitored daily using an appropriate meter. If Hermit Crabs are kept in drier conditions their gills will dry out and they will not be able to breath. This is the most common reason for Hermit Crabs to die in captivity.
Hermit Crabs are nocturnal so most active at night. Although they cannot speak but they do make tapping noises as they wander about and climb and these can be surprisingly loud. A bedroom may not be the ideal place for their home for just this reason. Vivariums are best placed in warm rooms but away from radiators, windows and high traffic or draughty areas.
Hermit Crab vivariums need to be spot cleaned daily and may need completely cleaning every month.
What do I like to eat?
There are several commercial Hermit Crab diets available that provide a balanced diet. Hermit Crabs are opportunist scavengers by nature and therefore are very easy to feed using a variety of more natural materials. Offer a variety of vegetable foods but only in small quantities. Meaty foods such as moistened dry dog food can also be given as can fish flakes or pellets. Hermit Crabs only eat a small amount every day so if too much is provided it may go off and cause an unpleasant small. All foods should be offered each evening in a shallow bowl and be changed daily. Try very small amounts of tender meat and larger quantities of fresh or dried fruits. Grapes, apple or bananas are enjoyed as are raisins or dates.
A bowl of clean fresh water is essential but must contain a sponge or small stone to prevent drowning. Water should be refreshed daily. A second bowl of saline water is also important for them to maintain their reservoir of water in their shell. Use aquarium salt made up to half the strength used for marine fish.
Coconut or even popcorn may be given as a treat. Salty foods are not a problem as Hermit crabs need salt to remain healthy. Calcium supplements are essential and may be provided as a powder sprinkled on their food or more easily as whole cuttlebone normally sold for cage birds.
Although Hermit Crabs do not play as such, they enjoy climbing and their home should reflect this. Décor of driftwood, ropes, nets and branches all enhance your crabs life. They also appreciate places to hide such as caves or overturned half coconut shells that will remain humid. Often, if they are able, your crab will burrow under one or more of the items you use to decorate the vivarium so it is important that all décor items are secure.
How to handle me
When you want to pick up one of your crabs simply hold it using its shell. Be very aware that they can nip and it is unwise to allow it to get hold of any tender areas on your fingers, hand or face. If one of your crabs does grab hold of you either support its weight with your spare hand or if this fails hold it under running water until it lets go.
When you do pick them up make a mental note of the weight, a healthy crab will feel heavy and an ill one will be proportionately light.
Keeping me clean
Hermit Crabs do not produce a lot of waste but any uneaten or scattered food can rapidly go off. Remove any uneaten foodstuffs each morning and refresh the water. Both food and water bowls need to be washed, using an appropriate disinfectant, and thoroughly rinsed on a regular basis.
Keeping me fit and healthy
Given a clean humid environment Hermit Crabs are normally very hardy. One of their most vulnerable times is when they are shedding their skin. Resist any temptation to handle them during this time, and it may take several days, otherwise you may cause them considerable harm. As Hermit Crabs grow they need to have access to a range of shells in larger sizes. At least the same number of spare shells as Hermit Crabs kept should be available. These shells need to be very clean but their colour and type is largely unimportant.
Many people give their crabs a weekly bath in tepid dechlorinated water but with the correct setup this is probably unnecessary.
Most problems such as mites or flies are associated with dirty environments and will be largely avoided by keeping your Hermit Crab cage clean.