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If you want to try something unique to keep as a pet, Hermit crabs would make great pets. They are unusual pets with distinct personalities and unique characteristics. So before bringing one home, it is essential to consider Hermit crab care. 

Things like temperature, humidity, light, accessories, food, behavior, handling, tank, and safety should be considered to keep Hermit crabs as pets. This will ensure that your hermit crabs have easy and healthy living. 

They are easy to maintain as it is low and taking proper care of them, makes your hermit crab to be your companion for many years. So follow these guides to give them a good living.

What are hermit crabs? 

Hermit crabs as pets

They are not really true crabs. it is true that crabs and hermit crabs are both decapod crustaceans, but are classified differently because they are different from most other crab species due to their soft bodies and they are not protected by hard shells, instead, they find a home in the shells of other empty snail shells. As they grow, they must find larger shells.  

They are omnivores that feed on both plant and animal material. They have longer, softer bodies and the back somewhat resembles a chameleon’s tail end without legs. Without a shell, the body would be easily damaged. The shell must be big enough for the hermit crab to retract entirely, or it will be at risk of predation.

Hermit crab behavior

Hermit crabs live inside a hard outer skin called an exoskeleton.  Hermit crabs live inside a hard outer skin called an exoskeleton. As they grow, they shed (molt) the outer skin and grow a soft outer skeleton that gets hardened. 

Living in shells that are made by other animals is how they protect themselves. They move into larger ones from their current shell as they get bigger and when they are about to molt, they eat and drink in an extremely hungry way and dig into their habitat’s substrate to bury themselves for the molt. 

They are sociable and normally travel in large packs. When one molts and discards their old shell, another gets molting simultaneously and helps to ensure that new shells are available for molting hermit crabs to move into. 

Molting is stressful and takes several weeks for a hermit crab to complete. Handling a hermit crab or digging up a buried hermit crab during a molt can kill them.  

Hermit crabs as pets

They are wonderful pets that are easy to look after. They do not carry any known disease and are hypoallergenic and so they make perfect pets for those with allergies. They are very simple to care for and they are low in maintenance. 

They do not require large amounts of space and they are odorless. With the right care, your hermit crab can live up to approximately 15 years. Hermit crabs love company, so have multiple crabs living together.

Hermit crab care and maintenance

When introducing a new hermit crab, it must be done with care because fighting may occur. When they live together, they would have a wider variety of choices when moving shells. It is better to have more than one crab to prevent loneliness and improve the crabs’ chances of thriving in the new environment. You can take your hermit crab out and spend time. 

Socializing hermit crabs

Hermit crab fighting for a new shell

They are social creatures that like to live in large groups and if they are left lonely for too long. If you get multiple crabs is better to prevent loneliness. Also when you add one or more hermit crabs to an existing tank, keep an eye out for fighting. 

Crabs can fight for multiple reasons like not having enough food, water, or space. Some Hermit crabs are aggressive with others and may try to steal shells. If you keep shells in the aquarium helps to prevent this type of bullying. 

Another to socialize it and prevent loneliness is to take the Hermit crab out of the enclosure to play. They are gentle creatures that kids and adults alike can enjoy spending time with.

Hermit Crab Molting behavior

Hermit crabs molt, or shed off, their outer skin about twice a year. When molting, they become less active and won’t eat much but they will drink lots of water. 

This is a normal process and it takes several weeks for their new skin to harden. During this time, leave the pets alone and do not remove the shed skin from the tank.  It is normal for hermit crabs to consume it because it is a rich source of calcium.

Your hermit crab will change into a new, larger shell after molting. Be sure to have a few ready so they can choose the best fit. This process of growth, shedding skin, and changing shells, is a continuous and repeating process for hermit crabs.

Hermit crab tank setup

For the crab, the ideal enclosure is a terrarium with a removable glass lid. For every two crabs, it is recommended to have 20 liters of space.  

Fill the tank with a substrate like marine aquarium coral rock sand or sand gravel mix. Also, you can add rocks, safe climbing toys, dried choya wood, driftwood, coral, and barnacles as stimulating toys for Hermit crabs. 

Also, make sure to create a space for your crab to hide and leave an area clear of obstructions for them to exercise in. The food and water bowls should be accessible. The Hermit crabs need high humidity to keep moist, which enables them to breathe properly. A humidity gauge can ensure to maintain of a humidity level of 70–80%.

Have a source of heat and water to keep your tank humid. Use incandescent lights. Make sure that the substrate is at least 3cm thick when using an under-tank heater so that your hermit crabs do not sweat. Mist your tank with non-chlorinated water as needed to keep moisture high. Your tank will need to remain at a temperature of 21–24°C. You can use a thermometer to monitor this.

Hermit crabs food

Hermit crabs are omnivorous and their diet consists of pellet food, veggies, and fruits as treats. You can find nutritious pellets at your local Petbarn and crush a teaspoon of pellets into their bowl or buy pellet powders and make it easier for them to eat. 

Focus on natural and healthy food options and eliminate processed foods from their diets. They thrive when their diet includes foods containing calcium, carotene, and antioxidants. Corns and carrots include carotene which are healthy additions to a hermit crab’s diet. 

hermit crab emerges from its shell

Look at the Hermit crab’s color after molting it to find out whether the hermit crab is deficient in carotene. If it is deficient, its color will fade from a bright reddish/orange color to a faded-out tan or gray after molting. Antioxidants are prevalent in many fruits and vegetables as well.

Use vegetables and fruits to mix up your pet’s diet. Chop up kale or broccoli and fruits like apples or bananas and leave them out overnight and remove any leftovers in the morning.

Provide your crabs with access to fresh water. Make sure you use filtered or dechlorinated water for their health.

Grooming the Hermit crab

The crabs will groom themselves with the right tools. You need to provide them with a  conditioned freshwater bowl and a saltwater bowl for them to bathe in. 

Take a bowl and put the sea sponge on the smaller crabs to climb out. Provide them with multiple shells for your pets to change into. It is recommended to have at least two shells per crab. Provide bigger shells for them to grow into as they mature. 

Hermit crabs become less active and generally molt once every 18 months, burrowing more while drinking and eating less. Allow hermit crabs to snack on their old skin and give them a calcium boost. 

Provide them with finely ground coconut fiber-based bedding for reptiles, such as forest bedding, to assist hermit crabs during molting.

How to clean the tank? 

Hermit crab climbing

It is important to spot and clean the habitat daily. Use a mall kitchen strainer or fishnet and make sure to scoop out any sand soiled with feces. Discard food and bits of the exoskeleton. 

Clean the tank once a week, 

You need to place the Hermit crabs in a secured habitat. Scrub the tank and furnish it using a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. Remove all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell by rinsing thoroughly with water. 

Dry the tank and furnishings completely, add clean, dry substrate, and return your hermit crabs to their habitat. Rearrange the habitat décor after cleaning can keep hermit crabs from becoming bored.

Weekly make sure to disinfect the sponges to prevent fungal and bacterial growth. Rinse sponges in hot tap water, and then rinse in saltwater and then in dechlorinated water. 

Squeeze out excess water and allow sponges to air dry completely before reusing. Squeeze out the extremely dirty sponges and dry them out completely and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.  It is ideal to have several sponges to rotate into the habitat while some are being cleaned. 

Play with them

Some Hermit crabs love attention and when they are awake take them out of their habitat. Allow them to climb all over your shirt or give them exercise as they walk across both your hands. 

You need to make sure that they never fall, and are not out too long because they need humidity. Falling from a height of 3 feet can be fatal for them, and fear of falling is the number one reason crabs pinch. 

Therefore keep them in a position where they are not going to fall and they likely won’t pinch.

They need humidity and the typical house humidity is only 40% and even less with AC and heat. When a crab’s gills are exposed to low humidity it feels similar to how we feel when we hold our breath for too long.

Dos and Don’ts in Hermit crab care

Hermit crab care

Dos

  1. When keeping a Hermit crab as a pet, make sure to keep more than one hermit as they can suffer loneliness when left alone.
  2. Dechlorinate all tap water as chlorine could be harmful to your hermits.
  3. Use proper equipment like proper gauges to check temperature and humidity. 
  4. Boil and disinfect all utensils before using them in the hermit tanks, soak vessels in lukewarm water and dry them in the sunlight.
  5. Be particular about food and give them a balanced diet of fresh foods.
  6. Keep large clean shells for hermits to take as their home. 
  7. When introducing new crabs, put them in separate tanks and gradually introduce them in the main tank. 
  8. Permit crabs to dig up while molting.

Don’ts 

  1. Do not use preservatives as they can be very dangerous for the animals.
  2. Do not keep them in plastic kritters plastic as they cannot maintain humidity. 
  3. Do not overcrowd the tanks of Hermit crabs because these crabs need adequate space to move around. 
  4. Do not disturb the hermits when they are molting and do not dig up a hermit while molting as it can put them under stress. 
  5. Do not use detergents and chemicals for cleaning your hermit tanks. They are most dangerous for hermits.
  6. Do not use gravel or sharp objects as they can cause severe damage to the hermits. 
  7. Do not add metal parts to hermit tanks as they tend to rust and break down in tanks. 
  8. Do not handle aggressively handle new hermits. 
  9. Do not use painted shells. 

Final thoughts

The hermit crab care needs to be considered before bringing a hermit crab home. They are low maintenance and great companions for the owners. 

It is important to clean the tanks to keep the crab healthy. Proper care is always needed to keep the hermit crab alive for a longer period of time. 

Also, concern about dos and don’ts to avoid affecting the life of hermit crabs. You can even play with them and you should be careful in handling them properly. 

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