Caring for Hermit Crabs
Hermit Crabs are the perfect beginner reptile-keeping pet, easy enough to keep even for kids!
- This hermit crab has evolved to live on land and uses an empty shell as a portable home as well as for protection.
- It is believed that hermit crabs left the ocean to become true land animals millions of years ago.
- They can only breath air and will drown if submerged in water that may be too deep for them for any length of time.
- After hatching from eggs laid in the sea by their mother, the young crabs are merely plankton until about a month later when they develop into a crab. They then crawl ashore looking for a discarded shell of another animal to call home.
- In the wild, hermit crabs live in groups and usually travel in packs that roam at night in search of food. Land hermit crabs are ‘decapods’, which means they have ten legs.
- The forward central pair of legs are different to each other – the left has a larger pincher, usually purple; this is used for climbing and defense, while the smaller right pincher is used for eating and assisting in climbing. The second and third pair of legs are called ‘ambulatory legs’ and are used for walking. The fourth and fifth pair of legs never come out of the shell. These legs are used to hold onto the shell and maneuver the shell when the crabs are on the move. Like other species of crabs their eyes are situated on stalks extending from the head. This allows them great panoramic view of their surroundings.
- Hermit crabs have very good sight and are sensitive to movement.
What you'll need:
Hermit Crab Housing
Land hermit crabs need warmth and humidity for their wellbeing. Your tank size will depend on how many hermit crabs you are going to be housing, they need adequate room for burrowing, climbing, eating, drinking and bathing.
A glass tank is great for multiple crabs, or the Krabooz Base Kitz are suitable for as a startup for one.
Substrate: Use sand or Krabooz ‘Sand’ (peat). Decoration: Driftwood and rocks for climbing (ensure these are untreated and cleaned thoroughly before use). Dishes: Small food dish, shallow drinking dish with pebbles in the bottom and shallow bathing dish with pebbles in the bottom. Change your decorations around each time you clean out the cage so your hermit crabs have a whole new environment to explore!
Hermit crabs are tropical animals and need heat and humidity to survive. Do not allow your hermit crab enclosure to drop below 20°C. The ideal temperature is a constant 30°C and the ideal humidity level is 70%. Using humidity and temperature gauges is the best way to ensure a happy hermit crab environment. Heating your hermit crab enclosure is best done by using under tank heat pads that stick to the underneath of your enclosure, remember to monitor the temperature using a temperature gauge.
Humidity is very important to the survival of your hermit crabs. As hermit crabs have gills, as opposed to lungs, the air they intake must be moist, otherwise it will result in dried out gills, suffocating your hermit crabs. To help keep your enclosure moist and humid, we suggest regular misting with a water bottle. Be careful not to saturate the enclosure and always use dechlorinated water.
Hermit Crabs are not fussy eaters as they scavenge for whatever is available. In captivity they will eat almost anything, including meats, fruit, vegetables and cereals. Mealworms will also be heartily devoured. Make sure they have a good staple prepared food (available here at Pet City) in a shallow dish at all times. These crabs also enjoy treats in small amounts, such as:
- Dry Biscuits
- Plain Popcorn
- Cooked Brown Rice
- Basil and Parsley
- Dry Dog food
- Baked Eggshell
Remember to remove any spoiled food. They also enjoy munching on decaying wood (not cedar or pine). Land hermit crabs also like fresh plants, including leaves, stalks, roots and cacti. Make sure your crabs do not have access to poisonous plants. It may seem that your crab never eats, but don’t worry, crabs can go for long periods without eating. Their normal food intake is a lot less than we think, despite this, be sure that there is free food for them at all times.
Fresh drinking water should be available at all times. Water used should be filtered or de-chlorinated if using town tap water. Use a shallow dish, placing some small rocks at the bottom. This will allow your hermit crabs to climb out of the dish. Remember, hermit crabs will drown if submerged in water for extended periods of time.
Salt water should be prepared and placed in a shallow dish with small rocks in the bottom to ensure your hermit crabs can climb out. To prepare water, mix 5g salt to 150ml filtered or dechlorinated water. Change water daily.
Hermit crabs like a clean and unspoiled environment. Here are a few cleaning tips to keep your new pet happy and healthy:
- Wash all dishes and decorations regularly, ensuring you rinse and dry well.
- Spot Clean your enclosure daily to remove droppings, mould and spoiled food.
- To clean empty shells, soak in salt water and dry thoroughly.
Your hermit crab has an external skeleton covering the entire upper part of its body. Once a year it will moult - that is, shed or cast off its old skin so it can get on with the process of growing. During this time, it will burrow down and disappear from view, as it is waiting for its new outer shell to harden. This is a critical time; so, do not try to pick it up or even touch the shedding shell.
BEWARE: If disturbed during the shell hardening process, usually taking between 22 and 30 days, your hermit crab can die. The best thing you can do it let nature take its course without interference.
Now that your hermit crab is hibernating, waiting for its new external skeleton to harden, it is time to think of a new home for
it. This means having a selection of empty shells for your hermit crabs to choose from. Measure the opening of your crab’s current shell and add 7mm. This is the opening size of the new shell. There is a large, vibrant range of shell designs available at Pet City to suit your personal taste. Most hermit crabs like to change their house on a regular basis, so having shells the same size as its current home is essential as well.
Hermit crabs will get used to being handled the more you pick them up and place in your hand. If your hermit crab pinches you, it is only because it is trying to hold on. Remember that hermit crabs use their pinchers to climb! Always handle you hermit crabs with clean hands.
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