Hermit crabs, with their colorful shells and big pinchers, can be an interesting addition to a busy household. Even though these critters may not be considered pets as readily as a dog or cat, they are definitely more fun than an aquarium full of fish. Caring for them is not any harder than caring for an aquarium full of fish, either. Supplies needed to care for hermit crabs are simple. Shelter, food, water, and a clean, warm, humid environment are all your pet needs. With the right supplies and care, hermit crabs will thrive for quite a long time.
To take care of your hermit crab:
- You will need an aquarium or terrarium that the hermit crabs can live in. Glass aquariums or terrariums work best because the glass will help keep the temperature stable and glass is easy to keep clean. It is also important that the aquarium have a lid because the humidity will not remain at a constant percentage otherwise.
The hermit crab habitat (also known as the crabitat) will need a humidity gauge and the humidity should remain between 70 and 80% with a temperature of 72 to 79 degrees. The humidity and temperature can be regulated using an under-tank heater and an air pump connected to an air stone located in a water dish.
The aquarium will need to have a substrate placed at the bottom. Sand works best because it is easy for the crabs to dig in.
Extra shells are always needed because the crabs will outgrow the one they are in. Shells should have a circular or oval opening at least as big as the crabs' big pincher. There should always be 2 shells of each size for the hermit crabs to choose from. Never force a crab out of its shell. Before being placed in the crabitat, any new hermit crab shells should be boiled in crab water, which is simply tap water that has been de-chlorinated or de-chlorinated salt water. Boiling these shells is important because they could contain bacteria that could kill the crabs; boiling will kill the bacteria and any other germs.
- Food and water will have to be provided for the hermit crabs. The dishes needed for these can be as simple as large shells or as elaborate as water dishes that connect to an air pump to help keep the humidity percentage correct. The main thing to remember with water dishes is that they need to be large enough for the largest hermit crab to get into. Two dishes are required, one for fresh water and one for salt water.
Fresh water has to be de-chlorinated. Tap water can be used if it is de-chlorinated with water conditioner found in the aquarium supply section. Bottled water can also be used if it is natural spring water.
Hermit crabs also need a salt water aquarium, but do not use table salt. Marine salt, which is safe for the hermit crabs, can be found in the aquarium supply section as well. Salt water must also be de-chlorinated before using in the crabitat.
Both the fresh water and salt water dishes will need natural sponges placed in them in order for the smaller hermit crabs to be able to get in and out of them without drowning.
Make sure you know what hermit crabs eat. Feeding hermit crabs has become a universal discussion concerning what to feed them. According to some hermit crab owners, commercial pellets should not be fed as they contain ingredients that will ultimately kill the hermit crabs. These owners insist on using natural foods, such as meats that are raw or are cooked using no seasonings. If the hermit crab owner decides to feed their hermit crabs natural foods, it is important to keep a balanced meal by offering meats, fruits and vegetables.
- Other supplies needed in the crabitat are structures that the crabs can use as shelter. Hermit crabs are nocturnal, so they will need an area to escape from the daily activities surrounding them. There are many types of shelters available, from coconut huts to hollow logs. A trip to the aquarium section of the local pet store can often provide just what the hermit crab needs. While at the pet store, look for other accessories for the crabitat, such as climbing toys. Cholla wood, cork bark and large pieces of coral are great for a crabitat because the hermit crabs can not only grab on to these and climb, but also snack on them. Driftwood, wicker baskets and crab nets also work well in the crabitat.
- Caring for hermit crabs includes more than just setting up the crabitat. The owner will need to check the temperature and humidity daily, as well as remove any food left over from the night before. The owner should also be aware of hermit crabs that are digging in the sand and burying themselves. If these crabs do not come back up and eat daily, they are most likely molting and will need to be moved to an isolation tank. An isolation tank is usually a 10-gallon aquarium that contains sand, water and hermit crab food. Some type of shelter should also be included. Isolation tanks do not require as much attention as the main crabitat, because the crabs are not active when they are molting and are only in the tank during the molt. Afterward they are placed back into the main crabitat.
- Weekly, the hermit crab owner will need to replace both the fresh water and the salt water, swap sponges, and clean the old sponge by rinsing it with fresh crab water and allowing drying, then microwaving for two minutes. The crabitat will also need to be spot cleaned for any hermit crab feces.
- Lastly, every six months, the crabitat should be thoroughly cleaned, the sand should be cleaned or replaced, toys need to be washed and any wood used should be microwaved for about two minutes.
With these facts, you now know how to care for your pet. With the correct crabitat set up and the correct care, a hermit crab owner will have the opportunity to enjoy their critters.