I’ve always heard about hermit crabs and always been attracted to these animals.
Indeed, the French translation for hermit crab is Bernard l’Hermite, and my last name being Bernard, it’s a joke that I heard a lot. But it never bothered me.
If you’re also interested in these mysterious and captivating creatures, sit down for 5min and read this article, and I promise you, you’ll learn something new today.
The Terrestrial Hermit Crab
The hermit crab is a terrestrial crustacean so, once again, not an insect.
If you speak latin too, it belongs to the Coenobitidae family.
It has 10 legs, including a pair of claws or chelipeds. Its abdomen is soft which makes it vulnerable to predators. That’s why he has to carry a gastropod shell to protect itself.
Hermit crabs are gregarious animals, it means they live in groups, and we even talk about colonies here.
Required equipment :
- A terrarium that will suit the size and the number of individuals that you want to keep. Hermit crabs love to climb as well, so make sure there’s enough height.
- Substrate: The best substrate is sand. The sandbox sand seems to be ideal: easy to find and cheap. Read more details about the substrate in the maintenance section.
- Decor: Hermit crabs are very adventurous, they move a lot, climb and even dig. They will love to live in a place where they can exert themselves.
- Shells: what would you say if you only had one shirt in your closet? Hermit crabs like to change their shell regularly, either when they grow in size, or simply for no particular reason!
- Fresh water and salt water: For now, just make sure you have 2 drinking troughs, I’ll explain the rest in the maintenance section.
- Heating system: Let’s keep in mind that these animals are from tropical regions, where it’s always hot. Know that a temperature between 23 and 28°C (73,4-82,4°F) will be good for them. For that, you can use heating cables and heating plates.
- Some friends: They are gregarious animals and never live alone. They need their little colony of at least 4-5 individuals!
As I already told you, the best substrate is generally sand. Nevertheless, some hermit crab species are forest dwelling and will prefer peat or a mix of peat and sand.
It must always be damp. Careful now, damp doesn’t mean soaked, it shouldn’t be wet, nor dry, it must be damp.
The minimum height is 5 to 15cm (2” to 5,9”) depending on the animals’ size. They need it so they can dig to hide, but also molt (which is essential for them).
If the substrate ends up being too dirty, use a little colander to easily sieve the sand.
I’ve already told you to prepare 2 drinking troughs to have both fresh and salt water.
Let’s start with fresh water. Mistake number 1: giving water from the tap. Tap water contains chlorine as well as metals which will be toxic for hermit crabs. In order to make it non-toxic, let the water in a bucket in the open air for 24h.
Next, salt water. Mistake number 2: using cooking salt. Cooking salt contains iodine (even mixed herbs sometimes) which turns out to be toxic for hermit crabs. The only solution I have for you, except going to the beach to collect your sea water on a regular basis, which I don’t necessarily recommend as it could be polluted etc…: is to use salt for seawater aquarium. The right quantity to get salt levels similar to sea water would be 38g/liter (1.34oz/liter).
Hermit crabs are detritivores, they eat a little bit of everything, but they will need a certain variety.
- Fresh veggies: Fruits and vegetables will be the main source of food because they’re easily found in nature. Chicory / lettuce / carrot / apple / etc.
- Dead wood and leaves: They also consume a large amount of dead plant fibers. If there are dead stumps in your terrarium, you’ll see the crabs regularly attacking them. Try dead leaves as well (don’t tell me that they’re hard to find!). Put a handful of these just to see how fast they’ll be consumed, you’ll be surprised.
- Meat: They’re very bad hunters but can eat dead animals, so give them leftovers of meat, fish and even shellfish.
- Dry food: All fish food is generally suitable for hermit crabs; however, this is only a supplement and not the main food.
- A source of calcium: The simplest is cuttlefish bones, but you can use eggshells too.
Before getting excited, know that it’s almost impossible de get reproduction with captive hermit crabs. Some factors seem to take part such as lunar cycles, tides, changes in humidity etc.
However, if you manage to get a clutch, you also have to get through the first larval stages which are marines, as well as the transition to the land.
My advice is to give up on this idea, and settle for those that you already have which can live up to 10-20 years!
If this article helped you understand and keep these animals better, don’t hesitate to follow me on this blog and on social media so that you don’t miss any of my articles. If you have a question, please ask me in the comments. See you next week for a new article!
Special thanks :
I wanted to thank Jeanne-Flore for her trust. I’m keeping Bernie, her Coenobita clypeatus. She motivated me to get other hermit crabs to keep Bernie company and so to write you this article. Yeah the purple one in the pictures, that’s him !