How to Care for Hermit Crabs (with Pictures)

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How to Care for Hermit Crabs (with Pictures)
How to Care for Hermit Crabs (with Pictures)

Hermit crabs (also called Paguros) make great pets. They may not be as cute or cute as a puppy, but they are fun to play with and will teach children the meaning of caring for another living creature. Follow these steps to build an ideal habitat for him and care for your hermit.


Method 1 of 2: Building Your Habitat

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 1

Step 1. Buy a tank of the right size

A tank between 35 and 75 liters is a good size for a hermit and a tank of 75 to 150 liters for two. The proper home for your crabs should be one that conserves moisture and still lets in fresh air. A fish tank or reptile terrarium usually works well. You can wash that old aquarium in the attic and use it!

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 2

Step 2. Make sure your hermit's home has the correct humidity

You must buy a hygrometer (humidity meter) and a thermometer. This will help you to monitor and maintain the best temperature and relative humidity, around 22-29 °C and 75-85% relative humidity. Hermit crabs breathe through (hardened) gills and cannot breathe properly unless the air is very humid. The ideal level is at least 70% relative humidity. Humidity below 70% will cause suffocation, which will slowly kill you within a few weeks or months and is extremely painful.

A great way to increase the tank's natural moisture is to add natural moss. This increases the humidity and hermit crabs eat it. Look for mosses like those used for reptiles at your local feed store

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 3

Step 3. Make sure the tank is at the correct temperature

Hermit crabs are tropical animals and feel best in warm temperatures. Between 22-29°C is the appropriate temperature level. Heat injuries are irreversible and very low temperatures cause the crab's metabolism to drop. A hermit crab heater at the base of the tank is a good way to keep the moisture in. An inappropriate environment can make your crab lethargic and inactive, cause it to lose legs, and can potentially cause death.

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 4

Step 4. Place substrate

Substrate is the layer of material that you place at the bottom of the tank. Sand with a sugar granulation is the only sand you should use because other granules can cut the crab and court sand can have sharp edges. Use dechlorinated salt water to moisten the sand to "castle sand" consistency. You can also use pressed coconut fiber. Expand the coconut fiber in the same salt water you would give your crabs to prevent mold/mildew. Substrates that the crabs cannot dig, such as aquarium gravel (does not maintain caves) or calcium sand (it crystallizes and can have an unpleasant smell) are not acceptable as substrates. The substrate should be at least 3-5 times the height of your largest crab and should be a material that crabs can easily dig and build holes to escape stress, hide and molt.

  • Many crabs also like to burrow and molt in moist moss such as reptile moss (not the decorative moss nor the Spanish moss!)
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 5

Step 5. Keep the substrate clean

Dirty substrate can develop mold which can be harmful to your hermit crabs. Change substrate every 6 months. However, every month you should do a quick check to see if there is any mold growing or infestation by ants or ticks. If you see any of these things change the substrate immediately. It is a good idea to clean the substrate of any droppings or food the crabs have brought from the food bowl or buried.

  • If you want more care, you can sterilize the substrate sand. Sand can be sterilized in the oven. Put the sand in a mold (one used just for this!) and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 120 °C and leave for approximately 2 hours.
  • Every two to three weeks, boil all the shells and bowls in the tank in a pan of dechlorinated salt water. By doing this you ensure that mold and bacteria will not grow and contaminate your crab. Allow the bowls and shells to cool before putting them back in the "crabitat".
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 6

Step 6. Place toys

Hermit crabs love to climb! In fact, in the wild, they would climb large boulders exposed by the tide in search of food. They are sometimes called “tree crabs” because they climb trees to eat insects and vegetables. However, do not buy painted toys, as the paint can be harmful to crabs if ingested. Some toy options are:

  • Climbing toys. Giving them something to climb is great; cactus wood or kindling is great. Cactus wood is non-toxic and has holes for crabs to grip. You can drop it in a corner of the tank, just don't make it too high or the crabs will climb out of the tank. Lego pieces and natural fiber nets also work.
  • Natural toys: Natural rocks and shells that you collect on the beach are great to spread in the "crabitat". Oyster shells also make a great food bowl. Just be sure to boil them in hot water to sterilize them before putting them in the tank.
  • Plastic Toys: Plastic plants made for reptiles are great for crabs to climb and hide in, just remember to use the tank lid so they can't climb out. Make sure they aren't eating the plastic and remove it immediately if they are!
  • Never use “pine branches” for reptiles, as pine is an irritant to crabs and can be toxic.
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 7

Step 7. Provide your hermits with a hiding place

Hermit crabs, like many animals, want a place to feel safe and hidden when they feel threatened. You can use half coconut shell, sold in pet stores, for small crabs or use broken pots, large shells, etc. just make sure the crab doesn't get stuck and preferably that it can dig out if it does.

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 8

Step 8. Add some live plants to the pond

Live plants can be a great addition to any tank. In particular plants like bamboo (make sure it's real bamboo and not Dracaena Sanderiana, which is sold as lucky bamboo), carnivorous plants and chlorophytes are among the safe plants. Be warned - your hermit crabs can make them a snack, so there's no guarantee the plants will have time to grow

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 9

Step 9. Give your crabs water

All hermit crab species must have access to fresh and salt water. You will need to provide two water containers. Hermit crabs need to balance the salinity of the water in their shells, the bowls have to be deep enough for him to be able to pour water into the shell (C. Perlatus, aka strawberry hermit crab, needs to be fully submerged), but make sure that they will be able to get out.

  • If you have big and small crabs together, you can put small rocks or a small natural sponge in the water bowl so it will be deep enough for the big crabs to let the water go into their shells, but the small crabs won't get stuck in the water. bowl of water until drowning.
  • You can buy aquarium salt for marine fish (not freshwater fish) at most pet stores. Never use salt for human consumption as anti-caking agents can be harmful. Many brands of hermit crab salt are also table salt. The hermit crab water mixture does not have the correct salinity. Use a brand such as Instant Ocean, Oceanic, etc.
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 10

Step 10. Make sure the water is dechlorinated

Chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals in most tap water can kill hermit crabs causing gill flaking (and eventual suffocation). Filtering the water will remove the chlorine but not the chloramines, so a dechlorinator is ideal if you use tap water.

If you don't want to dechlorinate tap water, you can use mineral water. However, make sure nothing has been added to the water. Some water brands, for example, have magnesium sulfate “to flavor” which is bad for crabs

Method 2 of 2: Taking Care of Your Crabs

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 11

Step 1. Know that there are different types of hermit crabs you can buy

There are six types of hermit crab available for purchase. All are of the Coenobite genus. Pinça Roxa is the best to start with, as the others are more delicate and require more detailed and intense care.

A very common type is the Caribbean (Coenobita clypeatus,) which is also called "PP" (Purple Pincer in English) due to its large purple pincers. Wild purple pincers are found on the Caribbean islands. Most likely when you see a hermit crab in a store, you are seeing one of these guys. The other types are Rugosus or "Rug" (rugosus), Strawberry (perlatus), Ecuadorian or "E" (compressus), Cavipes or "Cav" (cavipes), Komurasaki "Viola" (violascens), Indonesian or "Indo" (brevimanus)

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 12

Step 2. Handle your hermit crabs with care

Be patient with them the first few times you pick them up – they will take a while to adjust to their new home. When you buy your hermit crabs, leave them in the cage for a few days. When you see that they don't shrink into their shells when you walk past them, wait another day and try holding your hermit crab. Let him explore your hand and get used to it.

Once you get them into the house, they will go through a period of “stress” that can last anywhere from a few weeks to two months. During this time, change food and water regularly and do not disturb them. Sometimes, even with the best efforts and even the most experienced crab caretakers, hermit crabs can succumb to Post-Purchase Stress and die

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 13

Step 3. Know that crabs are molting and need extra shells

If your crab sinks into the substrate for a couple of weeks, don't worry. As long as he doesn't smell like dead fish, he's fine. Please don't bother your crab during this period. He needs to be alone and if he is disturbed, stress can kill him. From time to time, the crab's exoskeleton gets tight and, like a snake shedding its skin, the crab will change its exoskeleton and grow some more. Do not remove the exoskeleton from the crab! He will need to eat it to strengthen his new exoskeleton.

If you have a sick crab, don't panic. Keep an isolation tank in a closet with plenty of substrate so it can burrow in completely and lots of water and food. If a crab looks sick, it may be about to molt

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 14

Step 4. Provide shells for your hermit

When hermit crabs grow, they need larger shells. It is important to keep a lot of extra hermit crab shells similar to the sizes of crabs in the tank at all times. Once a month or so, swap out a few unscrambled shells for different shell styles.

  • Purple pincer hermit crabs prefer shells with a round and circular opening. They will choose circular openings over oval openings. Ecuadorian hermit crabs will prefer an oval opening because they have a flattened abdomen.
  • Never buy painted shells! Although the companies say the ink is safe, the ink can come off and if the crabs eat it, it can be toxic. Most hermit crabs, when given a choice, will choose a "natural" shell over a guinea fowl, even if it's not the correct size. See the Warnings for information on shell types to use.
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 15

Step 5. Provide a varied and controlled diet

Hermit crabs are detritivores by nature and will eat almost anything. Beware of processed food, as it has many preservatives like copper sulfate, they can harm your little hermit. Do not feed them with anything peppery, hot or preservatives.

  • Hermit crabs love small fish and fresh shrimp, dry frozen kril, mosquito larvae, etc. and other seafood. You can usually buy these fish at the local market.
  • If you cook, take a piece of unseasoned beef or chicken and make it rare for the crabs. They also eat raw meat.
  • If you have twenty crabs or more, try catching a fish head from a fishmonger. They will normally give it to you with the greatest pleasure. You can put all your crabs in a large tank or a large organizer box (clean, no lid, or covered with VERY large holes cut into the lid) place the fish head in a bowl of water and let them eat for a few hours.. You probably don't want to do this often, as the stench is so bad, but your crabs will love you for it!
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 16

Step 6. Find out which fruits and vegetables hermit crabs like

In addition to eating meat, hermit crabs also love different fruits and vegetables, among other leftovers (they are scavengers after all). Remember to change their food almost every day or night. Hermit crabs love to bury uneaten food and this can be moldy and disgusting.

  • Hermit crabs love fresh fruits such as pineapple, apple, pear, grapes, melon, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, strawberry, bananas, etc. wash fruits well before cutting them to avoid pesticides.
  • Crabs go crazy for shredded coconut.
  • Hermit crabs will also eat natural peanut butter on wholegrain toast, hard-boiled eggs, eggshells (boiled), popcorn (straight, unsalted and butter-free).
  • Avoid anything from Allium plants (onions, garlic, etc.).
Care for Hermit Crabs Step 17

Step 7. Play with them

Some hermit crabs love attention. When they are awake, carefully pull them out of the crabitat. What do they like to do? Climb! Let them climb up your shirt while you watch TV, or exercise them by making them walk by your hands (like a crab mat). It's important that they never fall out and don't stay out of the crabitat too long, as they need moisture. Falling from a height of 1 meter can be fatal to them and the fear of falling is the number one reason crabs bite. Keep them in a position where they won't fall and so they won't pinch you.

Remember they need moisture. Typical humidity in a home is only 40% or less with air conditioning and heating. When the gills are exposed to low humidity, the sensation is the same as when you hold your breath for a long time

Care for Hermit Crabs Step 18

Step 8. Be warned that hermit crabs can pinch

Although they usually only pinch when they're scared or feel cornered, they can pinch for no reason, so be prepared. Splashing or pouring tap water on crabs to make them loosen their claws can hurt them and they will hold on longer and stronger. Please be very careful when handling them. You can avoid being pinched by holding them with your outstretched hand and fingers together so the hermit crab won't have (too much) skin to pinch.


  • You can check if your crab is dead. Hold it and try to move one leg. If it's steady, your crab is just sluggish. If not, your crab has kicked off.
  • When your crab pinches you, it's not because it wants to, but because it's either afraid it's going to fall out of your hand or it's hungry. Put it back and wait a moment to pick it up again (make sure it has plenty of food). Don't discipline your crabs when they pinch you, as some websites say. They're just doing what their instincts tell them to do and they won't understand the punishment.
  • Dead fish smell can indicate a dead crab. But before you start looking, think about other causes for the odor. Have you served them any seafood recently? Even after weeks, there may still be pieces of food in the tank. Crabs like to bury food. That's why you should change the substrate once a month or more (unless you see a crab buried in the sand).
  • Try not to make loud noises while handling them as this can stress them out.
  • Adopt or buy crabs that are active, not lethargic. Lethargic crabs can be sick. While some crabs may simply be stressed or naturally embarrassed, not sick.
  • hermit crabs not can reproduce without special equipment. They need to have a tropical climate and, most importantly, the ocean to breed. So, unless you have a 380 liter tank built expressly for this purpose, you will never see a zoea (eggs).


  • Crabs are just that.Crabs. They can give you severely painful pinches! Supervise and instruct children on the correct behavior to handle hermit crabs!
  • Don't throw the crab, it can lead to injury or death.
  • If you're thinking of decorating with fallen branches, “furniture” or wooden items, or live plants, be sure to do your homework! Various types of wood and plants are poisonous to hermit crabs such as lucky bamboos and pine trees.
  • Do not use soap to clean crabitat or toys! Once the crabs and sand are removed, you can spray vinegar and rinse EVERYTHING!!! Toys, shells (EMPTY!) and cactus wood should be boiled in salt water (to avoid mold) for cleaning and left on towels to dry.
  • If you regularly detoxify your house, don't let them throw poison in the room where the crabs are. Place a towel under the door to keep the smoke out. Place crabs in a cupboard for a few days if possible. They are not insects, but it is widely reported that pesticide will harm them. And be careful.

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