Hermit Crabs: So Much Joy, So Little Maintenance
I had long surrendered myself to the fact that the only pets we can ever have are our three dogs. They chase cats, rabbits and are too noisy for birds. Then one day my daughter came home with a surprise – three hermit crabs that she found on the beach.
These hermit crabs have become a great source of pleasure for our home and everybody likes to check on them daily. Here are some tips on making a comfortable place for your hermit crab:
- Invest in an aquarium that can accommodate five gallons of living space for two crabs.
- Build a substrate in the aquarium that reaches up to 3 inches high. The substrate can either be gravel or reptile bark bedding. The latter is good to retain humidity, but in a tropical country like ours, gravel works out very well, especially when you clean the tank.
- Give them fresh water and food daily. Our hermit crabs are very tiny, so we just used shells that we already had in the house, one for their water and another for their food. Don’t use painted shells – they’re bad for the crabs.
- Avoid metal. Hermit crabs are very sensitive to metal, so don’t use a metallic water or food container.
5. Change their water and food daily to avoid bacteria and molds.
6. Give them things to climb on. Pieces of wood that you find outside should do well enough. We added a wooden bowl and spoon which the crabs like to climb on and sometimes we’ll find one of the hermit crabs in the bowl, or under the spoon. A few rocks will do, too.
Feeding your hermit crab
Because hermit crabs are small, you really don’t have to spend money to feed them. We give them whatever we have – rice, fruit (bananas, apples, mango, pineapples), vegetables (save the carrot peelings, they like them. They also eat watercress and spinach), nuts, seeds and seaweed.
The important thing to remember is that they are very small so their appetites are, too. Just three grains of cooked rice is safe. Make the carrot peelings very, very small for their mouths. If you’re eating a banana mash the tip for them.
However, don’t give them anything preserved or canned. And make sure that the water you give them is de-chlorinated. Chlorine is bad for hermit crabs and can, with repeated exposure, kill them.
Purchase a bio mix and read the instructions. You have to put the de-chlorinator in a sieve and pour the water over it. The water that comes through the sieve is what you can use to add moisture to your gravel.
To bathe or not to bathe?
Generally, it’s not advisable to bathe your hermit crabs. However, it helps to have a dish of de-chlorinated water in the aquarium that is big enough for them to get in and out of. That way, they can choose whether or not to bathe themselves.
In our case we tried to replicate a beach by have a three inch substrate for them and leaving some de-chlorinated water at the end. Sometimes we see them swimming in it. We keep rocks in the “beach” water that they can climb on if they feel restless.
We also feel that adding the little “beach” becomes a way for the gravel to retain the moisture that the crabs like. We also like the salty smell that comes from the water.
Cleaning your aquarium
Be sure to clean your aquarium once a month. The advantage of gravel is that it can easily be cleaned. We just put it into a basket and roll the dechlorinated water over it. The water will eventually sift through the basket and the gravel can be put back in the aquarium.
You must also wash your aquarium, shells, and any decorations that you keep in it. While doing this you can put your hermit crabs in a safe place like a plastic bowl.
Hermit crabs are amazing. There is a time when they hide beneath the gravel because they are molting. That means, they are shedding their skin. If they have newly molted, you can bathe them in de-chlorinated water for 45 seconds. This is because newly molted hermit crabs smell like fresh meat and another hermit crab might eat it.
Also, add larger shells because when a hermit crab molts, it will be bigger and will need a larger shell to get into. Sometimes two crabs will fight over a shell. We saw a video of two crabs that were so busy fighting over a shell, they didn’t notice that the third one had gotten it and walked away with it. I think there’s a lesson for humanity in that.
At any rate, here's a video that shows the process of how a hermit changes shells. It's quite a beautiful process when you consider that it's like when a person moves into a larger house.