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Feeding Your Land Hermit Crab

Updated on November 28, 2010

Hermit crabs are adorable and entertaining low-maintenance animals that make good pets when properly cared for. However, to keep your hermies happy and healthy, you must provide them with a balanced diet. Here is some basic information you need to know about properly feeding your hermit crabs.


To keep your hermit crabs healthy, you should provide them with a variety of healthy foods. This ensures that they are being given the many vitamins and minerals they need. There's a large list of foods to choose from: many fruits and veggies, fish food, and meat (without seasoning) are examples of what you can feed your crabs. However, make sure you know what your hermit crab can eat before you feed something to him/her. Also, feeding a hermit crab a diet made up exclusively of pet store food isn't very healthy. Make sure to offer them fresh foods as well.


 Hermit crabs need calcium in their diet to keep their exoskeleton healthy, and there are a number of ways to keep them in tip-top order, including:

  • Adding cuttlebone to their food dish. You can find this in the bird section of a pet store.
  • Feeding them crushed egg shells. Boil, dry, and crush some eggs and incorporate this into their meals.
  • Feeding them calcium vitamin supplements. You can buy this in many pet stores that sell reptile supplies.


 Carotene is needed to keep your hermit crab healthy. One sign of a hermit crab that is lacking enough carotene is a light gray exoskeleton, lacking the purple, red, or brown most hermit crabs have. You can give your hermit crabs carotene though pieces of rich vegetables, including shredded carrots.

Carrots provide a fresh source fo carotene.
Carrots provide a fresh source fo carotene.


 Hermit crabs also need to be given protein, and many foods you give your crab have some. For example:

  • Commercial hermit crab food
  • Fish flakes for carnivorous fish
  • Bloodworms
  • Boiled chicken
  • Shrimp


In your crabitat, you should provide two dishes of water; one with freshwater, the other with saltwater. Hermit crabs needs to drink freshwater just like many animals, but also need to be able to drink and bathe in a saltwater dish. Aquarium stores sell salt that is used in saltwater tanks, and this is what you should use for a saltwater dish. Do NOT use table salt. It contains iodine which is harmful to hermit crabs. Also, when filling your water dishes, be sure that there is no chlorine in the water. You can find dechlorinater drops at a pet store, which will remove harmful substances in the water, including heavy metals and chlorine. The dishes should be deep enough for the crab to dunk him/herself in, but you need to make sure the crabs have a way to escape the dish, or they might drown.

Hungry hermit crabs eyeing some food.
Hungry hermit crabs eyeing some food.

Good Luck!

Hermit crabs don't require a lot of care, but an owner should know what their responsibilities are to ensure their hermit crabs are happy and healthy, including feeding. Not giving a hermit crab a correct diet is harmful to the crab. Luckily, it's easy to keep hermit crabs if you know what you're doing. Good luck!

 Photos by: cassicat4, ccharmon, The_Gut


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      Natalia 3 years ago

      Hermit CrabsSpecies Most Common in the Pet Trade:Caribbean Hermit Crab: Coenobita clypeatusEcuadorian Hermit Crab: Coenobita coersmspusHabitat: Tropical beaches Diet: OmnivorousAdult Size: Varies – usually no larger than a baseballLifespan: 1-5 years in captivity, much longer in the wildNative To: Tropical regions around the worldDid You Know???b7 Hermit crabs don’t have shells of their own – to protect their bodies, they“borrow” shells discarded by other creatures. When they outgrow these quarters,they look for a new shell.b7 Hermit crabs aren’t hermits at all – highly social creatures, they needcompanionship to thrive. In the wild, they sometimes live in groups of thousands– at home, three or four will keep each other company.b7 Hermit crabs are very clean – they defecate into their shell, then occasionally“scoop their poop” out with a back leg, usually all in one place. This makes spotcleaning the enclosure very easy.7 Things You Should KnowAbout Land Hermit CrabsThe basics There are hundreds of species of land-dwelling Hermit Crabs in the world,all-originating from seashore locations in tropical climates. Most specimens available in the retail pet trade are from the Caribbean or Ecuador. Caribbean crabs have roundedeyes and one front claw that is darker than all the others (giving them their nickname, thePurple Pincher), while Ecuadorian varieties are usually smaller and paler, with oval orelongated eyes and identically colored claws. Don’t worry about getting “boys” or “girls”– it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference, and hermit crabs only breed in the wild.Enclosures: They’re always on the lookout for a quick getaway Hermit Crabs are veritableHoudinis, who have a knack for escaping from any enclosure that isn’t secure. They’veeven been known to escape by climbing up the silicone sealant in the corner of glasstanks. So any enclosure must have a secure tight fitting top that also allows plenty ofventilation. They like plenty of things to explore and clamber on, but they also need asheltered spot to rest one of the many specially designed coconut shell or woodenhermit hideaways will fit both purposes. Place any tall tank accessories well away from the opening, so the crabs can’t climb up on them to escape. Any enclosure should belarge enough to hold all bowls and accessories while still leaving plenty of room for thecrabs to run around.Substrate: Sand suits them fine Not surprisingly since Hermit Crabs live on beaches,sand makes the best substrate. Coarse sand should be avoided, since it can cut into acrab’s tender claws. Fine sand is also inappropriate, since it can clog the gills, so choose amedium grade. The sand should be twice the height of the largest crab in the enclosure.This will make it easier for the crabs to burrow. If the substrate is spot cleaned daily, itwill only need changing every 2-3 months.Tempature: Not too hot, not too cold A constant temperature of around 72-75ba will be mostcomfortable. This can be maintained by keeping their enclosure in a room with the properambient temperature. An under-tank heating pad placed beneath one part of the tank canalso be used to create a thermal gradient.Lighting: The like a 12-hour photo period Hermit crabs have no special lightingrequirements, aside from regular 12-hour day and night periods. Though they’renocturnal by nature, in captivity they are often active in the daytime provided theirlighting is not too harsh.Diet: They’re light eaters Hermit crabs do not have big appetites. They eat very slowlytaking tiny bites, so they should be offered very small portions (a couple of pellets perfeeding of commercial dry hermit crab food). This food should form the basis of the diet,together with tidbits of fruit, vegetables, peanut butter, tuna fish or crackers. SinceHermit Crabs are light eaters, don’t be alarmed if their food appears untouched. Removeuneaten food daily, remembering to look for any pieces that may have been hidden away.A small scallop shell can be used instead of a regular food dish as well as lookingdecorative and taking up less floor space, it will gradually leach calcium into the food.They need it kept moist Hermit crabs breathe through gills, so moist air is essential totheir health and well-being. If the air becomes too dry, the crabs’ gills will dry out andthey’ll die. Gently mist the enclosure with dechlorinated water to keep the humidity ataround 70%, using a hygrometer to monitor the levels. Placing a water bowl over theheated area will also help increase humidity levels. If the enclosure tends to dry out tooquickly, try blocking off some of the ventilation holes or placing a damp towel over part of the lid. Be aware of factors in the room that can lower humidity, such as centralheating. Hermit crabs need two dishes of water, one fresh and one salt. All water mustfirst be dechlorinated, and the salt water prepared by mixing aquarium salt, never tablesalt, with the previously dechlorinated water. The dishes need to be shallow enough for the crabs to climb into, but deep enough for the water to come about halfway up the shell.Put a small piece of sponge in the middle of the dish – this helps prevent drowning andallows the crabs to sip the water more easily. The animals will soak themselves in bothdishes, and may “scoop their poop” into the water, so change it regularly. Replace thesponge frequently, too.How To Handle Hermit CrabsThe hermit crab’s strong claws can inflict a painful pinch, so grasp it firmly with thethumb and forefinger at the back of the shell. Place your other hand an inch or twobeneath the crab in case it falls.Hermit crabs are not aggressive creatures, and will only pinch if they think they are aboutto fall. If pinched, never try to pull the crab off – this will just make it hold on eventighter. Keep calm, and run your hand under lukewarm water until the crab relaxes itsgrip.Most crabs will sit happily on a tightly outstretched palm – avoid cupping the palm at all,so that the crab can find nothing to grab hold of. Eventually most crabs learn to enjoyexploring, often climbing up their owner’s arms. When playing with a crab, sit down on asoft floor and watch the crab at all times so that it does not escape or get crushed. Takecare that it does not drop – a fall from even the smallest height may crack its shell andkill it.Hermit Crab MoltingAs hermit crabs grow, they eventually need to shed their hard exoskeleton and grow anew, larger one. It is difficult for even the most experienced keeper to tell when a crab isabout to molt, but there are a few clues to watch out for. A strong butterscotch aromaaround the enclosure is a sure sign that one of the inhabitants is ready to molt this crabmay then become inactive or bury itself in the substrate. Do not disturb the animal – if itwere dead, it would have a pungent fishy odor.Molting is a very vulnerable time for a hermit crab, since other crabs find the exoskeletontantalizingly delicious, and may very well start to munch on it before the defenseless crabhas completely shed it. If possible, isolate the molting crab from the others in a separateenclosure, scooping up the substrate for several inches around and beneath the animal inorder to disturb it as little as possible.Keep the isolated crab’s enclosure humid and warm, and provide at least half a dozenclean, unpainted shells in different shapes and sizes. After couple of weeks or so the crabwill begin to move around again, and any lost limbs will have regenerated themselves.Leave the crab in isolation for a few days longer, allowing it to eat its own shedexoskeleton if it wishes to, since this provides it with vital nutrients.Bright Idea: It’s a good idea to space tank accessories so there’s a longempty area at the front of the enclosure. Many crabs like to sprint upand down their tank, so a good clear run gives them plenty of room toexercise.Look Out For This:Though some crabs stay in the same shell for years, otherswill switch regularly. To avoid fights, make sure there arealways plenty of clean, empty shells in the enclosure. Theshells should be unpainted, appropriate to the size of thecrabs, and must not have any

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      Lex 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      This hub is an excellent source of information on nutrition for (land) hermit crab owners. I hope more people read this! Very useful!