The Not-So-Hermit-Like Hermit Crabs

hermit crabHermit crabs are hardly hermit-like in their behavior because they love company. They are called so because of their tendency to hide in the shells that they carry with them as a protective shield, but other than that they have no characteristics of hermits. In their natural habitat they live together in colonies that may contain more than a hundred of them. When you buy them as pets, the sellers often suggest that you should buy more than one.

Hermit crabs are lost without their trademark gastropod shells. Their abdomens are soft and elongated and they protect it with the gastropod shell that they carry with them all the time. As a crab grows, it will require successively larger shells, and smaller shells discarded by them will be picked up by smaller hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs need a temperature controlled environment to survive. Too much heat will make a crab sick. They cannot also stand much cold and it is difficult to sustain them in a temperature below 70oF and above 85oF. Humidity is also important to these tiny but gregarious creatures and they require at least 70% humidity.

Get their aquarium ready before you bring them home. You can make it as big as you can manage within your budget and space, but at least a 10 gallon sized home is a must for hermit crabs. There has to be space inside the home for their food dish, water dish, toys for them to climb around, and their shells that they have to pick up and discard periodically.

Molting is an important part of a hermit crab’s growth and survival. So its cage needs a thick sand substrate into which it can bury completely to go through its molting process. Sugar sized aragonite sand is the right material for the substrate and its thickness should be at least 3 times as that of the size of the largest of your crabs. Alternatively, you can shift each crab temporarily to a molting isolation tank when its molting time comes.

A hermit crab is omnivorous. You can feed it seafood items like shrimp or dried krill, bits of steak or chicken, grated coconut, and small pieces of almost all fruits. They also enjoy human foods like toast, egg, peanut butter, popcorn etc. At the end of the day you should take away the leftover food and keep fresh food to avoid mold formation.

Certain species of crabs live long if well-cared for, and there are records of some having lived more than 32 years. A 10 gallon tank will work well as their living quarters, but for breeding they need much more space. They hardly ever reproduce while in captivity, but if you want them to reproduce while staying with you, you should get them at least a 100 gallon tank. They reproduce in ocean, and a 100 gallon tank might simulate the ambience of ocean to a certain extent.