Scientific Name: Coenobita clypeatus
Originates From: West Atlantic Shorelines from Florida to Venezuela
Average Adult Length: 0.5-12 inches
Average Lifespan: Up to 25 years
Hermit Crabs are an entertaining, low maintenance, desktop pet. Home to sub-tropical and tropical shorelines, these creatures need shore recreations with lots of moisture. Wild Hermit Crabs scavenge along the shore, picking up meals and searching out bigger and better “homes”, aka shells. Pet Hermit Crabs will likewise swap their current shells for upgrades as they grow. As members of the crustacean family, the Hermit Crab must undergo the process of molting as it becomes larger, shedding its current exoskeleton for a larger version. The process of molting and changing shells is something to see!
Choose an enclosure size based on how many Hermit Crabs you intend to keep (they are communal and house together well). A larger Kritter Keeper or 10-gallon aquarium will house a few small (roughly golf ball size) comfortably. Create an atmosphere that is similar to their natural habitat: the humid shoreline. Moistened aquarium sand is a great substrate choice. A mixture of EcoEarth and Forest Floor bedding can also work. Provide a 1-2” layer of moistened substrate. Incorporate a network of branches, vines and other artificial plants, a Hubba Hut, and even netting. Hermit Crabs enjoy excavating tunnels and climbing decorations. In addition to these items, provide several options of empty shells. Hermit Crabs can be quite particular, so be sure to offer a good variety of shells which will be just one size larger than their current size shell.
Lighting and Heating
Being “cold blooded” (ectothermic), Hermit Crabs obtain their body heat through their surroundings and are incapable of producing their own body heat. Their optimal temperature is between 70-80ºF. This may be room temperature for some homes. If it is necessary to boost your enclosure’s temperature, you may use an Under Tank Heating pad (UTH) either adhered to the underside of the terrarium or to the outside of one of its walls. UTHs generally increase the enclosure’s temperature about 10ºF over room temperature. Provide a 12-hour photoperiod using natural or house lighting, turning lights off at night to simulate a day and night cycle.
Hermit Crabs require very high humidity (75-90%). This can be achieved by moistening the substrate with a watering can daily (to a point of sponginess, not wetness). Additionally, mist the enclosure with water using a spray bottle for 30-45 seconds multiple times daily. To better maintain a constant humidity, you can implement a ReptiFogger machine, which continuously pumps vaporized water as a fine mist or cloud into the enclosure.
Being omnivores, Hermit Crabs require both plant and protein matter in their diet. A high-quality Hermit Crab food should be given daily as a staple. To provide variety and round out the diet, offer “salads” of finely chopped leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Freeze-dried shrimp is also a favorite. Due to the high humidity, remove any uneaten food within 24 hours to reduce the chance of molding or bacterial growth. A shallow dish of fresh water should be available in the enclosure at all times (be sure to dechlorinate with Hermit Crab Drinking Water Conditioner or ReptiSafe water conditioner). A second shallow dish should be designated as the salt water dish. You may use Hermit Crab Salt Water Conditioner or create a gallon batch of salt water using aquarium salt (approximately 8 Tbsp aquarium salt to one gallon of water).