Hermit crabs make for unusual pets, although they are moderately easy to care for and do not require much time commitment. These animals can live alone or with other water creatures, and they never make much noise. While hermit crabs can be found in the wild, many in captivity are happily living as family pets in apartments and houses everywhere.
Have you ever wondered what it would take to raise a happy and healthy hermit crab as a pet of your own? You have come to the right place! We have put together the ultimate care guide that will tell you everything that you need to know about being a great hermit crab guardian.
Hermit Crab Facts
There are more than 800 species of hermit crabs living in the wild worldwide today, though only about a dozen species are popular as pets. These crustaceans live and explore on land, but they require access to water in which they can submerge themselves regularly to survive and thrive throughout their lives.
These animals are not real crabs. They are more like snails. They have soft bodies requiring protection from the elements. Hermit crabs rely on their shells to protect themselves and must find new shells to live in as their bodies grow over time. In the wild, hermit crabs can seek out new shells to live in on their own; they typically choose the shells of mollusks.
In captivity, they rely on humans to provide them with progressively bigger shells until they reach adulthood and no longer need larger shells. Hermit crabs typically reach 2–6 inches in length by the time that they are adults. While hermit crabs can live for more than 30 years in the wild, but in captivity, they usually only live for 1–2 years.
Are Hermit Crabs Good Pets?
While unconventional, hermit crabs can make good pets, especially for children and those who do not have much time to care for a pet. They are not pets to handle and interact with like you would a cat or dog, but they are interesting to watch while they traverse and explore the habitat that you provide them with.
Hermit crabs are nocturnal, which means that they are mostly active at night when it is dark, and they like to sleep during the day when the sun is out. Therefore, their activity is not always seen by human household members throughout the day.
Still, these animals can be seen doing everything from eating to playing during the day if you keep an eye on them, especially during the early morning and late evening hours. Although their name suggests otherwise, hermit crabs are social creatures, and several of them can live together in the same habitat, which makes observing them even more fun.
Where Can I Get a Pet Hermit Crab?
Pet hermit crabs can be sourced from several places. Many pet stores sell these animals as pets, but you can also find them in the wild and turn them into pets if you are so inclined. You just have to know where to find them. They live in tropical areas mostly, where the water meets the land.
They can be found buried under the sand or hanging out in shallow waters near the beach. Hermit crabs that are outgoing may venture out farther and deeper into the water. Wherever you source your new pet hermit crab from, you should slowly introduce it to its new habitat until it seems comfortable and curious enough to explore its surroundings.
How Much Does It Cost to Own a Pet Hermit Crab?
Compared to dogs and cats, hermit crabs are affordable pets. They do require an initial investment, as a habitat must be set up for them to live in. However, they do not require much of a long-term financial commitment, as they do not typically need to see a vet, and their food costs are minimal. Here is a breakdown of how much you can expect a pet hermit crab to cost you as time goes on.
- $50–$300 Initially
In addition to an aquarium for your hermit crab to live in, the habitat must be furnished with a variety of things, including sand or soil, accessories, and a water reservoir, among other things.
- $5–$25 a month
Commercial food is available for hermit crabs, and other foods that they eat are probably already mainstays in your kitchen.
Hermit crabs do not usually need to see a veterinarian. They do not need vaccinations or check ups like other types of pets do. However, if an emergency arises, a call or visit to the vet may be necessary, for which the cost could vary greatly depending on the treatment and care protocols that are required.
The total amount of money that it costs to keep a pet hermit crab will depend on the exact type of food that you decide to feed it, the types of accessories that you invest in for it, and how much you want to spend on equipment for the habitat. Owning a hermit crab can be as affordable as just a few hundred bucks for a lifetime or as much as thousands of dollars. It all comes down to your budget and preferences.
What Kind of Home Does My Pet Hermit Crab Need?
Hermit crabs live on land but need access to fresh water so they can keep their bodies moist and hydrated. Therefore, they require a different setup than fish or hamsters. An aquarium is the best habitat option for a couple of reasons. Hermit crabs are tropical creatures that require a humid, warm environment to live in.
A glass aquarium with a tight-fitting lid is a great way to ensure that its habitat stays as moist and warm as a tropical environment. It will also help ensure that your pet does not escape to the outside, dangerous world. Once you have chosen an aquarium and lid for your hermit crab to live in, set up the habitat using the following guidelines.
The bottom of your hermit crab’s habitat should be covered with a couple of inches of substrate, such as sand, soil, fine mulch, or even coconut fiber. This helps absorb excess moisture, urine, and feces so the habitat is more comfortable for your pet and easier to clean for you.
Heat, Humidity, and Light
Lighting and heat are extremely important for your pet hermit crab’s habitat. The temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 65 and 75 degrees at night. Use an overhead heat lamp to warm the habitat rather than a ground one, so your pet does not get overheated while lounging on the substrate. You can turn the heat lamp on and off as necessary to maintain proper temperatures.
Install a thermometer on the inside of the habitat to gain an accurate perspective of interior temperatures at any time of the day or night. Because hermit crabs like it humid, you should mist the inside of their habitat with non-chlorinated water several times a day to keep everything moist. If necessary, use a hygrometer to ensure that humidity levels stay between 70% and 80%.
An LED light should be attached to the top of the habitat and shine into the habitat space for about 12 hours a day. This will help maintain tropical-like environmental conditions in which sunlight is available for roughly the same amount of time each day, no matter what time of the year it is.
Hermit crabs like many places to explore around and hide in. Their habitat should be decorated with faux and live tropical plants, rocks, artificial caves, and hollow branches to snuggle up in. Because hermit crabs must get rid of their shells and find new ones to protect themselves as they get bigger, their habitat should feature two to three different unbroken seashells that your pet can find and decide to live in.
Your pet hermit crab requires access to a reservoir of non-chlorinated water that they can dip their whole bodies into for hydration. A half a coconut shell or a small bowl full of fresh, clean water will do the trick. Make sure that the water is changed daily to filter it and keep it clean as time goes on.
What Should I Feed My Pet Hermit Crab?
Feeding your pet hermit crab should be an easy and even enjoyable task. There are many commercial hermit crab foods available on the market that should serve as your pet’s main source of nutrition. Just follow the feeding directions on the package of the product that you decide to invest in.
In addition to commercial food, you can offer your hermit crab veggies such as spinach and shredded carrots a few times a week for extra nutrition. Fruits like papaya and mango make excellent snacks. Nuts and dried seaweed can also be offered on occasion. Hermit crabs appreciate variety, so don’t be afraid to experiment with meal and snack options!
How Do I Take Care of My Pet Hermit Crab?
We have covered plenty of ground when it comes to properly caring for a pet hermit crab, but there is still more to explore. Here are a few specifics that should not be overlooked.
Hermit crabs should be fed their meals right before dusk so they can feast throughout the night when they are most active. Snacks can be offered during the day when you want to coax your pet out for a visit.
Handling a pet hermit crab is not necessary; they will get to know you through their habitat and come say “Hi” when they feel like it. However, you can pick up a hermit crab to move it to a holding tank while their habitat is being cleaned or to check them for injuries if there is reason to believe that they have been hurt. Be careful to pick them up from the back of their bodies to minimize the risk of being pinched.
Hermit crabs shed their exoskeleton a couple of times each year, in which case, they will seem lethargic and uninterested in food for 24 to 48 hours. The shedding process helps keep hermit crabs healthy. Once the shedding process is complete, an exoskeleton, which may look like a layer of skin, will likely be eaten by the hermit crab as it’s full of nutrients to aid in their recovery.
There is no need to worry about cleaning your pet hermit crab, but you do need to make habitat cleaning a priority as time goes on. Your pet’s tank should be cleaned at least once every 2 weeks to ensure their good health and high quality of life. Remove the crab, and place it in a temporary shelter with substrate and snacks in it.
Remove the substrate and everything else from your pet’s habitat, and then clean the tank out with a non-toxic cleaner, water, and a clean cloth. While the habitat dries, rinse the plants and other accessories that are housed within it and let them dry too. After everything dries, place the new substrate in the habitat and then put the accessories back in as you see fit.
Let the heat lamp run for a while before putting your hermit crab back into their environment. Finally, put the lid on and secure it as necessary. Your crab is good to go for several days!
Keeping a hermit crab as a pet is a great way to experience how animals live without committing to a major time or financial commitment. Still, hermit crabs require attention and like routine, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of feeding your pet at the same time every day and to do other activities around the same time of the day, week, or month. We wish you and your new pet hermit crab the best of luck in your endeavor to live harmoniously together as companions!
Featured Image Credit: RealityImages, Shutterstock