Hermit crabs are sociable and inquisitive by nature and make fantastic pets for adults and kids of all ages – especially when cared for together! Learn how to look after these cute little crustaceans with this handy guide.
Hermit crabs fact file
Life span – Up to 10-15 years
Size – Golf ball size to tennis ball size
Diet – Pellets, fruits and veggies
Home – 35-75 litre tank
Care and maintenance
Hermit crabs are best kept with their own kind. Introducing a new crab must be done with care because fighting may occur. Living together also ensures they have a wider variety of choices when moving shells. Parent more than one crab to prevent loneliness and improve your crabs’ chances of thriving in their new environment.
Take your hermit crab out and enjoy time with them every so often. If you have kids, it’s important that everyone becomes familiar with your family pets. An interesting manoeuvre to try is lying on your stomach on the floor and making a circle with your arms for your hermit crabs to move around in.
The ideal enclosure for your crab is a terrarium with a removable glass lid. It’s recommended to have 20 litres of space for every two crabs. You can find various options and sizes at your local Petbarn.
Start by filling your tank with a substrate. The comfiest option is marine aquarium coral rock sand or a sand gravel mix. Find both at your local Petbarn. Also include rocks, safe climbing toys, dried choya wood, driftwood, coral and barnacles as these provide stimulating toys for hermit crabs.
Create a space for your crab to hide and leave an area clear of obstructions for them to exercise in. Make sure food and water bowls are always accessible.
Hermit crabs need an environment with high humidity to keep moist, which enables them to breathe properly. Purchase a humidity gauge to ensure your tank maintains a humidity level of 70–80%.
To keep your tank humid, you will need a source of heat and water. You could use an under-tank heater or incandescent lights. If you’re using an under-tank heater make sure your substrate is at least 3cm thick so your hermit crabs aren’t sweating. Mist your tank with non-chlorinated water as needed to keep moisture high. Your tank will need to remain at a temperature of 21–24°C. You can use a thermometer to monitor this.
Top tip: a natural sponge may help disperse humidity in the aquarium.
Hermit crabs are omnivorous. Their diet consists of pellet food and veggies and fruits as treats. Find nutritious pellets at your local Petbarn. Make eating easier by crushing a teaspoon of pellets into their bowl or buying pellet powders.
Mix up your pet’s diet with vegetables and fruits. Chop up kale or broccoli and fruits like apples or bananas. Leave these out overnight and remove any leftovers in the morning.
Always provide your crabs with access to fresh water. Make sure you use filtered or dechlorinated water for their health.
When taking your new pets home, set up a temporary tank in a small plastic container and include a substrate. Once established, don’t move your tank with your substrate and hermit crabs inside. This could cause water spillage and your pets’ burrows to collapse, which can be dangerous for them.
Include holes for ventilation in your substitute tank. If any of your pets are happy in their burrows or shelters when you want to transport them, do not attempt to re-bury them in the substitute tank. Rather, place a bowl or hut over them.
With the right tools, your crabs will groom themselves. Provide a conditioned freshwater bowl and saltwater bowl for them to bathe in. Put a sea sponge in the bowl so smaller crabs can climb out. Find sea sponges at your local Petbarn.
Provide multiple shells for your pets to change into. We recommend at least two shells per crab. As they mature, provide bigger shells for them to grow into.
Hermit crabs generally moult once every 18 months, becoming less active, burrowing more and drinking and eating less. Allowing hermit crabs to snack on their old skins will give them a calcium boost. Provide finely ground coconut fibre-based bedding for reptiles, such as forest bedding, to assist hermit crabs during moulting.
If your pet feels overcrowded, bullied or lonely, has been dropped or is too hot or cold, they may become sluggish, inactive or continue leaving shells due to stress. Provide sufficient space if you’re housing a lot of little crabs.
Your pets are particularly vulnerable to chemicals, so make sure their tank is clear from any exposure. Only clean your tank with filtered water. If letting your crabs roam around your home, ensure they’re not exposed to chemicals.
Check your hermit crabs regularly. Decreased appetite, lack of activity, staying outside of shells, excessive moulting, lost or damaged claws or limbs and strong odour from shells are all signs that your crab may be unwell. If you notice any of these signs or anything else peculiar about your crab, visit your local Greencross Vets for treatment.
Pet safety tips
If you’re a first-time crab parent try wearing thin gloves when handling your pet. Hold your crab over a bed or couch so if they make any sudden movements and you accidentally drop them they will land on a soft surface. Always supervise kids who are handling hermit crabs.
Your hermit crabs are extremely sensitive to metal, so ensure any objects in their tank, such as bowls, are ceramic or plastic. Always filter any water exposed to your crabs, just in case. If your crab has been exposed to an unsafe metal, visit your local Greencross Vets for treatment.
Tip: Hermit crabs are very sensitive to metals. Be sure to use silicon, ceramic or plastic bowls.
Hermit crab checklist
Shop Petbarn online or in-store for all your hermit crab needs.
- Shells of varying sizes
- Natural sponge
- Humidity gauge
- Under-tank heater/Incandescent light
- Hut/cave for dark retreat