Contrary to the species’ name, hermit crabs are extremely social animals.
In the wild, hermit crabs typically congregate in large groups; in captivity, they can bond well with their owners. These gentle creatures can make for very enjoyable pets, provided we take the right steps to ensure their continued health and happiness.
Building the right habitat is a crucial first step in caring for hermit crabs. Collecting vegetation, branches and even sand from the wild can sicken your new pets due to the bacteria, mites, and viruses that these materials might contain. Instead, make sure to select materials that have been curated specifically for hermit crabs. Most pet stores will sell prebuilt habitats, generally containing the container and lid, dishes for food and water as well as sand and other elements such as rocks that the crabs can hide underneath.
Replicating the conditions of a hermit crab’s natural environment is another important prerequisite. Generally, these animals’ natural locales such as Florida, South America, and the Caribbean maintain consistent temperatures averaging 75 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to reproduce these conditions, especially during cold nights and winters, consider purchasing an external heat source. Direct exposure to sunlight may make the crabs’ habitat too hot.
Humidity is another element of a hermit crab’s natural environment that should be reproduced accurately. The specialized gills that hermit crabs use to breathe must be consistently kept moist. Therefore, it’s important to keep your pet’s water dish filled and to bathe them at least once a week (this will not only moisten their gills but will also help wash away any sand and debris that has accumulated in their shells). For both drinking and bathing purposes, make sure to use bottled spring water.
Most pet supply shops will provide specially formulated hermit crab pellets, but keeping a hermit crab’s diet varied will ensure that its nutritional needs are met. Consider providing your pets with fruits and vegetables such as mangos, apples, bananas, and carrots, or perhaps try unsalted nuts and crackers. Offering them small amounts of the crushed eggshell is one useful way to provide a healthy source of calcium.
Much like humans, hermit crabs require calm and quiet retreats in order to reduce their stress. Rock hideaways and deep sand (allowing crabs to burrow) both offer excellent seclusion. Rocks have the additional benefit of enabling hermit crabs to climb around, which is one of their favorite activities.
Given the social nature of hermit crabs, they thrive when provided with a companion or two (most habitats are well-suited to house up to four). However, it’s important to provide opportunities for solitude as well. Therefore, their habitat should be placed in a quiet spot, free from loud noises and constant vibrations. With limited exposure to stressors and the right habitat, climate and diet, hermit crabs can lead happy and healthy lives in our homes.