Hermit crabs are cute, lovable pets that can be found in most pet stores. Kids especially like them because they’re funny and nonthreatening, and their shells can be decorated.
I think what kids like most about them is the “peek-a-boo” game. Hermit crabs seem to be shyly peeking out of their shells, and if they are startled will retract back in them. Hermit crabs are cheap, easy to care for, and rewarding animals, and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to enrich their childs life.
Now that you have a crab, you need a home for him. A glass 10 gallon aquarium is the standard. The glass handles heat well and it is tall enough for you to give your pet some climbing toys. The plastic carrying cages should only be used to transport your pet, not to keep him in. for substrate, use about an inch and a half of sand. This will let your pet get traction, dig if it wants to, but still let heat come up from the bottom. Speaking of heat, you should have a heating mat under half of the tank, but not the whole tank. This will let the crab decide where it is comfortable. A tanks temp should be around 70 F with high humidity of at least 70. Crabs dont really need a shelter since they carry their own on their back, but you might want to put in one of the half logs you can get at a pet store in case your pet wants a dark spot to rest.
The arch of the wood gives them enough room for their shell, and they can climb on the bark. You also need to have several other climbing toys in the tank. Hermit crabs are actually pretty active and love to explore and climb. You can get little palm trees that they seem to like at a pet store, or devise something yourself. But dont get the tank too crowded. Leave at least on area free of anything to allow your crab free movement. You also need a water dish, but a very shallow one so smaller crabs wont drown, but make sure that the dish is large enough for the crab to get into and bathe, clean its shell, or replenish its shell water.
If you see your crab sitting in the water, and he isnt totally submerged, dont worry, he is fine. And dont put anything metal in the cage. Hermit crabs are very sensitive to it and they dont like it at all. Also make sure you have extra shells in the enclosure. A hermit crab does not grow its own shell, it just uses those discarded by snails, so it will eventually outgrow the shell its in. hermit crabs can be a little picky when it comes to selecting their home, so make sure you have more than one empty shell in with him to choose form, and make sure the shells are slightly larger than the one he already has.
One thing to keep in mind is that hermit crabs can be a little messy. They drag themselves around and their shells can get covered in sand. They drag this in the water dish and that means you have to clean their water dish about twice a week. You may also notice an oily slim on the bottom of the water dish. Dont panic this is normal, just be sure you clean it, dry it and fill it up with water when you put it back in the tank. There is debate one whether or not you need to bath your crab. I find it unnecessary as long as you give them enough water for them to bath themselves, and some species are very hydrophobic. The only times you need to bath a crab is when you first buy it so any other crabs you already have wont react badly to it, and right after they molt so the other crabs dont try to eat him.
Youll know when this happens because he will dig a hole and emerge looking very pale and soft. To bathe, just slowly and gently lower him into the water and place him upside down. He should come out of his shell which will fill the shell with water and clean it out. Keep an eye on him for a few minutes to make sure he isnt in distress. Hermit crabs become very active while bathing, so dont be alarmed if he scuttles about. No scrubbing is necessary when you take him out of the bath. Just empty the shell of excess water and put the crab in a small enclosure with a towel on the bottom for him to dry off and get back in his shell.
Despite their name, hermit crabs are very social animals, so if you are going to keep one as a pet, get him a companion. In the wild, these animals live in large groups, so it is unnatural for them to be alone, and your pet might get lonely. Make sure you have enough room for the number of animals you plan to keep, and provide enough food, water, and extra shells for all of them.
Food and Water
Hermit crabs are scavengers and will eat almost anything, but for good health you should get them hermit crab food at a pet store. As for water, dont use regular tap water as the chlorine can kill your pets. Use rain water, water from a dehumidifier, or boil water to remove the chemicals
Picking up a hermit crab by the shell is the easiest and safest way to handle them, but it is enjoyable to let them crawl on your hand, but be aware that they are crabs and can give you a pinch if they feel frightened. Never ever try to forcefully remove a hermit crab from its shell, you will almost certainly kill it. Letting them crawl around on your bed or floor is an enjoyable interaction, just dont lose track of him or step on him. Keep your pet healthy and happy, and you should enjoy each other for a long time.