Hermit crabs are quite possibly the perfect pet, and in the age of lockdown life, they’re a great partner to lose track of days and weeks with. I should know, the Roach house is proud owners of six of them.
We actually got the critters earlier this year, you know, the before times…My daughter Paige, who co-authored this piece was passionate about these pals since our trip south (see before times) after encountering one of these in the wild. Enamored, she returned home to build her campaign, and if you know Paige, then well, you see how we ended up with six of these things.
As a staunch bulldog lover, I supported her in this vision of a crabby world, but fully declared the following: do not ask mom to do anything. No feeding, no cleaning up, no watering, nope. You’re on your own kid. And to my joy, she is fully and independently caring for these crustaceans. Win!
After posting a quick IG story and getting hammered on questions, I figured I would soak up the knowledge of my 11 year old and provide my readers with an essential list of Hermit Crab facts. Is it the right pet for you and your family? Probably! Read on and find out!
Preferring about 5 gallons per crab, a terrarium style tank is a perfect home for Hermit Crabs. We sourced our gear and crabs (which come in fancy and non) from Petsmart, which is still rocking with their drive-up pick-up option. A ‘fancy’ Hermit crab is basically the same as the unfancy kind- it comes down to the shell, which you’ll need extras of- they do switch shells, which is a neat thing to see. Ensure they are large enough to accommodate your crew, a D shape swirl allows them to schooch in tight. They can switch shells a few times a week if they’re busy. Hermit Crabs are docile and rarely attack (pinch) unless they feel stressed. If they do latch on, calmly walk to your closest sink and run tepid water over them until they release.
Hermit Crabs can live until 30 years old in the wild but only up to 10 years max in captivity. Most will live a year or two. We had one die early on, and another a few weeks ago. The first died of natural causes, I mean, it died…but the second one was brutally ripped apart by another crab and EATEN, with only a claw and an empty shell remaining. Apparently Michael was hungry and saw Shelly as a snack. Rest in power Shelly. This is important to note if your kids are squeamish or don’t appreciate how things go in the wild. Nature finds a way!
Male and female rarely mate but require a breeding tank if you suspect some bow-chiggy bow bow. A second tank is handy for that purpose, and also for cleaning your primary tank, which only needs to get done every month or so, depending on your crab-i-tat and how many Hermies you have rolling around. Whenever you remove a Hermit crab from the tank, ensure there is moist paper towel to handle them, they die quickly from dry temps.
Tanks should be terrarium style with lots of humidity and warmth. Hermies require 6″ of dirt to dig in and non-toxic sand and salt water to bathe in and fresh water to drink. Spray tank often with a spray bottle of fresh water to keep the tank at roughly 70-80% humidity. Water, both salt and fresh must be deep enough that they can full submerge. Choose materials that are natural or safe for kids (plastic). Hermit crabs are sensitive to metals.
Hermies prefer dark at night, and are mostly nocturnal. They need a little light or natural light during the day and require lots of dark hiding spots. Crabs are playful and love interacting with their owners, although some more so than others. They also tend to redecorate when you’re sleeping, Paige has woken up a few times to everything moved or trashed, part of the personality and part of the fun!
Hermit crabs are pretty economical too, they cost from $8-$15 each and eat table scraps- walnuts, carrots, coconuts, oats, and other veggie based table scraps are golden as long as they’re uncooked and not spiced. If they don’t get the right mix, they’ll eat each other. Even slightly rotten is okay. Amazing!
Score stuff for them to climb on, play in and hide around from nature walks- rocks, driftwood and even this old coconut shell are cheap and easy toys to mix in. Ensure your tank stays germ free, boil or freeze any found treasures up to kill off any nasties before introducing them to your tank.
We’ve left them on their own for up to a week! Ensure they have plenty of food, water and the temp and humidity are good and you’ll come home to happy Hermies every time.
All photos by Libby Roach. Sciencey info courtesy Paige Roach.