Tipskey
Land Hermit Crab
Land hermit crabs are cute and smart little critters. When my hermie crawls to the edge of my desk, it knows that is the edge and does not go further. It can climb down the desk on my laptop computer wire. It can climb down the wooden desk if there is place to grab on. It can escape from the place you keep it (commonly called as crabitat) when you think it is impossible. Every hermit crab has its own character. They are nocturnal so they are more active at night.

Keeping land hermit crabs is suitable for all ages. Land hermit crabs can live longer than dog and cat. Land hermit crabs cannot be bred in captivity so their number cannot multiply easily. Sea pollution decreases their number by killing them directly or reducing the number of seashells that they need to live on. If you love them, stop polluting the sea directly and indirectly. You should make a commitment to yourself to take care of them nicely if you want to keep them.

hermie
A poor hermie using rubbish as a shell

Getting land hermit crabs

Do not buy land hermit crabs. Many merchants who capture them do not keep them properly so many are killed. Some merchants even force them into more eye-catching painted shells. They can be hurt by the force and the chemicals in the paint.

While you have a walk along the beach casually at dawn or dusk, you can pick up the land hermit crab that you bump into. Before picking up, it is interesting to follow it to see where it heads to. It is fascinating to snap a picture of its footprints on the sand. However, please make sure that you know that it is a land hermit crab instead of sea hermit crab. Sea hermit crab must live under seawater. Just in case you have picked up one, it must be put in the marine aquarium for its survival.

Hermit crabs are not hermits. Do not keep just one because they are social animals and need companionship. If you have only one, it is better to release it back to the beach. Keep only two so that your attention will not be spread thin.

You can also adopt from others who have decided to stop keeping the hermies.

Crabitat

Land hermit crabs can be kept in a basin or aquarium. Do not use cage because it does not retain humidity. The crabitat should not be too small because hermies are adventurous.

Hermies may not like to live on smooth surface. Put in tiny gravels (each gravel about 3mm in diameter). Tiny gravels can be washed easily. Of course you can use sand if you live near the beach because the sand should be changed monthly. The substrate should be thick enough for hermies to do some digging.

They need to climb so put in something such as wood stick or coral for them to climb. However, allow a big distance between the highest point of the wood stick and the edge of the crabitat opening to avoid prison break. When one hermie climbs up to the highest point, another hermie will climb on the shell of the first hermie to reach the edge. Having a secure lid for the crabitat can be good.

Without humidity, land hermit crabs can die in just a few hours. Make sure freshwater is always available. Their modified gills need to be humid all the time for them to be able to breathe. Put a freshwater water container in the crabitat. The design of the container should enable the hermie to reach the water. The container should be heavy enough so that it cannot be overturned by hermies. If you are away from home for a few days and the container is overturned, it is dangerous for the land hermit crabs because the water will dry up. Some say you should put sponge in the container but that is not needed. Change the water when it starts to look dirty. Make sure the water is chlorine free. I get the water from my fish aquarium.

Hermies can spend some time underwater. You can put a pool of water in the crabitat that your hermies can get in and out easily by themselves voluntarily. Do not be playful by putting the hermie underwater against its free will. The simple way to do this is to create a slope for the substrate and pour in just enough water level for hermies to be submerged. If you have this, of course you do not need the shallow dish mentioned above.

Just like you, hermies need salt too. However hermies need stricter standard for source of salt. That is one of the reasons why they live near the seaside. Go to the seaside to get some seawater. Put seawater in a spray bottle. Squirt into the shell of the hermies once a week. If you cannot get seawater, it is better not to keep land hermit crabs. The other less preferable option is to get the saltwater from local marine aquarium store.

You do not know when it wants to change shell so put in a slightly bigger shell overnight once in while, such as monthly or after molting. If it does change to the new shell, still leave the old shell in the crabitat for another night just in case it does not like the new shell and wants to change back. It does not like to wear freshwater snail shell because the shell is thinner and may eat the shell instead. Big hermies may not change shell because it may be already fully grown.

Do not use substrate that absorbs moist, such as wood chips.

When the crabitat starts to smell, it is time to do cleaning.

Feeding

They are omnivore. Their favorite food is apple, carrot and coconut. Basically they can eat what you eat, such as rice.

Place a piece of coral or all the time for calcium supplement. Egg shell is also good.

They do not eat frequently so it is alright if you do not see them eating. They are not like other pets that will approach the food immediately.

Molting

Before molting, the hermit crab may be completely still in its shell depending on its character. Do not disturb it. Do not misunderstand that it is dead.

When the hermie is molting, do not touch it. Even after molting, do not touch it too because its yet-to-harden new skin is sensitive. Leave the old exoskeleton in the crabitat after it molts. It will eat the old skin.

Handling

Be careful not to drop the hermie on the floor. Its shell may break.

Your hermie will rarely pinch you. If it does, please bear the pain until it releases. Pulling the hermie forcefully will make it pinch harder and you may hurt the hermie badly.

Others

Hermie may have mites. Use tweezers to get rid of the mites on hermies or let the hermies take a bath. The bathwater should fill the shell. If the mite problem is persistent, wash the substrate and put under the sun to dry.

The hermie is dead if you notice all of the following:
1) Partially or completely out of its shell.
2) Completely still.
3) Loss of lustre in their eyes.
4) Starting to smell fishy.

Summary of things to consider before taking a hermie home

1) Access to seawater.
2) Availability of bigger shell.
3) Resistance to pain from pinching.
Posted: 2013-04-28; updated: 2013-05-25 by Ong Seng Aun.
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