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16 Feb 2021: Gosh, it was back in early 2017 when I made a major update! I have successfully migrated this website to a new web host. The Forums have been upgraded to phpBB 3.3.3 for better security and features.

Care Sheets

Care Sheets
Our very basic care sheet is available for download in Australian and American English. Please refer to our Crab Care section for more thorough explanations.


If quoting any text from this website, please reference back to our page with a hyperlink. Do not copy any images without the original photographer's permission.


What are land hermit crabs?

Land hermit crabs, genus Coenobita, are omnivorous crustaceans that thrive in warm and humid environments, especially along the equator. They are poikilothermic, which means that they must rely on an external heat source such as the Sun due to their inability to produce adequate body heat to keep themselves warm. Although land hermit crabs are able to thrive on land with their modified gills, their gills must be kept moist to breathe. Humid air helps slow down the rate at which the gills dehydrate. However, land hermit crabs will also drown if they remain submerged underwater for too long.

Why do hermit crabs wear a gastropod shell? Is it part of their body?

No, it is akin to a piece of protective clothing. Unlike other crustaceans, hermit crabs lack a layer of exoskeleton to protect their soft abdomens; therefore they must find gastropod shells along the beach to wear. Even a tiny scratch to their abdomens can be fatal. Since the shell is not part of their body, hermit crabs can freely switch between different unpainted shells. Different hermit crabs often have different preferences for shells. Once hermit crabs outgrow the shell that they are wear, they must seek a larger shell. Hermit crabs store water of a particular salinity inside their shells to prevent their abdomens from dehydrating.

Will hermit crabs breed in captivity?

There is no existing published research documenting the success of breeding hermit crabs in captivity. Since hermit crabs prefer to lay their eggs in the ocean, they will not breed in captivity unless they are provided with a large salt water pond with tidal motions. One crabber posted a video of a female hermit crab that had mated after a year in captivity. Some crabbers and scientists have also taken home females that already had eggs. Although some of the eggs hatched, most of the larvae died before they could mature into juvenile hermit crabs.

Are hermit crabs easy to care for?

Hermit crabs are generally not too difficult to care for, but their needs are often underestimated by people, resulting in their early and avoidable deaths. Since hermit crabs are taken directly from the wild, pet stores can sell them for novelty prices. Most pet store workers have very little experience with hermit crabs. Consequently, they give poor care advice and supplies to customers. Painted shells are used to attract children, even though the so-called 'non-toxic' paint is a health hazard to hermit crabs. Nevertheless, most pet stores continue marketing hermit crabs as 'easy to care for' and 'low maintenance', despite struggling to keep their hermit crabs alive before they are even sold.

Are pet stores allowed to sell sick animals?

Supposedly not, but due to the appalling conditions in which hermit crabs are often kept before they are sold, some die from accumulated stress not long after being placed in a properly set up tank. This stress is known by the crabbing community as post-purchase syndrome (PPS). Crabbers are not purely to blame for deaths due to PPS, but such deaths can be avoided if appropriate measures are taken. Sue Latell devised a method to help newly adopted hermit crabs recover from PPS, which will be discussed in depth in the later sections of this guide.

I feel sorry for the hermit crabs. Should I rescue them all?

Buying more hermit crabs will only encourage the pet store to take more hermit crabs from the wild and keep them in the same poor conditions; therefore it is not a solution. Instead, kindly show the pet store workers how to set up their tank properly and keep their hermit crabs healthy. This way, even if the pet store takes more hermit crabs, they will be kept in good conditions. Complain to the pet store's head office if necessary.

Are hermit crabs an ideal pet for me?

Most hermit crabs are very timid; thus they are nearly impossible to tame. They will at most stop trying to hide from you upon making eye contact, but never expect them to be anywhere near as affectionate as a dog. Hermit crabs are literally mute; they can only produce sounds by rubbing their legs and claws together or by tapping other hard surfaces. Since it is not practical to carry a heavy glass tank, if you are a frequent traveller, then you are better off seeking an alternative pet.

Are hermit crabs expensive to keep?

Hermit crabs themselves are inexpensive to adopt, but you should be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on proper supplies. Wherever possible, tips for saving money will be mentioned in this guide. If one of your hermit crabs die, you should spend your limited funds on better supplies, not a replacement for the hermit crab. Buying more hermit crabs does not increase the lifespan of the others.

How much attention do hermit crabs need?

If you have a properly set up tank with filtered water ponds and a thermostat-controlled heat source, you need to at least replace dried food once every two days and fresh food once a day. If the water ponds are not filtered, then the water should be replaced at least once every two days. If the humidity in the warm end of the tank drops below 70%, you can mist the air with dechlorinated water.

I am worried about my new hermit crabs. Should I handle them?

No. Newly adopted hermit crabs should be left alone until you have finished gradually increasing the temperature and humidity in their tank. All you need to do is to change their food, fresh water and salt water at least once every two days. Your new hermit crabs are likely to stressed from their transition to captivity and handling them excessively will impair their ability to recover from PPS.
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