80 Most Popular Questions about Hermit Crabs

80 Most Popular Questions about Hermit Crabs

I have selected some of the most commonly asked questions about hermit crabs including questions about their behavior, aggression, diet, molting, limb loss, and everything in between.

As hermit crabs grow in popularity as pets, so too do questions about how to best care for them.

What sets this format apart is that hermit crab owners can gain access to a wealth of valuable and highly concentrated information.

General Hermit Crab Questions

1. What are land hermit crabs?

Land hermit crabs are small coastal crabs specially adapted to survive and thrive in terrestrial habitats instead of water. These crabs belong to the superfamily Coenobitoidea in the order Decapoda (which includes crabs, crayfish, lobsters, slipper lobsters, shrimp, mantis shrimp, prawns, etc.). There are over 800 known hermit crab species.

They have a soft, spiral-shaped abdomen lacking a hard covering. Therefore, they carry a portable shell “house” for protection.

2. Do hermit crabs make good pets?

I would say that hermit crabs can make good pets for the right owners because they do have some drawbacks that require consideration.

On the positive side, they are relatively low maintenance, generally peaceful and non-aggressive, have a long lifespan, and fascinating behaviors to observe. Additionally, their small size also makes them suitable for different housing situations.

The downside though is that they still require specialized care to replicate their natural habitat, have specific nutritional needs, and are messy and not very interactive.

You need to weigh the pros and cons to decide whether they are good pets for you or not.

From my perspective, they are definitely good pets.

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3. How long do hermit crabs live?

A hermit crab’s lifespan depends on the species since their life expectancies widely vary. However, if we are talking in general, the average lifespan of pet hermit crabs is 3 – 12 years.

Their life expectancy also depends on many factors including feeding, living conditions, shipment stress, etc.

Under optimal conditions and good care, they can live a long and happy life. The title of ‘longest-lived hermit crabs’ goes to Coenobita brevimanus (Indo crabs), which may live for up to 70 years!

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4. How do hermit crabs get their name?

They were named “hermits” not because of solitude but rather because of the empty shell (just like monks).

Historically, when monks were seeking solitude away from others, they would choose a solitary dwelling as their residence such as a small hermitage, a barrel similar to Diogenes, where they would spend their lives and never voluntarily leave it.

These crabs act the same way. This behavior of living inside discarded shells led to the name “hermit crab” because it appeared as though they were reclusive or “hermit-like” in their choice of dwelling.

5. Where can I get a hermit crab as a pet?

First of all, I highly recommend refraining from capturing wild animals from their natural habitats.
If you are thinking about getting a hermit crab, check out online forums (such as HCA, HCP, etc.), Facebook groups, or platforms like Craigslist. Sometimes, you can come across hermit crabs that are being rehomed by their previous owners. 

6. What should I look for when picking a hermit crab?

Hermit crabs should be active and show curiosity. The crab’s body should not look shrunken or dehydrated. There should be no unpleasant odors coming from the crab or its enclosure. Bad smells can indicate poor hygiene and/or health issues.

7. What are some common species of hermit crabs kept as pets?

Here are some of the most popular hermit crab species which are commonly kept as pets:

  1. Caribbean Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus)
  2. Ecuadorian Hermit Crab (Сoenobita compressus)
  3. Strawberry Hermit Crab (Coenobita perlatus)
  4. Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)
  5. Ruggie Hermit Crab (Coenobita rugosus)
  6. Purple hermit crab (Coenobita brevimanus)
  7. Aussie crabs (Coenobita variabilis)
  8. Viola (Coenobita Violascens)
Important: Сonsider the availability of the species in your region, as this can vary.

8. How do you choose the right hermit crab for adoption?

It’s essential to research the specific care requirements of the species you choose, as different species may have different needs in terms of habitat, diet, and temperature.

9. What are the best ones to start with?

Caribbean hermit сrab is one of the most commonly kept hermit crab species in the pet trade.

They are generally hardy, have attractive coloration, and are relatively easy to care for.

Questions about Keeping and Housing Hermit Crabs

10. What do I need to know before getting a hermit crab?

When getting a hermit crab as a pet, it is very important to research their care requirements thoroughly (especially temperature, humidity, and substrate requirements) and ensure you have the appropriate habitat and supplies ready before bringing one home.

Do not make an impulse buy! Remember, hermit crabs can live for many years. Thus, be prepared for a long-term commitment.

11. What do I need to set up a hermit crab habitat?

  • Enclosure: plastic container or glass aquarium with a secure lid to maintain humidity and prevent escapes.
  • Substrate: Play sand or/and coconut coir fiber substrate.
  • Thermometer and Hygrometer: To monitor temperature and humidity levels in the habitat.
  • Water Dishes: for freshwater and saltwater.
  • Shells: A variety of empty shells in different sizes.
  • Heating (If needed): To maintain the appropriate temperature.
  • Climbing Materials: Hermit crabs enjoy climbing and exploring.

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12. How do you set up a hermit crab tank?

If you already have everything listed above, setting up a hermit crab aquarium becomes a straightforward process.

  1. Choose a suitable enclosure.
  2. Add a deep substrate (at least three times deeper than the biggest crab).
  3. Provide aged freshwater and saltwater.
  4. Include hiding spots and climbing materials.
  5. Maintain proper temperature and humidity.

13. What is the ideal hermit crab tank size?

It depends on the size of a hermit crab.

  • Micro Hermit Crabs (<1 inch or 2.5 cm): Need at least a 5-gallon (20 liters) tank for 3-4 crabs.
  • Small Hermit Crabs (1 – 2 inches or 2.5 – 5 cm): Require a 10-gallon (40 liters) tank for 2-3 crabs.
  • Medium Hermit Crabs (2 – 3 inches or 5 – 8 cm): Need 5-7 gallons (20 – 30 liters) per crab, so a 20-gallon (80 liters) tank is suitable for a pair.
  • Large Hermit Crabs (>3 inches or 8 cm): Require 15 gallons (60 liters) each, so a 30-gallon (120 liters) tank for a pair, but 50-gallon (200 liters) tanks are better. Use plastic or glass tanks with a lid for humidity.

14. What substrate is best for hermit crabs?

In most cases, the best substrate for hermit crabs is a combination of play sand and coco fiber (5:1 ratio).

15. Do hermit crabs require a special substrate?

Of course, there are many good products on the market (such as Jungle mix soil, Zoo Meds Creatures Creature soil, Reptisoil, the Bio Dude Terra, etc.) but sand and coco fiber are great for most cases.

16. How warm and humid should the hermit crab tank be?

Species Temperature Humidity
Caribbean Hermit Crab 71 – 84 °F (22 – 29 °C) 70 – 90
Ecuadorian Hermit Crab 78 – 88°F (26 – 31°C) 70 – 90
Strawberry Hermit Crab 75 – 84 °F (24 – 29 °C) 80 – 90
Blueberry hermit crabs 75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C)  70 – 90
Ruggie Hermit Crab 75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C)  70 – 90
Purple hermit crab 78 – 90 °F (26 – 32 °C) 70 – 90
Aussie crabs 78 – 90°F (26 – 32°C) 70 – 90

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17. Do hermit crabs need lighting?

Although they do benefit from a regular day-night cycle, hermit crabs do not require lighting like reptiles or plants. They are nocturnal animals. Therefore, a natural ambient light will be enough.

18. Do hermit crabs need UVB lighting?

The short answer is no. Some keepers choose to provide low-intensity UVB lighting to simulate natural conditions more accurately. This can be beneficial, but it’s not a requirement.

19. How do I provide fresh and saltwater?

Freshwater: Let your tap water sit for 24 hours (age it) to remove chlorine, or treat it with a water conditioner to remove it.

Saltwater: Use only specialized salt mixes for marine aquariums, available in pet stores. Follow the instructions on the salt mix package to prepare it.

Do not forget to regularly refresh both the freshwater and saltwater.

20. How should I decorate the hermit crab tank?

There are no rules. Just try to replicate their natural environment.

Use natural materials like coconut huts, rock caves, or hollow logs to create hiding places for the hermit crabs. Add climbing structure (nets and branches).

Avoid using painted décor since hermit crabs may chip and eat it.

21. Do hermit crabs need water dishes?

Yes, hermit crabs need water dishes in their tank. They require access to both freshwater and saltwater for drinking, bathing, and regulating their moisture levels. It allows them to meet their hydration needs and maintain their overall health.

22. Do hermit crabs need a heat source?

Yes, hermit crabs may need a heat source in their tank depending on the area you are living in. So, if you live in a colder climate, you will definitely need a heat source to maintain the appropriate temperature in the tank.

23. What is the importance of providing hiding spots for hermit crabs?

Hiding spots offer them a sense of security and allow them to engage in natural behaviors like molting and resting.

24. How deep should hermit crabs’ water be?

The water in a hermit crab tank should be deep enough for the crabs to fully submerge themselves, but not so deep that they struggle to reach the surface.

Therefore, depending on the hermit crab size, a depth can range from 1 – 4 inches (2.5 – 10 cm). This will be sufficient for hermit crabs to drink, bathe, and regulate their moisture levels.

25. Can land hermit crabs swim?

No, they cannot swim.

26. How long can land hermit crabs stay in the water?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long land hermit crabs can stay in the water, as it can vary depending on the species.

For example, Coenobita variabilis can stay underwater for about an hour, while observations suggest that Coenobita rugosus can survive up to 24 hours underwater.

Nonetheless, I would not recommend experimenting with prolonged submersion for any hermit crab species as it can be stressful and potentially harmful for them. They cannot breathe underwater.

27. Can hermit crabs escape a tank?

Yes. They are very good escape artists. I repeat – they are very good at climbing.

Make sure that their crabitat has a secure and sturdy lid that is properly fitted. This will prevent them from pushing it open and climbing out.

28. How do you clean a hermit crab tank?

  1. Prepare a temporary enclosure.
  2. Carefully transfer your hermit crab there.
  3. Remove and discard any soiled substrate.
  4. Clean tank accessories and walls with warm water, avoiding chemical cleaners.
  5. Allow the tank to dry completely.
  6. Add new substrate to the tank.
  7. Return your hermit crab.

Note: Remove their feces and food crumbs as often as you can. It will increase their survival rate.

Questions about Shells and Hermit Crabs

29. How do hermit crabs find new shells?

Hermit crabs find new shells by using their sense of smell and touch to detect suitable shells. According to the study, Coenobitans use enhanced chemosensory cues to pick up on death scents from recently deceased gastropods to retrieve intact shells.

30. Can hermit crabs change their shells?

Yes, hermit crabs can change their shells as they grow or if they find a better-fitting one.

31. What is hermit crab shell selection?

This is the process by which hermit crabs choose and change shells to find ones that are suitable in size. That is why we need to provide them with the so-called shell shops.

32. Can you paint or decorate hermit crab shells?

No, painting or decorating hermit crab shells is not recommended. The use of paints or dyes can be harmful to hermit crabs as these chemicals may be toxic to them.

It will not be a good idea to add extra weight to hermit crab shells because shells are already quite heavy for them. In fact, using a shell significantly increases their oxygen consumption by about 50%. It is also one of the reasons not to use glass shells.

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33. Can hermit crabs change shells voluntarily?

Yes, hermit crabs can change shells voluntarily. They typically change shells when they outgrow their current one or find a more suitable one in their environment.

34. How to remove a hermit crab from its shell? Is it possible to do so?

Yes, it is possible but NOT recommended.
Do not try to pull them by force, you will damage their abdomen.

Questions about Molting of Hermit Crabs

35. What is molting in hermit crabs?

Molting in hermit crabs is a natural process in which the crab sheds its old exoskeleton (outer shell) to accommodate its growing body. After molting, the hermit crab usually seeks a new shell to fit its larger body size better.

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36. How often do hermit crabs molt?

The frequency of hermit crab molting depends on 2 main factors such as: their age and growth rate.

In general, when they are young and growing rapidly, they may molt several times a year. As hermit crabs get older, the frequency of molting significantly decreases. Adults may molt once or twice a year.

37. How can I help a hermit crab during its molt?

In ideal conditions, hermit crabs molt by burying themselves in the substrate. If your pet does not do this and molts on the surface, it’s a concerning sign.

Nonetheless, it is crucial not to try to manually help it shed its exoskeleton. Avoid interfering; instead, remove tankmates (if present), provide shade, and continue offering food until it accepts it.

38. Can I help my crayfish molt?

You can help your hermit crab molt if you provide it with ideal conditions and nutrition.

39. What are the signs of a molting hermit crab?

Here are some common signs that a hermit crab is molting:

  • Behavior changes like reduced appetite, frequent shell changes, and substrate testing.
  • Appearance changes like cloudy eyes and a duller exoskeleton.
  • Development of a fat pouch for sustenance.

Questions about the Behavior of Hermit Crabs

40. Do hermit crabs have personalities?

Absolutely. They have preferences in terms of food, shell selection, activity levels, and interactions. Some of them are more active and boisterous, while others might be shy and skittish.

41. Why do hermit crabs dig burrows?

Burrowing serves many purposes for hermit crabs, such as protection, temperature regulation, hydration, resting, and molting. Actually, it is an essential behavior for their survival in their natural habitats.

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42. Why are my hermit crabs inactive?

They can be inactive due to factors like molting, stress, health issues, or inadequate environmental conditions.

43. Can hermit crabs be trained?

No, crustaceans and not very smart animals and, generally, operate on their instinctual nature (like recognizing their food source). All the rest are just beyond their cognitive abilities and nervous system when it comes to more complex behaviors such as training and doing tricks.

44. Do hermit crabs recognize or bond with their owners?

No, they do not. The best you can get from them is that they may recognize you as a low threat. Everything else is just beyond their abilities.

45. Do hermit crabs make noise?

Hermit crabs do not produce vocal noises. However, according to the study, they produce sound by the friction of the uropods on the inside of the shell when the pleon is moved rapidly back and forth. A sound consists of 1-20 short tones at the highest frequency is 6-8 kHz.

46. Do hermit crabs sleep?

Yes, but they don’t sleep in the traditional sense. When hermit crabs sleep, they simply become less active and may retreat into their shell.

Their rest periods are more like resting or staying still rather than experiencing deep sleep cycles with distinct REM (rapid eye movement) phases like many other animals do.

47. Are hermit crabs nocturnal?

Yes, hermit crabs are primarily nocturnal. It means that are most active during the night and tend to rest or become less active during the daytime.

48. Do hermit crabs hibernate?

No, instead, they go through periods of reduced activity, especially during the winter months, when temperatures drop. However, they do not enter a true hibernation state like some other animals.

49. Are hermit crabs territorial?

Hermit crabs are not strongly territorial, but they can often show aggression in disputes over shells, as they seek the best protection for themselves all the time.

50. Why do hermit crabs climb on top of each other?

  • Shell Exchanges: Hermit crabs often gather in groups, and sometimes they may climb on top of each other to facilitate shell exchanges.
  • Shell Competition: Hermit crabs might engage in brief “shell fights” where they try to displace each other from shells they desire.
  • Exploration: Simply out of curiosity or to explore their surroundings.
  • Social Interaction: Hermit crabs are social creatures to some extent, and climbing on top of each other can be a form of social interaction.

Health and Common Issues of Hermit Crabs

51. How can I tell if my hermit crab is healthy?

Healthy hermit crabs are active (especially at night). They move around, climb, dig, change shells, and regularly eat. Their exoskeleton looks clean, intact, and vividly colored. The claws/legs are not missing or damaged.

52. What signs indicate a sick hermit crab?

Some of the most common signs of sickness and stress in hermit crabs include lethargy, lack of appetite, loss of color, decreased growth, and molting problems.

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53. What causes bald spots on hermit crabs?

Generally, bald spots on hermit crabs are caused by diseases and infections. In some cases, age and dietary deficiencies can also cause it.

54. What causes limb loss in hermit crabs?

Autotomy, failed molts, injury, disease, poor nutrition, and mishandling are common reasons hermit crabs lose limbs.

55. Can hermit crabs regenerate lost limbs?

Yes, hermit crabs can regenerate some lost limbs through molting. Depending on the size and age of the hermit crabs, the process usually takes several molts over months.

56. Is a hermit crab with missing limbs okay?

Although unfortunate, limb loss is a natural occurrence in hermit crabs. In most cases, healthy crabs even with missing limbs can get along fine. It is not a cause for panic.

57. Do veterinarians treat pet crabs?

Unfortunately, veterinarians who specialize in treating pets such as crayfish and crabs (including hermit crabs) are very rare.

58. Do hermit crabs feel pain?

Like all crustaceans, hermit crabs certainly detect and respond to injury, but whether this represents a conscious pain experience similar to humans remains controversial and unclear based on our current understanding of their neurobiology.

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Questions about Feeding Hermit Crabs

59. What do hermit crabs eat?

Land hermit crabs are omnivores and scavengers. It means they will consume any organic food source available to them. Poor nutrition makes them more aggressive, and susceptible to diseases. That is why your pet hermit crabs should have a varied diet.

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60. How often should I feed my hermit crab? 

Adults can be fed 3 – 4 times a week whereas juveniles should be fed daily. 

61. Do hermit crabs need extra calcium?

Yes, they do. Calcium is an essential mineral for hermit crabs, as it helps ensure the hardness and strength of their exoskeletons, which protects their soft bodies.

62. What are some unhealthy foods for hermit crabs?

Avoid feeding your hermit crabs processed or salty foods, dairy products, human junk food, and foods that are high in fat, or sugar. Always ensure that any food offered is free from pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.

63. How long can hermit crabs go without food?

Adult hermit crabs can generally go for about a week without eating before it starts to affect them significantly. Prolonged starvation, in addition to starvation throughout the growth phase, can result in significantly longer recovery durations and generally have a considerable impact on them.

Questions about Handling Hermit Crabs

64. Can I play with my pet hermit crabs?

No, playing with hermit crabs is not possible. As I mentioned earlier, due to their cognitive abilities, they simply cannot grasp the concept of play. It’s beyond their capabilities. All their actions are instinctual.

They are not pets you can play with. Do not take them out just because you want to.

65. How should I pick up and hold a hermit crab safely?

Hold the hermit crab gently but securely by the back of its shell, and adjust your grip in a way that prevents its claws from reaching you.

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66. Do hermit crabs like to be petted or touched?

No, they do not like to be handled or touched. Do not trust any article claiming otherwise.  

67. Can hermit crabs hurt you?

When hermit crab feels threatened or provoked, it may use its claws to pinch in self-defense. While these pinches are generally not harmful to humans, they can cause minor discomfort or small scratches.

68. Can I take my hermit crab outside of its tank?

Yes, but you need to supervise them. Do not leave it unattended, as it can crawl away or become stressed. Avoid direct sunlight and keep them away from breezy areas.

Questions about Compatibility with other Tankmates

70. Do hermit crabs get lonely?

Yes, they do. It was proven that the lack of social needs stresses them and shortens their lifespan. Ideally, hermit crabs should be kept with conspecifics (the same species).

71. Are hermit crabs social animals?

Yes, they are social animals but not in the same way that some other pets, like dogs.

72. Can hermit crabs be kept in pairs?

Yes, hermit crabs can be kept in pairs, but it’s essential to consider the size of the crabs – they should not have a significant size difference.

Otherwise, the risk of potential aggression and even cannibalism increases significantly.

73. How do hermit crabs communicate?

Hermit crabs use visual signals, physical interactions, and chemical cues. For example, when they are looking for new shells or attempting to steal shells from each other, they may engage in physical interactions that involve pushing, pulling, or “testing” shells to determine if they are suitable for them.

74. How many hermit crabs should be housed together?

The number of hermit crabs that should be kept together depends on several factors, including the size of the enclosure, the species of hermit crabs, the size of the crabs, and the individual temperament of the crabs.

75. Can different hermit crab species live together?

Yes, they can. However, it is generally not advisable to house different species of hermit crabs together. Hermit crabs from different species may not get along and may exhibit aggressive behavior towards each other.

For example, in the wild, Coenobita rugosus are preyed on by bigger crabs such as Coenobita brevimanus.

76. Can you keep hermit crabs with other types of pets?

No. Even if those animals have the same habitat and environmental requirements it can be too stressful to hermit crabs.

77. How do you stop hermit crabs from fighting?

Provide enough food, empty shells, space, and hiding places for each hermit crab to thrive. In case of bullying and aggression, separate aggressive hermit crabs for a few weeks.

Breeding Hermit Crabs

78. Can you breed hermit crabs at home?

It is extremely hard to breed hermit crabs at home because we need to replicate this process.  Although terrestrial as adults, they have a unique life cycle that starts in the sea. Their eggs hatch into the ocean and the larvae progress through multiple planktonic zoeal stages before reaching the megalopa stage.

After that, the megalopae migrate to land where they undergo metamorphosis into their first crab stage.

While hermit crabs can lay eggs in captivity, it happens very rarely anyway. 

79. How do you sex hermit crabs?

In male hermit crabs, the fifth pair of legs has a unique shape. The right leg in this pair forms a long tube, which is usually longer than the left leg. This tube curves towards the left and points downward.

80. What is the mating behavior of hermit crabs?

Males compete to mate with females. The dominant male guards the female until she’s ready. In some cases, males may try to force females to drop their eggs early.

Mating happens inside female shells, with the male’s extended abdomen and reproductive organs. The male rocks and strokes the female, then deposits semen.

In Conclusion

In this article, you can find the most commonly asked questions about hermit crabs in our community.

If you did not find the question you were looking for, feel free to contact me, and I’ll do my best to help you.

80 Most Popular Questions about Hermit Crabs

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