HERMIT CRABS AS PETS
I decided the coffee table was inadequate right after I finished setting it up. I couldn't get the sand deep enough for their needs. In comes the 18 by 18 exoterra. There is a small heat pad attached to the right side and they appear to like to be there during the day. I have a compact bulb for day/night variation. But will change it out to a smaller bulb. The following was provided by: Peggy
These crabs are great pets and can live a long life as long as they are cared for properly. If you are thinking of or have already added hermit crabs to your family and home here are some things you should know:
Land crabs are very active creatures that need room to be active and grow. In the enclosure (a 10 gal. aquarium at minimum) you should provide places to hide (especially important during molting), things to climb on, water dishes shallow enough that they don't drown, extra shells of different sizes that they can move into as they grow, and of course, substrate. Clean sand and coconut fiber are good choices. They will help hold in humidity. Your substrate should be deep enough for your crabs to bury themselves in.
Land crabs are nocturnal so most of their activity occurs after you go to bed. Late evening is a good time to feed. Should be fed daily and any left overs need to be removed to keep them from spoiling in the enclosure causing harmful bacterial and fungal growth. There are several commercially available foods for crabs. You can also give them fruits, veggies, and some meat matter such as brine shrimp and krill. These guys love variety in their food. If you decide to give fresh fruits just make sure they don't get any pits.
Heat and humidity- The temp of the enclosure should go no lower than 72F but not so hot that you bake your crabs. Putting the enclosure directly in the window is a bad idea as it is a very hot spot. An under tank heater works well for me. Humidity levels should be kept at least at 70%. Misting the sides of the enclosure and having moistened "crab sponges" help with this.
Water for your crab- DO NOT give these guys tap water!!! Chlorine causes a very painful death for your crab. Chlorine will turn a crab's shell to mush. I use purified water and it works well for me.
Here is some general info or trivia on these crabs. They are very social- please don't get just one crab as they live in huge colonies in the wild. Now that is not saying they will all get along. Each crab has their own personality so there may be conflicts. Land crabs need the ocean to breed. Therefore all of the crabs we get as pets are wild caught. There are groups out there trying to breed them in captivity, I hope they succeed. The life span for these crabs can be 15-30 years, experts aren't really sure how long they can live. So, yes, this is hopefully a long-term relationship! In my opinion the land crabs with the purple pinchers are the best choice for land crab pets. They seem to be a hardier species. I have had other species before, the operative word being had. Poor things did not survive whatever it was that I was doing wrong.
Thank you Peggy for your time and knowledge.........very much appreciated, for myself and others viewing.
Peg can be found at www.reptileforums.net
The Land Hermit Crab
Realities and Myths of owning this beautiful and unique animal.
The Land Hermit crab is a very social, friendly, hardy, and peaceful creature. They need large groups to socialize in and a lot of space in which to move around, and they are one of the few wild caught exotic pets who often enjoy being handled. They are nocturnal, and so mainly active at night, but will occasionally be up and about sun bathing during the day. In this aspect they can make a wonderful first pet for kids. Though their long-term care may speak otherwise, as I have learned from personal experience.
What you will need
- 20 to 40 gallon aquarium or terrarium. Top close, heat resistant screen top preferred.
- Moisture Moss
- River Pebbles
- Fake Greenery, a.k.a silk Ivy, grass, ferns…etc
- Large, shallow bathing pool, no deeper than ½ to ¾ inch, include a medium size sponge
- Two small water dishes with a piece of sponge in each
- At least two food dishes (I used sterilized half clam shells)
- One low emitting 25 watt incandescent UVB bulb with ceramic hood. This should be on a timer set for 3 to 4 hours a day.
- One Red Bulb Infrared Heat Light with ceramic hood. This should be hooked up to an electric thermostat to regulate proper temperature.
75 watt for 20 gallon
100 watt for 40 gallon or larger
- Electric Thermostat for temp regulation
- Thermometer for keeping track of ground temp in the aquarium
- Humidity gauge
- Drift wood or Choya wood for climbing
-Small fan, which should be mounted about 2 feet above the aquarium in a way that the air moves across the top and slightly into the enclosure to keep good air flow.
- Lots of little hiding huts
Since Land Hermit Crabs are from a tropical region, a world full of lush plants, moss, and warm moist substrates such as sand and forest floor dirt, their aquarium should have two basic elements: one side of warm moist hides and lots of plants/moss, and a drier side consisting of sand and rocks with few hides and a large very shallow water dish. For a grouping of 5 or 6 crabs I don’t recommend anything smaller than a 20 gallon tank, but a 40 gallon breeding tank is a perfect size, and could possibly house up to 10 or 15 small crabs. But remember, the bigger they get, the more space they will need. Hermits are also good climbers if given the right climbing material, so I liked to use Choya Wood or large Driftwood. (If using Choya, do not place hollow Choya in the tank, if there’s a place for the crabs to get inside the piece don’t use it. They’ll get stuck…) But other good climbing objects are fake vines (like for snakes), or other heavy duty
fake plants. A good way to create a climbing wall is to use a piece of wire mesh or burlap.
I personally have always been a fan of medium grain sand mixed with moisture moss on one side of the aquarium and pebbles on the other side. Fine grain sand or calcium sand are a big NO because the sand is so fine it will be ingested with food or cake up in the LHC’s shell when they go into the water. Sand should be layered about 3 to 4 inches deep to allow for proper digging practices to occur. But no deeper because unless you change the sand weekly, the bottom layers will just get old and moldy…and that’s just asking for a parasite!
Food and Water
LHC’s can be very picky eaters, but their diet can contain fruits, veggies, and raw red meats or fish/seafood. I’ve never had good luck with commercially made foods, most crabs aren’t crazy about it. They should be fed small amounts twice in a 24 hour period. Early morning and late at night are best because that is when they are most active. Any uneaten food after 30 minutes should be discarded. Keep food pieces small, and feed red meat/seafood no more than twice a week. Don’t feed any kind of lettuce, it has no nutritional value and usually just causes diarrhea. A Calcium Supplement should be mixed with food once every two weeks, or once a month for very small crabs as the calcium will build up faster in a smaller body and cause poisoning. Change the water daily, if not twice a day. They will often discard of their feces in the water, so keeping it clean throughout the day will keep them happier. Often times they will not drink out of a dish
For the most part LHC’s are fairly healthy and do not carry a lot of parasites. The biggest problems that can arise are mites, gnats, fruit flies, and fly eggs…all of which can be avoided by proper cleaning practices. Do a complete clean sweep once a month, wash all huts, and replace moss, wash plants, wash sand, and wash/bleach aquarium. A hidden killer of hermit crabs is fly eggs, which hatch underneath the sand (too deep of sand will be more likely to harbor more eggs than shallower sand since the eggs need dry warm temps)…the larva dig their way out and crawl into LHC shells and begin to eat away at your poor pet…One way of making sure your crabs do not have little larva is to give them each a warm bath once a week. Place them in a shallow bucket of luke warm water, just deep enough to pass through the inside of the shell. After about 6 or 7 minutes put them in a bucket with warm medium grain sand or warm towels until when you pick them up no
water drains out of the shell. This should take less than ten minutes. Replace them into the tank at this point. If little larva does get washed out of the shell, clean out the aquarium immediately before replacing the crabs to their habitat.
Molting in Captivity
Unfortunately none of mine were ever able to molt…for reasons beyond human control it is very difficult for these crabs to molt in captivity. In my 6 years of owning hermit crabs I have discovered that these creatures are really just not suitable to captivity for this reason. Personally I have not seen a crab live more than a year or two, and since they couldn’t molt they did eventually die. I have given up trying to give them a healthy life, but that’s not to say they CAN’T live in captivity happily with the right equipment.
Temperature and Humidity Management
If using an electric thermostat, keeping track of temperature and humidity should be fairly easy. Connect your Red Bulb Heat Lamp to the thermostat and set the temperature to approximately 75 to 85 degrees during the day and 70 to 75 degrees at night. Don’t let the temp go too far below 70 because it will cause a sort of hibernation in your crabs and they could get mal-nourished from not eating or drinking. With the UVB lamp, set it on a timer so it only runs for about 3 hours a day, the UVB rays promote healthy skin and cell growth, there fore aiding in the molting process, so even though LHC are nocturnal they need UVB’s for a while ONLY DURING THE DAY. Don’t use white light at night, only the red bulb.
To keep track of humidity simply purchase an analog Humidity Gauge from a local pet store. Humidity levels should be around 60 percent. Too high of humidity will cause respitory problems and mold growth, and humidity that’s too low will hinder the natural process of molting. If the humidity is too low simply mist the aquarium once or twice a day or until humidity levels are adequate. If too high, cool the aquarium to about 70 degrees and keep the temp there until the humidity levels drop, and don’t mist if you don’t have to.
Breeding and Sexing
In my personal experience I’ve never been able to actually sex any of my hermit crabs, sometimes they would look female and then next time they would look male…but I never really cared, I’d just give them neutral sex names. =) When it comes down to breeding, these creatures need the ocean (seawater) to mate and produce offspring. I am convinced that this too is a reason they don’t live long in captivity, since they are caught from the wild and not bred as domestics, their need to reproduce may actually interfere with how healthy they are. And since we cannot breed them, I assume this may cause ailments unknown to us that could be fatal to the crabs. I would not be surprised if it is the same way with many other small wild caught reptiles and amphibians who are not known to/or have difficulty breeding in captivity.
- Hermit Crabs do not need UVB lighting…
- 5 or 6 can live happily together in a 5 or 10 gallon critter cage…
- They can breed in captivity…
- Once bought, very little energy and money is needed from the owner to keep them happy and healthy…
- They make good pets for kids…
- They don’t pinch…
- Hermit Crabs do not need an outside heat source…
- Hermit Crabs don’t need humid mossy plant life to survive, just sand and rocks…
- They only eat once a week…
- You don’t need to change their water often because they drink off of the sponge in the water dish…
I hope this care sheet has cleared up any misunderstandings or questions about the Land Hermit Crab. They are amazing little creatures, and with proper and diligent care they could possibly live long healthy lives. But in the wrong hands they will only last a matter of months, or in some cases days.
So please, before bringing these beautiful little animals into your home, consider all that will need to be done to keep this wild species happy. Remember, a breeder did not breed them; Mother Nature did, so they are still wild exotic pets who need very specific care and attention.
Good Luck and enjoy your pals!