By: Erin Tessier
Recently in the Glenn we got some new additions…three to be exact. Join us in welcoming our new hermit crabs! The kids loved meeting our three new friends and getting acquainted. We read the wonderful Eric Carle book, A House for Hermit Crab. We learned that hermit crabs use other animal’s shells as their home to keep safe. As they grow bigger, they need to change shells and find just the right fit. We got to try on our own “shells” to see what fit us best too. We also discussed the difference between marine and land hermit crabs. The kids were amazed that hermit crabs have 10 legs, making them decapods! We learned that since we have two legs, we are bipedal.
We looked at all the necessary things a hermit crab needs to make up a healthy habitat for them. Hermit crabs are a pretty easy pet, and are so fun to observe as they crawl and climb around their enclosure. If you have a little one that is desperate for a new pet and a hermit crab is something you are considering for your home, there are a few things you’ll want to know. First off, size matters. Hermit crabs can be about as small as a quarter, or as big as a small coconut or softball. The larger they are, the older they are, so if you get a larger one they may not live as long as a small one. Also, larger crabs do have larger claws, but are typically a little more used to being handled. Crabs do take time to get used to being handled. If you’re nervous about getting pinched, you can start off holding them with a flour sac towel or other thin towel that their legs and claws won’t get stuck in, but will keep you from getting pinched. That is also a great way to have young children hold them. If a child gets pinched, they may accidentally throw the crab, and plus they may not want anything to do with the crab after being pinched.
Hermit crabs’ need some space to roam and climb and a place to hide, so those small plastic critter keepers are great for a temporary home, but not long term. A good substrate is a mixture of sand and EcoEarth. Make sure their substrate is deep enough so they can completely bury themselves since that’s what they do when they need to molt (grow). Provide them with 2 additional larger shells for each hermit crab since they need options as they grow. The crabs require a humid environment so they can breathe through their gills. Yep, even land hermit crabs have gills. Spray them regularly to keep the enclosure humid. They also need both fresh (chlorine-free) water along with salt water. The size of your water dishes is dependent on the size of your hermit crab, make sure they can climb out of the dish. They are scavengers and will eat almost anything. There are specific crab diets you can feed your crab, or give them a variety of fruits and veggies. Carrots should be offered regularly since they do require beta carotene. And lastly, they need a warm environment so if your house gets pretty cold they might need an under-tank heater to keep their temps around 75 degrees. Crabs can live up to 20 years so it’s not a short-term pet. Always check if people are rehoming crabs before buying them at a pet store. Unfortunately breeding hermit crabs is still a bit of a mystery so many crabs are wild caught =(. And if it’s just not the pet for you, you can always send your kids up to the nature lab to say hi to our little crab friends =).