An Introduction to Hermit Crabs
Land hermit crabs are crustaceans known as Coenobita clypeatus. They live in the wild in the western Alantic. Hermit crabs have a three sections: a head, a body (cephalothorax), and an abdomen which they protect with their shells. Hermit crabs have gills on their big claw in order to conserve moisture. Hermit crabs sometimes go for long periods of time without food or water. However, hermit crabs need to keep their gills wet to maintain good health. It is usually best to place them in or near water once a day. Although hermit crabs might look harmless, they can use their claws to grip things tightly. Trust me; I've had one attached to me for five minutes. If one should attach themselves to you, put them under luke warm water. Even the very smallest hermit crabs can draw blood if it becomes frightened. Hermit crabs usually travel in groups of 25 (approx.) in the wild. So it is important when you have hermit crabs as pets that you have several of them to keep each other company.
Hermit Crab Growth
Hermit crabs do not reproduce in captivity. Instead, they mate on land near the sea. After the eggs develop, the female carries the eggs on her abdomen to the sea where she leaves them on wet sand or a wet rock for the tide to carry them out to sea. There are usually 1,000 to 50,000 eggs at a time. They are small larvae at sea where they molt several times in order to grow to reach the characteristics of a typical adult hermit crab. After reaching the adult larvae stage, the hermit crabs begin looking for a shell to live in. Once they mature and find a suitable shell, they come to live on land for the rest of their lives. Hermit crabs grow on land by shedding their exoskeleton. At first glance, you might think your hermit crab has died. But, you might want to make sure by looking inside the shell to see if your crab has died or just molted. It takes about ten days for a hermit crab's skin to harden after molting. During this time, it is best that they are in a warm environment. Shedding is a necessary part of their livelihood since they will grow back missing legs during this time. In the wild, hermit crabs can live up to 25-30 years. But normally in capitivity they live around 1 year. Although, my first hermit crab, Fred, lived to be over 4 years old. The search for a new shell continues throughout a crab's life since it is either searching for a more comfortable shell or a larger one as it grows. Once a suitable shell is found, a crab will inspect it in every possible way. It checks the shape and opening thoroughly with antennaes and legs. The crab may insert a claw to explore the interior to roll the shell on all sides. This way hermit crabs decide whether or not the shell is a suitable home. If the crab decides to try the new shell on for a trial fit, the crab will insert its abdomen into the new shell while still holding onto the old one. Shell changes are done quickly since the hermit crabs are vulnerable to predators without their shells. However, I've had a crab walk around on my floor for 3 days without his shell on. I guess he felt that he was in no threat of danger. If this does happen, try to seperate the crab from from your other crabs since it is in a vulnerable state. The only time you will be able to determine whether your hermit crab is male or female is when it is out of its shell.
What Hermit Crabs Eat
Hermit crabs can eat a variety of foods. In the wild they are scavangers and will eat about anything. However, they do have a strong sense of smell which is an important thing to remember when you are selecting food for your hermit crabs. Usually, a good diet for a hermit crab is any hermit crab food in pet stores. Hermit crabs like a variety of fruits (apples, coconut, grapes). Also, hermit crabs need salty foods in their diet. Salted pretzels or bacon bits can give them the salt they need. Another important part of a hermit crab's diet is fresh drinking water. The water dish should be a non-metal container. The two most common water dishes for hermit crab's are plastic lids or shells. When crabs drink out of a shell, they receive calcium from the shell that they need in their daily diet. The main thing to remember when selecting a water dish for your hermit crabs is that it is not too deep. Hermit crabs can drown if they crawl into a deep water dish and can't climb out. Place your hermit crab near the water dish daily so they can moisten their gills which they breathe through.
Hermit Crab Environments
The most common environment for hermit crabs as pets are 10 gallon aquariums. The aquarium should have 2-3 inches of gravel. It is always better to wash the stones off with water before placing them into the tank. You should have some coral rock in the aquarium for your hermit crabs to crawl around on. Also, extra shells can be left in the tank for decoration or on the rare occasion that your hermit crab might decide to change shells. Hermit crabs need to live in temperatures between 70-85 degrees. If the air is too cold or dry, the crabs will become inactive. Hermit crabs do not like to walk around a wet sloppy cage, but prefer to be in a dry aquarium with lots of moisture in the air. If you put your hermit crabs outside of the aquarium and you can't find them, don't worry. They can store water, so they can go for long periods of time without water. Hermit crabs can go up to one year without any food or water. Also in the wild, some hermit crabs live in trees. So, it is a good ideal that you have a place for your hermit crabs to climb. Usually, a laundry basket with small holes will work. But, make sure you put something to hold down the lid because most hermit crabs can lift the lid and climb out.
Hermit Crab Behavior
Hermit crabs are nocturnal, so they may seem inactive during the day. But if you wake your hermit crabs up during the day, they usually sleep during the night. It is important for a hermit crab's well being that they get excercise outside the the cage. I found that since I started to let them out of their cages to roam free, they seem to live longer on the average. Usually, hermit crabs will go towards dark areas, such as under a couch, since they are nocturnal. If you do let them out of the aquarium, it is important that you watch where they go. It can be amusing to watch them run across the room. Unlike most people, I let my crabs out a day or two at a time. They like to wander in and out of my C.D. case. Also, I have two crabs too large to fit comfortably into my ten gallon, so I just let them run free in my room. Although, I have had to take some precautions in doing so- making sure they can't get behind furniture and that all electric cords are off the ground. I found that they keep out of the walkways, but you should still watch each step you take. They seem to like having the freedom to move, but they always return to the same location eventually. I feel that giving crabs the freedom to wander around is a more natural lifestyle for a crab to live in. Since I started to let my crabs spend most of their time outside the cage, they live longer. They live between 1-4 years on the average; where as before, I was lucky if they lived for 6 months in the aquarium. And I have noticed that large hermit crabs are not aggressive towards smaller hermit crabs. Usually, hermit crabs are only aggressive to hermit crabs of similiar sizes.