If you've decided on a hermit crab for a pet, you've made a wonderful
choice! They're fun and interesting, and once you learn the basics of
how to care for them, they make great companions. Contrary to their
name, hermit crabs are not solitary creatures. They enjoy the company
of other hermit crabs, and in the wild are found in very large numbers.
So be sure to pick a friend or two for your new pet. Below, you'll find
some hints and tips for taking care your hermit crab.
HOUSING & HABITAT
The first thing you need to do is create a suitable home. This can be
anything from a small glass fish aquarium, to a pre-made plastic
habitat. You can even buy hermit crab kits in pet stores that contain
everything you need to get started - substrate, food, shells,
decorations, etc. The problem with most of the pre-made kits is that
very often they are too small for long-term housing, especially if you
have more than one hermit crab.
Your hermit crab's habitat should be kept between 70 and 80 degrees
Fahrenheit. Depending on your home, this may be very easy to maintain.
If your home is kept at temperatures much lower you will need to
purchase a special heating pad that is placed underneath the outside of
the cage. Also, if the cage is kept much hotter than 80 degrees for a
long period of time, it can cause damage and even death. A thermometer
can help you maintain a fairly constant temperature. Hermit crabs also
need humidity to survive. Misting, baths, and warm temperatures keep
their bodies from dehydrating.
There are several options for substrate, or bedding, that you can
choose for your habitat - Calci-sand (or other suitable, sanitized
sand), gravel, small, smooth pebbles, or coconut fiber. Sand is usually
the most popular choice for bedding. Make sure the substrate is deep
enough so that your hermit crab can dig and tunnel underneath, and
completely hide their whole bodies, shell and all.
Your hermit crab will need two small, shallow dishes for food and
water. Never give your hermit crab plain tap water, because it contains
chlorine and other dangerous chemicals that can kill him. To make tap
water suitable for your hermit crab, you'll need to purchase a special
product to remove chlorine from your local pet store. You should choose
a non-metallic, shallow water dish, and place a natural sponge in the
middle to prevent drowning. Some people use clam shells, which has the
benefit of adding calcium to the water. Calcium is a necessary
supplement that will be discussed in the food section below.
You'll also want to scatter several different sizes and types of shells
for your hermit crab to change into. They change shells because they
need more room, they've just molted, or because they just need a change
of scenery. Making sure they have a wide variety of shells available
will keep them happy. You should never try to pull a hermit crab out of
his shell either. They will often hold on to the inside of their shell,
even to their death!
After you have the essentials, you'll want to make sure your hermit
crab has some fun! You can place cholla wood, coral, plastic caves,
chicken wire with small holes for climbing, toy ladders, and much more.
Use your imagination! Some bird toys make great additions to your
hermit crab's habitat, too.
In the wild, a hermit crab will eat fruits, vegetables, and leaves. Pet
hermit crabs should be fed a commercially prepared food made especially
for them. Most hermit crab foods come in pellet form, and should be
crushed prior to feeding, because they will not be able to grab the
pellets with their pinchers. Depending on the brand, and nutritional
makeup of the food, you may also need to give them cuttlebone for
calcium. Calcium is needed to keep their exoskeleton strong, and is
especially necessary before and after molting. Cuttlebones can be found
in the bird section of your local pet store.
You should also supplement their diet with fresh fruits and vegetables.
For fruit, try banana, mango, coconut, papaya, and other tropical
fruits. Stay away from anything acidic like oranges or tomatoes because
they can be very harmful to hermit crabs. They will eat a wide variety
of vegetables, including corn, carrots, and lettuce, but avoid anything
starchy such as potatoes. For a treat, try a small amount of peanut
butter, cooked egg, raisins, or cereal. There are many choices, but be
sure to stay away from anything processed or too sugary. Treats should
be limited to just a few times a week.
Make sure you remove any uneaten food from the cage every day to
prevent mold and spoilage. Also check the substrate for any food pieces
your hermit crab may have dragged off and buried.
Hermit crabs are generally not aggressive, and with some patience
you'll have a lot of fun holding them. You'll want to hold your palm
out flat, and place him on it. Try to keep any fleshy part of your hand
away from their larger pincher. He will walk from one hand to the other
once he feels safe and comfortable. Sometimes your hermit crab may get
scared and grab hold of your skin with his pincher. If this happens you
can do one of two things - run your hand under cool water, and he'll
usually immediately release his claw, or calmly place your hand onto a
flat surface so he can walk off as soon as he feels safe.
At some point your hermit crab will molt, or shed his exoskeleton. This
is a normal part of his life cycle, but can be very stressful. It can
also be very alarming to an owner who is not prepared for it. Your
hermit crab will be very soft, and he should be left alone while his
exoskeleton hardens. A daily misting is all that's necessary. If you
have other hermit crabs in the same cage you'll want to do your best to
separate them from the molting crab, because they've been known to have
cannibalistic tendencies. The best way to do this is to cut off the
bottom of a cleaned 2-liter soda bottle, and place the top part over
the molting hermit crab. Make sure it's buried all the way to the floor
of the cage, and that there is enough room for the hermit crab inside
the bottle. This will keep him safe until the molting process is
Hermit crabs are fun to watch, fun to hold, and can be a great
companion for a long time. Make sure you do your homework, and buy the
necessary equipment ahead of time to make your new pet happy and
healthy. As with any pet, your love and commitment will give your new
hermit crab a great home.
About The Author:
Karole Dolen-Proffit is a website designer and freelance writer from Northern California. In addition to being a blessed member of a proud unschooling family, she runs several websites including http://unschoolers.com
, Your Go 2 Girl
, and http://moonriverdesigns.com
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