Hermit Crab FAQ


Most Often Asked Questions

Do hermit crabs pinch or bite?

Hermits are not aggressive and they do not bite, but they will reach out and try and hold on with their pincher claw. They usually are passive, if they are held incorrectly they will grab your skin to hold on. You can actually release a hermit claw by running it under warm water to opening his pinchers with a tweezers.

How long do hermits live?

They live any where from five to twenty years usually. We know of a hermit that lived to be over 40 years old in Ft. Lauderdale. With the proper care they’ll live many years. A dish of water is the most important key. Heavy chlorinated water should be set out for 24 hours so the chemicals evaporate before you give it to hermit. An occasional bath in straight tap water will not hurt them or in their spa calcium bath.

Do hermit crabs have any diseases?

No they are safe and carry no diseases. If a house is especially dusty or has a lot of other animals, dust mites which do live in every ones house, might settle in the moist sand. If the sand is too moist and not changed it could attract dust mites from a very wet environment coming from someone's house. They will not harm them but they need to be soaked in water and pour off the mites while leaving the hermits in the water. You will also need to clean the cage and all the items in the cage. Another trick is: Setting the cage and hermits in direct hot sun will also make the mites get out of the cage quick. This needs to be done outside of course.?

The sand needs to be micro waved or tossed away. They can get on the hermit. They can be washed off the hermit, if this happens.

How many hermits can fit in a cage?

Hermit crabs live in large colonies so there is no real answer. You can put up to 10 hermits in a 10 gallon aquarium or 4 to 6 in the smallest plastic cage safely.

How much do hermit crabs eat?

They do eat but very little and can go several days up to two weeks without food. They store water in the back of their shell for moisture for their gills. It is always a good idea to leave food and water. They seem to be more active when you provide food, water and extras shells for them at all times.

What do hermit crabs eat?

They eat any and everything. They are scavengers and nothing will harm them. They love sweets but vegetables are best. A good diet is dried cereal and calcium substitute in the form of powder mixed with their food or sea fan. Crushed up egg shells works and so does a calcium base bath from coral chips. Sometimes they munch on wood especially choya wood. Yes, they eat all sweets especially love chocolate chip cookies, hamburgers, pizza, peanut butter, fruits and popcorn. That’s why they love our resort.

Why do hermit crabs become inactive?

They have personalities just like humans and need to readjust to there new home and family. When it is below 65 degrees they are naturally inactive as they are very tropical. It is always best to keep the environment around 70 degrees year round. Keep in mind to much air conditioner will also make them inactive.

How large to hermit crabs grow?

They can get to be as big as a baseball in captivity and even larger if the shells are provided. They spend their lives just looking for a bigger shell. They have been known to live in the back of an old rusty can, broken light bulb or anything they can find when there is not a shell available. We know of a hermit almost as big as a football in Florida. The secret is, it is important to provide extra shells for them at all times. Several in a cage is always better than just one.

Do they like living together?

We have 1000's and 1000's of hermits at one time in our home and also in our three shops. We have observed many things over the years and in our travels. They do live together and prefer to live in large groups on top of each other. That is how they live in the wild. They can be territorial but they usually don't fight except over a shell or before mating. They live better if they live together. I keep mine in large cages all together and stock our stores from the cages. We loose maybe one a week if that... Our crabs do adjust and they would rather be together. I have collected them on over a 100 different locations and can tell you they like it together. I have never seen a crab by itself living alone on any of the many islands we have collected and seen them.

Why should we bath them and do they like it?

Why should we bath them and do they like it??They do like baths and do go to the ocean to drop their eggs and do go to the ocean to fill their shell with salt water to get the nutrients for molting.

??I have seen 100's and 100's at a time come from down a far away street on islands walking to the shores edge. They seldom live on the direct ocean side of an island and prefer to live on the calm side for that very reason.??

They need calcium and the nutrients from the ocean.?Bathing them is not what cause stress. Heavy chlorinated water and then the lack of water causes stress. Dehydration is the main reason for stress. They need a dish of more than a 1/2 inch. Using only a sponge is the worse thing you can do. Sponges are good but only with a dish of water. (By the way we invented that in 1980) They need to be able to get in it and wash their inner shell and add water to their shell. They store water in the back of their shell for their gills. They will not drown. It would need to be several inches deep before they have trouble. A piece of coral or wood would always solve that problem. I have seen many crabs floating in water for over an hour and survive along the oceans edge. They just do not live in water. We bath ours in a calcium bath and they are extremely healthy. Many of our customers crabs are still living from buying them even from my Dad’s store in OC in the 1970's and 80's.

They seem to like wood and do they eat it?

They live under and in wood and they do not get diseases from wood. It can bring bugs to your tank if you do not heat it in a microwave first (just 10 seconds will do it) but it does not give hermits diseases. They do eat the wood in their natural?environment and love it. Choya is not natural in their environment but it has nutrients they lack of not near the ocean and they do love it. Regular beach wood is their favorite. It does not harm them. They love bark from trees that has rolled around the ocean or lake. Driftwood is their favorite. Be careful not to use poisonous plants in their cage.

Why do hermit crabs drop their claws or legs?

There are three basic reasons why hermit crabs lose their pinchers and legs. First, the environment may be too dry. They need humidity. By adding water-filled sponges in their water dish and misting crabs, along with twice-weekly baths and fresh daily drinking water will help their environment stay moist. Let your tap water sit out for 24 hours first to let the chlorinated water evaporate the chemicals and minerals added to our water. Second, the loss could result from physical stress, such as a traumatic molt or toxic interference from paint fumes or insecticides. Never spray around or near the hermits cage. If you must, remove the cage from that room. Finally, once in a while an aggressive crab could have attacked it, as they can be territorial and the crab could have dropped a claw or two as it escaped. Claws and legs will regenerate during the next molt so do not worry. Watch them carefully and separate the bigger crabs if this happens. In the wild usually they live side by side without any problems but if as larger crab has developed a taste for being along he could be picky and want his own space.

Sand or gravel, which is best?

Sand is the best and is their natural environment. Anyone who puts hermits in gravel just does want to be bothered with the clean up. They hate it and it is not their natural state or environment. If someone can't get beach sand, play sand from a hardware store is very safe. We even sell a very safe toxic free silica colored sand they just love. A good example of why gravel is not a good idea: Gravel in someone's shoes, even the tiniest piece can drive you nuts. You usually stop immediately and get it out of your shoe. Imagine it stuck in a hermits shell. Sand on the other hand can be in your shoes and you'll even walk on it if need be until you take the time to empty your shoes. The same goes for hermits. It won't irritate their inner parts like gravel would. They can clean out sand in their water dish or at their leisure. A piece of gravel can get caught in their shell and always irritate them and their soft body parts.

What do you do if a hermit comes out of his shell?

If your land hermit crab has been lethargic, hanging around the water dish and hanging out of its shell until it eventually comes all the way free, more attention is required after you get it safely back into its shell. The hermit crab is probably suffering from a stress-related syndrome that affects its respiratory system much like hyperventilation. HE NEEDS A DISH OF WATER, A SPONGE ALONE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH. Dip the naked crab in luke warm water and gently push it into the shell, abdomen first. Be sure to clean out his shell with warm water first.. You can threaten it in further by tapping lightly on its head so it will quickly draw back into its shell. If the hermit crab is lively, active, and simply running around nude to streak, this easy procedure should be all you need to do. If they are not lively try the above and then leave them alone to recuperate., but watch them. Keep him separate from other crabs at this vulnerable stage.

Can my Hermit live in the water and are the water crabs I find along the shore the same thing?

There are water hermits that live in the salt water ocean and would die if out over 24 hours. And there are land hermits which are born in the ocean but crawl to land and never go back. Two different crabs but very related. Hermits on land don't live in water but they use fresh water all the time. They like water. They drink it, bath in it and often change their shells in water. If it is above their heads and can't reach out they will drown, like a kid. If there is a piece of coral or wood in the water dish that they can reach, they’ll get out. They like enough water so they can get in the dish.

Is it a boy or girl hermit?

Hermits are crustaceans and as in most other crustaceans, hermit crabs are male or female. After mating, female hermit crabs carry their eggs attached to tiny limbs on their abdomen. Females carry their eggs to the rocks or near the edge of the tide line. They are swept out to sea. The tiny minute young hatch as larvae and are then swept into the plankton, in this drifting stage, they look more like tiny shrimp than hermit crabs! The larvae feed and grow as they drift in ocean currents. When they have reached the right stage of development, they drop to the seafloor and metamorphose (transform) into their bottom-dwelling form and must immediately look for and find a small snail shell for protection. They are very vulnerable at this stage. Soon after some growth they climb to land where they live the rest of their lives as land hermits.??

Males of hermits (Coenobita Clypeatus) are distinguished by the presence of tufts of hair concealing openings on the first segment of the last pair of legs. Also by the noticeable absence of appendages on the abdomen. Females have bare openings on the first segment of the third legs (no hair) (counting the claws as the first pair) and three forked appendages on the left side of the abdomen for this attachment of eggs. That is why you’ll often hear males have hairy legs and females do not. It starts to show up on their lower legs when they get to be about the size of a golf ball. Without seeing the hermit removed from the shell it is very difficult to actually tell the sex.

Do hermits have predators?

Hermit crabs are omnivorous, feeding on both plant and animal materials. Despite the protection of their borrowed shells, they are sometimes preyed upon by larger aggressive male hermit crabs. They are also preyed by birds, and some rodents.

What is their scientific name?

Kingdom- Animalia?
Phyla Anthropoda?
Subphyla Mandibula?
Class Crustacea?
Order Decapoda
?Family Coenobita Clypeatus??

Coenobita Clypeatus (usually pronounced seen-oh-bit-a cly-pe-ait-us) may be translated as " shield-bearing monk or cloister brother," Does that mean hermit crab? I guess that is what the scientists like to call them. I’ll stick with Hermie.

Can we keep our hermits in the wire cage year round, and what is the right temperature?

During the winter it could be too cold and drafty in the wire cage. An aquarium or something with sides will hold in the moisture and heat in. If it is big enough you can put the wire cage in the middle so they can still climb but keep warm and avoid drafts. They need to be kept in a tropical climate year round as they are from tropical islands from the Caribbean and south.

??The ideal comfort zone for hermit crabs is 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit; that is when they are most active and healthy. If the temperature drops to between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, dormancy and hibernation will occur. Below 50 they could die if kept at those temperatures any length of time.

Can hermits spread communicable diseases or Salmonella?

There has NEVER been (repeat never) an instance where an individual has contacted or developed any illness by coming in contact with a Hermit Crab (coenobita clypeatus). There are some rumors and even a city that has banded hermits because they were given false information. FMR has done extensive work thru the state labs over many years in verifying this information. Hermit Crabs have been offered to the public since 1953 and NOT ONE INCIDENCE of illness has been recorded.

Do they really need a sponge and what about the humidity?

The sponge also helps put some humidity into the air better by providing a larger surface from which the water evaporates. Keeping their environment humid can be very important. Land hermit crabs have modified, stiffened gills which allow them to breathe air. They are GILLS, however, and not lungs, so are not able to breathe as we do. The air a hermit crab breathes has to be humid or water has to be present in their shell so the gills will not dry out and the crab will not endure a long unpleasant death of suffocation which would be similar to a human's death by dehydration.

What is the difference between the LAND hermits that need to eat salt and the hermits that do not?

There are two types of crabs sold in the USA one is from the Caribbean called land or tree crabs (Coenobita clypeatus) the species commonly sold as pets. The second one is from very South America especially Ecuador called Ecuadorian crabs (Coenobita compressus). They are related and look pretty much the same EXCEPT color and a few small body features like the eyes. They are both friendly and not aggressive. BUT the Ecuadorian DO need a source of salt water along with fresh water. People do get confused.??

Caribbean Land crabs are use to living on whatever falls to the seashores edge or forest floor and they drink from puddles of rainwater. They do go to the ocean to exchange shells and get in the salt water. The crabs native to Ecuador live on the seashore around the tidal pools and high-tide-zone. They have adapted to this sea-shore existence by becoming able to metabolize the salt in seawater. They have adapted so well to their environment that they actually do need a source of sea water to live.??

Both types go to the ocean to lay their eggs at the waters edge which float away.??

Salt should not hurt either land crab and if they want the minerals in the salt they'll eat it, if they don't they'll avoid it so don't worry. Giving them the choice will not hurt them. A hamster salt wheel is a good source for your South American crabs salt. DON'T forget regular fresh water for both crabs and if your tap water is heavy in chlorine and chemicals let it sit for 24 hours or use bottled.

How do the hermits go to the bathroom and do they leave a mess?

Hermits eat very little so they leave very little mess. You may notice little dark drops in the sand that have fallen from the inside of the shell. They dry up quickly and do not smell. After a few months you can wash the sand and dry it or just change it.

Can my hermits eggs hatch as I see she has a big bunch of eggs that look like tiny grapes? And I noticed last time little white things on her back...what are they?

Your hermits eggs will not hatch as they need to be in ocean salt water and float away for a few weeks in the tide currents for gestation. She should drop them eventually in the sand.

??If you see little things on your hermit then your hermit probably has dust mites on her and they maybe eating the eggs. They are NOT hatching hermits as some think. Your hermit needs to be rinsed immediately to get rid of them. They come from the warm moist air in your home and are everywhere. Sometimes they will disappear themselves if the cage gets to hot. They just jump right out because they do not like very hot or sunlight.?Read the answers above about mites and proper care.