Sea Shell Shop Rehoboth Beach Delaware

Why We are Known as the Hermit Crab Specialists

In 1953, my parents embarked on a business journey in both Ft. Lauderdale and OC, MD. Fast forward to 1979, and my husband and I continued the legacy by starting the same kind of business in DE. Pioneering the hermit crab industry in the U.S., my Dad was recognized by most accounts as the first to sell these fascinating creatures in the whole US. Our roots trace back to the 50s, when, as a young child, I can remember collecting hermit crabs on Peanut Island off West Palm Beach, FL.

The hermit crab empire didn't stop there. My Dad, a trailblazer, played a pivotal role in shaping the wholesale market. Notably, FMR, a research company, owes part of its inception to my Dad. He suggested to Mr. Moore, the then owner of FMR, to collect hermit crabs while visiting the Caribbean Islands during his research trips. This idea not only supplemented their research with new income but also laid the foundation for the birth of FMR as a full-time hermit crab dealer when sold to its present ownership.

Our connections in the industry ran deep, with individuals like Harry Ackers, a West Palm resident, collecting hermit crabs for my Dad until the early '80s. He met Harry through his connection with John Root (famous by our account), a renowned shell clam polisher since 1944. Our journey has witnessed the evolution of hermit crab sourcing, from the early days of collection to the present reality where collecting is no longer permitted in the USA. However, these captivating creatures still thrive in the Florida Keys, reminding us of our rich history in the hermit crab world.

A hermit crab

The Coenobita clypeatus, otherwise known as a Carribean Hermit Crab.

My Dad was the first to invent the wire cage. We were selling hermits in boxes and plastic cups only back then. He went to Maxwell House in the 50’s and found just the right size lids (number 7). I remember a tracker trailer truck coming once or twice a year filled with lids from a Maxwell plant. Maxwell gave him an award in the 60's for the most unusual use of their product. He then found Hardware cloth from Baltimore and put cages together with pig hooks. (We still have pig hook tools and lids, just in case). We made all our own cages back then.

With the demand we faced, we couldn't keep up. My Dad had a friend who was looking for projects for his challenged clients from a rehabilitation center in Maryland, so he set them up with making cages. He later went to several other rehabilitation centers and suggested they put the cages together too. For years he had several centers both in Florida and in Maryland making cages. He also set up a gentleman in Indiana, Mr. Kennett making wire cages because the business grew so fast and there just wasn't enough cages in the 80's. He already was making cages for fish and minnows so he knew some of the sources to make the cages. My Dad shared the product source information with many other hermit dealers especially those selling hermits wholesale, like Mr. Stetson, so the cage manufacture centers could make a good living supporting their clients.

When the plastic cage became popular from the pet industry and then were mass produced overseas the wire cage wasn't used as often. That ended the wire cage business for the most part. We still sell wire cages as a transportation home for hermits, and a wire climber inside an aquarium, but now recommend a cage with sides to hold in moisture and heat during the winter months.

How to Care for Your Land Hermit Crab

how to care for your hermit crab, provide it with new shells to grow into.
how to care for your hermit crab, know what shell to use.
how to care for your hermit crab, bathe hermit crabs twice per week.
how to care for your hermit crab, create a social environment for it.
how to care for your hermit crab, promote exercise.
how to care for your hermit crab, serve a healthy diet and clean water

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about hermit crabs and how to best care for them.

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 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.

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.

Do they like living together?

They do like to 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. 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.

Sand or gravel, which is best?

Sand is the best and is their natural environment. Anyone who puts hermits in gravel just does not 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.

Is it a boy or girl hermit crab?

Hermits are crustaceans and as in most other crustaceans, hermit crabs are male or female. 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 they really need a sponge, and what about 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.

How long do hermit crabs 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.

How much do hermit crabs eat?

They eat very little and can go several days, even 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.

How large do 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.

Why do they 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.

What do you do if a hermit comes out of its 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 will not be enough. Dip the naked crab in lukewarm 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 hermits carry diseases?

There has NEVER been 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 hermits 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.