More Behavior Hints


Below is more information on caring for your Hermit Crab.

Hermit Crab Behavior Hints

What do you do if a hermit crab comes out of its shell?

Hermit crab may leave its shell for many reasons - the important thing is to get the animal back in it. To prevent hermit from harboring any dust mites when he come out of his shell it is always a good idea to first, boil the empty shell ( just a few seconds will do) and rinse it with cool water. Then, fill the clean shell with cool water. Finally, dip the naked crab in water and gently push it into the shell, abdomen 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. But, 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 at this point at all times that he can get into. Sometimes mother nature has her own way of dealing with these things but sometimes we can prevent the worst from happening.

How can I make my hermit crabs more active?

Hermit crabs are nocturnal, so they are never going to be as active as cats or dogs. However, there are several things you can do to promote activity. Playing with your hermit will always encourage him during the day to come out then. First, you must start with healthy land crabs and a warm environment. Cold rooms and air conditioners do not make for a happy hermit. Second, water induces activity in the form of bathing or misting. They love the spa bath and it is full of calcium. And third, make their habitat a playground setting with a dry bottom medium and plenty of coral, driftwood, sea fans or lava rock for climbing and exploring. Plus they love lots of extra shells to play with. They try them out like toys. The more you take them out the more active they will become as they adjust to their new environment. If you have a routine they will adjust around when you arrive home daily and will scratch at the glass looking for you. They will recognize your voice too as many customers have told us over the years.

What happens when a crab molts?

As part of its growth cycle, a hermit crab molts, or sheds its exoskeleton, usually once a year between May and September. The process can take two weeks or more. Initially, the hermit crab may bury itself in the sand or and stay there for a few days. They do not like gravel for this reason. At this point, separate it from its companions by installing a divider in the habitat or by moving the other crabs to a separate habitat and leaving the molting crab in its familiar, stress-free environment. This is a safety precaution as some crabs are aggressive when others are molting. The next step is the shedding of the exoskeleton, which the crab will leave hanging in front of its shell. This shed skin is then eaten by the crab because it contains a valuable hardening agent called chitin. Do not remove it. Because it is vulnerable with its new soft skin and it needs a lot of moisture, it may bury itself once molted for protection, and to seek moisture. If you know where the crab has buried itself, sprinkle water on the surface above it. Once the new soft pink skin becomes hard and purple, the hermit crab can return to its companions. It may come out at night so be sure to have a dish of water available that your hermit can get into during this stage. Add ground up egg shells to his food will also add extra calcium to his diet at this very special time, if you do not have sea fan.

What's the ideal temperature for a hermit crab?

The 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 72 degrees Fahrenheit, dormancy and hibernation will occur. A long hibernation may permanently affect the hermit crab. When you lower household temperatures with air-conditioning or energy-saving winter thermostat settings, heat the hermit crabs' habitat with a light or a special heater that warms the bottom medium. (A 20 watt bulb is enough for heat.) If it is too cold for too long they can develop what they call Crab Stress.

What makes a hermit crab aggressive?

Despite their name, hermit crabs are actually very social, community oriented creatures and are rarely aggressive. It is perfectly all right to have various sizes of hermit crabs living together. The larger ones won't pick on the smaller ones. Any aggressiveness has to do with a fight over a favored shell rather than territory. Providing a large enough habitat with plenty of extra shells for playful switching and growing into should reduce fighting. When determining the right size shell for a hermit crab to grow into, consider two points. First, the opening of the new shell should be the same size as the large pincher so the hermit crab can completely close itself off for protection. Second, depending on how far out of the old shell the hermit crab is protruding, the new shell should be about one-third larger. Shells that are too large are cumbersome to the crab and they become lethargic.

Once in awhile a large crab who has been on his own for a long time and is not use to other hermits will try and make an area his territory. All hermits get along but they can be territorial. If they come from different shops at different times they'll need to reestablish their boundaries. You might need to remove those aggressive types and they can sometime cause trouble in your hermit land. Letting them play together as you watch them will help your aggressive crab become more accepting to other crabs. This takes patience and time.

How can you tell the age and sex of a hermit crab?

Although not scientifically conclusive, hermit crab keepers have widely held assumptions when determining the age and sex of land hermit crabs. The little teeth on the larger claw seem to imply age. The more teeth, the older the hermit crab. Of course, size is another factor. Jumbo hermit crabs (softball size and larger) are estimated to be between 15 and 50 years old. Many believe the presence or absence of long hair along one side of the abdomen determines the animal's sex. It is assumed that females have this long hair for the purpose of holding eggs. It can be difficult to see. Hermit crabs are not known to breed in captivity, however, as their eggs must hatch and become larvae in the sea. Sometimes you’ll get a hermit that has eggs attached. They will not hatch, but they will fall off. That hermit needs an extra large shell to hold the eggs and hermit until she unattaches the eggs.

However what you can see are the legs and the claw which also can have hair. It is thought that male hermits have hair on their legs and claw and females do not. You usually can notice this when they are about the size of golf balls. So even though they need the hair on their abdomen they do not have hairy legs.

What do I do if my hermit crab gets parasites?

Although not usual, parasites can sometimes invade the hermit crab and its environment. They are only dust mites from your home. An environment that is too high in humidity and/or too warm can cause the dust mites to invade your cage, because it is a perfect breeding ground. If you notice parasites on the crab's body, follow these steps to eliminate them. First, break down the entire tank and discard the bottom medium. Thoroughly clean and rinse the tank itself. Boil all other objects in the habitat, including extra shells, food and water dishes, and climbing items like coral, rock and wood. (You can also microwave them for a very short period.) Rinse the items and allow to air dry. Finally, bathe the crab by dunking it completely in lukewarm water several times a day for a few days. Poor off the water with the crab still in the dish as the mites float and will float off. Return the crab to its clean environment after several days of isolation and several baths to assure you have removed all the household dust mites. Do not be disturbed. Everyone has dust mites in their homes, carpets, beds and furniture, they are just a few of the places you could find them. It does not mean you have a dirty hermit. You may need to move him to a different room to be sure there is not another invasion.

Should hermit crabs be handled or just watched?

Both. While it is fascinating to watch their antics, it is equally exciting to gently handle hermit crabs and eventually have them respond to you. Just like other pets, hermit crabs become familiar with their owner's voice and touch. They have been known to eat out of their owner's palms, ride on their shoulders and come out of their shell when called. Shy crabs have been trained with frequent misting, daily contact and talking. Each day they come out looking for their showers and for you. Hermit crabs do have different personalities and will learn to adjust to yours.

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. Adding chlorine free water-filled sponges in there water dish and misting crabs, along with twice-weekly baths and daily drinking water will help an arid environment. Second, the loss could result from physical stress called Crab Stress, such as a traumatic molt or toxic interference from paint fumes, perfume, hairsprays, or insecticides. Finally, an aggressive crab could have attacked it and the crab could have dropped its claw as it escaped. This is common Claws and legs will regenerate during the next molt, however, so don't worry.

What size habitat best suits a hermit crab?

A good rule of thumb is two to four crabs per one-gallon tank but more will fit as they live in colonies. As with all creatures, however, the larger the habitat, the happier the residents. Because they do live in colonies they enjoy company regardless of the size.

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. I have handled 1,000's of 1,000's of hermits at a time and I'm still alive and well.

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 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. They also like to nibble on the sponge once in awhile, so having a sponge in their dish can be a good thing for your hermit.

What Size Shell and type is right For my big hermit?

You never want to be to big. Like a pair a shoes just 1/2 size bigger is a better fit. When ordering a new shell it is always helpful to the one picking it out if they knew what type shell he is in. Hopefully he’ll take to one of these. It is always difficult for a large crab. THEY can be so fussy and may need to try several kinds before they are happy. Weight is not usually the problem, as so many think, it is the configure within the shell. It needs to match there inner body which has formed a certain way over the years. Another important thing to know is because they are new large shells they may have a slight smell after travel so be sure to rewash them over and over and get liquid in the center of the shell to make sure there is nothing left in the shell. Shake it out over and over. A quick boil is a good idea too just in case. Big shells can be difficult to be spotless. Hermits don’t mind and will spend hours upon hours doing it themselves, So you can save them so much time. In the wild shells may often have a little reminisce of the old inhabitants so they are use to it. It is like old home week for them.

When you need a 3 inch shell or bigger you’ll need to call the shop as that is not on the site. We have a Green skin Mother of Pearl shell that works and they seem to love it They also like whelks and large fox shells at this point in their lives. You can get fancy shells too when they are that big but they can be costly. After all your hermits now needs a luxury Condo, nothing standard will do.

How often do they change shells? If they don't change shells does it indicate illness?

They can change immediately upon seeing a new shell or wait up to a year or so. It just depends on the crab. A quick change is always a good indication he is now a happy crab. He may go in and out of his new and old shells and try several before he decides. He may try several then stay in his old until he is ready. They can be like kids, fussy. They can also be like kids in that they can fight over just about anything including extra shells and even the shell they are actually in. That is why it is important to have several of different kinds and sizes in the cage at all times and especially when there are more than one. This does prevent crab back seat bickering.
Keep in mind when ordering shells Weight is not usually the problem, as so many think, it is the configure within the shell. It needs to match there inner body which has formed a certain way over the years. That’s really why hermits maybe fussy and not change. It all depends on what they are use to kind of like humans and shoes.

Not changing shells does not mean they are sick. It could mean they don’t like what you picked out for them as they are particular or they just are not ready to.