Keeping hermit crabs alive can be a daunting task for anyone who has not dealt with these creatures before. They can thrive in the wild on their own, but things are different in captivity. Remember that you’ve pulled them from their natural habitat and placed them in a small enclosure in the name of ‘love’.
Unfortunately, most hermit crabs will die shortly after you place them in their new home. Adapting to a new environment can take a toll on them and most of them end up suffering from physical stress-induced death. Sometimes we also refer to this condition as the Post Purchase Death Syndrome.
Does this mean buying a hermit crab is sort of a death sentence to these awesome creatures? Absolutely not! I’ve compiled a few tips that you can use to keep hermit crabs alive. But before you read my tips, make sure you check the post on why hermit crabs die.
How To Keep Hermit Crabs Alive
A hermit crab’s lifespan when in captivity tends to be shorter, but this does not mean your crab can’t stay alive for a longer time. I’ve had hermit crabs for a long time and most of them haven’t died on me prematurely. The trick is to provide them with everything they need to survive and keep an eye on them regularly.
Below are a few tips I use to keep my pet hermit crabs alive:
1. Give your hermit crab a friend
For those who have done in-depth research on hermit crabs, you already know that they thrive in colonies. You should not keep a hermit crab alone in a tank because it might become stressed and lonely. The best course of action is to find your crab a friend or two to play with and provide companionship. Just ensure you are housing them in a large tank to avoid overcrowding and competition for spaces.
2. Change the Water & Food Daily
New hermit crab keepers are always guilty of neglecting their little pets. Most of them forget to change their fresh and saltwater as well as their food. A responsible pet keeper should get rid of leftover food and place fresh food. The same thing should be done for freshwater. Doing this will keep your crab alive and happy.
3. Provide The Right Amount Of Substrate
Pet stores are known to have a wide variety of substrates, but that doesn’t mean all of them are good for hermit crabs. These critters thrive in aquarium sand, playground sand, Eco Earth and coconut fiber. Make sure you are using any of the substrates we’ve mentioned and not just any substrate you see at the store.
You also need to ensure that the substrate is deep and moist enough for the crabs to dig and bury themselves when they need to hide or molt. Experts recommend that you have 6 inches of substrate at the shallowest point.
4. Make sure you get the right size of tank.
A ten or twenty-gallon tank is good for two to four small hermits. A twenty to forty-gallon tank is good for a dozen small or three to four large hermits. Hermit crabs are social animals and should have at least two other crabs with them. The proper home for your crabs should be one that holds in humidity but still lets in fresh air. A fish tank or reptile aquarium usually does nicely. You can even rinse out that old leaking tank from the attic and use it! Acrylic terrariums tend to work better, as they hold the humidity and heat more efficiently.
5. Handle your hermies with care.
Be patient with them when you first get your hermies–they will take a little time to adjust to their new home. When you get your hermit crabs, leave them in the cage for a few days. When you see that they don’t hunch into their shell when you pass by then wait another day and try to hold your hermit crab. Let your hermit crab explore your hand and get used to you
6. Provide shells for your hermie.
When hermit crabs grow, they need bigger shells. It is important to keep plenty of extra hermit crab shells similar to your crabs’ sizes in the tank at all times. Once a month or so, rotate a few undisturbed shells out with different styles of shells.
Purple Pincher Hermit Crabs prefer shells with round, circular openings. They will choose circular openings over oval openings. Ecuadorian Hermit Crabs will prefer an oval opening because they have flatter abdomens.
Never buy painted shells! Although companies may claim the paint is safe, the paint can chip off, and if the crabs eat it, it can be toxic. Most hermit crabs, when presented with a choice, will pick a “natural” shell over a painted one, even if it’s not the right size.
See the Warnings for information on what kinds of shells to avoid.
7. Provide a steady and varied diet.
Hermit crabs are scavengers by nature and will eat almost anything. Beware of commercial food, as it has many preservatives, such as copper sulfate, that may harm your little hermit. Don’t feed them anything spicy, hot, or with preservatives in it.
Hermit crabs love silver sides and shrimp that are fresh, freeze-dried krill, blood worms, etc., and other seafood. You can normally buy these fishy foods at your local grocery store.
If you cook, set aside a piece of steak or chicken, non-marinated to grill lightly for the crabs. They also eat raw meat.
If you have more than twenty crabs or so, try getting a fish head from a local fish market. They are usually happy to give them away. You can put all of your crabs in a large tank or a large clean Rubbermaid storage container, (clear, no lid, or lid with VERY large holes cut in it) drop in the fish head, and a water-bowl, and leave them in there to eat for a few hours.
You will most likely not want to do this very often, since the stench is pretty bad, but your crabs will love you for it!