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Hermit Crabs

Land Hermit Crabs make wonderful pets they are friendly, intelligent, odour free and very clean. They have evolved to live on land and use an empty shell as a portable home, as well as protection. Remember, it is a land animal and must not be kept in water.

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Useful items for your hermit crab

Use this handy list to help you select the necessary items to care for your hermit crab:

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Habitat & Life Span

The Land Hermit Crab is somewhat nocturnal by nature and will often sleep for most of the day. Low temperatures will also make them inactive and they will retract back into their shell. The more crabs you have the more active they become! They will live for many years if you follow these simple instructions, and over time they will become so friendly you will consider them part of your family.

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Housing Hermit crabs

Use an aquarium with a glass top, as this creates a humid environment which is essential for crab’s well being. A 35cm aquarium will house 3 Hermit Crabs comfortably. The floor of the aquarium should be kept dry and can be covered in either pet litter, untreated wood shavings or clean dry gravel. If you use gravel, it can be cleaned with hot salty water - never use soaps or detergents. Rinse well and leave in the sun to dry. Hermit Crabs love to climb and exercise so a piece of driftwood or mangrove root is ideal.

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Heating

Land Hermit Crabs are tropical so they must be kept between 26C and 32C and the temperature should never be allowed to fall below 20C. As hot air rises, the most effective way of heating the aquarium is with a Heatwave Heat Mat that sticks onto the base of the aquarium. These mats emit an even heat over the base which stimulates activity. A desk lamp with a low wattage bulb may also be used. It is important that you place a thermometer in the tank to monitor the temperature.

 

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Humidity

Humidity is the amount of water vapour in the air we breathe. Hermit crabs require high humidity to keep their gills moist adn allow them to breath properly. When humidity is low, the air is drier and they become inactive and some become dehydrated or even suffocate if the air is too dry.

To ensure you have enough humidity in their enclosure, make sure there is plenty of water in their drinking bowl


Hermit Crab SaltWater

Land Hermit Crabs need two bowls of water that should be changed daily. The first must contain freshwater for drinking, the second saltwater for bathing. This can be mixed using Hermit Crab Salt at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 100ml, make sure you use heavy bowls as Land Hermit Crabs will easily tip over light containers.

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Hermit Crab FoodDiet

Like all animals, Land Hermit Crabs have special dietary needs. Their staple diet should be specially formulated Hermit Crab pellets which contains all the vitamins and minerals they need. As a treat they can also be offered corn flakes, shredded coconut, apple and other varieties of fruit. Ensure they are given fresh food daily.

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Shells

One of the fascinating things about Land Hermit Crabs is that they live in other creatures discarded shells. As they grow they will leave their old shell and find another larger one to move into. To assist the crabs with this, a few spare shells should be kept in the aquarium for such occasions. As the crabs can be fussy about which shell should be their new home; make sure that the shells are only slightly larger then the one that they are currently living in.

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Moulting

Like other crabs, as they grow Land Hermit Crabs need to cast off their outer skeleton, this usually occurs about twice a year. After the crab has moulted it needs to be left alone for several weeks until its new skeleton hardens.

Some crabas become sluggish and inactive when they are about to moult, others spend more time than usual in and around the water bowl. The crabs drink more water in order to make their body swell slightly so as to crack their outer skin. This helps the skin to be discarded in a single piece.

When crabs moult, it is a very traumatic time for them, so you should take care not to touch them too much whilst they are moulting. After moulting, the skin is usually left on the floor. Crabs will eat this skin as it is rich in calcium. They may eat this discarded old skin before you know they have actually moulted.

Crabs will usually bury in the gravel for a week or so while their skin hardens up. Make sure there is plenty of food and water in their enclosure even if they are inactive. They feed mainly at night and will sneak out during the night to feed. While their skin is soft, don't touch the crabs, just leave them alone but make sure they have plenty of food and water.

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Fighting

Hermit crabs will fight if they are over crowded. Bigger crabs tend to push smaller ones out of the way as they move around the tank.  To solve this problem add some more climbing objects so the crabs can spread out a little, or get a larger tank for your crabs.

Competition for shells will sometimes result in agression with crabs known to pull others out of their shells so they can have them. Sometimes the crab being pulled out will lose a leg to save himself, which they will slowly grow back each time they moult. If you have several crabs, make sure they have plenty of shells to choose from.

 


Stress

Stress among hermit crabs can be caused by:

  1. Overcrowding and bullying
  2. Extremes in temperature, too hot or too cold
  3. Being dropped onto hard surfaces
  4. A crab kept alone

Stress can make crabs inactive and sluggish. They can also come out of their shell and walk about 'naked'. Some crabs just crawl off into the corner and will not return to their shell. This leaves them open to attack from other crabs, and they have no protection. It is not normal for these crabs to walk about without a shell on their soft body.

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Poisoning

Many crabs fall victim to poisoning without their owners realizing it. It is very important to remember not to spray any chemicals near your crabs, or where your crabs play.

Cleaning chemicals such as furniture polish, insect sprays, room deodorants and fresheners can kill your crabs if the spray gets into the food and water bowls. As they have very small bodies, only a small amount can have devastating effects. Keeping your crabs in any room in the house where there are sprays being used can cause poisoning. In the bedroom, hairsprays and deodorants are chemicals toxic to crabs also.

Another area for concern, is placing your crabs onto carpet for recreation. Many carpets are cleaned with chemicals, and much of the chemical is left as residue within the carpet fibres after the carpet has dried. Crabs pick up these particles of soap and cleaning chemicals when they walk about on the carpet. It is safer to play with yuor hermit crab on tiles or lino floors which are cleaned and rinsed so no residue remains.

Signs of poisoning include the crab dropping its shell off and crawling about naked. They may also head for the water bowl adn stay there. The shell is held on by muscles in the crabs' body, when they are sick, they cannot hold the shell on. They cannot wash off toxins on their bodies, and will pull the affected legs off. As their skin is porous, toxins can get in through their skin adn kill them. Poisoning is usually fatal.

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Life Expectancy

In the wild, crabs have been known to live around 50 years and growth in these crabs is around 2mm per year. They change shells throughout their  whole lives as they grow bigger.

In captivity, life expectancy is really a matter of how well they are cared for. Some people have them for years without trouble, other owners have problems. If you follow the simple rules of caring for them, your hermit crab can live for a very long time.