Owning hermit crabs as pets can be a wonderful experience. Hermit crabs make wonderful pets for owners of all ages and are excellent for teaching children the responsibility of pet care prior to bringing home more demanding animals. No matter where you live or how old you are, when you choose to own hermit crabs as pets, it is very important to understand how to care for them properly. One priority for crab owners is to have the proper habitat (or crabitat) prepared for your small friends.
There are several ways to prepare a habitat for hermit crabs. Mall kiosks that sell hermit crabs will usually have a few starter kits for new owners to choose from. Pet stores may also sell several starter kits for new hermit crab owners. These starter kits typically include food, a small “home” such as a coconut shell, substrate (such as sand), a water dish and sponge, and occasionally, extra shells. Zoo Med offers a comprehensive starter kit that includes all of these items as well as a thermometer, water conditioners, and antiseptic hand gel. These additional items are quite useful and will help hermit crab owners prepare for success.
Whether you buy a starter kit or create your own hermit crab habitat, there are several factors that are very important to consider before making any purchases. By following the above information you can buy the right hermit crab supplies to build your own habitat.
The size of the tank may range and should be proportional to the number of crabs you choose to own. The habitat should have room for food, water, extra shells, and toys. The crabs should have plenty of room to wander if they wish. Additionally, it is a good idea to purchase a habitat large enough for at least two crabs as hermit crabs prefer company. In fact, sometimes in the wild crabs travel in packs as large as 100 members! Keeping this in mind, it is generally agreed that you should have at least two crabs, but even more can be very beneficial.
In addition to size, you need to ensure that the habitat can retain humidity. Hermit crabs cannot live in an overly dry environment. The humidity must be at least 70%. Also, the habitat should never have a temperature lower than 75 degrees. Often, temperature can be maintained by using a heater. Some heaters are made to be placed under the tank. These are especially useful for hermit crabs because they will often burrow into the sand in their tank, and the warmth from the heater will increase their level of comfort. These specific environmental factors are absolutely necessary to be a successful owner of hermit crabs. Crab owners should have a thermometer to monitor the temperature and a hygrometer to measure the humidity. Often you can purchase one device that measures both. For example, Ambient Weather makes a product about the size of a pen that measures temperature and humidity quickly and accurately.
Another important element of your hermit crab habitat is the substrate you line the cage with. Whatever you choose it should be deep enough for them to burrow into, but not too deep to maintain warmth above the substrate itself. Your substrate is most effective when it is 3-5 times the height of your biggest crab. However if you do choose a warmer that stays under the habitat, you must ensure the substrate isn’t too deep allow heat in. Great examples of substrate are sand or coconut fiber.
The sand does not need to be any special type, and “hermit crab sand” that you’ll find at pet stores is often overpriced and unnecessary. You can purchase play sand from hardware stores for much less, and it works just as well. Wherever you purchase the sand from, it is very important to make sure it isn’t contaminated. Basically, don’t use sand that is wet or that has holes in the bag when you purchase it. Also, if you find the sand has an unusual scent, choose another bag or brand.
You can choose coconut fiber instead of sand as a substrate for your hermit crabs. This can be found at pet stores or online. Zoo Med makes Eco Earth, which is a commonly used substrate. This type of substrate is made from the husks of coconuts and an excellent option for hermit crab habitats. You purchase the substrate in bricks and soak it in water to expand it before lining the habitat. It is easy to burrow into and also helps maintain vital humidity. It is also wonderful for molting because it won’t collapse on a molting crab who may have buried itself. Hermit crabs can also eat coconut fiber for additional nutrients, so this type of substrate offers a variety of benefits.
Some owners choose to mix the sand and coconut fiber. This is absolutely acceptable. You would prepare the coconut fiber normally, line the cage, then add the sand and mix it all together. No matter what substrate you choose, you’ll want to try and maintain the consistency you might use when building sandcastles. The substrate shouldn’t be dry, but not too wet either.
The last few items that you’ll need to properly care for your hermit crab are toys, a food dish, shells, a water dish, and a sponge. Hermit crabs are very active and it is in their best interest to keep toys in their habitat. Hermit crab toys can be purchased in any pet store and there are certainly various options available.
Little huts (often made of coconut shells) are a great option, as are driftwood, cholla wood, hermit crab “pools,” and plastic or wooden items for them to climb on. You will also want to provide extra shells for your hermit crabs. You will need food and water dishes. The water dish should be big enough for the crabs to sit in but never so deep that they could drown. For bigger water dishes, you could try adding a few pebbles so the crabs have a way to climb out if they are in danger of drowning. The sponge you include can also be used for crabs to retreat from the water if needed. On a related note, crabs do have special requirements for their water. Chlorine will kill the crabs, so you must use dechlorinated water. You can do this yourself or purchase special water, but keep this in mind as you are creating a home for your new friends.
Remember that crabs can be wonderful pets but they do have some unique needs. As longs as you are able to provide a proper habitat for your hermit crab, you can be a successful and happy owner for years to come!Last updated: July 25, 2012 at 22:29 pm