Land Hermit Crab Info
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Land Hermit Crabs as
Hermit crabs have been around for a long time as a familiar "alternative" pet. Many hermit crabs suffered or died from inadequate care due to the lack of or poorly understood knowledge available on how to properly keep them. Only recently, has there been strides made to really understand this animal's needs and requirements in order to keep them successfully in a captive environment. Below is a summary of 13 main ideas that are important if one hopes to keep a hermit crab as a pet successfully.
The Tank Setup
A hermit crab is going to need a proper enclosure in which to live. Consider a 10-gallon size tank as a decent size enclosure for a couple of small individuals; larger cages are necessary when keeping multiple animals. Also, keep in mind the size of the hermit crabs themselves. The larger the hermit crab(s) you get the larger the overall setup needed per animal to ensure there is enough territory space for all to be happy. If you have multiple mediums or just a couple of large individuals, it may be necessary to house your crabs in a 20 or 30-gallon long size tank. Wire cages are not suitable habitats for hermit crabs unless you live in a very warm and humid region such as Florida. It is important to make sure your hermit crab's cage has a secure lid to prevent escapes. Use some cage accessories such as rough rocks and branches to decorate the cage and provide stimulating climbing exercise for the hermit crabs. Do not forget to arrange some areas of the cage to act as hiding places...a creative arrangement or 'cave' of fake silk plants, for example, can provide ground cover for the crabs to hide in or under without necessairily blocking your view of the crab totally.
Hermit crabs are shoreline animals living near the edges of marine tide lines. The cage preferably should have either a sand substrate (children's play sand is best) or a sand/soil mixture substrate sculpted to provide both high, medium and low areas in the tank. The minimum depth of the substrate should be at least 3 inches, as hermit crabs like to burrow especially when about to molt.
Temperature and Humidity
Keep your hermit crabs at an ambient air temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit along with a high relative humidity level (70-90%) to prevent desiccation, bad molting or death. Do not make an "educated guess," keep both a thermometer and a humidity gauge in the tank to tell you what the relative temperature and humidity levels in the tank are. Consistently low humidity level within a hermit crab setup may be the most common reason for hermit crab deaths. In addition to daily misting, keeping the low and medium substrate areas of the setup damp (not soaking wet) will help keep humidity up. Keep the high ground dry. Enclosures that are kept too wet are as bad as when kept too dry. While one sure way to keep humidity high is to cover up a screen lid with Plexiglas or plastic wrap, it is important to know that you should not house your hermit crab in a non-ventilated setup. Lack of proper ventilation will cause molds and bacteria outbreaks in the setup possibly killing your hermit crab. If it is necessary to cover the lid to help with humidity problems, keep at least one fourth to one half of the tank uncovered.
All animals need water and hermit crabs are no exception. Provide fresh water in a shallow dish with the water no deeper than one inch. The hermit crab must be able to get in and out of the dish easily otherwise it can drown. Design the tank to place the water dish in the low area to mimic a shoreline habitat. Experienced hermit crab keepers believe that it is important to setup a separate brackish water area for hermit crabs to use in addition to fresh water. Table salt is not appropriate for creating a brackish water solution. A recipe for creating a brackish water solution is to add 5 tablespoons of rock salt or seawater salt mix to one gallon of fresh water. Regardless of the water type provided to the hermit crabs, it must be kept clean and fresh with regular changes. Do not allow the water to stagnate. Unclean or stagnant water can lead to a hermit crab's death. If you choose to use tap water instead of purchasing purified bottled water you must condition the tap water with a water conditioner such as Amquel or Stress Coat to remove toxic chlorine and chloramamine before placing that water into the hermit crab's cage.
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Molting and Shells
Hermit crabs must molt out of their old exoskeleton in order to grow. It is necessary to always provide your crab with enough suitable empty shells of various sizes so that it can choose an appropriate one after it molts. Hermit crabs do not always tell you when they are about to molt so keep several empty shells in the cage at all times. A hermit crab that has molted, but does not have an appropriate sized shell in which to crawl into may die.
It is best to not handle your hermit crab unless it is necessary such as when cleaning the cage. When you do handle a hermit crab, use caution as their large claw can deliver a very sharp pinch and sometimes they will not let go. A hermit crab that does not want to let go sometimes can be encouraged to release its grip by holding it under running water. Do not drop your hermit or allow it to crawl around on a table where it can fall off. Such falls from heights can injure or kill it.
The cause of most illnesses in hermit crabs is due to neglect from improper cage setups often from low humidity levels or bacterial outbreaks from soiled, unclean water or dirty cages. Paying careful attention the hygiene of your hermit crab's setup will avoid most problems.
House only similar sized crabs together. Do not house large individuals with smaller ones, as accidents or cannibalism is likely to occur. Be careful if your tank is in front of a window as the sunlight hitting the tank can harm hermit crabs by making the temperature rise to unsafe levels. Do not spray any type of bug killer pesticide (including flea/tick sprays) anywhere near the room where a hermit crab cage is set up. Designed to kill invertebrates, the fumes and residue of these pesticides may have an adverse or fatal effect on a hermit crab, which is also an invertebrate. If you chose to use soil as part of your substrate, do not use it if you are unsure if it has been previously treated with pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. If you must, stick to sterile potting soils or peat moss.
Hermit crabs are nocturnal animals and will make a lot of noise during the night hours as they explore their home. If you keep a hermit crab tank in a bedroom night time noises can disturb a person's sleep.
Hermit crabs are not living toys and are not cheap disposable pets. Please do not buy one and treat it as such. Hermit crabs can live 10-30 years with proper care. Success at keeping your pet hermit crab for the length of its lifespan rests solely on your ability and responsibility to provide it with the proper care it needs.