Have Yourself a Crabby Little Christmas

by Keri K. on December 4, 2009

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Our crab Mr. President in his original shell.

Our crab Mr. President in his original shell.

Perhaps because of their novelty, land hermit crabs seem to often be “gifted”… and then “re-gifted.” Our first two crabs came from my sister-in-law, who had received them as a housewarming gift and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Not surprisingly, the pair arrived in the tiny plastic box they had been sold in, along with a handful of fish gravel and a plastic palm tree. Hermit crabs can make great little pets, but there’s a lot more to their care than what an employee at a mall kiosk may tell you! Consider some of the following before you put a crab under the Christmas tree.

Because hermit crabs have a complicated life cycle and have never been successfully raised in captivity, “pet” hermit crabs are all collected from the wild. That means they basically go from a tropical beach to a shipping box to a store. It’s a stressful journey, especially since they often wait in poor conditions for someone to take them home. That’s why you should have proper accommodations ready for them before you ever pick them out! You can find a great hermit crab setup article here, with a list of all the things you’ll need for a healthy, happy hermie.

If you see more than one (or two) crabs that you like… get them. They’re accustomed to living in large groups, and will fare much better with friends! Remember to pick out a few extra shells that are about your crabs’ sizes. Given the opportunity, they may wish to swap into something a little more comfortable. I’ve always preferred “natural” looking shells, but the painted ones at the kiosk are okay, too. Your crab will pick the one that suits him best, no matter how pretty it is (or isn’t).

Once your new family additions are home, it’s not at all unusual for them to take some much needed R&R. Don’t worry if your crab quickly buries himself in the nice, warm, damp sand… and stays there. It’s hard not to dig him up, I know! You’re ready to interact with your new pet. However, it’s important to leave him be, even for two weeks or more. Now that he’s found himself somewhere he likes and feels safe, he might take the opportunity to molt. He’ll emerge again when he’s feeling good, ready to eat and explore.

The two biggest factors in helping him recover from his journey are temperature (70-80 degrees F) and humidity (75-90%), so keep checking those parameters, and make adjustments as needed. Too cold or too dry conditions are always disastrous for your crab.

You may not notice your crab’s nighttime excursions. Keep setting out fresh food and water, and smooth the sand around the dishes. That way you’ll be able to tell if he’s out and about while you’re sleeping.

While hermit crabs may only be a few dollars apiece, providing them with a proper home takes time and more money. These charming little creatures are not “throwaway” pets, and can live for upwards of twenty years with the right care!

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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica S. December 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I totally agree Kerri! I had years of enjoyment from the “hermies” that I shared my life with. Unfortunately, I did NOT have the knowledge to provide them with the proper care. I was just a kid and am lucky that mine did ad good as they did.

ladybug15057 December 4, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Hermit crabs are fascinating pets, and all to often the most misunderstood. As with any pet they do have criteria that must be met to survive while in captivity. 90% humidity is actually too high and due to how saturated the air is can make it stressful for the hermit crab to breath properly. When this happens they have been known to blow clear bubbles, but this too often causes gill damage which will not regenerate when they molt. The link to the food is to a hermit crab food. Hermit crab foods do not provide all the nutrients a hermit crab needs to remain healthy. The commercial foods many times contain ethoxyquin and/or copper sulphate. (insecticides) Hermit crabs are from the arthropod (insect) phylum. Please do visit Crab Street Journal and read the care sheets, articles and FAQ’s. There is also a search box one can use to research certain topics.

Wendy December 4, 2009 at 8:59 pm

We had 2 hermit crabs that we babysat while some neighbors moved. Even though it only took them a couple of days to get moved we had the crabs for well over a year or 2 before we moved and gave them to my daughter friend.
Funny thing, I never thought that I would like 1 of the crabs better than the other but, I did. One just seemed to pop out of it’s shell & walk on my hand & stay there peacefully. The other one was shy & once he popped his legs out of his shell, he was off & running (as well as a hermie can run). They were 2 totally different critters personality wise. Yes, I just said that hermit crabs have personality.

Keri K. December 7, 2009 at 8:23 am

Wendy – Anyone that’s had a hermit crab will agree with you! When we need a crab for a photo, I always take Fruity and Mr. President, because they’re outgoing and curious about new things. Taquito and Jam will often sit in their shells until they think you’re not looking, then scramble.

Ladybug – You’re right about the crab foods. One of the reasons I like the Nature Zone Bites is that it doesn’t have ethoxyquin. There’s a lot more good information on hermit crab nutrition out there than there used to be, and I encourage any crab owner (or potential owner) to read up on it beyond my basic post. I serve my own crabs mostly fresh stuff, with a bit of different commercial crab and fish foods — they especially like dried bloodworms and seaweed. And don’t forget the calcium!

Wendy December 13, 2009 at 2:18 am

That makes me feel better to know that I am not some crazy crab lady.
I couldn’t imagine trying to get a crab to pose for a picture.

Keri K. December 14, 2009 at 7:58 am

A little bit of luck and a lot of patience, Wendy!

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