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Pet Hermit Crab

Pet Hermit Crab Information

Hermit crabs are tropical crustaceans. Not all crustaceans are marine animals. Crustaceans have ten legs. The land hermit crab is the one sold most in pet stores. They cannot breathe underwater and if you put them underwater, it will not take them very long to drown. The shell that it wears is not its own, but rather one that is found or stolen from a sea-snail. After developing, the baby hermit crab crawls ashore to find a sea shell to claim for its first home.

Unlike most other crustaceans, the abdomen of a hermit crab is exposed so it must wear a shell to protect itself. The shell also provides a quick place to hide as the hermit crab will retract itself into it and become hard to see or hard to get at. The hermit crab is always searching for a better shell. As it grows, it will need a new shell. Switching shells never ends. So providing your hermit crab with multiple shells, and larger ones as he grows, is important. Sometimes he may move into another shell simply to clean his old shell. Then, once cleaned, he will move back into it.

Hermit Crab Lifespan

The life span of a hermit crab is thirty years or even more. However, generally in captivity, their life expectancy is only about one to three years with average care. But if you give your hermit crab expert care, their lifespan can be up to twenty or more.

A leading cause of death of a pet hermit crab is dehydration. Another is exposure to low temperatures for an extended period of time.

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Caring For Hermit Crabs

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Hermit Facts

  • One big claw for defense and for gathering food. The claw has gills in order to conserve moisture.
  • One small claw for feeding and drinking
  • Four well developed legs for walking
  • Four much smaller legs to hold on to the inside of the shell
  • Two straight antennae for touching and hearing
  • Two bent antennae for smelling and tasting
  • Two eyes for seeing
  • A soft abdomen that curls inside the shell and is held in place by sickle-shaped hooks (part of the crab's tail) called uropods.

Any lost leg, antennae or claw can be regenerated through a process called molting.

Hermit crabs travel in groups in the wild, usually with about 25 members in each troop. It is, therefore, a good idea when you have hermit crabs as pets to have several of them to keep each other company.

These crabs are nocturnal, so they may seem inactive during the day, although, if you wake your hermit crabs during the day, they usually sleep during the night.

Hermit Crab Habitat, Making A House for Your Hermit Crab

A glass aquarium is the best hermit crab cage; however, a plastic cage will make a fine hermit crab home. Cage setup is not difficult. Cover the aquarium since hermit crabs are talented escape artists. Use a sliding glass or plastic top since it will maintain the humidity in the cage, which is really important. A wire cage is not recommended since it does not hold humidity.

Use two to three inches of sand or gravel to cover the bottom of the cage. Special gravel is available which contains dolomite to help kill any odors.

Clean the cage at least once per week to remove buried food or droppings. If you use sand, replace it once per month and thoroughly clean the cage.

Hermit Crabs Need Moisture at All Times

It is essential that you keep the air in the cage moist. If your hermit crabs get too dry, they will die. Land hermit crabs are designed with modified, stiffened gills which allow them to breathe air. But these gills must stay moist, otherwise they will not work and the crabs will suffocate.

An easy way to assure that there is always adequate moisture in the cage is to make a pond and put a sponge in the water. The sponge provides extra surface for evaporation will help provide humidity. Be sure to thoroughly rinse out the sponge when you clean the cage.

Do not place the cage in direct sunlight or near a heater. This depletes their moisture and your hermit crab will die.

Use a misting bottle to keep your crabs moist and prevent suffocation.

Temperature of the Cage

The temperature of the cage should be somewhere between 70° to 85° Fahrenheit. It's a good idea to get a thermometer for the cage, although it should be fine as long as the temperature in the room is within this range. Around 80 degrees is ideal to have happy, healthy, active crabs.

Heating pads that are especially designed for hermit crabs are available. Heating pads are better than heating lamps which can dry our the air.

Your crabs can die if they are exposed to prolonged temperatures below 65 degrees.

Provide Water

Provide clean, luke warm water in the cage at all times. Do not use tap water unless it has set out over night to let the chlorine evaporate. Bottled or distilled water work well.

Keep the water shallow so the hermit crabs can easily enter and leave the dish. A land hermit crab can drown in its water dish if it cannot climb out. To avoid this problem, you can fill the dish with rocks or a piece of driftwood to help the crab climb out. Do not use dishes that are slippery, wobbly or too deep. Never use a metal dish.

Hermit Crabs Are Climbers

Hermit crabs love to climb and explore. To keep them active and happy, provide lots of things for them to climb on. They like choya wood (the dried skeleton of a dried up cactus, their favorite), driftwood, cocoanut husks and coral.

How To Take Care Of A Hermit Crab, Hermit Crab Care

Hermit Crab Diet

Feed your hermit crab food you can get at a pet store. It will contain the essential ingredients and vitamins they need to stay healthy. But you should also supplement their diet with a variety of other foods. Hermit crabs are scavengers. They will eat almost anything, but do not give them dairy products, meat, salty or acidic food. They like various kinds of fruits and veggies, such as lettuce, grapes, bananas and apples. Be sure to remove any leftovers the next day since they are perishable. Hermit crabs also enjoy pieces of dry cereal, popcorn and crackers.

Hermit crabs also need calcium which they get from shell dishes and sand dollars.

Provide Lots of Shells

Hermit crabs spend their lives looking for new shells. It is good to provide a variety of shells. They will continue to grow as long as they have a larger shell to move into. You will also find that they change shells just because they can. Some pet stores or mall displays sell a variety of fun, decorated shells. You can even get hermit crab size, mini football helmets from your favorite team for your pets to live in.

Hermit Crab Molting

Hermit crabs have rigid exoskeletons that do not grow as the crab grows. They must shed their exoskeleton every now and then as it grows. This is the process known as molting and takes about ten days. Molting is strenuous for the hermit crab and death is known to most commonly occur at this time. During molting, any limbs that the hermit crab has lost since its last molt will be regenerated. Smaller hermit crabs molt more often that larger ones because they are growing faster. Small hermit crabs may molt as often as every other month, whereas adult may only molt once a year.

Signs of a Hermit Crab Molting

When caring for a hermit crab, watch for these signs of molting:

  • Eyes look like they have cataracts
  • Ashy colored exoskeleton
  • Lethargy
  • Inactive antennae
  • Tangled antennae
  • Healthy crab suddenly digging a hole for itself (but make sure their home is not too cold, hot or dry)

NOTE: A crab which is fresh from the pet store may dig itself a hole just because it is uncomfortable in its new surroundings. So don't go just by this.

  • Eating and drinking a lot. This is usually done at night, so you won't see it. But what they are doing is storing up food and water. Look for a small, blackish, bubble-like blob on the left side of their abdomen, just below the fifth pair of legs.

What To Do When A Hermit Crab Is Molting

If you see that your hermit crab is molting, separate him from any other crabs in the cage. It is a good idea to have an extra, smaller cage to use when one of your crabs is molting. The shed exoskeleton will look like the body of a dead hermit crab. Be careful not to throw away the shell so the hermit crab can eat it. This provides the crab with necessary calcium. If you accidentally thrown it away, you can always provide needed calcium by putting pieces of cuttlebone (they are sold for birds in pet stores) in its water dish.

Water is always important to hermit crabs, but especially during molting. The extra moisture helps the crab shed the old exoskeleton. Make sure that the cage always has adequate moisture. If a hermit crab has difficulty shedding the old exoskeleton, it could die.

Handling Your Hermit Crab

It is perfectly fine to pick up and handle your hermit crab. They will respond to gentle care and can be quite playful.

Your hermit crab may pinch you, but only because it is either fearful or afraid they will fall. If your hermit crab does pinch you and won't let go, quickly run to a sink and run lukewarm water over it. It will let go.

 

 

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