Photography and text by Sara Caruso
Telling anyone you feed your hermit crabs pizza gets you quite a lot of looks. Hermit crabs, in fact, need a varied diet to survive. When adopting a hermit crab for the first time it is important to understand what the crab likes to eat.
Hermit crabs are scavengers in the wild and will eat pretty much anything they come across. Too many times crabs don’t get enough nutrition because of misinformation. Those little brown pellets new crab owners are told to feed them are boring to crabs. Ironically, the best diet for a crab is what you like to eat.
Giving the dog table scraps is a bad idea but not for hermit crabs! Chicken on the bone, ribs, corn on the cob, and the leftover tails from shrimp are a crab’s dream food. Crabs are nocturnal feeders so feed them right after you eat dinner. Cooked meat such as beef, pork or chicken, eggs, and any kind of seafood are a great source of protein. Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, peaches and apples, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes can provide crabs with vitamins and minerals. Crabs particularly like pungent foods. Even if the food isn’t pungent to us, crabs will rub their antennae on it and then “taste” their antennae to see if it’s edible.
Hermit crabs like pizza. It should be given in moderation, but the cheese is a source of calcium. Pumpkin bread, corn bread muffins, and coconut macaroons are their favorites. Hard dog or cat food in a pinch can also substitute for their usual diet. Organic blue chips are the perfect source of sea salt, which they need in their diet as a constant. Otherwise sea salt in a canister also works. Stay away from iodized (table) salt as it can poison them. As with dogs, some foods are toxic to crabs so avoid onions, citrus, and chocolate. Some people suggest peanut butter for crabs, but it can clog their gills. If you are at a loss for food ideas, some commercial pet foods can be an option.
Not all store bought foods are bad for crabs. Birdseed sticks and cuttlebones are a great vitamin source for crabs and a good way to keep them fed if you have to go on a trip. Turtle medleys with freeze dried crickets and meal worms are always a hit with crabs as well as freeze dried shrimp. Crabs love the smell of them, not to mention they can act as an easy source of protein for a newly molted crab.
Always remember to never leave food in their habitat for more than a day. It can grow mold, attract mites, and make the crabs more susceptible to bacterial infections. So many crab owners think it’s safe to leave moldy food in their tanks, but think about it, would you want your children eating moldy bread? Dry foods, like the bird sticks, can be left in a little longer as long as they are hanging away from moisture and the bottom of the habitat where they can become contaminated.
Feeding crabs every other day and changing their water at the same time you feed them is the best way to keep them healthy. You don’t have to give them a lot of food all at once, since crabs only eat about a pea-sized portion at a time. Try these alternatives to the standard hermit crab food and give your new friend a healthier diet.