Photography and text by Sara Caruso
Many times new hermit crab owners end up paying more for items for the crabs than for the animal itself. Most of those accessories are pointless. Sponges, gravel, and wood are breeding grounds for bacteria. Plastic dishes are better than using shells for food and water. Shells are porous and absorb whatever you place in them. Avoid buying painted shells because they are often coated with toxic lead paint and will only harm the crabs and you in the long run.
Gravel is not a hermit crab’s friend. Hermit crabs do not come from gravelly areas. Purple Pincers, the species most commonly used in the pet trade, make their homes in trees. Gravel will trap the hermit crab’s feces and make it more likely for the crab to become ill from a bacterial infection. They also have a harder time walking around their enclosure on gravel.New crab owners are often told they need a sponge for the crab to drink from or to create humidity. Hermit crabs don’t need a sponge. A sponge will only create a harmful bacterial soup, especially if it is left in the crab’s water dish. Hermit crabs need humidity to breathe. So the most important thing is to keep the humidity between 60-80%. Spraying water from a spray bottle in a fine mist about a foot above an open tank can help achieve this. Purple Pincers can go a little lower if they have to because they are more adapted to staying on land longer. A sponge makes everything too wet and there is a risk that mold will grow. If mold spores get on the crab, it will grow in their shell and could cause death.
Hermit crabs like to climb and should be allowed to explore their new area. Wood however, can become a bacterial nightmare if little pieces of food get stuck in its crevices. It can also attract wood mites. Even tough mites may not harm the crabs, no one wants mites in their pet’s habitat. You can find plastic substitutes or even make your own climbing structure out of LEGOS.
With these simple steps, new crab owners will have a better start. Remember a hermit crab is a living and breathing animal and not a souvenir.