We have all seen those weird looking critters at souvenir shops; they are always swarming one another in an open-air tank and there is inevitably a stench of fish around the tank. Despite this, we buy one of those small plastic containers with the pebbles in and get the free hermit crab that comes with it. Then we buy the food that the souvenir shop says we should feed the crabs and listen to such silly things as, “Don’t feed the crabs for 24 hours because they get car sick!”
It seems so easy to take care of such a small crab, right? Wrong. If the shops presented the proper care for hermit crabs, chances are people would think first before investing in an animal that can live upwards of 30 years. People would be careful when choosing their hermit crabs and would know that it is an investment to own them, albeit a worthwhile investment.
Hermit crabs are easy to care for once you have everything set up. However, it still takes work to make sure the tank is cared for. They are just like any other pet in that regard. Here are a few items that need to be taken into consideration before adopting a hermit crab from a souvenir shop or a pet store.
Items required to own a hermit crab:
Minimum of a 10 gallon tank (preferably glass)
A lid to cover the tank. If the lid is a screen, cover half of the screen with plastic wrap to ensure proper humidity levels.
Play sand. This may be bought at Home Depot for a few dollars. Do NOT get the sand that is offered at the pet store because that can clump to the gills of the crabs. Also, do NOT use pebbles because those can get stuck in the shells of the grabs and damage their soft bodies.
Fake plants for the crabs to climb and hide under.
Two “pools”, which can be made out of Tupperware containers.
Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables along with some sort of protein item (1).
These are the very basics to owning a hermit crab and making sure that the crab will live a healthy life.
Setting up the crab tank is relatively easy. The tank should be set up in an area that does not get direct sunlight and in an area that does not get too cool. Here is how to set up the hermit crab tank:
Place the tank in an area away from direct sunlight and drafts.
Wet down the play sand to where it is damp (not wet) with fresh water (not tap water).
Place enough sand in the tank to about three inches, or twice the height of the hermit crab that you will be getting (or already have).
Place the bowls within the tank and fill one with salt water that has been made with marine grade salt water (this may be purchased at a pet store) and fill the other with fresh water (preferably bottled). If the bowls are deep, make sure to place something with the bowl for the crabs to be able to climb out so they don’t drown.
Put in the fake plants where desired.
Put in the food bowl.
Put the lid of the tank into place.
Ta-da! You have the basic hermit crab tank set up all done! Now, you probably want to choose a hermit crab for the tank.
Choosing a hermit crab is nowhere as easy as it looks. You will want at least two hermit crabs for the tank (a good rule of thumb is one hermit crab per 3 gallons) because hermit crabs are social creatures and do better in groups of two or three, or even more if you have the room.
When you go to the hermit crab tank at the store, it is appropriate to handle the crabs. Get close enough to see if the crab has a sickly smell to it, such as the smell of rotting fish. If it does, do not take this crab because it may be sick or dying. If the crab has bugs crawling over it, do not take it because it might have mites and those are a danger to the tank.
If the crab is not too terribly outgoing or not willing to come out of its shell other than waving it’s big pincer at you, don’t worry. Some crabs are like that. Others are more outgoing and willing to come out of their shell. It depends on the crab and their personality.
Once you have chosen your crabs, take them home and let place them in their new habitat. Keep an eye on them for any signs of lethargy. This may be a sign of post-purchase syndrome, which can lead to death. There is not much that can be done for it.
If the crabs suddenly vanish from the tank, chances are that they dug down. Leave them be because they may be relaxing and acclimating to their new environment. They may be dug down for a couple of weeks.
Once the crabs are adjusted, they should start to move around more (particularly at night) and you can now enjoy them!
Remember, crabs are worthwhile pets once you have everything set up!
(1) Protein items can include sardines, chicken, steak, dried shrimp, shrimp, etc. Make sure the items do not have salt because table salt is harmful to the crabs. You can also purchase food at the Hermit Crab Addiction.
(2) Items such as the tank can be purchased at the Petsmart or Wal-mart in Gulfport or Biloxi. The plants can also be purchased there or at the Dollar Tree. It is possible to buy most of the items around the local Gulf Coast area, including hermit crabs which may be purchased at Petsmart or a local souvenir shop.