There are a lot of pets out there that parents get for their children to teach them responsibility: Hamsters, mice, betta fish, goldfish, turtles. A lot of these are considered easy to care for and throw away pets. Hermit Crabs is one of those pets that are considered easy to care for but actually are not.
Pet stores like to sell hermit crabs with brightly painted shells to children. They give the a shaker of food, a food dish, a water dish, a little coconut shell hut, some playbox sand, and a couple shells all wrapped up in a critter carrier. Here’s a list of things they don’t tell you about Hermit Crabs.
Hermit Crabs Have Gills, Not Lungs
Unless your bedroom is warm and moist like the beachside in a tropical climate, your crabs are going to suffocate and die. Air that is too dry doesn’t have enough water in it to get the air through those little hermit crab gills. The solution to this, of course, is to treat hermit crabs like lizards and turtles and make sure you supply them with a terrarium that maintains the optimum humidity either through a mister or a bubbler or waterfall and the optimum heat through a lamp or heating pad.
Hermit Crabs Shed Their Skins – And Then Eat Them
Every once in a while, a hermit crab needs to go through a molting situation. He grows a new exoskeleton and must shed the old one before the new one hardens. In the wild, they must hide and hide well or else other hermit crabs and other predators will eat them. They handle this by burying themselves in the sand on the beach and stay down for weeks at a time. They survive by the humidity of the air and the calcium in their old exoskeleton. Hermit crabs don’t always survive this process, either by having waited too long or not having the proper conditions or nutrition beforehand. A crab that survives its first molt in a new home is a happy crab.
Hermit Crabs Come Pre-Poisoned Most of the Time
The paint they use to color the shells for the little crabs is non-toxic and water-based. It won’t hurt humans. A hermit crab is not a human. The paint is often rubbed off by the sand inside the cage and ends up mixed in with the water and food or stuck to the claws the crabs use to carry food to their mouths. If your hermit crab has a painted shell or is in a tank with panted shells, the crab is very likely to already be poisoned. The only way to solve this is to separate out the crabs who don’t have painted shells and put nothing but plain shells with the ones who do. As the crabs inhabit plain shells, move them to the other tank. Some may still die, but they will not be living with the hazardous materials. DO NOT try to pull the crabs out of their shells. They would rather be pulled in half than let go of their armor.
Hermit Crabs Need Salt Water and Fresh Water
People assume Hermit Crabs need regular water, which they do. But they also need salt water to help them with the molt I mentioned earlier. They basically consume the salt water and then use it to push the old exoskeleton off of themselves. It’s a difficult process in the best of conditions and not every crab makes it through a molt, but not having salt water and calcium makes it almost impossible.
Hermit Crabs Can’t Survive On Hermit Crab Food Alone
Here’s the calcium thing I mentioned. Hermit Crab Food is a good nutritional supplement but it doesn’t have enough of the natural sources of calcium that Hermit Crabs need. You should also give your crabs other types of fresh food for the vitamin richness. Fruit and Vegetable baby food is perfect for this. For the calcium, egg shells are good. Scrambled egg with the shell still in are really good for the hermit crabs because they get the calcium from the egg shell and the protein and iron from the egg.
Your Hermit Crab Could Live 10 Years – But It Probably Won’t
In the wild and in perfect conditions, a land hermit crab could live to be 10 years of age. In captivity, like most captive animals, the lifespan is drastically cut. Most hermit crabs in captivity won’t live more than a few months. That’s why they’re confused for a throw-away pet. But hermit crabs taken care of perfectly can live for more 5 years.
So next time you see a kid enamored with that Dora The Explorer shell that’s crawling across the colored sand in a mall kiosk, say a small prayer that the poor thing dies quickly and as painlessly as possible because outgrowing your skin while you slowly suffocate in a plastic prison being tortured by giant sticky toddler hands is a horrible way to die.