Want to adopt a hermit crab? let’s bust these myths about them

Hermit crabs aren’t generally at the top of most people’s cute-and-cuddly-pets list, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t make fantastic companions. Inexpensive, easy to care for, fun to watch, and safe for children to handle, hermit crabs are an excellent beginner pet or great for adults who just don’t have a lot of spare time. However, buying any animal takes consideration. Hermit crabs, while relatively easy to maintain, can live for more than fifty years! Before making yourself responsible for the health and well-being of any pet, be thorough in your research. So here they are, a handy compiled list of the most common hermit crab myths–things that the salespeople in pet stores will tell you but aren’t necessarily true.

Crab Foods Should be Chopped Up Into Tiny Pieces

I see it all over. Recommendations and descriptions that talk about dicing crab foods up into tiny crab-bite size pieces. The only hermit crab that needs their food made very small is a crab that is missing both of its pinchers or if the food is very very hard to break into pieces. Hermit crabs come fully equipped to disassemble all manners of foods. It’s the biological duty! In addition to that, they have very few activities to do in the tank so don’t deprive them of the opportunity to sit and pick a big hunk of apple or walnut apart. It makes eating an action-oriented activity rather than just a set of motions. Food in large chunks also allows them to detect exactly what they are eating without being confused by several ground foods mixed together.

Crabs Prefer Painted Shells

I’ve seen this stated in several different places, however not one of them could point me to an article or study that proved that this was true. It’s certainly a convenient statement to justify selling painted shells to unsuspecting parents. Not only do crabs not prefer painted shells, but the methods used to get crabs into them are also cruel at best. In what amounts to nothing more than a cheap marketing ploy to get children to try to talk their parents into an impulse-pet-buy, painted shells are one of the last approved methods of animal cruelty allowed in pet stores.

Hermit Crab as a pet

Commercial Food: Adequate and Complete

This is another common myth perpetuated by the pet store industry and some others. Commercial food is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it often contains harmful additives and preservatives like copper sulfate and ethoxyquin. Additionally, even healthy crab diets are not complete (even if they state that they are). Hermit crabs require variety, they are biologically imprinted to move to different foods every 12 hours or so. Offering them the same manufactured foods over and over will cause them to lose interest and deprive them of the true variety that they need.

Gravel is the Best Substrate.

In truth, gravel should be nowhere on your acceptable substrate list. There are people who use limited amounts of gravel under the water dish but using gravel as a general substrate is a bad idea. It’s impossible to dig and bury safely in, it’s often painted, and it’s easy for bits of gravel to make it into the shell of your crab, injuring their soft abdomen.

If Your Hermit Crab is Sick, Put Them in the Dark

Hermit crabs are very dependent upon the natural day/night light cycle to regulate their metabolism. If you have a sick crab, give them a hiding spot, like a coconut hut but do not remove them from all light or cover their tank with a towel. The light/dark cycle will help their bodies work as they were meant to and will increase their chances of getting better. This is especially true for treating Post Purchase Stress.

Hermit Crabs are Exclusively Nocturnal

It’s true that hermit crabs in the wild are most active at night with the heat of the sun and visibility to predators making the day time much less hospitable. Hermit Crabs in captivity, however, are much more active during the day than their wild counterparts. The longer they live in captivity the more comfortable they will be coming out during the day. Be careful not to let the nocturnal argument be an excuse for why your crabs are never out and active. A healthy crab will have periods of activity even if you miss them. A crab that sits in one spot and never moves has a problem that needs to be addressed. This problem is almost always improper humidity and temperature as well as limited access to fresh and saltwater.

Crabs Can’t Have Pools of Water or They Will Drown

This myth never made sense to me but I hear it over and over again. New crabbers are given the solemn, serious advice that they must not, under any circumstances, allow their crab near standing water. In fact, many go so far as to advise you to only offer your crab a damp sponge! This is terrible advice on a number of levels. First, crabs are beach dwellers, they come from the land of big water. They’re more than equipped to handle a 1-inch water bowl. Second, crabs need to get water into their shells. This requires you to provide a pool of water at least deep enough to reach your largest crab’s shell opening. Not only will they not drown, but they also love water. Throw that sponge away, you don’t need it. Get them a pool and some natural moss instead!

You Should Mist Your Crabs Regularly

There’s no reason for you to squirt your crab with water unless it is suffering a serious health problem and you are concerned for its shell water level. If you are trying to raise your humidity, mist the inside walls of your tank. Crabs generally don’t like to be misted. There are some exceptions, I had a crab, Ol’Grandad, who use to run out whenever he realized I was on mist patrol. I would mist the area next to him and he would walk into the spray and stretch out, getting the water all over his armor plate. He’s the only one though. Maintaining proper humidity and providing pools does the job that you are trying to do by misting. Put. the spray bottle. down.

hermit crab as a pet

Crabs Don’t Live Very Long

This is a lie and it’s one that often ticks me off. Instead of providing proper care instructions, many pet stores hand you your crab and your stuff and when you come back a few months later to ask why your crab died, the answer is, they don’t live very long, a few months to a year at most. It’s an easy lie for us to believe. Hermit crabs are small. Other small critters have relatively short lifespans, it’s not that far outside the realm of believability. However, hermit crabs have an incredible life span. Easily 30-50 years in the wild. That large crab you brought home last week is probably older than you are! This has been confirmed in the wild and domestically as Carol of Crabworks two crabs, John and Kate, are over 30 years old!

Crabs Don’t Need Salt Water

This one is the most common and often the most deadly. Hermit crabs (every species) need saltwater to regulate the salinity of their shell water (this keeps their gills and abdomen moist) as well as to aid in their molting and their metabolism. This must be ocean style saltwater, not table salt, commercial sea salt (for cooking with) but salt that is designed to be used to set up a saltwater aquarium (it doesn’t have to be filtered seawater like in the picture, any sea mix will do). If you don’t have saltwater in your tank, go buy some salt and set up a pool, observe their reaction. Most crabs will drink the water and soak in it for several days after the initial offering. It’s an absolute must for all hermit crabs.

Hope I busted the most common myths, if you find others, comment below!