Reptile Information from



   In their native environment, land hermit crabs (Coenobita Clypeatus) eat fruit, vegetables, grain, seeds, meat, leaves, bark from trees and bushes, and have a special preference for decaying wood (except pine or cedar). 

   When domesticated, it is recommended that they be fed a good commercial diet. On alternate days their diet may be supplemented with coconut, raw fish or apple, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, and such. Land hermit crabs eat very slowly and very little, so all uneaten food should be removed every day to avoid spoilage. Fresh drinking water should be kept in a non-metal container for the crabs at all times. The water should be shallow so the crabs can climb out of the water, as they will drown if submerged for more than one hour. 

   Land hermit crabs should be kept in an aquarium with a 2 to 3 inch base of sand or gravel. Temperature should be above 70 degrees and preferably around 85 degrees. If the air is too cold or too dry, the crabs will become inactive, so for the best display results they should have warm moist air. A wet sponge or cloth in the cage will help supply needed moisture as well as a daily misting with a plant mister. They do not like a wet, sloppy cage, and prefer to be in a dry place with ample moisture in the air. In the native state they endure drought and famine for months, and during these periods they become dormant, living off nourishment and moisture stored in a special sack. Never attempt to remove a crab from its sea shell- it will allow itself to be torn apart rather than give up its protective shell house. 

Unlike many sea crabs, hermit crabs are not aggressive and can be handled (climbing on the outstretched palm of your hand) without difficulty, but it is well to avoid the large purple pincher claw the crab uses for defense and for holding 

onto limbs and for balancing. The smaller claw is used to pass food and water to the mouth. The name "hermit" is actually quite inappropriate, as in the wild these creatures live and travel in colonies of a few dozen to over a hundred members. In captivity it is recommended that they be kept in the company of other crabs for their own contentment. They communicate by sound, and it is not unusual to hear them "talking" to each other; they seldom fight among themselves, and seem to enjoy each other's company. Land hermit crabs are clean and odorless, and may be released in the home for exercise and observation of their comical antics. They are good climbers, and will enjoy exercising on coral or any non-resinous wood placed in their aquarium. Like most other creatures, they respond well to gentle care, and learn to trust their keeper. It is known that some crabs have been kept in the home as pets for as long as 15 years. 

   Land hermit crabs cannot reproduce in captivity; their eggs must hatch at sea. Like other crabs, they grow by shedding their exoskeleton. This is the most important step toward growth that a small crab will make. While in this necessary stage of development, any missing legs, etc., are regenerated. During this time they shed all their skin (which looks like the empty skeleton of a crab), and need to be kept extra moist and in a medium into which they can burrow. It takes about ten days for their new skin to harden, and during this period they are very soft, vulnerable, and inactive. Older crabs molt less frequently, but require the same care during this period. As the crabs grow, they will need spare shells in their aquarium to grow into, and they also seem to enjoy moving into empty shells to select the home that feels best. 

-Thanks to Paul Manger, Florida Marine Research


(See next page for Hermit Crab Health Hints )


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