Bathing your Land hermit Crab

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

It is important that your land hermit crabs are able to bathe themselves. Bathing allows your hermit crab to re-hydrate, flush out the feces and wash off the sticky juices and food stuffs which are present when you offer fresh fruit, seafood and commercial diets.

Active or Passive Bathing?

Passive bathing is when you provide the means for your hermit crabs to bathe, and allow them to bathe when they want to. Many passive bathing method crabbers will provide a deep fresh and brackish water ponds that their hermit crabs can wade through and bathe themselves in a “hands off’ method.

Active bathing is when you provide the means for your hermit crabs to bathe and actively encourage them to bathe. If you do not have a large crabitat and the room to put fresh and brackish (ocean water) water ponds or pools in your crabitat, you may wish to use a clean plastic container or tub and bathe them out of the tank.

Baths should be performed under supervision, and there are some safety measures you need to follow. It is important that the water you use is tepid or lukewarm. Cold or warm water can stress your land hermit crab. Land Hermit Crabs can drown if submerged in water for an extended time (fishermen say around an hour), but they have been observed bathe themselves in shallow pools when in the wild.

Hermit Crabs urinate through their antennae, so any water spills during handling is shell water. Hermit Crabs have an anus located on the end of their abdomen, and have been observed to flick any wastes (droppings) out of their shells. These feces are often brown colored and look like small sausage or ball shapes which consist mainly of sand and undigested foodstuffs.

When bathing actively it is recommended (but not essential) that you add a drop of Stress Coat with Aloe in the bathing water. It is a water conditioner which will remove Chlorine, Chloramines and heavy metals as well as creating a ‘slime coating’. to protect the delicate gill area. Stresscoat should not be used in water that has already had a dechlorinator added to it. The Aloe Vera will help them re-hydrate and condition their exoskeleton, “Aloe Vera, Nature’s First Aid Plant”. To learn more about Stress Coat with Aloe, click here.

Methods of Bathing

Submersion (active)

Sometimes it helps to gently tilt the hermit crab upside down, by the time they upright themselves air-bubbles lift from inside the shell, along with a gentle movement in the water to dislodge any gunk or mites which should float and be scooped out. I do not use the submersion method unless I believe there is a reason, such as decomposing foodstuffs, feces or mites. It can be a little stressful for some land hermit crabs, so you might prefer to follow one of the more gentler methods of bathing.

Leg Kicking (active)

Lower the hermit crabs into a ‘bath’ container such as a clean plastic tub or commercial product such as the bowls pictured above. The hermit crab then wades through the water and after a few laps they are taken out. This method should be done under close supervision, especially if the container used as a ‘bath’ does not include a section for the hermit crabs to be able to climb out onto ‘dry land’ after making their way around for a few laps for some solid ‘leg kicking’. I recommend this method

Drying Off (active)

If you choose to bathe, it helps to set them down into a drying-off tub or container lined with fresh substrate, clean towel or other substance for traction and allow the hermit crabs to walk about and drip dry. If you placed them directly within the crabitat, you would find that it would soon be water-logged from all the excess water from within the seashells of the freshly-bathed hermit crabs. The substrate should never be wet, only damp. Wet substrate with foodstuffs can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.

Walk through (passive)

Violascens bathing by Stacy Spangler

Violascens bathing by Stacy Spangler

If you do not feel comfortable with either the submersion or wade-through methods of bathing, an alternative method is to provide your crab with the opportunity to walk through their ocean water pool (or other container) filled with chlorine-free water. Allow them to wander about naturally to bathe themselves.

The water dish must be one that they can easily get in and out of, and perhaps has items such as marbles, sea glass, pebbles, piece of cuttlebone or other item that will aid in their safe departure from the water, lest they drown. If you are using the walk through method within your tank and you choose to add Stress Coat with Aloe to the bathing water, make sure to replace any Stress Coat with Aloe-treated water with fresh water after a few hours.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Some people reason that if Stress Coat with Aloe is beneficial to their hermit crabs, why not put it in the water all of the time? Think of Stress Coat with Aloe as a weekly moisturizing treatment. Just as we apply moisturizer to skin that is dry from the effects of salt water from a day at the beach, Stress Coat with Aloe helps to repair the damage to tissues as ‘natures bandage’ as well as create a layer that helps to protect skin from drying out. We do not bathe in moisturizer, nor do we drink it*. Stress Coat with Aloe is not meant for their every day drinking water (fresh is best) it is important to replace with fresh water for the remainder of the day.

Bathing after purchase

If it is the first bath of a hermit crab fresh from a pet store or webstore then you will need to increase the depth of water so that you can do your test for mites at the same time. Always use lukewarm water, de-chlorinated and a drop or two of Stress Coat with Aloe Vera, such as made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, although many brands have similar properties. When you think of the conditions the hermit crabs had been in, coupled with dehydration on the trip home, it is common sense to give your hermit crabs a bath on their arrival. You can be sure that after a long, dry journey I would want to go for a nice dip and rehydrate too!

Based on the original article written and Copyrighted by Vanessa Pike-Russell

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Photo Credits:

Stacy Spangler of