Crustacean craze

Cute, small and low-maintenance, hermit crabs have dug their claws into the world of pets

Sevil Hunter
2/13/2004 05:07 pm

Coenobita Clypeatus may be the object of McKenna Hoffs affection, but to her 4-year-old brother, Preston, it means only one thing: Yuck!

I don’t like hermit crabs, said Preston, standing with his arms crossed and his brow furrowed. I probably won’t like them even when I’m older, like 5.

To his 5-year-old sister, hermit crabs are the coolest and most coveted creature around town. The Sparks girl is hoping to get one for her birthday July 9. Shell wait until then because, I love them. I love them. I love them.

Shes not alone in her crustacean obsession. Hermit crabs are so hot PetCo stores in Northern Nevada cant keep the critters in stock.

Our phones constantly ring with the Do you have the crabs in stock today calls, said Linda Gross, assistant manager at PetCo at Northtowne Mall.

One major Florida distributor said he’s been in the hermit crab business for 20 years and business never looked so profitable as in the last two years. Miami entrepreneur Giovanna Russell set up a hermit crab kiosk in Meadowood Mall earlier this year. She calls her business Paradise Crab. Shes set to open another Paradise Crab in San Francisco.

Hermit crabs are great, said Kathie Barksdale, a Paradise manager and veteran hermit crab owner. They’re very smart, clean, quiet and cute.

The hype started less than two years ago and boomed in Northern Nevada a few months before the 2003 holiday season.

Our sales have just exploded, said Paul Manger, a manager with Florida Marine Research in Florida. His company ships hermit crabs to businesses and pet stores, which sell the crabs from $2.99 to $15.99. It seems that every year business gets better and the propensity to sell is great.

Hermit crabs have always been around. Beach vendors and seaside stalls have showcased the domesticated crustaceans for decades. The only difference today is that theyve crawled inland. Theyre in malls, pet stores, even on TV.

Their shells come in many sizes, shapes and colors. Neon, Nemo, SpongeBob down to the glitter and gloss, the shells are revamped and ready to go home.

Hermit crabs dont carry any type of disease, they are quiet, they are hypoallergenic and they are definitely on the upside of this pet trend, Manger said.

Crabs can be cheap, too.

PetCo’s Gross said her crabs cost $2.99 to $4.99. Paradise sells crabs for $10.99. Their food supply lasts for months and they require a sandy beach in which to roam, a few empty shells hermit crabs like to try out hard exteriors now and then and a place to bathe.

But watch your fingers.

Yes, hermit crabs do pinch. They are crabs after all, Barksdale said. So you dont want to poke your finger in its shell. It will defend itself, but it will not attack.

Local hermit crabs are shipped from Florida Marine Research, which is not to be confused with Florida Marine Research Institute. Florida Marine Research buys its hermit crabs from Floridian fisheries and ships them to businesses. Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg is a conservation commission committed to saving marine life in Florida.

Were easily confused, said Alison McDonald, an institute spokeswoman. We do not sell hermit crabs, we study them. But I loved mine when I was young. They were all over pet stores in North Carolina. My hermit crab was the greatest pet.

Copyright 2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal