The Newbies Guide to Hermit Crabs

Coenobita compressus

Let’s Get Started!

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Have you found yourself an unprepared parent of a hermit crab or two? Are you prepared to give them the proper habitat in which they can survive long term? If so, here’s a very basic list of supplies to get you started.

A glass tank

  •  go as big as you can afford
  •  it doesn’t have to hold water
  •  it doesn’t have to be new (check the newspaper,craigslist, yard sales)

A secure lid for the tank

  • a mesh lid with a solid barrier on top to retain humidity is ideal
  • you can use saran wrap in a pinch but not ideal long term
  • a piece of plexiglass or coroplast is a good cover for the mesh lid
  • hermit crabs are escape artists! Place heavy weights or locks on your lid

Substrate for the tank

  • 6-12 inches deep or 3 times as deep as your largest crab is tall
  • Play sand meant for a sand box is perfect
  • Coco fiber which is shredded coconuts
  • Mix the play sand and coco fiber together, roughly 5 parts DRY sand to 1 part DRY coco

Heat source

Heat mat – We recommend Ultratherm

  • Can be insulated with Reflectix Reflective Roll Insulation
  • Place on the back wall of the tank to provide gradient heat. (Warm and cool zones)

Light source

  • If you have a well lit room that will illuminate the tank during the day you can get by without a lamp. No direct sunlight on the tank.
  • Be aware of how the room temperature rises during summer.
  • They need a normal light/dark 12/12 hour cycle.

Water conditioner

  • We recommend Prime Aquarium Water Conditioner

Ocean Salt Mix

  • Not freshwater aquarium salt!
  • Instant Ocean is the most common brand and is easy to find
  • These other brands are also good and may be available in your particular area:  Fluval Sea Salt, Red Sea Salt, Coralife, Oceanic Sea Salt, Tetra Marine Sea Salt and Marinium.


  • Cheap Tupperware works great!
  • Water dishes should be deep enough for your largest crab to submerge.
  • Provide exit ramps for small crabs


  • If you can afford it, go wireless and digital. WalMart carries digital indoor/outdoor Thermometer Hygrometer You can also buy online.
  • Hygrometers should be calibrated prior to use

Check out this video on how to set up a temporary crabitat in a storage bin:

Bins are not a permanent home, but may be needed in emergencies.


How do I create and maintain humidity in my crabitat?
Calibrating your Humidity Gauge

Methods for heating your crabitat
Air Temperature versus Substrate Temperature

Can I Use A Light To Keep Them Warm?
Do I need a light?

Regulation of Crustacean Molting: A Multi-Hormonal System
CrabloverDon on Molting
All about molting
On molting
Is my hermit crab dead or molting?
What is molting?
Pre Molt Symptoms

Dropped or Missing Limbs-
Handicapped/limbless/sick Hermit Crab Care
Why do land hermit crabs drop limbs?
PPS (Post Purchase Stress) Minimizing the Impact

Shell-less Hermit Crab-
My Hermit Crab has left its shell! What do I do?

Growing your own hermit crab food
Going Natural Beginner’s List
Hermit Crab Food Recipes
Hermit Crab Nutrition Table
People food for hermit crabs
Should I feed my crabs meat?
The Power of Protein
What foods are good and bad for hermit crabs?

The importance of the right kind of salt
How do I mix ocean water?
Why can’t I use tap water?

Substrates for Hermit Crabs

How do I choose suitable shells for my hermit crab?
When do hermit crabs change shells?
Painted Shells

Escaped Hermit Crab-
Locating an Escaped Hermit Crab

Cost Cutting-
Cost Cutting Tips
A guide for setting up a large crabitat on a budget