Tag Archive for requirements

Setting up a proper crabitat

Let’s look at how to set up a proper hermit crab habitat, which we refer to as a crabitat.

Basing your tank set up on what you saw at the petstore or mall cart where you may have purchased your hermit crabs is a recipe for disaster. Kritter Keepers and wire cages are death boxes and should never be used.

Listed below are the primary components of a proper set up and we will discuss them in detail. If you are not willing to equip the tank properly you should return your hermit crabs or rehome them, they will not thrive without a properly set up habitat. Captive hermit crabs can live over 30 years in the proper habitat. Most hermit crabs die either in the first month of ownership, during the first molt of ownership or within the first year to 18 months.  So yes, they can technically ‘survive’ in poor conditions but why on earth would you purposely do this to an animal???

A simple list of the items you will need to properly outfit the crabitat. There are low cost options for most of these items.

  • Tank
  • Lid
  • Light*
  • Heat
  • Substrate
  • Gauges
  • Bowls
  • Climbers
  • Hiders
  • Plants and Vines

The tank itself should be glass or lexan and large enough to comfortably house your hermit crabs. A MINIMUM of 2 gallons of space per small or medium hermit crab but 5 gallons per crab is much more humane. Large and jumbo crabs will need much more space, 10 gallon minimum. A 10 gallon tank is too small for even one large or jumbo crab. Plan for the future when purchasing your tank, allow for the growth of your crabs or additions to the herd.   A used tank is perfectly fine and will greatly reduce the cost of supplies.

The tank must have a lid that retains humidity. A screen lid with glass, lexan or plastic wrap on top is what is typically used. Hermit crabs require humidity to breathe. Opening the lid for feedings and water changes each day usually provides enough air exchange. Fresh air flow reduces mold, mildew and fungus growth.

Light is required, whether they are used as your heat source or not. Hermit crabs require a normal 12 hour cycle of light and dark, it is vital to the molt process. If your crabitat is in a well light room that will meet the need of daytime light. Do NOT place your tank in directly sunlight!

UVB is believed to extend the life span of captive hermit crabs. UVB bulbs must be mounted in such a way that there is no glass or plastic barrier between the bulb and the hermit crabs. Most people mount the lid inside the tank.  Bulbs must be replaced every 12 months.

For nighttime viewing, LED in red or blue is safe. Your hermit crabs do not require a light at night.

Hermit crabs require warm temperatures. This can come from overhead lights or from heat pad (often called under the tank heater or UTH) which is placed on the wall of the tank and not under it. Over head lights or heat emitters are not recommended for inexperienced pet owners. They make it challenging to maintain the correct environment in the tank.

Ways to heat your crabitat

Global Temperature and Precipitation Maps by Month

Gauges are the only way to monitor and maintain proper heat and humidity levels. The tank temperatures should be a range of 75F to 82F.  72F is the absolute minimum and your tank should not remain at this temperature long term. A temporary dip or spike in temperature is not cause for concern. A range means that your tank should have areas of different temperatures. Some species seem to enjoy slightly warmer temperatures but the common clypeatus is happy in the 75-82F range. Check the substrate temperature as well to make sure it is not too hot. Overly warm substrate will kill molters or discourage molting. Humidity ranges should be 70-80% this is relative humidity. Occasional higher humidity is not cause for concern but maintaining excessively high humidity could lead to flooding or lethal bacteria due to over saturation of your substrate. Your analog hygrometer will need to be calibrated before use. Wireless, digital gauges are relatively cheap and are more accurate than analog gauges.

Substrate should be a mix of 5 parts play sand and 1 part eco earth. The ideal mix will keep the sand moist throughout. The consistency should be so that you could easily make a sand castle. That means that molting burrows will not collapse from drying out. We suggest using a brackish water to expand the eco earth bricks. This will help reduce the chance of mold. The eco earth should be DRY when mixed into the sand so you don’t end up with water logged substrate at the beginning. You can always add water once the crabitat environment is stable, if needed. In many cases it is not needed. Starting with too wet substrate will lead to flooding and/or bacterial blooms.

The eco earth will help maintain humidity but you may need to add some moss pits if your levels are too low. Not all moss is safe so be sure to check our list: Which types of moss are safe for my hermit crabs?

Substrates for hermit crabs

Three bowls will be needed. Two of the bowls should be deep enough to allow your hermit crabs to submerge themselves. One should be fresh water and one should be ocean water made with marine grade salt mix. All water that comes in contact with your hermit crabs must be treated to remove chlorine, chloramines, ammonia as well as other chemicals. The third bowl will be for food. These don’t have to be reptile dishes specifically but they should be something that your smallest crabs can easily enter and exit. Many people use disposable Gladware type bowls for water pools. We recommend placing a rock, fake plant or coral in the pool for the smaller crabs to climb out.

Places to hide, things to climb on, as well as plants and vines are important to create an environment that is stimulating and enriching for your hermit crabs. Huts do not have to be made of coconut shells, many things will work. The same holds true for things to climb on. There are lots of DIY ideas or less expensive ideas for creating vertical climbing opportunities. Fake plants and vines from a craft store will work as well as the ones you find at the pet store. Some live plants are safe for the crabitat but your hermit crabs will most likely kill them.

Creating additional levels in your crabitat to maximize usable space

Your goal should be to create an environment that is as close to what hermit crabs experience in nature as possible. Hermit crabs live primarily on beaches, so think tropical!

Here are some examples of properly set up crabitats:

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FAQ Should I feed my hermit crab meat?

This is a compilation of forum posts from our old site.

Hermit crabs devouring a piece of unseasoned steak-photo courtesy of Stacy Griffith

FAQ Should I feed my hermit crabs meat?Hermit crabs devouring a piece of unseasoned steak-Photo credit Stacy Griffith

Rachelrmf posted:

I really was not all that big on the meat thing untill i came here and read that so many of you feed alot of meets. So i have alway put a little crab or shrimp or tuna in for them, but just every once in a while. So I was wondering is it on a daily basis that you should feed the meat. I have been changeing out fresh every day but can’t really tell about how much of it they are eating because they like to party at night so the food is everywhere. And also how often do you change out the differant meets. I don’t want to upset their little tummys and i know they are not close to dogs, but with dogs it can upset them a little. Well as far as that goes i guess how often do you change out all your foods. For me every week they get 3 sets of choices greens, leaves, seaweed and then on fruit mango, fresh coconut,bannana and on meat oyster,tuna,sardine treats are nuts and rosehipp. Should i be adding in better things for them? I do have to say they eat better than i do as far as fresh wholesome foods! Lol

SUE wrote:

rachelrmf, this is a good question, and one that is continually evolving based on what is observed and coming to be known in terms of what constitutes a robust diet for crabs. I am going to provide a breakdown of the specific food groups and what they are generally good for. Note that I will not have included ALL the foods in the category, and some categories overlap in one or 2 areas too. I try to offer daily a food from each group. I used to also leave home made dry kibble, worrying that they do not all eat at the same time or each thing (which they don’t) but I have a lot of crabs, and I have learned for my herds, the general proportions to offer. I have stopped leaving dry goods in at all times, and find that their foraging is better, and I waste less food! I still feed them dry goods daily, just minimally, and I usually sprinkle it on something that it will stick to like juicy fruit or vegetables. This is something I do because I have tested and offered these foods to the crabs in trial alone before!

Scientists evaluate that crabs use a natural selection imprint to prevent themselves from eating only one type of food source and thus harm themselves with not getting all food resources needed. They are also imprinted to ignore foods that have been smelled or eaten within a 9 -14 hour period of time, and one of the reasons relying on commercial foods is so dismally inadequate. They are not of the type of animal that relies only on one type ofr food like protein, or vegetation or calcium, etc. They must have a robust combination of all of them! Many of the foods must support their ability to metabolize to their environment (heat, humidity, light, growth) and they require a balance of ALL these types of food resources (some more at specific times like pre-molt, or PPS) in order to thrive.

These groups are classed in the following way and I will include why:

Protein and lipids: this is for energy to grow, forage, reduce competition or minimize cannibalism which more frequently occurs in captivity.

Foods in this class are:

meats, fish like silver sides, gold fish, clams, oyster; bone marrow (all meats including poultry), nut meats (many also fall in the omega fats group) salmon skin(including fat). Some vegetation like avocado meat (only) and bamboo stalks. (which also provide Cellulose, high energy)

Carotenoids, zeaxanthin and cellulose: these foods are necessary to assist the crabs metabolic functions of calcium absorption, processing of minerals, and coloring an individual crab has (darkens pigments). It also improves the crab’s immune system and nervous system functionality.

Foods in this class are:

tannin rich leaves, bark, cambium (inner branch skins) of plants like oak, maple, mangrove root, some perennial leaves; fresh fruits and vegetables that are orange, yellow, red or dark green (i.e. squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, natural corn, mango, blue berries, etc); many flower petals (dry), spinach, foliage, bean sprouts, seaweed: spirulina in particular, reptile moss (from pet store) etc.

Carbohydrates: these foods are quick energy foods that will help your crab by immediately fueling them but saving their “stored” reserves necessary for metabolic function.

Foods in this group include:

grapes, apple, honey, wheat germ, oatmeal, dried fruit (raisins mostly due to Copper sulfate use in others), banana, pineapple, citrus pulp (inner membrane of skin considered cellulose).

Omega fats: this food group is very important and is totally missed in commercial food formulations unless they are frozen foods! These are necessary for nervous system, exo-skeletal health and processing of carotenoids and other minerals. If there are deficiencies in this group it is typically exhibited by molt death (where you are uncertain), a mildewy appearance to the exoskeleton (they look dehydrated), and they are not active! Foods in this group overlap proteinous groups.

They include:

Coconut, walnut, whole fish (like a dead gold fish), fish skin, animal fat, olive oil, some grass seeds, seeds, peanut butter, etc. There is a mirade of these suitable, some found in fresh flower petals like roses, sunflower, crab apple blossom, etc. Take a look at the edible plants list at Epicurean Hermit!

Calcium: it is considered superior to provide more than one natural form of calcium! Calcium of course is used mainly for growth of the exoskeleton. Calcium without the support of light and carotenoids will not be properly absorbed by the crab! The acceptable form for supplementation outside of natural forms is Calcium carbonate powder ONLY! Foods containing calcium, will also provide some proteins as well.

Here are the main foods ideally used:

freeze dried brine shrimp, meal worms, blood worms, krill (fresh, frozen or freeze dried), shrimp tails, sand dollars, powdered oyster shell, cuttle bone, broccoli heads, milk.

extra resources relating to the above: http://www.epicurean-hermit.com and http://hermitcrabcuisine.com (this site lists specific food groups for each food)

Steam all shell fish prior to offering to hermit crabs!

Hermit Crab Essentials Shopping Checklist

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

hermit crab shopping list

Download this shopping list at the bottom of the article

Hermit crabs are advertised as cheap and easy to maintain, which is not necessarily true. To keep your hermit crabs happy and healthy, you will need to provide a lot more than food and water.

The following is a list of the essential items your pet hermit crabs will need:

Essential items for optimum land hermit crab care

Glass tank with lid:

A glass tank is preferred over plastic tanks, which will scratch and will not be able to hold the humidity within the ventilated lids. Plastic tanks are not large enough to provide the necessary space. A glass lid on a glass tank helps keep the temperature and humidity within hermit crab’s habitat, allowing for a slight gap for airflow. This airflow of fresh air into the humid environment will help to cut down on mould and bacteria, which can cause illness and even death among hermit crabs, often detected by a musty or ammonia odor.


Substrate is what we call the material that lines the bottom of the tank, and creates the ‘beach’ within your crabitat. The most popular substrates being: sanitized beach sand; silica dust-free play sand mixed with coco fiber bedding sold in compressed bricks. You will need enough of a depth to cover your largest Land Hermit Crab to three times it’s height. A minimum of 6 inches is recommended. A jumbo hermit crab needs at least 12 inches of substrate. Deep, moist substrate is essential for successful molting.

Under Tank Heater:

An Under Tank Heater or U.T.H. is a heat pad made especially for small animals and reptiles. An U.T.H. is used to keep the hermit crabs warm by gently warming the objects in the tank. You may need a thermostat to regulate the warmth of the tank if the temperature rises above 82F. Despite the name the heat pad is not placed UNDER the tank for hermit crabs. The heat pad is placed on the back wall of the tank typically.

Overhead light:

Hermit crabs require normal 12 hour cycles of day light and darkness at all times. Hermit crabs also may benefit from a UVB bulb. You can use a UVB or LED bulb to provide day light. You can use a red or blue LED for nighttime viewing but the crabs don’t require light at night.  For inexperienced pet owners we do not recommend using a heat lamp or emitter in place of a heat pad, it is challenging to control the environment with these products.


You will need at least three dishes: a fresh water pool, ocean water pond, and a food dish, non metallic. Pools should be deep enough for your crabs to submerge in.


Feeding commercial foods is not recommended. The only exceptions are foods that are free of chemicals. Land hermit crabs are omnivorous scavengers so they can eat a wide variety of foods. All foods should be free of chemicals and table salt. Check our list of safe and unsafe foods for hermit crabs and our Going Natural Beginners List for ideas on what you can feed to your hermit crabs.



A thermometer is used to observe the temperature inside the tank. Thermometers come in three main types: the adhesive fish tank style, based on a sticker that changes colour as the temperature at the glass raises; the circular reptile-type thermometers which are based on a coil which contracts or expands; a digital gauge which uses a probe and allows you to measure the temperature at more than one location. If you can find traditional laboratory thermometers those can be used also. A combination wireless gauge is a simple solution.

For more on substrate temperatures visit: Substrate temperature V air temperature


A hygrometer is used to observe the humidity inside the tank. Just as with temperature, humidity is very important. If the humidity drops and the air is dry, your land hermit crab will have difficulty in breathing through their modified gills. Humidity should be near 80% relative humidity.

This wireless combo unit is a great option for you tank:

How to Calibrate Your Hygrometer

Water Ager/Conditioner:

Water Ager or Conditioners are very important if the quality of water is not suitable for use with fish in an aquarium and most tap water is not. It is important to removes harmful substances from tap water such as chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals, which can make hermit crabs ill. Chloramines cannot be removed by leaving the water sitting out for 24 hours as previously suggested.

Ocean Salt:

A sea water solution is recommended for the “Ocean Water” pool within your tank. Iodized salt, or table salt, should never be used for the ocean water pond. You should use a salt mix intended for salt water aquariums and mix according to package directions for fish. Fresh water salt is not the same and does not meet the needs of land hermit crabs.

For more on salt visit: The Importance of the Right Kind of Salt
For help on mixing ocean water visit: Mixing Ocean Water

Extras – Optional extras

Moss is an excellent way to create and maintain humidity in your tank. Your hermit crabs will love a big pile of moss to hide under and munch on. Check out our list of Safe and Unsafe Moss for Hermit Crabs


Water Glass, Marbles or Glass Pebbles:

Great to use in deeper water dishes to enable crabs the traction they need to get in and out, plus acts as a decoration.

Plastic Canvas or Gutter Guard

Perfect for creating ramps in and out of your water pools so there is no risk of a hermit crab getting trapped in the pool with no way out.

Plastic Plants and Vines

There are many types of plastic or fabric plants and vines which can improve the look of your crabarium, as well as to add entertainment for the crabs as they climb over, hide under and travel among the greenery. It is a good idea to create some dark spots in the tank, but be careful that they can’t climb out!

Substrate enhancements

The basic substrate mix of play sand and coco fiber is sufficient but you want to create a more realistic environment you can add some additional items to the substrate. If you can mix these in at the time you are setting up your tank that is ideal. Once your crabs are down molting it’s difficult to add more items. You can add coco bark (often sold as Orchid Bark), crushed oyster shells and leaf litter (pesticide free) from known safe trees. You can check out list of safe and unsafe wood.

Shopping Checklist


  • Glass Tank
  • Solid Lid
  • Substrate
  • Gauges
  • Dishes – 2 deep dishes for water, you can use scallop shells for food
  • Heat pad
  • Food
  • Ocean salt for making ocean water
  • Dechlorinator
  • Shells
  • Furniture (for climbing and hiding)


  • UVB 5.0 bulb
  • LED light hood
  • Mister
  • Moss
  • Plastic canvas or gutter guard
  • Water glass, Marbles or Glass pebbles
  • Plastic Plants and Vines
  • Orchid Bark (coco bark) organic