Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell
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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.
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 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.
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!
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.
- Glass Tank
- Solid Lid
- Dishes – 2 deep dishes for water, you can use scallop shells for food
- Heat pad
- Ocean salt for making ocean water
- Furniture (for climbing and hiding)
- UVB 5.0 bulb
- LED light hood
- Plastic canvas or gutter guard
- Water glass, Marbles or Glass pebbles
- Plastic Plants and Vines
- Orchid Bark (coco bark) organic