Hermit crab habitats are much debated and are very crucial to a hermit crab's lifespan. When taken care of properly, hermit crabs can live 10-30 years in captivity. They are a commitment, just like any other exotic pet. However, they usually die within days due to improper care.
Hermit Crabs ALWAYS require AT LEAST 70% humidity as they breathe through hardened gills. Without this they will suffocate and die :( Fear not! This is much easier than it sounds. This can be achieved with a misting bottle of NON-CHLORINATED (bottled, filtered or treated) water. Tap water is toxic to crabs due to the chlorine. Spritz a few times a day and monitor with a hygrogometer (cheap and easily found at any pet store). You can also use a reptile humidifier or a bubbler in a pool of water.
Humidity can also be helped with the proper TANK. They need to be glass (or acrylic in a pinch) to hold in the humidity, preferably with a tightly plastic wrapped mesh or glass lid. Doing so will keep the environment hot and humid and allow less humidity to escape, which means less misting.
SIZE OF TANK is also very important. You should allow about 10 gallons per hermit crab, as they can grow very large! Here at the rescue we have had some softball sized crabs. The smallest tank used should be 20 gallons which allows for a few small hermit crabs, depending on size. “Breeder” tanks, such as a 40 gallon breeder, are a bit wider and can hold more crabs. Large tanks can be expensive, but are often cheap or free on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, LetGo, Offerup, and even local thrift stores.
DO NOT EVER, EVER, USE ONE OF THESE:
They break easily, they don't hold in any humidity, your crab can get stuck in them, and they don't have any space for substrate! Substrate is crucial for crabs. The amount of mixed substrate needs to be at least twice as tall as the tallest hermit crab, as they will burrow underneath often for extended periods of time to molt. COLORFUL FISH TANK ROCKS DO NOT WORK FOR THIS PURPOSE. They won't hold a burrow together and can scratch your crab's delicate skin. They can die from not having the opportunity to molt, so a mixture of play sand and coco is the best option.
Make sure your tank is tall enough for sand and climbing toys. A squat tank for a spider will not work. They can climb out of ANYTHING (even glass) so a lid is important.
The final requirements: Food, water, heat, and pals!
Hermit crabs are social beings and do best with groups of others, or they can get lonely and develop health problems.
Crabs must have two pools that are constantly full of water: One salt water (bottled salt water for crabs can be found at walmart, local pet stores, or mixed at home) and one fresh, non-chlorinated water pool. Tap water must be dechlorinated or treated to be fit for use! Each must be somewhat shallow, as they can drown, but needs to be deep enough for them to be able to go partially to fully underwater. These (and only if needed a natural, damp sea sponge) can also aide in humidity, and are crucial.
Hermit crabs love most crab food, just make sure it is not loaded with preservatives, which are also toxic to crabs. We recommend Hermie's Kitchen on Etsy.com or the Hermit Crab Patch for cheap and safe food. Hermit crabs also enjoy fruits, vegetables and seafood. Feel free to check out the hermit crab association website for ways to supplement their diet!
Crabs need 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and light during the day. This can be achieved with an under tank heater on the back of the tank and a small heat lamp. (or at the very very least, a very warm and very humid room such as as a greenhouse or sun-room.) Under tank heaters must be placed on the side or back of the tank to heat the air, not the substrate on the bottom.
Following these parameters will ensure a healthy, happy crab.
Hermit Crabs are very, very picky about their shells. A painted shell is NEVER a good idea. Even though they are sold by pet stores, the paint can chip off and be eaten, poisoning your crab. They also are not as breathable as a natural shell. Most of the time, they will immediately change out of the painted shell when a natural one is given. They grow slowly, so make sure to have multiple shells that are similar in size to the current one, as well as some larger ones.
But fear not! There are plenty of colorful natural shells your crab will love to wear and you will love to look at!
Some examples are:
Green turbo shells, a favorite of purple pincher crabs (the most common pet hermit crab, usually purple and orange):
Candy cane snail shells: (the color is generated by the diet of the shell's original owner, the candy cane snail!)
There are plenty of other pretty shells that aren't as bright they are sure to love. Purple Pincher crabs tend to love any kind of turbo shell, and Ecuadorian crabs (the other kind of common pet hermit crab, typically light brown or white with oval eyes) like slit-type openings.