Hermit crabs in their native environment live inland away from the water and the beach. Their diet consists of leaf litter, fruits and vegetation. They also enjoy chewing and eating bark and have a special preference for decaying wood(except pine or cedar.)
It is reccommended that they be fed a good commercial food and on alternate days treats may be fed, such as coconut, romaine lettuce, apple, wheat bread, peanut butter, etc. Hermit crabs eat very slowly and very little so all uneaten food should be removed each day to avoid spoilage. Fresh drinking water must be kept in a non-metal container for the crabs at all times, and it is nessecary to put oyster shell or a cuttlebone in the water for a calcium source. Preferably a clam shell makes a nice water bowl. The water should be shallow and so the crabs can climb out of the water as they will drown if submerged for more than a few minutes.
Crabs should be kept in an aquarium with a 2 to 3 inch base of gravel or sand. The temperature should be above 70 degrees and preferably around 80 degrees. They do not like a wet sloppy home. We do not reccomend using a full spectrum light or heat lamps on the aquarium or the use of corn cob or cedar shavings instead of gravel or sand. It is a good idea that you bathe your crab(s) once a week as well as giving them an occasional misting OUTSIDE the tank. NEVER attempt to remove a crab from its sea shell because it will allow itself to tear apart rather than give up its protective home.
Hermit crabs are not aggressive like many of the sea crabs and can be handled without difficulty but it is well to avoid the large purple pincher claw which is used for defense and for holding onto limbs for climbing and for balancing. The smaller claw is used to pass food and water to the mouth. They communicate by sound and it is not uncommon to hear them "talking" to each other. They seldom fight except occasionally over a shell dispute. They are clean and odorless and may be released in the home for excercise and for observation of their comical antics if desired. Like most other creatures, they respond to gentle care and learn to trust their keeper. It is known that some crabs have been kept in the home as pets for as long as 15 years.
Land hermit crabs cannot reproduce in captivity. Their eggs must hatch in the sea. Like other crabs they grow by shedding their ex-skeleton. This is the most impotant step toward growth a small crab will make. During this time they shed all their skin(which looks like an empty sheleton of a crab.) They need to be kept extra moist and in a medium into which they can burrow themselves. It also may be necessary to isolate the crab for a couple of days because they are very soft, vulnerable and inactive. This is an inportant stage of development for it is in the period that any missing legs, ect., are regenerated byt eh crabs. Older crabs molt less frequently but require the same care. As the crab grows they will need spare shells to grow into and they also seem to enjoy moving inot empty shells to select the home that feels best.
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