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A place where you can learn about Tree crabs, otherwise known as Hermit crabs, and learn how to care for them as pets!
         

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Congratulations! On the ownership of your new hermit crabs!

 

 Here are a few guidelines we have made just to help you through this exciting new journey with your new pets.

 

Hermit crabs:

 Scientific name: Coenobita clypeatus.

Other known names are:

Soldier crabs, tree crabs, climbing hermit, coconut crabs, ect.

 

There are three types of land hermit crabs sold in America. They are the:

 Reds & Purple Pincher (Caribbean) hermit crabs

Both the Reds and the Purple Pincher (PP) crabs have rounded eyes and more spots and hairs on their bodies than the Ecuadorians do. The reds and Purple Pinchers grow to be much larger than the Ecuadorian crabs.

 

 Ecuadorian hermit crabs

The Ecuadorian crabs have more of an upside down teardrop shaped eyes (Or some say oval) and are usually more hyper active.

 

All three types of crabs have been known to live well together.

 

Habitat:

 Hermit crabs are often found in very humid parts and near the ocean where it stays warm. A few places they have been found are in parts of Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, Belize, Venezuela, Bahamas, Virginia, and Southern Florida.

 

Colors:

 Hermit crabs come in all sorts of colors and sizes.

Some of the colors include, orange, purple, red, and a blend of these colors. I have even seen some that are very pale in color.

 

Dispositions:

 For the most part hermit crabs are very gentle. I have heard of some that are a bit on the aggressive side, but usually it comes from previous treatment from previous caretakers.

Smaller crabs tend to be more commonly known for using their pinchers to hang onto things. If you are going to handle a hermit crab be sure to hold your hand out flat so they can not grab hold of your skin, and make sure that you are fairly still. As you spend more time with your crabs, they will get to know you and feel more secure when you handle them. Larger crabs tend to be more calm and relaxed, however I have known of some to be capable of breaking a pencil in their big feeder claw when made angry. This usually takes a bit of effort to get them to do, and it is not recommended that you get them use to breaking pencils, so be forewarned. They have a good grip. Usually owners of Larger, or jumbo crabs tend to let their crabs roam on the floor under supervision rather than being held, mainly due to their size.

 

Socialization:

 Hermit crabs are found in large numbers in the wild. Some have been found in groups of 20 or more. They are very social creatures, and have been known to become depressed when placed in a tank alone. Some have even been known to live very short lives due to this. If you decide to get a hermit crab it is best to get at least two. You will find them to be much happier if you do. Usually size does not matter to the hermit crabs. I have several friends who have their jumbos mixed with their teeny little crabs and all get along very well. You can even find the little ones going for rides on the jumbos backs without any cares.

 

Communication:

 Hermit crabs do communicate. They often make gestures with their feelers and make grunting or chirping noises. Usually they make sounds when they are annoyed or sometimes excited. The source of which they make these sounds is still unknown. It is kind of like the mystery if the cat’s purr. I find my crabs are pretty quiet, except for the scratching noises from in the crabitat at night.

 

Nocturnal:

 Hermit crabs are nocturnal creatures. This means that they sleep during daylight hours and are up and around at night. This doesn’t mean that you will never see them walking around during the day, but as a rule they do tend to be more lively come evening. It is believed that the reason they are this way is because it is too hot during the day where they live in the wild, and during the evening hours it is warm and humid just as they need. The other reason is due to more predators being out during daylight hours. With darkness as their ally, they are much less prone to be seen.

                       

Scavengers/Protection:

 Hermit crabs are not considered true crabs. This is due to their unprotected abdomens. This is why hermit crabs carry shells on their backs that they have found laying around to protect themselves from predators.  Hermit crabs are omnivorous (scavengers). Not only do they grab any shell they can find that they can fit into, but they also find food wherever they must from plant and animal matter and such. They nibble from other shells such as the sand dollar, sea biscuit, and coral, for added calcium that is necessary for them come time for molting.

 

Losing limbs:

  The loss of limbs is something that not everyone expects to see happen to their hermit crabs. The number one reason is due to stress, and then the second reason is due to hermit crab fights. Don’t worry. Your hermit crab will re-grow this/her limbs when they molt. Until then, try to figure out if the temperature and humidity levels are right. Then see if someone is bothering them in the tank. If your crab does not see to like baths and stresses when it is in the water, try spraying them instead. Give them some time and see if he/she seems to get any better.

 

Molting:

Depending on the size of your crab, molting is done between 1-6 times each year. Hermit crabs have what we call an exoskeleton. Exoskeleton is the outer armor on the top portion of the crabs due to their not having any internal bones. They shed this exoskeleton during the molt. Before a molt the crabs get a little slower, drink and eat more, and if they have any lost legs they will start growing little gel nubs in the place of the missing parts. (This is called regeneration.) Just before the molt the gel nubs (If any) will start to turn darker in color. Usually this color will be orange or a brownish color. They will stock up on the needed food, water, and other nutrients needed for their upcoming event and then find a safe place to begin their task. Usually hermit crabs will dig under the sand or under some other substrate to keep from being eaten by predators during a molt. A few like to molt above ground, but usually only when they feel safe or are too weak to dig. At this time they will grow very still and fluctuate until their dry old exoskeleton comes off. After this they will be completely bare and need plenty of rest. Some hermit crabs have the strength to after the exoskeleton is off they will eat this for the added nutrients that they need to continue the process that has started.

 

 Many owners tend to throw away a molting crab due to feeling that they are dead. The crab is not dead, but in a way going through a great growth spurt and in need of some “growing room”.  Usually a dead crab will have a certain stink about them before too long. If you are not use to seeing a crab during the molting process, then just leave them alone to be sure that they are not dead. Once you have seen this process a few times you will grow more accustomed to what you have on your hands and be more prepared.

 

Take note that while your crab is going through a molt, try your hardest not to disturb the crab. Let nature run it’s course and wait for the happy day when he/she comes out looking and feeling like a new crab. This is very hard for many of us, including myself, but honestly the best thing is to leave them be. Any added stress can cause harm to your crab at this time. If you see your crab above ground to molt things may be a bit different. You should try to move your crab as slowly as possible to a secluded area where there are no other crabs to bother him. Some hermit crabs have been known to eat the exoskeleton of a friend (which the molting crab needs), and sometimes causing it to get carried away and eat his friend also, so it is best to be cautious. Your crab needs to eat its exoskeleton after it molts to help harden its new exoskeleton, so secluding your crab is best if you notice that he/she is going to molt. If for some reason the exoskeleton has been taken from your crab, try adding a good calcium source in the tank, near him/her. This will give your crab something to fall back on, to help it through the molt without troubles. Some have recommended that you do not move the molting crab if you see it has already begun the molting process, but instead place a top portion of a 2 liter bottle with the lid off over the top of your molting crab. Just cut the bottom part of your bottle off and stick the entire top piece over him/her, as deep into the sand or other substrate as you can. If you have marble sized crabs, I recommend using a bit of cheesecloth or netting type material secured over the top part just so your smaller crabs do not get into the molting crabs space. When your molting crab is back from his/her molting experience you may find that he or she looks very different. Hermit crabs tend to have a change in color, and sharper points to the tips of each leg, and once again need a new shell to fit into. Rest assured though. If your pet was your best friend before, his/her personality will not change due to the molt. He/she is the same hermit crab that they were before.

 

Signs of Molting:

 General lethargy, cloudy eyes, food sacks, excessive digging, stocking up on food and water, and the gel limbs (If any) will begin to turn into a brown or orange color. As stated before, the gel means they are starting the process of regenerating a limb

 

Sexing:

 Both the male and female hermit crabs look alike in outward appearances. The difference lays beneath the crab far within it’s shell. On the last pair of legs, on the underside of the crab, a female has what are called gonophores. Gonophores are the sexual openings where the male releases its sperm into the female, and then later the eggs are released from. The gonophores are located on the underside of the 3rd pair of legs. The only way of seeing the gonophores is if your crab will come out far enough on his/her own. Do not pull your crab out of its shell. The crab would rather lose its legs that to be forced out of its safe haven.

 

Breeding:

 Although many believe that breeding hermit crabs can’t be done, we have heard otherwise. I will add however, that it is very hard to breed hermit crabs. Crabs will mate in captivity, but beyond that there is much work for the caretaker or owner to do in order for all to pull through. 

 In the wild hermit crabs will mate, and as the eggs are released, the female will hold the eggs in her shell around her abdomen with her two tiny feet within. When the time is right, the female will then release her eggs into the ocean for her eggs to hatch and survive on their own. Many land hermit crabs only return to the ocean to release the eggs and stay further from the shore, but this is where the adventure begins for her offspring.

  The eggs will drift off in the current and those that make it past predators will hatch and little zoea will be born. The zoea will remain as parts of plankton until it has gone through several molts and transforms through metamorphosis, into a juvenile hermit crab. As young land hermit crabs that are fully formed they will leave the ocean to find something for covering their tiny abdomens. At this time their gills will be ready to take on the oxygen and they will be more than ready to go exploring with curiosity at full force. Many may not make it to finding a shell for protection, but for those who do, they are on their way on a great exploration.

 

 

Hermit crab needs:

 

Living space:

 In a 10 gallon you can have between 10-20 hermit crabs depending on the sizes.  Be sure to add lots of “toys” for them to climb on such as choya wood, coral and such. The more room you have for them to roam the better, but be sure not to overcrowd them either.

Be sure your aquarium has a hood on top to hold in both the crabs and the humidity levels. Some hermit crabs have been known to climb the silicone along the edges in order to climb out. I have two of these climbers in our tank and it is fun to watch, but gladly they have a cover.

 

 

Substrate:

The best substrate for your tank is play sand. It is also one of the cheapest. Be sure it is deep cleaned once a month by either replacing the sand or baking the sand after a thorough washing. Baking is done at 350 degrees in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Cool thoroughly before returning the sand to the tank with the crabs. I am sure they will be glad you did.

 

 

Heat/Humidity:

The most important thing your hermit crab needs is humidity and warmth. The leading death to hermit crabs is dehydration and/or suffocation due to the gills not being moist. Hermit crabs come from very humid parts and near the ocean. The temperature levels must be between 70-80 degrees, and humidity levels of between 60-100 percent. Spraying chlorine free water the tank daily can add moisture and bring the crabs out to explore.

Please do not over spray. Try to keep the substrate from getting overly wet. If condensation builds up on the inside of the tank, then you have too much humidity.

If your home is within the range of 70-80 degrees you may not need to add a heating source, but if you live anywhere that it gets colder in the winter months and such, you may want to invest in a heating pad for under your tank. They are sold at most pet stores in the reptile section.

 

 

Shells:

 As stated before, hermit crabs need shells to wear over their abdomens. Be sure to provide them with plenty of shells to move around and grow into. The looser shells provide them adequate moisture and room for moving around.

 Hermit crabs use their large feeder claw to measure the size of the hole in width and depth before fitting into the new shells that they look at. If a hermit crab is not given shells to grow into it can cause death in the end. Usually when a crab is in its shell is uses its large feeder claw with its other legs folded neatly around it, to close the hole to his shell as a type of door in order to keep his/her retained water within the shell from evaporating. The best fit is usually a shell with the hole the size of the crabs large feeder pincher plus 1/8 of an inch added around. Hermit crabs seem to also prefer the pearl colored insides to the shells. We are not sure why, but this has been known to draw attention to the crabs and makes the shell exchange a more frequent occurrence.

 Besides changing for growing purposes, the crabs like to switch for variety as well. Some will switch shells more often than others, so don’t be alarmed if one doesn’t change as often as the other hermit crabs in your tank. Some just get use to the shells they have, like our good ol’ pair of tennis shoes that Mom wanted us to throw away as kids.  Usually, providing clean shells after bath time will encourage shell changing (As a brand new pair of shoes from Grandpa would have convinced us to through out the old pair) and it can be fun to watch for the entire family. Ecuadorian crabs do not tend to change shells as often as the Purple pincher and reds do. They tend to only change when they feel the need to rather than the urge. Provide shells that fit the crabs well. Purple pincher and red hermit crabs have rounder abdomens than the Ecuadorians do, so the rounder the holes the better for them. I use both types of shells in my drying tub due to having all three types of crabs and I find that the shell preference is true for many of my crabs, but two of my Purple Pincher crabs are currently in shells with a very narrow hole (Like the Ecuadorians tend to use more often) and do not seem to want to change. I suppose this all really depends on the personality and taste of the crabs!  I suppose variety is always best! Have fun!

 

Exercise:

  They need places to climb on in order to use up energy, and to keep their muscles in well working order. Exercise also helps when it comes time for molting.

Examples of climbing equipment:

 Choya wood, shells, artificial plants, wire caging, driftwood, and other hermit crab “toys”. This makes for a very healthy and happy crab.

 

Calcium:

 Calcium can be obtained through a few sources.

Cuddle stone for birds, Shells (such as coral, sea biscuits, and sand dollars), and use of shell dishes instead of plastic. Never use metal dishes for food and water, as it can rust and cause the death of your hermit crabs.

Vitamin enriched foods.

  Fruits, veggies, fish food, and FMR hermit crab food (Or other reputable sources). FMR hermit crab treat is also a good snack, but focus on the FMR food. It has more of the nutrients your crabs need. Change food daily if possible, otherwise mold or rot will set in. Leave food for no more than 3 days Max.

 Cereals, crackers and other foods may be fun to feed them, but too much can cause problems. The problems are usually found in the length of life span. Do not feed your crab dairy products.

 

 

Watering needs:

 

Fresh Water:

 Use chlorine free water only. Change daily. Distilled water can be used or you can purchase drops to rid the water of chlorine from your local pet store. The Chlorine in the water from our tap can cause blistering in the gills of the hermit crabs and eventually cause death.

 

 

Salt water:

 Salt water is necessary for the hermit crabs also. It has nutrients in it that helps them grow and also to molt properly. Be sure you have salt water in the tank along with your de-chlorinated fresh water. As with the fresh water and food, be sure to change it regularly. Salt water isn’t as hard to come by as you may think. All you need to do is to get some Instant Ocean from your local pet store and adding it to some de-chlorinated water.

 

Be sure to keep the drinking water shallow. If your bowls are deep you can use stones, shells or other materials in it so that they can climb out once they are in the water. This also helps prevent the crabs from tipping the bowl over. Never use metal dishes or put metal items in the water as it can cause rust and hurt your crabs.

 

Weekly Baths:

 Weekly baths in Chlorine free, lukewarm water is recommended.

This is due to the gills that the hermit crabs have. Their gills need to be moist in order to breathe properly, otherwise they will die of suffocation. Treat the water before bathing your crabs (with the drops you have or by using your distilled water) and be sure it is lukewarm. Stress coat is also recommended to add to the water. This is very beneficial to your crabs due to the nutrients in it. Be sure your water is not too deep. Just to the top of the shell is sufficient.

 When your water is ready for the crabs, place them in the water and give them a bit of time to walk around before taking them out. When through with the bath, allow the crabs to air dry before adding them to their tank.

Do not over bathe! It is recommended that you bathe no more than every 4 days apart due to the nutrients they store in their water supply within the shell.

Do not leave hermit crabs under water for too long. Hermit crabs have gills, but can not breathe under water. Once they leave the ocean as young they usually do not return unless it is time for the female to release her eggs. 2 minutes is the duration of time you should leave your hermit crabs in the water at most.

  I use corals in our bathing tub for our crabs to climb up on if needed.

 

Handling:

 As I mentioned before, while handling your hermit crabs, pick them up by the shell and place them onto your palm open handed, or in the flat position, daily, in order to get them use to you. This way the hermit crabs will not just grab out and take a hold of your skin and nip you with their big feeder claw. If they feel insecure they will grab whatever they can, to stay on the object they are currently on, so don’t be alarmed if you were pinched once. You can try again later. Just be sure you give them no reason to feel insecure. Sometimes the insecurity is from past experiences at the place where they currently lived. Just give yourself and your hermit crab time and the more you handle them you will get to know each other.

 

 

If you have been pinched and the crab will not let go:

  Do not grab the crab and pull it off. It is best to place your crab and hand under lukewarm running water. This way may not be as quick, but in the end, you and your crab will have less injuries than you would have had otherwise.

 

Cautions:

 Hermit crabs if dropped from more than 3 feet high can die. The impact can cause their abdomens to rupture from the force. Be cautious when handling them.

 

If tank is not changed, mites or fly larvae can infect your tank and will cause harm to your hermit crabs. Monthly at maximum is the best record to keep in changing your substrate.

 

Jumbo crabs can cause harm to a young child while being handled if it is aggressive or if the child does not know how to properly handle them. This can send the feeling to the crab of insecurity. Please supervise while children are handling the crabs, for both the child and the crab’s sakes. Usually it is best to have the child sit on the floor or couch while allowing the crab to walk around them. Just be sure if you have the child on a couch, or other furniture item, that you are there to watch. Again. Adult supervision is highly recommended.

 

Infestations:

 The most common infestation found among hermit crabs is mites. Mites are little white bugs that you may see in your tank or on your crab that are quite a nuisance, and can harm your crabs. Many times people use a magnifying glass to be sure that is what they are. Mites are very small. If you find mites in your crabitat you should replace all substrate and clean everything. Do not use bleach to clean things. You can put the items in a tub of boiling water and add some vinegar to it. Usual proportional guidelines are ¼ cup of white vinegar to every one gallon of water. Be sure to bathe your crabs before letting them back into the tank. You can also go to your local pet store to get some mite remover from your reptile section. The best ingredient is eucalyptus. It will get rid of the mites naturally and not harm your crabs.

Mites can be transferred from one tank to another by welcoming a new crab too soon, so it is best that you wait a week before allowing new crabs in with your other crabs.

 

Diseases:

 Hermit crabs have not been known to carry any diseases.

 

Enjoy your new pets, and remember that if you need any help you can always get online and contact us at our website www.treecrabs.com or www.hermiehaven.com.