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Keeping Hermit Crabs and Land Crabs

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 21 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Pets Hermit Crabs Land Crabs Crabs

We’re all familiar with seaside crabs, but when it comes to exotic pets, hermit crabs and tropical land crabs don’t demand that you replicate the conditions of the shoreline rock pools to house them, making them some of the easiest sorts to keep.

Once something of a rarity in exotic pet shops, these crabs are now much more available and have become increasingly popular as a result.Although both kinds are described as “land crabs”, their needs do differ a little, so it’s worth doing your research first to make sure you get the conditions right for the animal and pick the right one for yourself.

Hermit Crabs

Land hermit crabs like their marine relatives, live in a borrowed shell, protecting the soft rear parts of their bodies by backing into a discarded snail-shell, which they swap as they grow and their adopted home becomes too small. Unlike the ones found around our shores, species such as the attractive Coenobita clypeatus and C. rugosus spend their lives out of water, typically hiding under logs or in burrows they dig for themselves during the day and emerging to forage at night. Although they are tropical animals, these pets don’t appreciate being too hot – they are easily dehydrated – preferring a temperature of around 21-26 degrees C (70-79F) but they do like humidity, 70 to 80 per cent being ideal, though they will tolerate less.

Housing these pets calls for a dry-land terrarium, with a flooring of either sand or bark chips, which should be misted to help maintain the necessary humidity, but it’s important not to overdo it, so make your sand damp enough to build a sand-castle – not sopping wet.

You’ll also need to remember to provide a range of shells for your pets to do a spot of home-moving when the need arises – but be careful to leave them undisturbed when they are actually moulting since they’re very vulnerable at this time and easily harmed.

Land Crabs

Large, attractive land crabs, such as the West African Rainbow Crab (Cardisoma armatum) – a striking purple-bodied species with reddish orange legs – also make interesting pets.

In the wild, these crabs live in burrows along rivers and the coast, so their homes need to have a good, deep floor covering to allow them to behave in a natural way – and they’ll also appreciate a range of bits of cork bark and other hiding places in the tank.

There are a number of varieties offered for sale as pets from time to time, including other Cardisoma species and the Indonesian Land Crab (Gercarcinus ruricola). Although they spend almost their whole time on dry land, they will still need access to water – so housing them either calls for an aqua-terrarium with a sizeable island area and well filtered water, or a terrarium with a big enough water dish to let them submerge fully.

Food And Water

Both kinds of pets are natural-born opportunists, scavenging and eating almost anything. However, they seem to bore easily, so most owners try to provide a good variety of fruits, vegetables, cereals, meat and even small amounts of cat or dog food – but they are inclined to be very messy eaters, so it’s important to clean up after them thoroughly.

Crabs need water, but chlorinated water seems to be harmful, although your pets may take their time before showing any ill-effects. Since they are sensitive to a range of chemicals – especially copper – it’s probably best to allow tap water to stand for a couple of days before use rather than try any of the de-chlorinating treatments sometimes available. Alternatively, either rain or spring water could be used, if available.

Land crabs and hermit crabs make fascinating pets and properly cared for, they seldom seem to need veterinary attention and can be surprisingly long-lived. A life span of three to five years appears to be quite normal and there are claims of them living to ten or even older – so your new pet could be with you for a good while to come.

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Hellocan you please add that land hermit crabs need marine sea salt water to drink and have a bath in as I have watched mine and they love marine salt water, table salt will kill them, also im not sure I would give them cat and dog food, fresh and organic food is best for them,, chlorinated water burns their gills, then they cant breath,many thankslin
wolfy - 8-Oct-11 @ 10:29 PM
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