How to Take Care of Hermit Crabs (Part 3: Health, Hygiene, and Handling)

How to Take Care of Hermit Crabs (Part 3: Health, Hygiene, and Handling)

If you haven’t read the first two parts of our series on how to take care of hermit crabs, check out our introduction and guide to setting up your crabitat. Here’s our information on how to keep hermit crabs happy in their crabitats and how to handle them.


Make sure you clean the substrate every months to prevent mold unless a crab is molting. Boil shells and dishes in dechlorinated salt water every 2-3 weeks. Strain the substrate to remove fecal matter, pieces of exoskeleton, and buried food. Shake sand out of empty shells.

To clean the tank itself, use a 3% bleach solution and dry everything completely afterward. To clean any sponges you have in the crabitat, soak them in hot water, then in sea salt water for a short time before rinsing and air drying them. To sterilize the sponge, wait until it’s completely dry and then throw it in the microwave.

Bathe your crabs before you put them in the crabitat the first time and then after they molt. Make sure you dry them off! Other than that, they bathe themselves in their water dishes.


You should feed your crabs well when you first get them, since they’re often starving when kept in a store. Avoid hermit crab food from pet stores, since they often have preservatives. Besides, hermies love to have variety in their diets. They’re omnivores, so they’ll eat almost any whole foods.

Hermit crabs love fresh silversides, shrimp, freeze-dried krill, bloodworms, other seafood, pineapples, apples, pears, grapes, cantaloupes, watermelons, mangoes, papayas, strawberries, bananas, coconut shavings, natural peanut butter, whole wheat toast, hard boiled eggs, and popcorn. You should avoid spices, garlic, and onion, and wash fruits and veggies before they go in the tank.

Add cuttlebones in the tank, since crabs eat them for calcium. You might also consider a carotene supplement. Check your crabs’ food and water levels before you go to bed, since they do most of their eating and playing at night (Side note: You might not want to keep your crabitat in a bedroom, since the crabs will move around and make noise while you sleep.).

New Crabs

When you first bring your hermit crabs home, let them get used to their surroundings before you try to take them from their crabitats and hold them. You can tell they’re more comfortable when they don’t retreat back into their shells when you pass by.

If you’re adding new hermies to an existing crabitat, quarantine them first in a separate container. They might not be used to ideal conditions, so slowly increase the temperature and humidity over a few days so that they don’t get stressed out from rapid change. Then they’ll be ready to meet their new roommates! This also lets you make sure that the new crab won’t spread any diseases to your existing crab family.

If a crab is molting, don’t ever dig it up. In fact, you should set up a barrier between the molting crab and any other crabs in your tank so that they don’t disturb it either.


Our first rule is to never take your eyes off a crab outside of the crabitat. They could easily crawl away, fall down, or find a substance that could kill them. Don’t take them out too long, since they do need the humidity in the tank to breathe properly. Wash your hands before holding crabs.

Always pick up a crab by the back of its shell and hold them less than 3 feet over a soft surface in case they fall. Place your hands side to side instead of fingertip to fingertip so that the crab has a more stable surface to crawl on. If a crab feels like it might fall, it will pinch.

If you’re afraid of pinching, make sure you hold your hand flat so that there’s less skin to pinch. You can also wear gloves. Remember, even if you do everything right, there’s always a risk of pinching, but that doesn’t mean your crabs are angry with you! They’re probably just scared. If you do get pinched, place the crab down gently and rinse the area well. After putting your crabs back, make sure you wash your hands again.


We hope this series gave you a better understanding of the time and energy it takes to own a hermit crab, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you! Hermit crabs are fun pets to have and, after the initial setup, require little maintenance. Knowing how to take care of hermit crabs will give you a wonderful set of pets for years to come. So go on, buy those boardwalk hermit crabs with confidence and give them the best environment and care they’ve ever had!