How to Take Care of Hermit Crabs (Part 1: Introduction)

How to Take Care of Hermit Crabs (Part 1: Introduction)

Souvenir shops on the boardwalk sell everything from T-shirts to postcards to snow globes commemorating your Jersey shore vacation, but your kids will inevitably ask for the most expensive item in the shop: a hermit crab. The crab itself might not cost much, but if your kids are in it for the long haul (If treated properly, these crabs can live for 10-25 years!), the money needed to care for these creatures adds up.

The problem many families have with buying a hermit crab on the Jersey shore is that it often dies within a few months because people are uneducated about what it takes (a lot) to set up a comfortable home for a hermit crab. That’s why we at VisitNJShore have decided to compile a basic guide on how to take care of a hermit crab, so that your vacation money doesn’t go to waste, and your kids can learn a valuable lesson about responsibility. We’ll start this 3-part series with an introduction to hermit crabs.

Wait…Which One?

There are actually 15 species of hermit crab, but only the Caribbean, Australian Land, and Ecuadorian hermit crabs are usually kept as pets. The Caribbean hermit crab, also known as the Purple Pincher, is the safest to keep as a pet for kids because it’s the hardiest and easiest to care for. While most of our tips apply to any of the commonly domesticated crabs, some may be more tailored towards that species. Always ask experts like the crab seller, pet store staff, veterinarian, or marine biologist for more specific advice.

The Basics

Hermit crabs are invertebrates closely related to insects and spiders. They’re omnivorous scavengers, so they will eat most foods, like noncitrus fruits, leafy greens, nuts, seafood, and more. Stay tuned, though for tips on what NOT to feed your hermit crab. For example, pet store hermit crab food often has preservatives in it that can harm your pet, so be careful!

Contrary to their names, hermit crabs are social animals, traveling in colonies of up to 100 crabs in the wild. Much like humans like to raid each other’s closets, crabs like to switch shells with each other. Try to buy at least 3 hermit crabs if you do decide you want them as pets. A hermit crab all alone in a tank or cage will get pretty lonely.

Hermit crabs are nocturnal (most active at night) and will eat their food slowly and in small bites. They like warm, humid weather just like their original homes in more tropical climates. At least once a year, they molt, shedding their exoskeleton once they grow too big for it.

It’s important to remember that crabs pinch. It’s usually not because they’re angry with you, but because they’re afraid of falling down or stressed about their surroundings. Handling them gently will prevent pinching most of the time, but if it happens, stay calm and handle the crab delicately.


In the next post, we’ll discuss how to set up a hermit crab tank (a crabitat, if you will). As a final note, we wanted to reiterate that, like with any other pet, it takes work to take care of hermit crabs. If you know you or your child are too busy or uninterested to create and keep up a fantastic environment for your hermit crab, you might want to consider buying a hermit crab stuffed animal instead.