How to Set Up Your Crabitat
This is a basic list of supplies and instructions to set up a very basic crabitat. These are the bare minimum supplies to set up a hermit crab habitat in your home. Please remember that hermit crabs are an exotic species. Hermit crabs do not make good pets for children. Hermit crabs have VERY specific needs. If kept in the right conditions, hermit crabs can live 40+ years in captivity. They are also strictly a hands-off pet.
Glass Aquarium: We recommend a glass aquarium, to help keep humidity and heat in. A minimum of 20 gallon tank, but 29 gallon is ideal. You will want a minimum of 10 gallons per small crab. The bigger the crabs, the more space they will need. Remember, your crabs WILL grow. The bigger the better.
Aquarium Lid: You will need a glass or acrylic/plexi-glass lid. Hermit crabs are an exotic crustacean species, not mammals. They do not breathe through lungs, but through modified gills. The modified gills enable them to breathe on land. In order breathe comfortably, they need high humidity. Dry flowing air, will damage their delicate gills, shortening their lives.
Substrate: Hermit Crabs dig underground in order to molt. If a crab molts above the surface, this indicates that something in their environment is not quite right. For a 20 gallon tank, you will need 1 bag of All Natural Play Sand. You can purchase play sand from a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes. You will also need a brick of Eco Earth/Plantation Soil/ Coir, available at your local pet store. Eco Earth (also seen as "Plantation Soil") is a fine blended substrate made from coconut fibre. In a bucket, follow the instructions on the back of the Eco Earth packaging. Then, in your tank, mix 2 scoops prepared Eco Earth, to 5 scoops Play Sand, and repeat as needed. You want to continue to repeat this process until you have a depth of at least 6 inches of substrate. The larger the tank, the more substrate will be needed. You will want a minimum of 6 inches of substrate, however if you multiply the height of your biggest crab by 3 and it equals more than 6, you will need to add more substrate as needed.
In addition to sand and eco earth, you may wish to mix in Organic Orchid Bark (about 1 cup) for substrate drainage, and about 2-3 cups (or more) of Leaf Litter for beneficial bacteria growth. We do sell Leaf Litter in our store. With the correct mixture of sand/eco earth and extras, you will never need to change out your substrate for new (except for emergency situations - see our emergency section). You may need to add more as the substrate settles over time, but a full clean out is not required and not recommended.
Heating: Hermit crabs need a temperature of approximately 80*F in order to thrive in captivity. You will need to purchase a heat matt for your aquarium. You want to attach your heat pad to the back side of your tank, above the substrate. For hermit crabs, we want to heat the AIR not the substrate. Most heat pads you find in pet stores will be called Under Tank Heaters. These are designed for reptiles to heat the substrate. You will buy the biggest heater that will fit on the back of your tank. However, you NEVER want to stick these heaters to the bottom of your tank. Always attach to the back of your tank. Attaching the heater to the bottom of your tank can put your crabs lives in jeopardy when they go underground to molt, which could possibly trap them underground in their most vulnerable state, unable to get away from the heat. The substrate needs to be cooler than than the upper air, not warmer. For larger tanks, of 30 gallons + you may need multiple heat matts in order to keep the heat up in the aquarium.
Guages: You will need to purchase a temperature and humidity gauge. The best and most accurate gauges to use, are the digital kind. Analog gauges made for hermit crabs that are sold in pet stores are not accurate, and not recommended. Cheaper and reliable gauges can be found at home improvement stores like Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Accurite gauges, if found, are phenomenal. In the USA these gauges are found in the home improvement section of Walmart for $8-9. Here in Canada, it is hard to find this brand. We use this Springfield gauge, available from Canadian Tire for our colony. Your gauge should be placed approximately 2-3 inches above the substrate for optimal readings. Too close to the lid, your heat will read higher, and too close to the substrate or on the actual substrate, your humidity readings will be through the roof.
Water: Hermit Crabs need both salt and fresh water in their habitats. Your water bowls will need to be deep enough for your largest crab to submerge completely. Hermit crabs are beach dwelling creatures. They need a particular pH reading for their shell water (the water inside their shells). They will dip themselves in both the salt water and the fresh water until they have the level of salinity they need. Close to their time of molt, you will find them in the salt water more than in the fresh water. You will need 2 bowls to use for water. They will need to be at least 2 inches deep, so your hermit crabs can submerge into the water. However, placing clam shells or rocks at the bottom, as well as some way to easily get in and out of the container is very important. Hermit crabs can drown under water without an escape route. In the wild they drink from puddles, and the ocean. There are easy ways to get in and out of both water sources so they do not drown. We need to replicate this, in captivity. For salt water, you will need to purchase INSTANT OCEAN. This brand of marine salt water mix contains specific trace minerals for hermit crabs dietary needs, and to provide the correct salinity for the shells. You will want to mix 1/2 cup of Instant Ocean to 1 Gallon / or 4 Litres of Fresh dechlorinated or Reverse Osmosis Water. Other brands of Salt water, made specifically for hermit crabs, or made for fresh water aquariums are not acceptable. You want MARINE GRADE.
In addition to salt water, you will also need to purchase a dechlorinator ... unless you have a reverse osmosis water filter in your home. Canadian Crab Connection recommends 2 brands of tap water conditioner for your hermit crabs. For Well water: API Tap Water Conditioner, available at most fish & aquarium supply stores (note you want just plain tap water conditioner, make sure there is NO slime coat). You want a conditioner that will take out Chlorine, Chloramine, Ammonia, metals and nitrates. A small bottle of API water conditioner will last you several years, as just 1 drop is needed for a 4 L jug. Another great brand is Kordon Amquel Plus Water Conditioner. This one takes 1 teaspoon per 4L jug and is recommended for tap water. If you can't find Instant Ocean, API, and Kordon Amquel Plus at your local pet stores, you can find all 3 on Amazon.ca Sacheam Prime is an amazing water conditioner, if you can find it, well worth your money.
Food: Hermit Crabs need a well balanced diet of Calcium, Cellulose/tannins, Veggies/Fruit and Protein. Calcium is needed in order to build a strong exo skeleton (the hard casing on the front of their bodies and claws). Plenty of proteins and cellulose (leaves, flowers) make them strong and healthy, as well as prevents cannibalism and violent behaviour within the colony. In addition to these food groups, Worm Castings are very nutrient rich and helps keep the hermit crabs calm. Honey is an amazing anti-oxidant and immune booster. We serve honey before and after molts, as well as to any new crabs and rescues. Bee Pollen essentially does the same to the immune system as honey but should be served in moderation. Sprinkle a little bit over fresh fruit, or mix into some apple sauce or pureed veggies. Preservatives are dangerous long-term for hermit crabs. Most commercial foods made specifically for hermit crabs, made by large companies, are loaded in preservatives and are not a well balanced diet, therefore are not recommended. Please see our Safe Foods List for recommended foods to feed your hermit crabs.
Shells: Unlike snails, hermit crabs are not born with their shells, and therefore as they grow they will need to upgrade to bigger sizes. It's very important to have a wide variety of shells available to your hermit crabs. A minimum of 5 shells per hermit crab is recommended. Though, the more variety the better. Lack of choice of shells, can result in violent shell fights, cannibalism and other behavioural issues. See our Shell Selection for more information. If you don't find what you are looking for shell wise at Canadian Crab Connection we can recommend some other sites that may be able to meet your needs. We are constantly working on improving our selection and stock.