Hermit crabs are widely considered to be cheap, low-maintenance pets. However, providing them with an appropriate quality of life requires time, knowledge, and money. If you are looking for a cheap pet to care for, hermit crabs may not be quite as inexpensive as you think.
The price of buying a hermit crab is under $10, which is why people think that they are a low-cost pet. However, hermit crabs need two aquariums, saltwater, decorations, climbing toys, and substrate. The initial cost of housing hermit crabs can be $500, and there are also ongoing costs, such as food and electricity, that need to be met.
You will need to maintain the health and happiness of your hermit crabs. Much of that is dependent upon setting up a hermit crab’s habitat correctly. As hermit crabs can live for 20 years or more in the right environment, this is a long-term undertaking for anyone.
How Much Does It Cost To Care For A Hermit Crabs?
Hermit crabs are inexpensive to buy. Beyond the cost of the hermit crabs themselves, you will need to prepare to pay for the following:
- Two habitats
- Heat lamps
- A water filter or bottled water
- Marine salt
- Cleaning and maintenance apparatus
- Spare shells
In some respects, hermit crabs are cheaper than other pets. They do not eat as much as other small animals, and there are rarely vet costs or pet insurance, to pay. There is very little veterinary assistance available for a sick hermit crab.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that hermit crab care is devoid of expense, though. Giving these interesting crustaceans the life they deserve – and keeping them alive – costs more money than you might think.
Pet Hermit Crab Price
Hermit crabs are not an expensive pet to purchase. You should get change from a $10 bill for a land hermit crab. Exotic breeds of marine hermit crabs are costlier and far more difficult to source. You have three primary options when it comes to buying hermit crabs as pets:
- Seafront gift shops on vacation
- Exotic pet shops and fish specialists
- Online stores
Gift shops capture wild hermit crabs from the beach and place them in cages for sale. Most of the time, the hermit crabs are distressed. They are housed in inappropriate conditions and kept by people that do not understand their needs all that well.
It’s better to buy hermit crabs from specialist stores. Hermit crabs, while still stressed, are kept in more suitable conditions.
Never buy just one hermit crab. As per Integrative Biology, solo hermit crabs grow lonely and asocial. Purchase a minimum of two hermit crabs, ideally more. We recommend a small colony of four.
Hermit Crab Tank Cost
Before you can bring your hermit crabs home, you’ll need to provide them with somewhere to live. Hermit crabs cannot wander free around a home. Likewise, housing hermit crabs outdoors or in a pond is out of the question, even for aquatic crabs.
Your hermit crab enclosure needs to be solid. You may have bought the hermit crabs from a beachfront store that kept them in a wire cage. That wasn’t a suitable environment to house hermit crabs.
If you have a fish tank, you can place hermit crabs in it. That’s not ideal, though. Hermit crabs cope better with their own space while adjusting to captivity. You’ll need two habitats for your hermit crabs.
One will be the primary accommodation of your pets. The second will be a temporary home. This can be used as an isolation tank for destressing and molting, or somewhere your pets can stay while their habitat is cleaned.
The main residence of your hermit crabs must be at least 10 gallons. Ideally, aim for 20 gallons in size. Hermit crabs are used to having a beach to explore. The second home can be smaller.
Expect to pay roughly $200 for both aquariums. If you are keen on additional bells and whistles, they may cost more. If you are happy with basic accommodation, it may cost you less.
The important thing is to ensure the tanks meet the needs of your hermit crabs. This means that expenses do not stop with aquariums alone. You also need to fill them with everything your hermit crabs need and invest in appropriate maintenance equipment.
A substrate is critical for an enclosure. Hermit crabs regularly burrow under their substrate, so aim for around 6 inches in each aquarium. This will also be enough padding to cushion a fall from the roof of a tank.
You have a choice of substrates for your hermit crabs. Sand is the most popular choice. There is no need to buy specialist sand from a pet store. Avoid the likes of calci sand. Basic play sand, like that used in a child’s sandpit, is fine. You can get this from a hardware store for under $10.
Alternatively, some hermit crabs like to live in the soil. Avoid dirt from your yard as it may contain bacteria or fungi. Instead, pick up creature soil from a pet store. This will be around $5 a bag, though the bag is quite small.
Under no circumstances use wood shavings, pebbles, or gravel as a hermit crab substrate. Your crabs will struggle to burrow under these materials. Such substrates will also damage the eyes and delicate abdomen.
The substrate will need to be spot cleaned daily and replaced with every deep clean. To save money, use sand and bake this in the oven during the deep cleaning. This will cleanse the sand and ensure it can be reused.
Accessories And Peripherals
You’ll also need to go shopping for a range of additional items. Before considering toys and spare shells, you’ll need:
- Hygrometer ($12)
- Misting spray (up to $10) or a small humidifier (up to $75)
- Thermometer ($12)
- Heating lamp ($25)
- Food dish (negligible – you could use a saucer)
- Two bathing vessels (negligible – you could use Tupperware containers)
- Ramps to gain access to and from bathing vessels ($10)
- Water filter for marine hermit crabs ($15)
These look like small expenses, but they can add up. You cannot skip out on any of these items. They are all essential to replicate the natural habitat of hermit crabs. This is the only way these animals will settle in captivity.
The hygrometer and humidifying apparatus ensure humidity remains at around 80%. This is essential – hermit crabs suffocate otherwise. The thermometer and heat lamp, meanwhile, keep the temperature comfortable. Aim for 80 degrees Fahrenheit or just under.
The food dish can be recycled from your kitchen, and anything can be used as a bathing vessel. Just ensure it is deep enough for the hermit crabs to submerge fully. Pick up some plastic to make ramps in and out of the baths. Land hermit crabs drown if trapped in water.
Marine crabs will also need a filter to keep their water clean. These vary in cost. Cheaper models tend to be noisier and drain more power. This will lead to higher electricity bills.
Toys and Decorations
Decorating the aquarium of your hermit crabs is a balancing act. You’ll want it to look nice. Many plastic decorations designed for fish tanks do not cope well with dry, humid conditions, though. They could release toxic fumes that harm crabs.
To be on the safe side, stick with natural decorations. These do not need to cost anything. Gather rocks and small logs from wild resources. Boil these in water to sanitize them and place them in the habitat. Your hermit crabs will appreciate the hiding places.
Hermit crabs will also need toys to stave off boredom. The most common forms of play for hermit crabs are climbing and burrowing. Accommodate these instincts with a range of accessories. These could include:
- Sliced coconuts
- Plastic toy blocks
- Imitation plants
If you shop around, you will be able to decorate a hermit crab enclosure for around $10. This is one area that you will not need to spend big. As long as your hermit crabs can climb and hide, they will be content.
Another area where hermit crab care is comparatively low-cost is aquarium maintenance. For the most part, you can make do with everyday kitchen products for this. Vinegar, for example, can be impactful at cleaning the walls of a hermit crab tank.
There are a few additional peripherals that you may want to consider. Examples of this include a small pooper scooper for spot cleaning and an aquarium vacuum. Even these are optional. That will total around $25.
If you’re prepared to put in the hard work of cleaning yourself, you’ll need a pair of rubber gloves, some vinegar, and a cleaning spray.
Food And Diet
Food is a non-negotiable for hermit crabs. Like all living things, hermit crabs need to eat. They are small, with equally small stomachs. These animals eat little and often, at least once a day. Usually, hermit crabs eat when they first wake up at sundown.
Pellets are cheap. You can pick up a box or tube for under $5 online. You may need to pay more in a pet store. In addition to pellets, you’ll need to supplement the diet of your hermit crabs with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Hermit crabs need a varied diet. The Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology explains that hermit crabs rarely eat the same food twice in 24 hours. This means you’ll need a revolving stock of snacks. Vary fruit and veg and consider adding popcorn and meat.
One final food source that you’ll need is cuttlebone. This is an essential source of calcium, which strengthens the exoskeleton of hermit crabs. Again, cuttlebone is cheap – usually less than $5. You will need to refresh and replace it regularly.
Water And Hydration
Unfortunately, tap water is toxic for hermit crabs. It contains chlorine and copper, both of which will kill hermit crabs in short order. You can either use bottled water or purchase a water purifier. The latter is a more expensive initial outlay but will save you money in the longer-term.
That is not all, though. As discussed previously, your hermit crabs will need two bathing pools. They’ll use this to moisten their gills, which makes breathing easier. One of these needs to be a saltwater bath.
Table salt is a strict no-no. Table salt contains iodine, which is once again toxic to hermit crabs. You’ll need to pick up marine salt from a pet store or online. Marine salt varies in price, but prices begin at around $10.
As an addition, you may also wish to consider adding sponges to your tank. These enhance humidity, and some hermit crabs use them for cleaning. Sponges for hermit crabs are not just kitchen sponges, though. You’ll need specialist items.
As always, these are available online and at exotic pet stores. You’ll need at least two, which will usually cost between $8-10. Sponges are optional. Some hermit crabs like them; others ignore or destroy them for fun.
Wherever you buy hermit crabs, they will be clad in shells. Hermit crabs do not stick with one shell for life, though. As your pet hermit crabs grow, they will need a range of alternative shell choices. The more shells available, the less likely your hermit crabs are to fight.
If you live close to a beach, you will not need to pay for shells. Take a stroll on the seafront and gather shells. If purchasing shells, you’ll find plenty of sellers online. It is advisable to spend $10 on a measurement caliper. This will help you measure the openings of existing shells and match this size.
Set aside $15-20 for hermit crab shell costs. The more choice your crabs have, the happier they will be. Keep these in the aquarium. You will likely find that your hermit crabs explore and try these new shells on for size.
Hermit Crab Expenses Table
Are numbers flashing before your eyes after all those figures? Don’t worry. Here is a conservative estimate of the cost of caring for hermit crabs, based on all the expenses discussed:
|Buying 4 hermit crabs||Up to $40|
|2 Aquariums (1 for living in, 1 spare)||Around $200|
|Aquarium apparatus (substrate, peripherals, toys)||Around $110|
|Spare shells||Around $25|
|Food||Around $20 per month|
|Water||Around $75 for a purifier, salt, and sponges|
|Cleaning apparatus||Around $25|
|TOTAL||Up to $500|
That is your initial bill. Do not forget that keeping pet hermit crabs is not a one-off expense. To determine the hermit crab cost per month, divide the ongoing costs (about $260) by 12. You should expect to pay up to $22 per month or $260 per year once you’ve bought your hermit crabs and tanks.