Unlike other pets, hermit crabs don’t go for walks or play with bell toys. Nonetheless, these crustaceans need to get exercise and enrichment within their tank. If you’re looking for hermit crab toys, the best ones are all climbing-based. In the wild, hermies scuttle over rocks, driftwood, and through plant life to explore their world. You can replicate that with objects bought at a pet store, but DIY makes hermies even cheaper to own.
The best toys for a hermit crab will be a climbing branch, a climbing net, a piece of bark, and strings of rope. You can match that to different terrains using rocks, plastic building blocks, and clay pots. Hermies will enjoy traversing and poking at different textures. As such, consider adding an old cloth, plastic aquarium plants, and aquarium step ledge decorations too. All these items offer a great amount of exercise for your hermit crabs.
You can easily find or make each of these toys yourself. That saves you plenty of money in the long run and will entertain the hermits for years. Just be sure to space out these toys, so your pets need to explore to play with them all. Some hermit crabs will even climb upside down, so don’t be afraid to tier the climbing decorations at different levels. They will enjoy a challenge.
What Do Hermit Crabs Climb On?
Hermit crabs will climb on pretty much anything inside their enclosure. This includes any rocks, plants, or other decorations you have filled their habitat with. They will even crawl up the sides of their enclosure and upside-down along the lid or net you have on top.
This climbing behavior is a natural instinct. It serves hermit crabs well on beaches or in oceans across the world. According to the Marine Ecology Progress Series, land hermit crabs in the wild will often climb trees, no matter the current tide cycle. This is for fun, protection, and necessity, as climbing will help a hermit crab:
- Search for food
- Seek shelter from rain or an especially high tide
- Avoid boredom
- Escape predators or even other hermits trying to steal their shells
- Get ready for mating season
Of course, hermit crabs don’t need to climb as a survival tactic in your home’s tank. They don’t need to hunt for food or avoid predators.
However, they may still grow stressed, lethargic, and unhappy if they have nothing to climb. It will feel unnatural and leave them bored. Providing climbing toys is a way to help your crustaceans feel at home and entertained.
Why Do Hermit Crabs Climb on Each Other?
Hermit crabs are best kept in groups of 3 or more. With this set-up, you may notice the colony members crawling all over each other, even when there’s plenty of space. Don’t worry; they’re not trying to hurt or eat each other. Instead, they are:
Trying To Establish A Hierarchy Inside The Tank
Hermit crabs are largely territorial creatures. If any new hermie is introduced into the fold, the older ones will climb on top of it or push it around. This is to establish dominance.
Displaying Molting Aggression
Some hermits may also grow more aggressive during molting season. As they duke it out, they may circle one another, chirp, or climb atop each other. If you have pushy hermit crabs, it is best to separate any during this time into their own isolation tanks.
Fighting Over Shells
Hermit crabs will often trade shells to find a prime one for themselves. This shell trading is quite orderly, with hermits lining up from the smallest to largest. However, some hermits are far pushier, according to Animal Behaviour. One may attempt to tug the other hermit crabs out of their shells to test if this new shell is better for it.
Normally, this behavior is not something to worry about. It might even be fun for you to watch your crustaceans shove each other to work out who is top crab. However, that changes if you notice one pet actively pinching at the other’s eyes, abdomen, legs, or other sensitive areas.
In this case, you should separate them or put them in different enclosures. Overly aggressive behavior should not be encouraged, or you risk one or more of your hermits being seriously injured.
Do Hermit Crabs Like to Climb?
Hermit crabs, by nature, love to climb. You will often find your hermit crab scaling over anything it can. The tips of its tiny legs will find purchase in even the smallest dents on any surface.
This includes the walls and lid of its enclosure. It is crucial that you tightly seal this lid to ensure that your hermit crab does not escape or hurt itself on any latches or other mechanisms.
This does not mean that you should discourage your hermit crabs from climbing altogether, though. Not all hermit crabs climb around their enclosure in search of escape. Sometimes, they need stimulation. You can easily provide that by decorating their habitats with plenty of fun climbing toys.
DIY Hermit Crab Climbing Toys
Your hermit crabs might not be all that particular about what they climb on or over. They will make do with any object in their tank.
With that said, some climbing toys are more challenging and fun for hermit crabs. You can even make these at home, using materials you find or bought cheaply at a dollar store. Here is a list of the best DIY toys for your hermit crab.
Hermit Crab Climbing Branch
Even a fallen branch from your backyard can be a great toy for your pet hermit crab. Of course, you will have to make sure that this branch is clean. It should be free of any dirt, chemicals, insects, or other irritants that might harm your pets.
It’s also wise to consider the type of wood these branches are made of. Cholla wood is a popular choice for hermit crab enclosures. This wood is actually the soft skeletal remains of a cactus plant. Your hermits will enjoy climbing all over and occasionally eating it. The wood is hollow and often pocked with small holes, so your pets can get a better grip.
Next, you should consider the position of the climbing branch in the hermit tank. Plopping it on its side might entice your hermit crabs for a few minutes. Ultimately, they will get bored and move on to something else. It is better to position the branch at an angle or even stick it up vertically in the sand like a tiny tree.
Piece of Bark
A simple piece of bark or driftwood will also suffice as a climbing toy. The natural roughness of the bark provides a great hold for hermit crabs to climb.
Of course, you will have to clean it before placing it in your tank. Scrubbing the wood in hot water should suffice. Be sure to avoid any cleaning chemicals with organic materials. These might be absorbed into the bark and get your hermies sick. Once you are satisfied that the wood is clean, it will be safe to place it against the side of your hermit enclosure.
DIY Hermit Crab Climbing Net
Making a climbing net for your hermit crabs will provide them with an interesting challenge. You can make one by:
- Cutting a piece of cheese cloth or fishnet
- Inserting hooks on all 4 corners, or wherever you need to for support
- Attaching 4 suction cups with string
- Sticking these suction cups at the ends of your enclosure
This will create a little hammock that your hermit crabs can scale across. The cloth should not span the entire length of the enclosure, though. Instead, make it a few inches shorter so that your hermit crabs will be able to climb up to it.
You could also weave a net of your own. This will really put your knot-work skills to the test. If the net cannot support your hermit crab’s weight, then it will likely fall and hurt itself. Here is a simply DIY rope net you can make at home:
- Hang a piece of rope or string across 2 lifted platforms of some kind.
- Once that is secure, loop another string through the hanging string.
- Fold that string in half, placing it over the hanging string
- Then, pull the ends of the new string through the loop.
- Continue this with other rope loops along the length of the hanging string, placing them 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Tie the hanging ends of 2 different strings together in a double knot. This will create a hole in the net.
- Continue to tie each of the other ends together in this fashion.
- Once you weave all the way to the bottom, tie off the ends in an extra-secure knot.
Your handmade net should be finished. Hang it inside your hermit crab’s enclosure with suction cups. You can then watch the crustaceans navigate over or around their new hanging toy.
Hanging a bit of rope via suction cups inside your hermit crabs’ enclosure will provide them with plenty of entertainment. It is important to consider the rope’s material, though.
Certain materials may be too rough on the crustaceans’ underbellies. You risk scratching or harming them if you place just any rope inside its habitat. Hemp, sisal, and jute ropes tend to work best for hermit crabs.
Consider how small or large your hermit crabs are. If you own ones on the smaller end, then a thin rope with a diameter of around 1 inch should suffice. However, if you have larger hermit crabs, it is best to get a thicker rope of around 1.5 inches in diameter.
Sturdy Pile of Rocks
Gathering a tiny pile of smooth stones for your hermit crabs is as simple as it gets. Just be sure to clean the rocks before placing them inside the habitat. This cleaning process can be as simple as:
- Scrubbing your new rocks.
- Letting them soak in a bucket of water with 1- or 2-parts bleach for 24 hours.
- Once the 24 hours are up, rinse the rocks and let them soak in a bucket of clear water for another 48 hours.
- Change out the water every 12 hours or so to ensure that no bleach remains.
You will also have to arrange this pile in a way that is not in danger of falling over on your hermit crabs. If a hermit crab becomes trapped, it will likely leave its shell behind to escape. Without it, the hermie is vulnerable and may even die.
Gluing the rocks together in a pleasing formation might be best. That way, you will not have to worry about any of them falling. You can keep them in a shape that you and your hermits like best, no matter how roughly they play.
Plastic Building Blocks
Plastic building blocks that you can connect together are a wonderful, colorful toy you can place in your hermit crab enclosure. If you want to get even more creative, you and your family can build entire structures or statutes for your hermit crabs to climb all over. Make sure to include several levels of these structures for your hermies to explore.
Again, it’s smart to wash your plastic building blocks before placing them in your enclosure. This ensures that no harmful chemicals or other lingering bacteria from your hands can hurt your crustaceans.
However, if your hermit crabs begin to chew at these blocks, it is best to remove the structure entirely. You cannot risk your hermits eating plastic and getting sick. Should this happen, it might be best to switch to wooden blocks or a new toy altogether.
Old Towel or Cloth
An old towel or piece of cloth might not sound like the most exciting toy for a hermit crab. Nonetheless, your pet is sure to love climbing up on it. You can tie a few knots along the cloth to provide extra notches for grip strength. Just be sure to wash this cloth every now and then, as it may begin to smell over time.
The type of fabric will not matter in this case, but it’s wise to use rougher cloth or even old sacks. These will provide better footholds to climb up, as opposed to smoother fabrics like silk.
Popsicle sticks can be added to just about any project listed so far. You can glue popsicle sticks around a regular branch to give your hermit crabs even more steps to climb around or over. You might also use popsicle sticks to create a firm rope bridge or ladder. Just be sure that you do not leave any open spaces between the sticks. You don’t want your hermits’ legs to get caught or trapped.
You can also use popsicle sticks to make tiny wooden huts or structures of your very own. Make sure you do not use too much glue! Your hermit crabs might try to eat any hardened bits that stick out, which will make them ill. Get creative with it, and your hermit is sure to appreciate your efforts by scaling all over it.
If you have an old flower pot lying around, you can easily place it inside your hermit crab habitat for them to climb inside or over. The pot can be half-buried inside the sand to create a one-way tunnel or shade. You can also place it firmly upside down for your pet to crawl all over.
This pot also serves a dual purpose. It acts as both a structure to climb over and extra protection for your hermit crab. If it becomes startled or scared, it can hide. Providing your hermits with multiple places to tuck themselves away will give them a sense of control over their environment. With that, they are actually more likely to show themselves and explore the tank.
You can also make your own pottery if you choose. Just be sure that the clay you use is all-natural and does not have any additives in it. You should also avoid painting or glazing the clay in any way. Your hermit crab might attempt to eat the chemicals and get itself sick. A plain pot will work best.
Aquarium Step Ledge Decoration
These intricate step-ledges are often sold as decorations for aquariums, many of which are already pre-made. Fortunately, you can make step decorations of your own! This will take a bit more time and effort on your part. Nonetheless, it will be worth it to see your happy crustaceans scuttle up and down the steps.
You can carve these steps out of wood or arrange the sand inside your enclosure into a step-like structure. If you have any extra popsicle sticks on hand, you can also glue them together to create steps for your hermits to climb. You can even make intricate stairs out of any extra plastic building blocks you have.
All in all, hermits love to climb, and you don’t have to break the bank to ensure they can. With a few at-home projects, your hermit crabs will stay enriched and entertained.