Hermit crabs and snails have similar habitats in the wild. As a result, you may be wondering whether you can keep them as pets in the same enclosure.
Snails and hermit crabs can live together as long as your hermits have food and a selection of shells. Don’t choose shells that look similar to snails, as this can lead to conflict. Provide hiding spots for snails to retreat and ensure they have enough space.
There have been instances where hermit crabs kill snails for their shells, so you must provide a suitable environment for them to live harmoniously.
Can Snails Live with Hermit Crabs?
Hermit crabs and snails have a symbiotic relationship in the wild, which means they interact with each other for mutual benefit.
Specifically, hermit crabs use snail shells to live in when they outgrow their shells. Snails aren’t affected because hermit crabs use discarded shells once they’ve outgrown their original home.
Hermit crabs have anatomical features that enable them to fit inside snail shells. According to Schmidt Ocean Institute, snail shells are coiled in shape.
Because hermit crabs also have coiled abdomens, their bodies become asymmetrical, allowing them to fit inside. They also grip the inside of the shell with special gripping pads on their limbs.
Land hermit crabs frequently use the discarded shells of West Indian Topshell snails, which they depend on for safety. Sea snail shells are also an essential source of protection.
Unfortunately, captive hermit crabs behave differently because they’re not in their natural habitat, so there’s the possibility of conflict if hermit crabs lack food or large shells to move into.
While it’s rare for hermit crabs to harm snails, they’ll do so if the environment’s not right.
Do Snails and Hermit Crabs Get Along?
In the wild, snails and hermit crabs get along well. As mentioned, they have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. However, problems arise in captivity when there isn’t enough:
- Food for hermit crabs
- Shell availability
- Hiding spots for snails to take refuge
In this instance, snails are likely to feel threatened by hermit crabs, who’ll kill them for their shells or food in extreme circumstances.
When creating the right environment for hermit crabs and snails, you must replicate conditions as closely as possible to protect both species from harm.
Enclosures aren’t natural environments, so they can be stressful for wild animals. When keeping hermit crabs and snails, you can do this by:
- Keeping snails and hermit crabs well-fed
- Providing lots of hiding spaces, such as plants and wooden accessories
- Providing a variety of shells that look different from your snails’ shells to prevent conflict
Without them, hermit crabs are unlikely to coexist peacefully with snails, paving the way for confrontation.
Do Hermit Crabs Eat Snails?
Hermit crabs are easy-going, opportunistic eaters. They’re happy to eat anything they find in the water, such as:
- Small fish
- Invertebrates, including worms and plankton
- Food particles
Fortunately for snails, they’re not a preferred food source for hermit crabs. However, if you don’t provide enough food, they may show interest in snails, eating them to survive.
Similarly, if you’re wondering, “will hermit crabs kill snails?” it’s rare. Hermit crabs don’t tend to kill snails for their shells because they can smell dead or dying snails, alerting them that a shell’s nearby.
Hermit crabs are more likely to kill each other to win a new shell. There aren’t many shells available, particularly in the wild, so competition for them is fierce.
That said, it’s not unheard of for hermit crabs to kill snails. According to anecdotal evidence from divers, there are at least two species that kill snails for their shells, which are:
- Aniculus maximus in Hawaii
- Petrochirus Diogenes in the Caribbean
Not enough research exists on the likelihood of hermit crabs killing snails for their shells, so we have to rely on the behaviors we see for ourselves in the wild.
Why Do My Snails and Hermit Crabs Keep Dying?
It’s distressing when snails and hermit crabs die for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, there are several reasons for snails and hermit crabs to die, but the most common are:
- Changes to the pH levels beyond 8.0 – 8.4
- Chemicals in the water, such as ammonia and nitrites
- Tap water as it contains harmful fluoride
- Fluctuations in water temperature
You’ll need to do some investigative work to determine what’s wrong with the tank. Similarly, monitor the creatures to ensure they’re not killing each other for food or each other’s shells.
How Many Snails and Hermit Crabs per Gallon?
Hermit crabs are larger than snails, so provide sufficient space within your enclosure for everyone to live comfortably. Measure your enclosure and add:
- One snail for every gallon and a half
- One hermit crab for every gallon
These figures are only a guide, as there are rocks, plants, and accessories to consider. It’s always best to underfill rather than overfill your tank, as this prevents overcrowding and competition for food and space.
See how your snails and hermit crabs get along. If the hermit crabs act aggressively toward the snails, reduce the population or separate them.
How To Acclimatize Snails And Hermit Crabs
Acclimating snails and hermit crabs requires time and patience, but the benefit is that they both go through the same drip acclimation and temperature drop process.
In particular, snails take time to acclimate and commonly struggle to settle into their new home at first.
Monitor them for the first few days to ensure nothing goes wrong. To acclimatize snails and hermit crabs:
- Your snails and hermit crabs should come in a plastic bag, but if they don’t, place them in one and seal it tightly.
- Place the bag in the water for 30 minutes, allowing the snails and hermit crabs to get used to the temperature.
- Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, untie the bag and discard ¼ of the water. Scoop up a ¼ of tank water and put it in the bag.
- Repeat this step a few times until the bag contains only tank water.
- Remove them from the bag and add them to the tank, discarding the water the original water.
Don’t worry if your snails don’t come out of their shells for a few days. It takes them a while to grow comfortable, especially when hermit crabs are already in the tank. Monitor the ammonia levels and check on the residents occasionally to ensure they’re still alive.
While hermit crabs and snails can live together harmoniously, problems can arise. If you have aggressive hermit crabs, it’s unfair to put snails with them in the same tank, as they’ll inevitably suffer.