Hermit crabs and snails have similar habitats in the wild. As a result, you might 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 your snails, as this encourages conflict.
Provide hiding spots for your snails to retreat to and make sure both creatures have enough space.
There have been instances where hermit crabs kill snails for their shells, so you must provide a suitable environment for both creatures to live harmoniously.
Can Snails Live with Hermit Crabs?
Hermit crabs and snails have a symbiotic relationship in the wild. This means they interact with each other for mutual benefit.
Specifically, hermit crabs use snail shells to live in when they outgrow the ones they’re using. Snails aren’t affected by this – hermit crabs use discarded shells once they’ve outgrown their original home.
Hermit crabs have several 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 that appear on their limbs.
Land hermit crabs frequently use the discarded shells of West Indian Topshell snails, which they’re dependent on for safety. Sea snail shells are also an essential source of protection. As soon as they find one that fits, they tuck themselves inside until they need to find a new one.
Unfortunately, captive hermit crabs behave differently because they’re not in their natural habitats. This means that there’s the possibility for conflict if hermit crabs don’t have enough to eat 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. It’s down to owners to replicate wild conditions as closely as possible so that their hermit crabs and snails live together in peace and harmony.
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 aren’t enough:
- Food for the hermit crabs
- Shell availability
- Hiding spots for snails to use as 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 your hermit crabs and snails, you must replicate conditions as closely as possible to protect both species from harm. Enclosures aren’t natural environments – they can be stressful for wild animals. When keeping both hermit crabs and snails, you can do this by:
- Keeping both creatures well-fed
- Providing plenty 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 these things, your hermit crabs are unlikely to coexist in peace with your snails, paving the way for conflict.
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 hermits. However, as mentioned, if you don’t provide enough food for your pet hermit crabs, they may turn on the snails instead, eating them to survive.
Similarly, if you’re wondering, “will hermit crabs kill snails?” the truth is 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 potential shell’s nearby. In fact, hermits 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 being 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 about 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 your snails and hermit crabs keep dying, but there’s no apparent reason for their demise. Unfortunately, there are several reasons for your snails and hermit crabs to die, but the most common include:
- Changes to the pH levels beyond 8.0 – 8.04
- Chemicals in the water, such as ammonia and nitrites
- You’ve used tap water, which contains harmful fluoride
- Fluctuations in water temperature
You’ll need to do some investigative work to determine what’s wrong within your tank. Similarly, keep an eye on your creatures to make sure they’re not killing each other for food or one another’s shells.
How Many Snails and Hermit Crabs per Gallon?
Hermit crabs are much larger than snails, so you must make sure there’s plenty of space within your enclosure for both creatures to live comfortably. Measure your enclosure, then, as a rule of thumb, add:
- One snail for every gallon and a half
- One hermit crab for every gallon
This should give both species enough room. However, 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 on. If the hermit crabs act aggressively and attempt to attack the snails, reduce the population or separate them.
How to Acclimatize Snails and Hermit Crabs
Acclimating snails and hermit crabs requires a little time and patience, but the benefit is that they both go through the same drip acclimation and temperature drop process. In particular, snails take a little bit of time to acclimate and commonly struggle to settle into their new home at first. That’s why you should keep an eye on 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 tight.
- Place the bag in the water for 30 minutes, allowing the snails and 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 ¼ of tank water and put it in the bag.
- Repeat this step a few times until the bag contains only tank water.
- Gently remove the creatures from the bag and add them to the tank, discarding the water they came in.
Don’t panic if your snails don’t come out of their shells for a few days. It takes them a little while to get comfortable, especially when hermit crabs are already in the tank. Keep an eye on the ammonia levels and check on them every now and then to ensure they’re still alive.
While both hermit crabs and snails can live together harmoniously, there’s always the risk of problems arising. If you have aggressive hermit crabs, it’s not fair to put snails in with them, as they’ll inevitably suffer.