All captive hermit crabs begin their lives in the wild. This suggests that hermit crabs can live outdoors, but the reality is considerably more complicated.
To survive outside, hermit crabs must have a temperature of around 80OF, a humidity level of 80%, and a substrate for burrowing. Unless your yard offers a climate that meets these requirements, your hermit crabs’ quality of life will be compromised.
Hermit crabs may not be safe outside, especially in an open enclosure. Birds are natural predators of hermit crabs in the wild. Also, stray or feral cats, foxes, and raccoons will hunt and kill hermit crabs.
You can take hermit crabs outside for short periods to allow them a change of scene and to embrace their instincts. These outdoor playtimes are still perilous and must be supervised and kept short.
Can Hermit Crabs Live Outdoors?
Hermit crabs can’t be expected to survive outside, as they need the right conditions to survive in terms of substrate, temperature, and humidity. Unfortunately, these aren’t replicated in the majority of backyards.
You could potentially keep hermit crabs outside in an aquarium, provided you can run electricity to the tank that manages temperature, lights, and humidity.
Can Hermit Crabs Live in a Pond?
Terrestrial hermit crabs can’t live in a pond and shouldn’t have access to a body of water.
While land-dwelling hermit crabs enjoy spending time in the water, they can only hold their breath for 30 minutes at most. Falling into a pond creates a risk of drowning.
Marine hermit crabs are no safer in an outdoor pond, as they can’t survive if water temperatures drop below 72OF at the lowest. You could heat the pond, but this means you can’t keep fish in it. However, this is for the best, as many fish eat hermit crabs.
Aquatic hermit crabs eat algae, which is an advantage of keeping them in an indoor fish tank.
Environmental Toxicology explains how ponds and lakes contain toxic blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, that can kill. You may know these algae as “pond scum.”
Can You Take Your Hermit Crab Outside?
Hermit crabs can get bored in captivity, so a change of scene may help them adapt.
When taking hermit crabs outside, you have two options:
- Place the hermit crabs in a smaller, portable enclosure.
- Allow the hermit crabs to roam free in a contained area.
Any time outside with hermit crabs must be considered a risk.
Advantages of Taking Hermit Crabs Outdoors
If you’re careful, there can be benefits to taking your hermit crab outside. Just ensure you follow all necessary safety procedures.
Change of Scene
Transitioning from living in the wild to captivity is exceptionally stressful for hermit crabs. This sudden change leads to post-purchase syndrome (PPS), an anxiety-centric condition that defines the first days of a hermit crab’s life as a pet.
You can minimize the impact of PPS by allowing your hermit crabs time outside. This change of scene from a tank will help hermit crabs adjust as they’re again spending time in the open air.
Only take a hermit crab outside if it’s already active. Never dig up a hermit crab managing PPS by hiding under the substrate, as this disturbance will cause further stress.
As hermit crabs start their lives in the wild, with an entire beachfront to explore, the four walls of a 10-gallon tank can feel restrictive.
Time spent outdoors allows hermit crabs to satisfy their instincts and explore. Your hermit crabs may even take this opportunity to hunt insects, though it’s likelier that they’ll scavenge for food, like fruit that has dropped from a tree.
This spirit of adventure still needs to be tempered. Provide barriers that prevent your hermit crab from escaping, as they can be challenging to find afterward.
You’ll also need to ensure your hermit crab doesn’t encounter anything dangerous, such as toxic plants.
Hermit crabs can only get limited exercise in captivity, especially when sharing a tank with conspecifics. You can provide the opportunity to climb, but space limitations will eventually tell.
Taking hermit crabs outside will give them a larger area to run. If you provide hermit crabs with a carbohydrate-dense snack before taking them outside, they’ll have plenty of energy to burn off.
Disadvantages of Taking Hermit Crabs Outdoors
There are more risks than rewards to taking hermit crabs outside.
If you’re going to do so, think long and hard about the potential hazards and how you can manage them. Only take your hermit crabs outside if you’re sure you can keep them safe.
Potential for Escape
Hermit crabs are prey animals, so as explained by the Journal of Physiology, they will likely display fight-or-flight instincts when presented with unfamiliar terrain.
Ensure that your hermit crabs can’t flee their outside enclosure and escape your sight.
They’ll be challenging to the point of impossible to find in the long grass of a backyard lawn and are unlikely to survive long once exposed to the elements.
Hermit crabs are ectothermic, meaning they don’t generate body heat.
Hermit crabs must live in warm climes, between 72–84OF, with 80OF considered the sweet spot. Any cooler than this, a hermit crab’s life is in danger.
As the temperature drops below 72OF, hermit crabs grow increasingly weak and stressed. A hermit crab will likely retreat into its shell and seek somewhere to burrow to retain warmth, but this won’t be enough. Hermit crabs can’t slow their metabolism and hibernate.
Eventually, this lack of warmth will cost a hermit crab its life as it will lose the ability to move and freeze to death. It’s unlikely that a hermit crab will survive longer than 48 hours without appropriate temperatures.
Lack of Humidity
Land-based hermit crabs breathe through gills kept open and moist by living in humid conditions. As per a hermit crab enclosure, this humidity level should be around 80%.
Hermit crab gills begin to blister, scar, and close up when exposed to dry conditions without sufficient moisture in the air. This means hermit crabs are subjected to a slow and unpleasant death by suffocation when kept away from humidity for too long.
Ideally, cap hermit playtimes outside at 30 minutes. Hermit crabs can flourish this long outside their natural humidity level. Anything more prolonged, and you are taking unnecessary risks.
Hermit crabs are at the bottom of nature’s food chain and have no shortage of enemies while outside. You’ll need to observe your pets and protect them from any other animal that intends to harm them.
Building walls around a hermit crab exercise area will go some way to keeping away cats or other land-based foes. You’ll still need to supervise, as feline predators can move quickly.
Walls won’t protect hermit crabs from birds. Avian hunters are among the biggest risk to a wild hermit crab’s life. A bird may swoop and claim a hermit crab, flying away before you can stop it.
Loss of Senses
According to Behavioral Ecology, if a hermit crab is surrounded by ambient noise, it’ll grow confused. This can make time outdoors distressing.
Equally, hermit crabs rely on the scent of saline water to activate their sense of smell. As per Animal Behavior, hermit crabs rely on aromas to recognize each other. If a hermit crab can’t pick up scents, familiar or otherwise, it’ll likely grow disoriented.
Short, supervised time outside is okay, but only if you’re prepared to take all safety precautions.