Hermit crabs won’t interact with humans and play in a traditional sense. If you loosen your definition of ‘play,’ you can still have fun with hermit crabs and keep them entertained.
Play is part of the environmental enrichment that all hermit crabs need to flourish in captivity.
Hermit crabs love to climb, so fill a tank with climbing apparatus. Climbing frames, nets, and ornaments will keep pet hermit crabs entertained. Also, ensure your hermit crabs have enough substrate for digging.
As natural scavengers in the wild, hermit crabs enjoy searching for food in their habitat. Consider hiding and burying food for your hermit crabs to find, but be wary of anything perishable.
You can even take your hermit crabs out of their tank to play for a short while. Create a separate playpen or sandpit for your hermit crabs to explore and interact with, but return them to their tank before the change in humidity negatively impacts their ability to breathe.
Are Hermit Crabs Playful?
Hermit crabs are social animals that enjoy spending time with their own kind.
In the wild, hermit crabs frequently live in colonies of 100 or more. While this is partly due to safety in numbers, they also seek out the company of conspecifics.
Never adopt a single hermit crab, as it’ll quickly grow lonely and bored living by itself, regardless of how much entertainment you provide. Take on at least two hermit crabs, ideally up to five.
A small colony of captive hermit crabs will keep each other entertained to an extent, interacting through playfighting and other social engagements.
They’ll also need additional forms of environmental enrichment, such as toys.
What Do Hermit Crabs Like to Play With?
Add the following to a hermit crab tank:
- Deep substrate for hermit crabs and dig into and burrow under.
- Ropes, nets, and climbing frames create hermit crab obstacle courses.
- Logs, rocks, and plastic blocks can be climbed over and used as hiding places.
- Plastic plants for aesthetic splendor and interaction.
One of the great things about hermit crabs is that almost anything can be used as a toy, and the materials you’ll need are frequently cheap or even free if you use natural resources around you.
What Do Hermit Crabs Do for Fun?
Hermit crabs don’t like to be held, cuddled, or petted, so you’ll need to ensure that their habitat is filled with entertainment. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including:
Climbing is a popular activity among captive hermit crabs.
While they frequently like to keep their feet on the ground, they also gain pleasure from scaling walls and obstacles. As per the African Journal of Ecology, wild hermit crabs also climb trees.
Hermit crabs will often climb the tank’s walls, making their way to the roof. Some hermit crabs like to hang upside down and sleep here, akin to roosting bats. Others will just climb for fun.
You can facilitate your hermit crabs’ desire to climb by adding apparatus to a tank and creating obstacle courses for your pets to negotiate. Add climbing frames and rope toys designed for companion birds alongside mesh and netting.
Consider applying bark to the sides of a tank to make it easier to climb and replicate the natural experience for hermit crabs.
Above all, ensure the tank floor has enough substrate to cushion any falls from height.
2/ Digging and Exploring
As well as climbing, hermit crabs love to dig in the substrate.
Always ensure that your hermit crabs have at least six inches of substrate. Playground sand is ideal; it’ll allow your pets to build tunnels and explore underground while still breathing freely.
Fill a hermit crab tank with other objects for hermit crabs to explore and interact with. Rocks, logs, and other natural additions will pique your pets’ curiosity, giving them something to climb and hide behind.
Children’s blocks not made from toxic materials are another great addition.
Avoid anything that contains oleamide. According to the Marine Pollution Bulletin, this plastic additive excites hermit crabs, which mistake it for food but negatively impact their breathing ability.
Wooden building blocks, or safe plastic toys like Lego, are nice additions as they’re versatile. You can create new shapes and paths for your hermit crabs to explore so they feel like they’re experiencing a new habitat regularly and remain engaged.
Consider plastic plants too. Like rocks and logs, these act as climbing toys and hiding places and remind a hermit crab of the wild. Plastic plants will not need to be watered or tended to and won’t struggle with the temperature or humidity of a hermit crab tank.
Despite their diminutive size, hermit crabs have a lot of energy to burn.
Your pet hermit crabs will be most active shortly after eating, typically when they wake at dusk. Foods rich in carbohydrates, in particular, provide hermit crabs with vigor.
Hermit crabs work off this restlessness in the wild by walking for miles. A suitable alternative is to include a hamster wheel in a tank, which your pets can run on without leaving their enclosure.
Always use a solid wheel for hermit crabs – their legs could get trapped in anything that contains holes, which can lead to injury or severance of limbs. Most hermit crabs will be quite content if they can run off some energy for a few uninterrupted minutes.
4/ Scavenger Hunts
Hermit crabs are natural scavengers in the wild, covering multiple miles daily in their search for food. While no hermit crab will complain about being served dinner in an easily-accessible bowl, they’ll also enjoy hunting down treats and rewards.
You can try burying snacks and toys under the substrate for your hermit crabs to track down. Just avoid anything perishable that rots quickly, like fresh fruit.
Shredding paper is a simple way to keep hermit crabs entertained, as they’ll enjoy tearing the paper apart using the large cheliped. You can also include twigs and sticks in a tank for the same purpose.
Placing plain, unused printer paper in a tank is the safest way to encourage shredding in hermit crabs.
Don’t place anything too big, like a telephone directory or thick magazine, in a tank. These will be too bulky for a hermit crab to shred. These items will draw moisture from the air and turn to mulch.
6/ Water Play
Water is an essential part of any hermit crab enclosure.
As per BMC Neuroscience, saline water in a tank stimulates a hermit crab’s sense of smell. Bathing in water also keeps a hermit crab clean and moistens the gills.
Hermit crabs can’t swim, so there is no need to offer a large body of water that doubles as a pool.
Ensure that enough water is found in a tank to meet the needs of all inhabitants, though. Some hermit crabs like to wallow in water for up to half an hour.
You may even notice that your hermit crabs splash around in the water, though most will remain static and fill their shells. This ensures that a hermit crab has a constant source of hydration and moisture.
Hermit crabs rarely need to be encouraged to climb into the water. Ensure your hermit crab can get back out using a ramp or mesh net.
Terrestrial hermit crabs can’t breathe underwater and only hold their breath for so long.
Can Hermit Crabs Play Outside Their Tank?
You can’t take your hermit crabs to the park, but they can occasionally play outside their habitat. As these inquisitive animals live to explore new terrain, they’ll enjoy a periodic change of scenery.
Consider setting up a child’s sandpit for your hermit crabs to play in. This will allow them to dig and burrow as standard but in a different environment. Don’t set this up outside due to wild birds.
You could play with your hermit crabs in the home. Allow your pets to explore different terrain, and set up obstacle courses for them to negotiate.
Keep an eye on your hermit crabs while outside the tank. They can move quickly, and as excellent climbers, they may scale curtains or furnishings. It can be challenging to find if a hermit crab manages to escape your attention.
If you remove your hermit crabs from their habitat, they can only play for a short while before they must be returned. Hermit crabs rely on precise temperatures and humidity levels to remain healthy.
Keep a hermit crab outside its tank for too long, and its gills will start to close up due to the lack of humidity. Over time, this can cause a hermit crab to suffocate. Keep playtime outside the tank brief – ideally no longer than an hour.
Hermit crabs are social and playful animals if they feel happy and confident in their surroundings. If you care for a colony of hermit crabs, equip their habitat with toys and interact with them periodically.