Hermit crabs are likeliest to grow bored when they live alone. Ideally, the minimum number of hermit crabs to keep in a captive environment is four, but a colony of ten is preferred.
Hermit crabs can grow bored. Prevent boredom by encouraging hermit crabs to explore and climb. Also, provide enough substrate for hermit crabs to dig tunnels, as this is one of their favorite activities. Some hermit crabs like to play with small animal toys and splash in the water.
If hermit crabs get bored, they become stressed. This is dangerous, as stressed hermit crabs have a limited quality of life. Left unmanaged, boredom can lead to premature death.
Are My Hermit Crabs Bored?
Be wary if your hermit crabs constantly hide beneath the substrate or within their shells. If a hermit crab sees no point in exposing itself, it’ll stay concealed.
Even if your hermit crabs present themselves, they may be slow and sluggish. Excited, engaged hermit crabs will skitter around a tank and remain mobile.
What Do Hermit Crabs Do for Fun?
If you keep hermit crabs, you must understand how they amuse themselves. This involves filling a habitat with entertainment and checking how they respond.
Just supplying toys and apparatus isn’t always sufficient. If you’re fortunate, your hermit crabs will play together and minimize your need to get involved. You may still need to engage, but expect your hermit crabs to build their daily routines around these activities.
In their wild habitat, hermit crabs have an entire beach to explore.
Marine Biology explains that hermit crabs periodically relocate when looking for resources. Unfortunately, placing hermit crabs in an enclosed habitat removes this option.
To make your hermit crabs feel comfortable, house them in a tank of sufficient size. An aquarium or vivarium of 10 gallons should be considered the bare minimum.
Try not to place food in the same place every day, as hermit crabs are natural scavengers. Exploration is part of their daily experience as they seek new taste sensations.
Allow your hermit crabs to investigate their home and seek sustenance.
Climbing is one of the most natural behaviors in hermit crabs, which they do for fun and recreation. As per the Journal of Ethology, some hermit crabs climb to avoid confrontation.
You’ll likely find your hermit crabs climbing the walls of a habitat. Encourage your hermit crabs and allow them to reach the ceiling. Hermit crabs like to hang from the roof of their habitat and may sleep there.
Hermit crabs may fall when climbing, but this shouldn’t be a concern if you provide substrate to cushion their fall. If you find a hermit crab stuck upside down, it may be dazed and need help righting itself.
Appropriate substrate levels are one of the most critical components of any habitat, as hermit crabs love to dig. They sleep under the substrate, hide under the surface when not wishing to be disturbed, and dig tunnels for fun.
Digging tunnels is most commonly associated with hermit crabs preparing to molt. This is a profoundly personal experience for hermit crabs, who don’t wish to interact until it concludes.
The digging of holes and tunnels isn’t only reserved for molting hermit crabs. Many hermit crabs will also dig tunnels to explore and enjoy time alone.
Equally, scratching the substrate can give a hermit crab something to do.
Wrestling and Play Fighting
Hermit crabs are docile by nature, with Tropical Zoology explaining that all shapes, sizes, and species of wild hermit crabs peacefully co-exist. The same applies in captivity. Conflict may arise over shells or territory, but most hermit crabs remain on good terms.
Hermit crabs sometimes enjoy roughhousing and playfighting, which takes two forms:
- Feeler fights: Two hermit crabs wrestle with their antennae. This isn’t aggressive behavior; the hermit crabs exchange scents and information, though it can also determine a pecking order in a colony.
- Tests of strength: Hermit crabs try to push each other over. If this behavior is purely playful, any hermit crab flipped on its back will be assisted up by a conspecific.
Don’t break up a playfight between hermit crabs unless you need to.
Listen out for loud chirping, which suggests one hermit crab is growing uncomfortable. This chirping may be followed by hiding. If so, separate the two hermit crabs for a while.
If hermit crabs pinch each other, especially aiming for the eye stalks, separate them at once.
These two hermit crabs may not be able to live together in the future. Hermit crabs have long memories and may recall a frightening confrontation.
How To Entertain Hermit Crabs
Having established that hermit crabs can stave off boredom with the appropriate entertainment in a habitat, let’s assess what additions will make up the perfect tank for your pet hermit crabs.
Climbing Frames and Nets
A love of climbing makes nets and climbing frames an essential addition to any habitat. You can construct these yourself or pick up climbing apparatus designed for small animals like hamsters.
Even mesh nets can be used in a hermit crab habitat. Just avoid anything too thin or reedy. Hermit crabs climb by gripping surfaces with their chelipeds and hauling their body up. If the hermit crab holds onto something too thin, it’ll cut right through.
As well as climbing frames and nets, fill your hermit crab habitat with sanitized rocks and safe plants. As well as climbing opportunities, these double up as places for your hermit crabs to hide.
Encourage climbing as much as possible, especially the walls of the tank. Keep an eye on the ceiling and make sure it is secured. If a hermit crab escapes, its life may be in jeopardy before you find it.
Hermit crabs won’t play with toys in any conventional sense. If you roll a ball, your hermit crab won’t fetch and return it. At best, it’ll investigate the object and walk away.
Hermit crabs enjoy some small animal toys. A hamster wheel could provide opportunities for exercise, provided it is large enough to accommodate a shell. Choose a solid wheel so the hermit crab’s legs won’t get stuck.
You could also apply hamster tubes to a hermit crab habitat if it is large enough. Don’t create holes in the tank to accommodate plastic pipes, as this will cause a loss of humidity. Equally, ensure your hermit crabs can quickly get in and out of the tubes.
Other small toys, such as wooden blocks, will give your hermit crabs something with which to interact. As hermit crabs have no teeth, chew toys are irrelevant.
BMC Neuroscience explains how the presence of saline water activates a hermit crab’s sense of smell. Fresh water is used for bathing and drinking, while some hermit crabs enjoy playing in the water.
Place a tub of water in a hermit crab enclosure. This should be shallow enough for a hermit crab to climb into with the aid of a ramp but deep enough to submerge itself.
The presence of a ramp in and out of the bathtub is critical. Hermit crabs will enjoy wallowing in water but can only hold their breath for so long before drowning. Ensure your hermit crab can escape the water if you are not available to fish it out.
Never use tap water for your hermit crab’s bath, as it contains chlorine, copper, and a range of other heavy metals toxic to hermit crabs. Only apply bottled water or get a water purifier.
Things to Shred
As docile as hermit crabs are, they enjoy shredding materials with their chelipeds, so consider giving them some plain paper to shred. This should be a ream of plain, unused white printer paper. Avoid newspaper; the ink is potentially toxic.
Hermit crabs can also shred aquatic sponges – not kitchen sponges. The primary purpose of these sponges is to increase humidity in a tank.
Taking responsibility for hermit crabs means ensuring they don’t grow bored under your care. Hermit crabs are nocturnal, so you’ll need to ensure their habitat provides enough entertainment.