Hermit crabs rarely leave their tank. This means that you need to think long and hard before subjecting hermit crabs to a stressful journey.
Hermit crabs are not natural travelers. Given a choice, they would never leave the beach. A bumpy, noisy voyage will provoke stress and anxiety. It’s also difficult to maintain a safe temperature and optimal humidity conditions in transit.
Hermit crabs should not be forced to travel unless it’s unavoidable. For example, if you’re taking a trip, ask somebody to come to your home to care for your hermies. If you must travel with hermit crabs, keep the trip as short and stress-free as possible.
Are Hermit Crabs Comfortable with Travel?
Almost all new pet hermit crabs experience post-purchase syndrome, or PPS. This is a stress-centric concern, during which hermit crabs adjust to their new surroundings. Travel, whether by road or by air, will invariably magnify this issue.
This means that, in short, hermit crabs are not comfortable with travel. Sometimes, though, it becomes necessary to transport hermit crabs from one locale to another. If this is the case, you must take the necessary precautions to keep your pets as comfortable as possible.
How Can You Travel with Hermit Crabs?
As discussed, travel is not a pleasurable experience for hermit crabs. Alas, it is sometimes necessary. Examples of when you may need to travel with your pets include:
- Purchasing hermit crabs on vacation and bringing them home
- Moving to a new home with hermit crabs
- Taking hermit crabs to a friend or family member to care for while you are away
If you are going to travel with hermit crabs, you need to do so carefully. Realistically, your only options are making the journey by road or air. Trains are too bumpy for hermit crabs, and journeys by sea will take a dangerously long time.
Before planning a trip with your hermit crabs, ensure they are fit enough for the journey. Sick or molting hermit crabs should never be forced into travel. Your pets will already be under stress. The impact of travel will likely kill them.
Before making preparations to travel with hermit crabs, ask yourself it is necessary. You should avoid putting hermit crabs through this experience if possible. If it is unavoidable, you need to consider the following:
- Maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity for hermit crabs
- Keeping a supply of food, water, and substrate
- Managing variation of light and dark cycles
- Reducing physical impact, such as bumps
Above all, keep the time in transit short Anything longer than a few hours places hermit crabs in danger. These animals are not equipped for cross-country road trips that last for days. If necessary, consider shipping your hermit crabs by air to speed up the transition.
Can Hermit Crabs Travel in Cars?
If hermit crabs need to travel, a car is the safest method. If you’re taking a short journey of under a few hours, driving will be preferred.
If you are going to take your hermit crabs on the road, you’ll need at least one passenger. This person will need to monitor and care for the hermit crabs. Never leave hermit crabs into the trunk and assume they’ll be fine.
You’ll also need to make appropriate preparations before starting the journey. These include:
- Purchase a tank for transporting the hermit crabs (if not using their usual habitat)
- Prepare an isolation tank for emergency molts or outbursts of aggression
- Prep these tanks ahead of time, applying correct temperature and humidity
- Fill the tanks with substrate – your hermit crabs will burrow for the duration of the drive
- Keep a misting spray handy in case more humidity is needed
- Provide a blanket to warm up the tank and moderate darkness and light
- Stick to a schedule, and avoid traveling after dark if you can
- Never start the journey if hermit crabs are about to molt or look sick
Whichever way you attempt it, travel will never be pleasant for hermit crabs. A short road trip can be just about tolerable, though, if approached correctly. There are still more steps to consider, though.
Keep Hermit Crabs Together
You may be tempted to separate your hermit crabs and have them travel independently. In theory, placing each hermit crab in a separate Tupperware container will provide privacy. It also, theoretically, means that one poor reaction will not impact other hermit crabs.
Stress may provoke aggression in one or two of your hermit crabs during travel. With this in mind, consider keeping one small isolation tank handy. A particular hermit crab may need a little time alone to cool off. Just don’t make this standard policy.
Enforced separation of your hermit crabs will magnify the stress of travel. One of the reasons that hermit crabs grow so anxious when entering captivity is separation from their wild colony. A solo road trip will have the same impact.
Hermit crabs seek safety in numbers. This does not necessarily mean that your pets will huddle together. As per Animal Behavior, ambient noise impact grouping instincts in hermit crabs. Engine noise may lead to the crabs seeking solitude.
This does not mean you should take the option to congregate away from your hermit crabs, though. If your pets find it easier to cope by staying apart, so be it. There is no way to predict how they will react. It’s always better to provide the option of company.
Moderate Temperature and Humidity
One of the biggest challenges that you’ll experience when transporting hermit crabs by road is the environment. A static hermit crab aquarium in the home needs to be constantly monitored. You must ensure humidity and temperature remain appropriate at all times.
This is even more challenging in a car. The 80/80 rule – 80% humidity and a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit – will be difficult to maintain. Temperature, in particular, can fluctuate in a car. Humidity will also need to be reviewed throughout.
Do not contemplate a car journey without a hygrometer and thermometer. Check the readings of these throughout the trip. Do not rely on your hermit crabs showing you they are too cold or overheating through body language. They will likely be hiding.
Keep a misting spray handy and apply more humidity to the enclosure at regular intervals. You may also want to consider adding hermit crab sponges to the temporary enclosure for more humidity.
Purchase a small, oscillating fan too. This will keep air circulating around the enclosure. As always, this involves a balancing act. Do not create a constant draught, as this will bother your hermit crabs. Equally though, don’t be shy about using the fan for air.
Hermit crabs will likely spend an entire car journey buried under the substrate of their enclosure. Burying in the sand is a classic technique for destressing hermit crabs. They are looking to avoid exposing themselves to any kind of stimulus.
All the same, your pets may emerge from the substrate on occasion. Some hermit crabs are more curious than others. They may overcome their discomfort and stress to explore what is happening. Equally, the hermit crabs may crave food or water.
To make the experience more pleasurable, provide entertainment. Climbing apparatus is out of the question during travel. The temporary habitat will likely be too small. Even if the size of the tank is not an issue, it only takes one bump to cause a fall. Injury may follow.
You can still give your hermit crabs toys to amuse themselves, though. Examples of this include:
- Chunks of cuttlebone or hermit crab-safe wood to chew on
- Things to destroy – this is a natural way for hermit crabs to destress
- Additional hiding places, i.e., plant pots, if they are sturdy enough to stay in place
It remains unlikely that you will see much of your hermit crabs during travel. Providing distractions that are not needed is preferable to the alternative, though.
Can Hermit Crabs Fly on a Plane?
Every major airline has unique policies on traveling with pets. It should be noted, though, that these rules typically apply to dogs and cats. Hermit crabs are rarely considered applicable for travel on airlines. If they are, expect to pay an additional fee.
If you need to take your hermit crabs on an airplane, they’ll need to be treated as a carry-on. Checked luggage will be handled roughly and tossed into an unseated and unpressurized cargo hold. The odds of hermit crabs surviving the flight are slim to none.
Speak to your airline of choice and learn if they will permit hermit crabs in the cabin. At best, there will be strict rules on how your pets can travel. The container will need to be escape-proof and you may need to stow it under the seat in front of you.
Be honest about the fact that you plan to travel with hermit crabs in advance. If one airline refuses this, look into an alternative. Do not just arrive at the airport and hope for the best. Your hermit crabs will be identified, and you can be denied permission to board.
You’ll need to constantly check on your hermit crabs. Airplanes are not famed for their humidity, so constantly mist the enclosure. The risk of suffocation is also high. Air pressure in flight is much lower than the sea level that hermit crabs are used to.
You will almost certainly not be permitted to travel overseas with hermit crabs by plane. Some countries will not permit the entry of hermit crabs, period, due to concerns over the local ecosystem. Also, most nations have strict rules against importing live animals.
If you must transport hermit crabs by plane – due to moving home to another state, for example – they will need to be shipped overnight by FedEx or UPS. This is still not ideal. It’s the best of a bad set of options, though.
How to Ship Hermit Crabs by Air
If you need to send hermit crabs long distances and cannot carry them on a plane, shipping is your only option. There is no guarantee the crabs will survive. You need to be prepared for this. All the same, here is advice on shipping hermit crabs.
Ensure you use a guaranteed next-day delivery service. This typically excludes the post office. Use FedEx or UPS. Pay whatever it takes to ensure delivery with 24 hours and make sure somebody will be available to receive and sign for the package.
Now comes the challenging part – packaging your hermit crabs to keep them safe. The following steps will make the delivery as tolerable as possible for your pets.
- Locate a box large enough for all crabs and punch two air holes in it
- Cover every inch of the box with the word FRAGILE
- Line the box with protective material, such as bubble wrap, ensuring air can get in
- Gently bundle each crab in cheesecloth to retain warmth
- Wrap the hermit crabs in a damp sponge or towel. Do not place terrestrial hermit crabs in a sealed body of water. Even if they do not suffocate, they’ll drown
- Place the crabs in the box and pad with insulation to retain heat and mask sound. Do not use newspaper for this – the print is toxic
- Have your package mailed. Remember, next-day delivery is non-negotiable
Do not lie about the contents of the box, but equally, only reveal as much information as you must. The average delivery driver will likely be unfamiliar with legislation surrounding shipping live animals. They may refuse the package, erroneously considering it illegal.
What Happens to Hermit Crabs After Travel?
Cast your mind back to when you first adopted hermit crabs. The animals likely burrowed under the substrate for weeks. This was because the journey had inflicted significant stress on them. The same situation will arise after further travel.
When you unpack your hermit crabs at the end of the trip, expect the following behaviors and consequences:
- Prolonged periods of hiding and burrowing under the substrate
- Loss of appetite
- Potential pinching when you attempt handling
- Shedding of limbs
- Emergency molting
- Stress-induced aggression among the hermit crabs
There is no avoiding these issues. If you subject your hermit crabs to a road trip, air travel, or shipping, they will essentially re-experience post-purchase syndrome upon arrival. Sadly, as always, this means there is no guarantee that all crabs will survive.
This needs to be factored into your thinking. Is the journey that you’re planning worth risking the lives of your hermit crabs? If not, avoid moving them.