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How Do Hermit Crabs Climb?

Hermit crabs are good climbers. In fact, being able to climb is an essential part of their survival as they scale trees, rocks, and walls to get away from predators, rain, and high tides. They also climb to forage for food.

Hermit crabs climb by hooking the tips of their legs onto small protrusions they find on surfaces, such as trees, rocks, and stairs, allowing them to scale vertical heights. They climb glass aquariums by gripping onto any algae growing on the surface or digging into silicone seals. Hermit crabs don’t climb too high, but they can scale several feet when heading up trees.

Hermit crabs enjoy climbing in captivity. If there aren’t enough decorative features for them to scale, they become bored and stressed. Hermit crabs will climb over each other to assert dominance and fight over shells.

Do Hermit Crabs Need To Climb?

Hermit crabs like to climb, which is a natural instinct that allows them to survive in the wild. Climbing is essential for:

Finding Food

Hermit crabs use their impressive climbing skills to forage for food higher above ground. They’re omnivorous scavengers that eat:

  • Microscopic mussels and clams
  • The flesh of dead animals
  • Macroalgae
  • Fallen fruit
  • Leaf litter
  • Plants and grasses

Climbing gives hermit crabs a greater chance of finding food, particularly when it’s scarce, or there’s fierce competition from other hermit crabs and animals.

Escape Predators

Climbing allows hermit crabs to escape predators. Hermit crabs exposed on rocks are more likely to fall prey to predators, such as sea birds and humans, the latter of which use them as sea bait.

It’s not only predators that hermit crabs need to watch out for. They’re at risk of other hermit crabs stealing their shells. Empty shells are rare on land, so their best hope of survival is to kick other hermit crabs out and move into them.

do hermit crabs like to climb?


Hermit crabs commonly climb trees when rain approaches. That’s because they can instinctually feel when the barometric pressure drops. High tides are also an issue for hermit crabs. Land hermits can’t breathe underwater for longer than 20-30 minutes, so they climb up trees to avoid suffocating.

Get Ready to Mate

Climbing is part of the reproduction process. When a male and female hermit crab successfully mate, the female lays her eggs in the sea.

As soon as they’re ready to hatch, she throws them into the ocean, leaving the hermit crabs to fend for themselves. Marine Ecology Progress Series describes how some hermit crabs climb up trees to do this safely.

Of course, this behavior isn’t as typical in captivity. Without the ocean, female hermit crabs don’t have anywhere to leave their eggs, disrupting the natural breeding process from happening.

Avoid Boredom

Wild hermit crabs don’t need to climb to find food or escape predators and extreme weather. However, climbing is a source of exercise and mental enrichment in captivity. It’s something they enjoy, preventing them from becoming bored, which is an unnatural feeling for them.

Providing plenty of toys for your hermit crabs to climb on is essential to prevent them from becoming stressed and disinterested in the world.

How High Can Hermit Crabs Climb?

Despite having shells, hermit crabs can climb high up coastal trees, reaching a few feet. They rarely go all the way to the top, as they rarely need to climb too high compared to their relatively small size. 

What Can Hermit Crabs Climb On?

Hermit crabs climb on anything inside their enclosure, such as:

  • Rocks
  • Driftwood pieces
  • Shells
  • Plants

They also attempt to climb up the sides of their enclosure and upside down. If you have a lid and netting, they’ll use these parts of the tank as a climbing frame, too. That’s why you need a secure enclosure to prevent your hermit crabs from escaping.

Hermit crabs also climb over each other. They’re best kept in groups of three or more, but you may find your hermit crabs crawl over each other, even if they have plenty of space. Hermit crabs climb on each other for three main reasons, including:

  • To establish a hierarchy
  • Molting aggression
  • Fighting over shells

This behavior is mostly normal and nothing to worry about, but if they become too pushy and aggressive, it’s best to separate your hermits until they’ve settled down.

Can Hermit Crabs Climb Out of an Aquarium?

Now that you know hermits are excellent climbers, you’re likely wondering, can hermit crabs climb out of a tank? It’s difficult, but not impossible for them to escape.

Hermit crabs can climb vertically by hooking the tips of their legs onto small protrusions they find on the surface. If there’s a lid and they can’t get out of the aquarium, they’ll hang upside down instead.

Climbing is strenuous for hermits. It tires them out so much, they often stop mid-climb to conserve their energy.

Can a Hermit Crab Climb up Glass?

Since glass is so smooth, it’s not common for hermits to climb out of a large glass aquarium. However, if it’s shallow enough or there’s enough for hermit crabs to grip onto, they could hoist themselves up and escape.

Similarly, algae frequently grow on glass tanks, giving hermits enough grip to climb. Hermit crabs also climb coralline and use silicone seams for grip. If you don’t have a lid, your hermit crab will escape and keep on doing so until you’re able to trap them inside safely. Lids are always a good idea with a glass tank.

Can Hermit Crabs Climb Walls?

Hermit crabs can climb walls as there’s enough texture and grip for their legs to hold on to. This is normal both in the wild and in captivity.

Placing climbing walls into your hermit’s tank is a great way to encourage your hermit crabs to enhance their climbing skills while providing it with mental stimulation and the opportunity to exercise.

Cork is one of the best materials for a hermit climbing wall as the material’s safe and acts as a synthetic tree, allowing them to dig their feet into it.

Can Hermit Crabs Climb Rocks?

According to SciElo Brazil, some wild saltwater hermit crabs emerge from rocky tidal pools during low tide and climb to the top of rocks and stones once they start to be air-exposed.

Once they’re on the rocks, they remain inactive and turn the shell aperture (hole) downward or upward. After a certain amount of time, they turn around and place the aperture in the opposite position. 

Captive hermits love climbing over rocks and stone in their aquarium. That’s why you should place 3-4 in the tank, depending on how much room you have, to provide your hermits with a source of enrichment.

why do hermit crabs climb on each other?

Can Hermit Crabs Climb Stairs?

When hermit crabs escape their tank in captivity, they’re unlikely to attempt to scale the stairs. Instead, they’ll wander around the house, checking for warm, humid conditions. They’re more likely to hide under an appliance or closet than go too far upstairs.

That being said, depending on whether your stairs have scalable carpet they can grip or not, hermit crabs can climb stairs – it might just take them a little while to reach the top.

Do Hermit Crabs Climb Trees?

Hermit crabs frequently climb trees in the wild. In fact, there are so many climbing crab species that it would take years to identify all of them. The coconut crab is the world’s largest tree-climbing land crab species and a close relative of hermits.

According to the Marine Ecology Progress Series, wild land hermit crabs climb trees regardless of the current tide cycle.

On some of the islands that hermit crabs are native to, they’re referred to as “Tree Crabs” because they spend so much time in trees, owing to their advanced climbing skills.

In captivity, placing the branches and bark of your hermit crab’s native trees can help it feel more at home. Other safe types of wood include:

  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Bamboo
  • Birch
  • Cypress
  • Driftwood
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Pecan

Before putting wood into your hermit’s enclosure, boil it in unchlorinated water before leaving it to air dry. This process is vital as it removes bacteria or mites living in the wood. Even though wood attracts insects, hermits eat them, so this is a beneficial factor. 

Because hermit crabs are accomplished climbers, you must ensure your tank’s fully secure to prevent yours from escaping. Given the chance, hermits will flex their climbing skills, so provide plenty of accessories and decorative features to keep your pet occupied.