Last Updated on August 30, 2022 by Joanne Harper
Hermit crabs are skilled climbers. They use their climbing skills to explore, scavenge for food, and to escape uncomfortable or threatening situations or predators.
Hermit crabs use their second and third pairs of legs to move around and climb. They hook the pointy tips of their legs into whatever holes, overhangs, or jagged areas they can find and start climbing.
While they can’t climb on smooth surfaces like glass or plastic, they find creative ways to still scale these surfaces. They’ll secure their legs to the algae growing on the smooth walls of their enclosure or use the silicone seals in the corners of glass tanks to climb as high as they can.
Do Hermit Crabs Like Climbing?
One of the things hermit crabs like to do most is climb. In many areas, they’re known as “tree crabs.”
According to Marine Ecology Progress Series, terrestrial hermit crabs in observed areas were discovered more often in trees than on land, sometimes with large groups of hermit crabs occupying a single tree.
Another favorite pastime of hermit crabs is digging and burrowing. However, in the areas observed, hermit crabs were seen much more often climbing on trees than digging or burrowing into the ground.
Hermit crabs will also gather in trees during mating season. Finding a hermit crab of the opposite sex to mate with is probably easier when they’re all consolidated in one place. This theory explains why hermit crabs of both sexes can also gather on algae during the mating season.
The Journal of Ethology stated that climbing algae is common in the wild. Hermit crabs climb algae to find mates, escape predators, and avoid conflict with males.
What Can Hermit Crabs Climb On?
If you want to make your hermit crab’s enclosure more interesting, you can equip it with different climbing materials. Here are some ideas for climbing decorations:
Netting is perfect for hermit crabs to climb on. You can buy or make nets of different sizes and with different materials safe for hermit crabs, like hemp string or twine.
You can position the netting horizontally across a small section of the enclosure or hang it vertically.
The rough, uneven texture of rope makes an ideal climbing surface for hermit crabs.
Use a rope that’s wide enough to support your hermit crabs. You don’t want the rope to be too thin and risk your hermit crabs falling off.
Create some stairs for hermit crabs to climb up and down. You can use various materials to create the stairs or buy ready-made stairs designed for hermit crab enclosures.
Stacking rocks of different shapes, sizes, and textures in your hermit crab’s tank will not only give it something else interesting to climb on, but if you position the rocks right, you can also create spaces big enough for your hermit crab to hide.
Ensure the rocks are secure, so they won’t topple over and hurt your hermit crabs.
5/ Artificial Plants
You can create an environment that looks very similar to a hermit crab’s natural environment using artificial plants and flowers while also giving them new and interesting things to climb on.
Place blocks of wood of different sizes around the tank, as they’ll love climbing on them. You can also stack these like stairs or angle them like ramps that lead to other climbing toys.
This is probably the simplest climbing toy you could give your hermit crabs because you can just go out to your yard, grab a few small branches from the ground, and place them in the tank.
8/ Large Bark Pieces
Place a large chunk of bark in the tank for them to climb on. It may not be a full-size tree, but it’s the next best thing for hermit crabs.
9/ Cork Board
A small cork board mounted on the side of the hermit crab tank could become a hermit crab’s favorite toy to climb. The soft, porous texture of the cork will allow them to get a grip and climb.
10/ Burlap Cloth
Hang a piece of burlap cloth on one side of the enclosure. A hermit crab’s legs can easily hook onto the tiny holes in the cloth.
Why Do Hermit Crabs Need to Climb?
Hermit crabs mostly climb because they want to, and it’s something fun for them to do. However, there are times when a hermit crab might feel the need to climb, such as:
If a hermit crab is feeling unsafe on the ground, it may decide to climb higher to escape whatever is scaring it. Perhaps another hermit crab is trying to fight with it. A shell fight might be about to take place, which occurs when hermit crabs try to take their shells from each other.
A predator may be threatening the hermit crab. If it can’t find a secure place on the ground to burrow or hide, it’ll likely climb to a higher point and hide where it will be least likely to be found.
As mentioned, in some areas of the wild, hermit crabs climb to find mates. Whether it’s a tree or algae or something else, climbing to a community gathering area to find a hermit crab of the opposite sex to mate with is a common occurrence.
According to the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, the mating season often has an uneven ratio of males to females.
This can lead to fights between the male hermit crabs over the females, which can be another reason a hermit crab might climb higher to distance itself from the provoking male.
Like many other animals, hermit crabs seem to be able to sense when a change in the weather is coming.
Hermit crabs living in captivity will react differently to changes in the weather than those living in the wild who are directly impacted by the changes.
In captivity, the weather stays the same. You monitor their tank’s temperature and humidity level, so it never drastically changes. They also aren’t directly affected by rain or wind.
When there’s a storm coming, you may notice your hermit crab will act differently because they can sense the change, even though they’re not directly impacted by it. They may begin to switch in and out of shells, or their activity level might drop until the storm passes.
When rain is coming, and the barometric pressure drops, hermit crabs will often climb into trees for protection. They’ll also climb high because the temperature shifts on the ground when the barometric pressure drops, so they’re searching for an area where the temperature is steadier.
Animal Behavior stated that when there were temperature changes, hermit crabs showed different-than-normal reactions. They believe that the alterations in behavior are likely related to a change in metabolic rate due to temperature changes.
Foraging for Food
Hermit crabs will often climb when they’re looking for food. While they could forage for food on the ground, there are times when it might be necessary to search higher.
If food is scarce or there’s a lot of competition from other hermit crabs and animals, a hermit crab might decide to climb up higher during their search.
Hermit crabs can experience boredom like other animals and people, so climbing gives them something to do for entertainment. It allows them to explore other areas, find new hiding spots, and play.
How High Can Hermit Crabs Climb?
The height that hermit crabs can climb varies based on the size and age of the hermit crab, the environmental factors, and why they’re climbing.
The Marine Ecology Progress Series stated that the hermit crabs they observed climbed up to 100 centimeters, or just over 3 feet.
The consensus is that hermit crabs won’t usually climb higher than a few feet, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been hermit crabs that have climbed higher.
What If My Hermit Crab Falls?
Once a hermit crab climbs up high, there are only two ways back down – climb or fall. Unfortunately, many hermit crabs fall, and a fall from too high up is likely to kill a hermit crab.
For instance, if you’re holding your hermit crab while you’re standing and it falls to a hard surface floor, chances are likely that the fall will kill it. If your floors are carpeted, there’s a chance it might be okay.
If your hermit crab is climbing around in its tank and it falls from a branch up near the top and lands in the soft substrate below, the chances are high that it’ll be just fine.
However, a fall that doesn’t kill your hermit crab might still injure it. It might damage or lose a limb, but that limb will grow back during its next molt. Small hermit crabs are more likely to die from a high fall than larger hermit crabs.
If a hermit crab has fallen and you aren’t sure if it’s injured, check for signs of distress, unusual activity, or a lack of activity. Allow your hermit crab a chance to heal.
Injured hermit crabs are usually able to heal themselves during a molt.
Can Hermit Crabs Climb Out of a Tank?
Hermit crabs have been known to escape their tanks. If you have climbing apparatuses on or near the walls or the top of the tank, it can be easy to figure out how your hermit crab escaped.
If you don’t have anything your hermit crab could’ve used to climb out of the tank, it becomes a bit more of a mystery. If the tank is glass, it’s possible your hermit crab could use the silicone seals in the corners of the tank that run from the bottom up to the top.
If the tank’s lid isn’t secure or has openings large enough for your hermit crab to fit through, it could slip out unnoticed.
Ensure the tank’s lid is secure to keep your hermit crabs from escaping. If a hermit crab is determined enough to climb up to the top of the tank, at least it won’t be able to get out.