Hermit crabs often encounter wood when exploring the wild. As explained by the Journal of Crustacean Biology, hermit crabs frequently climb trees, which means the presence of wood in a hermit crab enclosure will bring comfort as it mirrors the hermit crabs’ natural habitat.
Many hermit crab habitat ideas involve wood, so you can use wood to create climbing apparatus, such as bridges. For example, you can use wood to create ramps in and out of bathing pools.
Wood can create shaded shelters and hiding places; some woods are even edible.
Never paint or varnish wood before placing it in an enclosure. Also, don’t place pre-treated wood in a tank, as the varnish or paint will flake in the heat, which is toxic to hermit crabs.
Should I Use Wood in My Hermit Crab Tank?
Wood is a good material for hermit crabs, as long as you choose the right kind. Safe wooden toys and climbing apparatus will keep hermit crabs happy. Also, wood can be used for scenic decorations.
Your objective is to replicate the natural habitat of hermit crabs. Wood, such as branches, can be a valuable way to make hermit crabs feel more relaxed and stress-free.
You can use wood to craft decorations and hides for hermit crabs. Hermit crabs can overheat in warm climates, so building a wooden shade will provide some welcome respite.
Do Hermit Crabs Eat Wood?
Hermit crabs love to nibble on wood for nourishment and recreation.
Decaying wood is a favorite of hermit crabs, as it’s softer and easier to chew/swallow. So, don’t be too concerned if the wood in the enclosure isn’t in stellar condition.
Can I Use Woodchips as a Substrate?
Hermit crabs need sand or soil as a substrate, so wood must only be used in a tank in solid form. Hermit crabs like to burrow under the substrate to protect themselves from heat or cold.
Before they do so, they’ll spill water on the substrate to create moisture, which won’t be possible if you use wood shavings of wood chips as a substrate.
Using wood will eventually lead to hermit crabs’ gills drying out, increasing the risk of suffocation.
Where Can I Get Wood for Hermit Crabs?
Before putting wood in a hermit crab enclosure, boil it in unchlorinated water and leave it to air dry, as this will remove any bacteria or mites living in the wood.
Wood in a tank will attract insects, but this isn’t a negative, as hermit crabs eat insects. Moreover, turning a hermit crab enclosure into a tiny ecosystem keeps it clean and sterile.
Don’t skin the bark from the wood before applying it to a tank, as hermit crabs enjoy gnawing on bark. However, you may consider sanding any rough edges to prevent injury.
What Wood is Safe for Hermit Crab Tanks?
Here are the types of wood that are safe to use in a hermit crab enclosure:
Ash wood is one of the most common materials used in construction. If you have ash wood lumber (Fraxinus) in your yard, it can be used in a hermit crab enclosure.
This wood is non-toxic to hermit crabs and sturdy enough to act as a base material for shelters or bridges. As a solid hardwood, it’ll easily hold the weight of multiple hermit crabs.
Aspen is a popular choice of substrate for rodents and some invertebrates. As discussed, hermit crabs should never have a wood-based substrate, but Aspen is OK to use in a hermit crab enclosure.
Aspen wood is quite soft but can carry a hermit crab’s weight. Perhaps more importantly, it’s easy to chew and bite through, so hermit crabs won’t hurt themselves.
Bamboo is a popular, eco-friendly choice of wood for pets. Regular, traditional bamboo is OK.
Lucky bamboo contains oxalic acid, which prevents hermit crabs from absorbing calcium. Unfortunately, this will prevent hermit crabs from developing a tough exoskeleton.
If you live in the northern states, you may be surrounded by birch trees. The branches and bark are good for hermit crab enclosures. Provided the wood is free of chemicals, it’s safe.
Cholla or Choya
Cholla wood, also known as choya wood, is the optimum wood for hermit crab tanks. Most decorations available for hermit crab enclosures are made from cholla wood.
Chollas are a species of cacti found in Mexico and the southwestern states. Cholla wood is what’s left when the greenery and spikes fall off the cactus.
Cholla wood is tough and filled with holes, making climbing fun while offering hiding places for small hermit crabs.
Driftwood for hermit crabs is the ideal addition to an enclosure. It’s invariably safe to eat while strong enough to support the weight of hermit crabs.
As hermit crabs love to climb, driftwood will provide hours of entertainment. It’s easily strong enough to withstand the pinching force of hermit crab claws.
Cork bark falls from cork oak trees; it’s a safe and eco-friendly way to bring wood into their enclosure. As cork bark is stripped from trees organically, there’s no need to damage the tree.
Cork bark can be chewed and nibbled by hermit crabs without ill effect. If you’re fortunate, you’ll also find larger, tubular chunks, which make tunnels and hiding places for hermit crabs.
Cork bark is a natural insulator. All the same, it’s inadvisable to place a corkboard inside an enclosure for additional warmth. Corkboards from stores are often treated in a chemical bath before shipping for sale, so keep them outside the tank.
Cypress wood is widely considered safe. However, only use Bald Cypress or Swamp Cypress variants, as these woods are located in the wetlands of America.
Some breeds of hermit crabs are native to swampy territories, although they’re rarely kept as pets. This means hermit crabs may be unfamiliar with cypress wood.
Wood shavings can’t be used as a substrate for hermit crabs. You may encounter a cypress wood substrate in exotic pet stores, which is OK for reptiles but not hermit crabs.
Once plucked and the grapes harvested, the vines can be used in hermit crab enclosures.
Grapevines are usually quite long and tough, so hermit crabs will enjoy climbing on them. If they still carry the scent of grapes, so much the better, as hermit crabs love fruit.
Mangrove trees grow around the water, which makes mangrove wood popular with hermit crabs that live around wet terrain. The Mangrove hermit crab climbs mangrove trees as a defense mechanism.
As with cypress wood, mangrove isn’t a common wood for hermit crabs. These trees – and the hermit crabs that frequent them – are often found in Africa.
Manzanita is a popular wood for invertebrate habitats as it lasts well in any climate. This means the heat and humidity of a hermit crab enclosure will not rot or damage this wood.
You can also use this wood for aquatic hermit crabs. The branches of a manzanita tree can make for striking decorations, and your hermit crabs will also have fun climbing these branches.
If you’re getting maple wood or Japanese maple, it’ll be more expensive than certain alternatives because it’s among the hardest woods.
If you have the money and patience to construct decorations from maple wood, they’ll likely outlast your hermit crabs. No amount of attention from claws or mouthparts will destroy this wood.
The mighty oak is among the most impressive trees that Mother Nature provides. Many hermit crabs love the challenge of nibbling on tough oak bark, but it’s high in tannins.
To be safe, use the cork bark of an oak tree. If you wish to use branches, ensure any acorns are removed, as they’re considered unsafe for hermit crabs. The leaves of the oak tree are a hermit crab delicacy.
Pecans are among the favorite foods of hermit crabs, so they’ll likely go crazy for the scent and taste of these nuts. Happily, the same also applies to the leaves and bark of the pecan tree.
Pecan trees are commonplace in the southern states. If you live close to these trees, you’ll have an appealing source of natural nourishment for your hermit crabs.
The wood is also quite tough, so it can be used to create obstacles and toys.
Poplar wood is celebrated for its versatility, so it’s used to make crates and storage boxes. This can be a brittle wood, but it is ideal for hermit crabs who enjoy shedding it.
Naturally, this brittleness has a downside. Don’t expect poplar to hold the weight of lots of hermit crabs indefinitely, which could lead to a fall. Poplar branches often snap and fall from trees.
Some people use sycamore wood as an alternative to maple. This wood is often used for home furnishings, which means it has the same pros and cons as maple.
If you need a safe, stable wood, sycamore is readily available and cheaper than maple. You can use this bark if you live close to American or California sycamores.
The wood of a willow tree, which typically grows in wet climes, is much softer than oak or maple. This means that hermit crabs will enjoy nibbling on willow; it’s safe for them to do so, as willow has medicinal properties.
The bark and branches of willow trees are a good addition to a hermit crab tank. However, you may need to replace it more often than other types of wood.
Wood That’s Not Safe for Hermit Crabs
As discussed, not all wood is safe for hermit crabs. The following types of wood, in particular, must be kept out of a hermit crab tank. If your hermit crabs eat these woods, they’ll become sick.
Avoid evergreen woods like pine, cedar, and redwood. These trees are evergreen for a reason – their barks contain natural pesticides. Unfortunately, this can lead to breathing difficulties and lung damage.
Trees that yield fruits should also be avoided, as the bark can be prone to disease. If hermit crabs chew on this bark, they can grow sick. If in doubt, avoid any fruit trees. Steer clear of these fruit trees:
- Cherry and Cherry Laurel
There are numerous other trees with toxic bark, such as:
- Black Locust
Only the types of wood listed above should be considered hermit crab-friendly.