do hermit crabs eat wood?

17 Types of Safe Wood for Hermit Crab Tanks

In the wild, hermit crabs often encounter wood. As explained by the Journal of Crustacean Biology, wild hermit crabs frequently climb trees. This means that 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. You can use wood to create climbing apparatus, such as bridges. Wood can be used to create ramps in and out of bathing pools. Wood can even create shaded shelters and hiding places. Some woods are also edible.

Never paint or varnish wood before placing it in an enclosure. Likewise, do not place pre-treated wood in a tank. The varnish or paint will start to flake in the heat, which is toxic to hermit crabs.

Should I Use Wood in My Hermit Crab Tank?

Wood is a great material for hermit crabs, as long as you choose the right kind. Safe wooden toys and climbing apparatus will keep your hermit crabs happy. Wood can also be used to make scenic decorations.

Your aim should be to replicate the natural habitat of your captive hermit crabs as much as possible. Wood, such as branches, can be a valuable way to achieve this. Your hermit crabs will feel more at home.

What’s more, you can use wood to craft decorations and hiding places for your hermit crabs. Hermit crabs can overheat in very warm climates. Building a wooden shade will offer some welcome respite for your pets.

Do Hermit Crabs Eat Wood?

Hermit crabs love to nibble on wood. This is not just a source of nourishment; it’s also recreation. This is why you should include wood in a hermit crab tank but must choose carefully.

Decaying wood is a particular favorite of hermit crabs. This wood is softer and thus easier to chew and swallow. With this in mind, do not worry if the wood in the enclosure is in less-than-exemplary condition.

Can I Use Woodchips as a Substrate?

Wood shavings are not a good substrate. Hermit crabs need sand or soil as substrate. Wood must only be used in a hermit crab tank in solid form.

This is because hermit crabs like to burrow under the substrate to protect themselves from heat or cold. Before they do so, they will spill water on the substrate. This creates welcome moisture. This will not be possible if you use wood shavings of chips as a substrate.

Using wood will eventually lead to the gills of your hermit crabs drying out. This, in turn, leads to the risk of suffocation. What’s more, hermit crabs could easily hurt themselves on wood. Woodchips can potentially get trapped in the eyes of hermit crabs, for example.

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. This will remove any bacteria or mites that are living in the wood. You must also ensure the wood is devoid of any pesticide or herbicide traces.

Wood in a tank will still attract insects. This does not need to be a bad thing, though. Hermit crabs can eat insects. What’s more, turning a hermit crab enclosure into a tiny ecosystem of its own helps keep it clean.

Do not skin the bark from wood before applying it to a tank. Hermit crabs enjoy gnawing on bark. You may want to consider sanding any rough edges to prevent injury to your hermit crabs.

driftwood for hermit crabs

What Wood is Safe for Hermit Crab Tanks?

Not all wood is created equal. Here are the types of wood that are safe to use in a hermit crab enclosure. If a form of wood is not listed here, you should not put it in a hermit crab tank.

Ash

Ash wood is one of the most common materials used in construction throughout the country. If you have ash wood lumber 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 will comfortably hold the weight of multiple hermit crabs at once.

Aspen

Aspen is a popular choice of substrate for small rodents and some invertebrates. As discussed, hermit crabs should never have a wood-based substrate. Aspen is fine to use in a hermit crab enclosure when solid.

Aspen wood is quite soft, but it can carry a hermit crab’s weight. Perhaps more importantly, it is easy to chew and bite through. Your hermit crabs will not hurt themselves on aspen wood.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a popular, eco-friendly choice of wood for pets. Regular, traditional bamboo is fine.

Lucky bamboo is toxic as it contains oxalic acid, which prevents hermit crabs from absorbing calcium. This, in turn, will prevent your hermit crabs from developing a tough exoskeleton.

Birch

If you live in the northern states, you may be surrounded by birch trees. The branches and bark of these trees are great for hermit crab enclosures. Provided the wood is free of any chemicals, then it is safe.

Cholla or Choya

Cholla wood, sometimes known as choya wood, is arguably the optimum wood for hermit crab tanks. Most decorations available for a hermit crab enclosure are made from cholla wood.

Chollas are a species of cacti, found in Mexico and southwestern States. Cholla wood is what is left when the greenery and spikes fall off the plant.

Cholla wood is tough and filled with holes. This makes it fun to climb while also offer hiding places for small hermit crabs. If you only decide to use one kind of wood in your hermit crab tank, make it cholla wood.

Driftwood

Many of the recommended woods are driftwoods. Driftwood for hermit crabs is the ideal addition to an enclosure. It is invariably safe to eat, while strong enough to support the weight of your pets.

As hermit crabs love to climb, driftwood will provide hours of entertainment. It is strong enough to withstand the pinching force of hermit crab claws.

Cork Bark

Cork bark falls from cork oak trees. This wood is safe for hermit crabs and provides an eco-friendly way to bring wood into their enclosure. As cork bark is stripped from trees organically, there is no need to damage the tree to retrieve it.

Cork bark can be chewed and nibbled by hermit crabs without ill effect. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find larger, tubular chunks. These make tunnels and hiding places for hermit crabs. This means that cork bark can also act as a toy for hermit crabs.

Cork bark is a natural insulator. All the same, it is inadvisable to place a corkboard inside an enclosure for additional warmth. Corkboards from stores are often treated in a chemical bath ahead of shipping for sale. Keep a corkboard outside the tank.

Cypress

Cypress wood is widely considered safe. To err on the side of caution, only use Bald Cypress or Swamp Cypress variants. These woods are located in the wetlands of America.

Some breeds of hermit crabs are native to swampy territories, though these are rarely kept as pets. This means that your hermit crabs may not be familiar with cypress wood. It’s still safe, but perhaps should not be considered the first choice of wood for a tank.

Wood shavings cannot be used as a substrate for hermit crabs. You may encounter a cypress wood substrate in exotic pet stores. This is fine for reptiles, but not for hermit crabs.

Grape Vine

Once grapevines have been plucked and the grapes harvested, usually for winemaking, 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. Hermit crabs often adore these fruits.

Mangrove

Mangrove trees grow around the water. This 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, mangrove is not a common wood for hermit crabs. These trees – and the hermit crabs that frequent them – are more often found in Africa. This means mangrove, while safe, is best kept as a back-up option.

Manzanita

Manzanita is a popular wood for invertebrate habitats as it holds up 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. Your hermit crabs will also have fun climbing these branches.

Maple

If you’re getting maple wood, or Japanese maple, it will be a little costlier than some alternatives. This is because maple wood is among the hardest woods available. This means it will certainly be stable for use in a tank.

If you have the finance and patience to construct decorations from maple wood, they will likely outlive your hermit crabs. No amount of attention from claws or mouthparts will destroy this wood. This makes it a worthwhile material for those that can make use of it.

Oak

The mighty oak is among the most impressive trees that Mother Nature provides. Your hermit crabs will likely agree. Many hermit crabs love the challenge of nibbling on tough oak bark. Oak bark can be high in tannins.

To be on the safe side, stick with the previously profiled cork bark of an oak tree. If you do wish to use branches, ensure any acorns are removed. These are widely considered unsafe for hermit crabs. The leaves of the oak tree are a hermit crab delicacy, though.

Pecan

Pecans are among the favorite foods of many hermit crabs. Your pets will 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 through the southern States. If you happen to live close to such growths, you will have an appealing source of natural nourishment for your hermit crabs. The wood is also pretty tough, so it can be used to create obstacles and toys.

Poplar

Poplar wood is mainly celebrated for its versatility. Many crates and storage boxes are made from poplar wood. This can be a brittle wood, but that makes it ideal for hermit crabs. Your pets will enjoy shedding poplar wood.

Naturally, this brittleness also comes with warnings. Do not expect poplar to hold the weight of several hermit crabs. This could lead to a fall. Poplar branches often snap and fall from trees, making them easy to gather as toys and decorations.

Sycamore

Some people use sycamore wood as an alternative to maple. Most often, this wood is found in home furnishings. This means that it has the same benefits and drawbacks as maple for hermit crabs.

If you need a safe, stable wood, sycamore is readily available and a little cheaper than maple. There is little point in getting sycamore, though. If you live close to American or California sycamores, feel free to use the bark.

Willow

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 perfectly safe for them to do so. Willow is often claimed to have medicinal properties.

If you live near willow trees – including weeping willows – the bark and branches are a great addition to a hermit crab tank. You may just need to replace it a little more often than you would other types of wood.

is bamboo safe for hermit crabs?

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 will become sick.

Avoid evergreen woods, like pine, cedar, and redwood, which are unsafe. These trees are evergreen for a reason – their barks contain natural pesticides. This will lead to breathing difficulties and lung damage in hermit crabs.

Trees that yield fruits should also be avoided. The bark of these trees can be prone to disease. If hermit crabs chew on this bark, they can grow sick. If in doubt, avoid any fruit tree. Be particularly vigilant about steering clear of the following:

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Cherry and Cherry Laurel
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Plum

There are numerous other trees with toxic bark. These woods will kill hermit crabs and must be avoided at all costs. Toxic barks stem from the following trees:

  • Black Locust
  • Boxwood
  • Eucalyptus
  • Hemlock
  • Laurel
  • Yew

Studies into hermit crabs and wood are not exhaustive. To be safe, only the types of wood that we’ve listed should be considered hermit crab-friendly.