Cuttlebone is the hollow shell of the cuttlefish. This may not sound appetizing, but many hermit crabs adore it. Adding this to an aquarium will improve the health and lifestyle of hermit crabs.
Cuttlebone replicates the natural diet of hermit crabs. It is completely natural, ensuring a lack of harmful toxins. Cuttlebone is a rich source of calcium carbonate and trace minerals. This ensures that hermit crabs retain a strong, robust exoskeleton, resulting in safe and healthy molts.
You’ll find cuttlebone in most pet stores. If necessary, look for a retailer that specializes in exotic pets. If you cannot find this item in person, shop online. Cuttlebone should be added to the aquarium of all hermit crabs.
What is Cuttlebone?
Despite the name, cuttlebone is not actually a bone. Rather, it is the shell of the cuttlefish. Sticking with a theme, cuttlefish are not fish. They are cephalopods, comparable to a squid.
Cuttlefish are not native to the United States, so you may not be familiar with them. The cuttlebone is filled with gas that retains buoyancy. When the cuttlefish dies, the cuttlebone is salvaged and put to use.
Cuttlebone is packed with calcium. This makes it a dietary supplement for many species of small animals. Bird cages are the most common places that cuttlebone is used. This shell is also an indispensable food for hermit crabs.
Do Hermit Crabs Like Cuttlebone?
As scavengers, hermit crabs enjoy a varied diet. Cuttlebone is one sustenance that a hermit crab will eat. It is among the best foods to offer, though. The calcium found within the cuttlebone will benefit hermit crabs.
Most hermit crabs will enjoy the taste of cuttlebone. As with any food, this should not be served constantly. In the wild, hermit crabs rarely eat the same thing twice in 24 hours. If your hermit crabs reject cuttlebone, it may just be overfamiliar.
If your hermit crabs reject cuttlebone outright, look into alternative calcium sources. Many hermit crabs react well to cuttlebone as it offers nutrition, taste, and entertainment in equal measure.
Can Hermit Crabs Eat Cuttlebone?
Hermit crabs should eat cuttlebone regularly. This replicates hermit crabs’ wild diet. As per Current Biology, some cuttlefish disguise themselves as hermit crabs as a predatory measure.
In addition to environmental enrichment, cuttlebone is packed with nutrition. As natural scavengers, wild hermit crabs make do with what they can find for nourishment.
Advantages of Cuttlebone
One of the main advantages of cuttlebone is that it is completely natural. Hermit crabs have sensitive digestive systems. This is why they are considered such delicate pets. Hermit crabs die suddenly, seemingly for no reason. Usually, toxicity in the food will be blame.
Another perk of cuttlebone is that it sharpens hermit crabs’ claws. Not the pincers themselves, but the tiny teeth found on claws. A hermit crab uses these to climb and maneuver food into the mouth. This becomes increasingly important as hermit crabs age.
A big part of this sharpening comes from the comparative toughness of cuttlebone. In addition, eating will provide hermit crabs with calcium. Along with protein, calcium is the most important food group.
It’s no secret that calcium builds strong teeth and bones. The same applies to hermit crabs. With appropriate calcium, the exoskeleton of a hermit crab will harden faster. This is particularly important during molting.
Disadvantages of Cuttlebone
These crustaceans know when they have eaten enough. It’s unlikely that hermit crabs will make themselves sick by eating excess cuttlebone.
Equally, cuttlebone should not attract mold or mildew. The main risk of leaving a large cuttlebone in an aquarium is dirt. Your hermit crabs may urinate or defecate on the cuttlebone.
One other concern is competition for cuttlebone in aquariums that host multiple hermit crabs. As per PLoS One, they can grow territorial and aggressive over food. Offer multiple cuttlebone sources to reduce conflict.
Where to Find Cuttlebone
You will find cuttlebone in most pet stores. Not many establishments will have an aisle dedicated to hermit crab accessories, though. Check the sections assigned to birds, reptiles, and rodents. You should find cuttlebone in any or all of these locations.
You can also purchase cuttlebone online. In some respects, this may preferable. You can be sure that hermit crab specialists have prepared the cuttlebone. This way, it is guaranteed to be natural and crustacean-safe. It may also be pre-ground, saving you time.
How to Serve Cuttlebone to Hermit Crabs
Avoid leaving cuttlebone in water. Obviously, it is water-safe as it stems from a marine lifeform. All the same, it will make the water dirty and the cuttlebone slick and slimy. As a result, both will be less appetizing to hermit crabs. Instead, attempt these techniques.
Leave in Substrate
The easiest way to supply cuttlebone is to leave a chunk in the substrate. You can either lay this flat or stand it up like a surfboard. The hermit crab will interact as and when it wishes.
This method provides a variety of advantages. The cuttlebone is constantly available. It can be used as an obstacle or toy. You may even find that your hermit crabs sleep on the cuttlebone. Try to discourage bathing in it, though.
For additional fun, you could bury some cuttlebone in the substrate. This will appeal to hermit crabs’ scavenging instincts. They may track down cuttlebone and return to the surface to eat.
Clip to Aquarium Wall
An alternative solution to permanent cuttlebone access is clipping to the side of an aquarium. This is popular when offering cuttlebone to birds. There is the logistical challenge of a hermit crab aquarium requiring solid walls, though.
If you can find a safe way to attach the cuttlebone to walls, hermit crabs will enjoy it. A constant resource for snacking or claw sharpening is available. Equally, the cuttlebone will not get in the way of movement.
Several cuttlebones attached to walls can be good for habitats with multiple hermit crabs. This stops one dominant hermit crab from breaking apart and hoarding the cuttlebone. By keeping it affixed, all crustaceans will get their turn to enjoy the cuttlebone.
Grind into Food
If your hermit crabs will not eat solid cuttlebone, grind it up and sprinkle it over their food. Use a pestle and mortar for this. Cuttlebone is brittle, so it will be ground up without much resistance.
Start small with this act. Let the hermit crabs grow used to the cuttlebone. You will likely find that your hermit crabs react positively, though. You can steadily add more cuttlebone to food and treats.
Once your hermit crabs have a taste for cuttlebone, consider re-attempting a solid block. This will save you time and effort in the longer term. It’s not a concern if hermit crabs only eat ground cuttlebone as the calcium content remains the same.
How Often Can Hermit Crabs Have Cuttlebone?
Hermit crabs should be fed cuttlebone regularly. You can leave a cuttlebone as a permeant addition to an aquarium if you wish. Alternatively, grind it into food every 2-3 days.
Do not add cuttlebone to food daily. This will deter hermit crabs from eating. It will detect the cuttlebone and grow bored. Keep it as a treat. There is no need to be sparing due to dietary concerns, though.
Alternatives to Cuttlebone
There is no way of knowing how hermit crabs will respond to cuttlebone. Usually, they will understand the importance of this supplement. Some hermit crabs may not enjoy eating cuttlebone, though.
If this is the case, look into alternative calcium sources. Crushed egg or oyster shells will work. Alternatively, get some calcium carbonate powder from a health food store. You can also buy flavored mineral blocks. These offer a taste and scent that appeals to hermit crabs.