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All About Your Hermit Crab

Hermit Crabs are very social animals and can live 10 years or more, changing shells, molting several times throughout their lives and growing up to six inches in length. They're quite docile so you can handle them easily or have fun watching them as they interact, climb and explore with their habitat mates. Great for a family or classroom, Hermit Crabs are low maintenance, non-aggressive and hypoallergenic.

Appearance and Types

Some Hermit Crab species live on land and others are water dwellers, but all Hermit Crab species are born in the ocean. Land-dwelling Hermit Crabs leave the ocean as adults to live on land. The majority of "hermmies" kept as pets in the United States are Caribbean Land Hermit Crabs, the Coenobita clypeatus species.

Native to the Caribbean, the Coenobita clypeatus have brown heads, purple claws (pincers) and reddish brown legs. They have round eyes and have setae, hair-like filaments, on their legs.

The Coenobita compressus species, also known as the Ecuadorian Hermit Crab, are recognizable with elongated eyes and stripes on the sides of their heads. They are a more active species of Hermit Crab — they are faster and can move forward, backward, and sideways — and can be yellow, dark gray, orange and tan. They require a bowl of salt water in addition to a bowl of fresh water in their habitat.

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Behaviors and Characteristics

Molting

Your Hermit Crabs will shed their skin periodically as they grow. When molting, they'll need enough substrate in their habitat to be able to completely burrow underground (the depth of the substrate will vary depending on the size of your Hermit Crabs).

The molting process can take between 4 and 8 weeks. Larger Hermit Crabs take longer to molt than smaller ones. It is recommended to isolate any molting Hermit Crabs into a separate habitat so they are not disturbed by the other crabs during the molt.

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Shell Changes

Hermit Crabs have soft abdomens and use snail shells as protection. As they slowly grow, your Hermit Crabs will need to transition to larger, more spacious shells.

When it comes to choosing a new shell, Hermit Crabs are very picky. They are first concerned with the opening size and opening shape of the shell — it must be large enough for them to fit into and in the right shape to fit their body.

A Hermit Crab's shell selection behavior can look a little unusual at times. After choosing a new shell, they may hold onto their old shell with their walking legs until they are completely satisfied with their new one. Some Hermit Crabs will transition back to their old shell after trying on a new one. In some cases, they may even fight another Hermit Crab over a shell.

Because of this finicky behavior make sure each of your Hermit Crabs has multiple new shell options at all times, taking into consideration that the new shells need to be 10-15 percent larger than the current shells. Empty shells can be decorated using specific non-toxic paint or markers to add some color to your crabitat; a fun way for your kids or students interact with their Crabs.

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Sounds & Temperament

Although experts haven't been able to pinpoint how the sounds are made, Hermit Crabs will occasionally chirp or croak. This noise is commonly heard when two Hermit Crabs are squabbling over an empty shell.

Hermit Crabs are social animals and enjoy living in groups. They are nocturnal (active at night) and will climb over décor and obstacles in their habitat, play with their habitat mates, and seek out and change shells.

Male and female Hermit Crabs have similar temperaments and will both try to assert their dominance. They won't, however, reproduce in captivity, even though some females may lay eggs.