Land hermit crabs are an engaging tiny crustacean that's related to lobsters and the kind of crab you eat at a restaurant. However, these are a bit smaller than those, and their relatively simple care makes them a popular pet. Hermit crabs have no shell of their own, so they'll scavenge items from their environment and wear them like a coat. You can keep hermit crabs as pets for quite a while, but there are some things to know first.
Terrestrial hermit crabs are a species of crustacean that's notable for mainly having soft bodies instead of hard shells. To make up for this shortcoming, the hermit earns its name by poaching abandoned shells it finds and using those to keep itself safe on the beaches where it lives. As pets, they can be very interesting to watch and relatively easy to care for, and they make good starter pets for children.
Land hermit crabs can be outstanding pets, especially if you have limited space and aren't set up to take care of cats or dogs. These hardy little survivors don't take the complex nutrition and environmental engineering of a fish aquarium and can get by with little or no handling for most of their lives. Land hermit crabs are also pretty resistant to disease, which protects them from less than ideal aquarium hygiene conditions.
Setting up a safe environment for a hermit crab isn't too hard. They need a safe aquarium enclosure with enough space for them to roam around, an adequate supply of food and water, and some extra shells to inspect when it's time for them to upgrade to a new covering. Apart from that, their needs really are minimal, and they don't even strictly need affection since they'll be happy just to sit around.
While not exactly friendly in a human way, terrestrial hermit crabs can get along with plenty of other living things, especially if you're too big for them to try to eat. These little crustaceans tolerate being handled well enough, which you'll have to do when they inevitably escape the tank and start crawling across your carpet. They don't usually pinch though, so you should be okay on that score.
Invertebrates aren't the most intelligent or adaptable animals, so you're probably never going to get your hermit crab to jump through hoops or learn to whistle on command. They can be adapted to handling without stress, however, which is just a matter of holding them for a few minutes a day. Their need to change shells also makes them naturally curious, and they'll explore lots of objects in their immediate surroundings for fun.
You can keep land hermit crabs in a home of almost any size. A basic rule is that each crab needs at least five gallons of space in a tank, which should include some rocks and vegetation to keep them entertained. If you can fit a tank that size on a bookshelf in your home, you have the space you need for a hermit crab.
Land hermit crabs are not big into aerobic exercise, so there won't be any trips to the park with them. Mostly, these animals get the exercise they need from crawling around here and there, picking things up and putting them down again, and then maybe changing shells for a bit. These are not very high-energy pets, though they can and frequently do make a break for it if the enclosure isn't properly sealed.
Land hermit crabs are really social animals, so they get along with each other very well. In fact, they will even share shells in an odd ritual that sees them all line up according to size and then quickly switch their covers. Smaller fish might be in danger since crabs will sometimes eat them.
Keep cats away from hermit crabs. The crabs are pretty tough with anything their own size, and they're no slouch when it comes to fighting, running, or hiding, but cats are dedicated carnivores that have a hard time passing up something edible-looking. Even if you're pretty sure your cat would never, it still pays to be cautious. Find a way to keep these pets separated.
Land hermit crabs are resistant to many diseases but are not invincible. One common problem is shell rot, which damages the shell and forces them to replace them sooner than they usually would. Fuzzy spots on the crab's joints could be a dangerous fungal infection. Finally, land hermit crabs frequently pick up mites, which can grow out of control without medication to manage them. Keep a clean tank and check with the vet as needed.
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