To anyone living by the British coast, the idea of keeping crabs as pets may seem strange, or a throwback to childhood days of clambering among rockpools with a bucket and spade and staring with fascination or fear at strange eight-legged, sideways running creatures with pincers. Others may perhaps mentally associate the notion of keeping crabs with the complex world of marine aquaria. In truth, however, hermit crabs supposedly make fairly straightforward captives, and can be suggested even for children, although obviously adult supervision will be necessary, and youngsters should learn that these are pets for watching rather than handling.
Hermit crabs are largely terrestrial, in particular the species most commonly seen for sale, members of the genus Coenobita, normally C. clypeatus. They do require a container of water (itself containing some marine - not table - salt) in which they can immerse their bodies to keep their gills moist, but other than that can be kept in a normal land vivarium. Again, food is not normally difficult to provide, although specially-formulated food is also available. As they are social animals they are best kept in small groups.
There is now a reasonable number of inexpensive books on the captive maintenance of hermit crabs, and articles appear from time to time in pet magazines on these interesting animals. See Bibliography and Links for details.
Mention should be made here of the fascinating Robber Crab, Birgus latro. Although unlikely to be kept by most people due to its size, the natural history of this crustacean (essentially a giant hermit crab too big as an adult to find a suitable shell) is interesting. Intensive human harvesting has recently had a detrimental effect on the species, and it deserves support for its conservation. See the Links section for details.
"The Invertebrate Corner - Land Hermit Crabs", Jerry G Walls, Reptile Hobbyist 4:2. Gives aspects of the life history of both Birgus latro and the Coenobita species, and discusses captive husbandry of the latter.
"Create your own hermit haven!", Alan Richards, Practical Reptile Keeping 3, August 2009.
The Care of Land Hermit Crabs, Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1999. Most if not all of de Vosjoli's books are worth reading. This is a slim manual that gives the basics. A second edition was published in 2005 which I have not read.
A couple of older books I found were TFH's Hermit Crabs by Neal Pronek (1982) and Gardner's Treecrab Book by Bob Gardner (1977), publisher unknown. Although both are obviously quite old now, the information in them does not seem to hugely differ from that given in de Vosjoli. TFH now have Quick and Easy Hermit Crab Care (2003), author unknown.
I have not read the following so cannot comment:
Hermit Crabs for Dummies , Kelli A Wilkins, 2007.
Hermit Crabs: Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Sue Fox, 2000.
The Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) - www.coconut.co.uk.
Index of hermit crab articles
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