Hermit Crab Facts

The Hermit Crab in the Wild

“Isn’t she a little beauty?”

You can almost hear the Australian lilt in the voice. You’re imagining a documentary on the life of the hermit crab in the wild.

While I’m having a little bit of fun here, it’s no secret that most hermit crab owners wonder at one time or another just what life for one of these crustaceans is like when they’re out there in the “wild.”

Indeed, hermit crabs are without a doubt one of the most interesting exotic pets you can own today. And actually learning more about their natural habitat can go a long way in helping you keep your crab healthy and happy.

When you find these animals in their natural state, they are always found near the ocean and just about always in tropical areas. Why? Because they crave humidity. Well, let’s be just a little more specific. Even though these guys are land animals, they breathe through gills. The gills take the moisture from the air – and here, translate moisture to mean water.

Now, you may have been under the impression, as I was for many years, that the hermit crab is . . . well, a hermit who is “crabby” when he has to be around others. Not so. Despite his name, he’s really quite a social animal. In fact, when you adopt a crab, don’t adopt just one. If possible, adopt at least two if not three.

Actually, I know some hermit crab lovers who buy a dozen or more of these creatures at a time. You can go home and place them in the same (very large) tank.

The Amazing Burrowing Hermit Crab!

One of the aspects of these little guys in the wild is that they love to burrow. And just for your information, these guys love investigate. But when they bump up against something, they don’t always know to go “around” an object (or another crab). They prefer to go over or especially love to go under the obstacle.

This may cause some problems especially when the obstacle is another hermit crab!

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this animal is that they are born in the ocean. Yes! Once the Harriet the Hermit Crab lays her eggs – well buried in the sand. Then the tide comes in. It carries the eggs out to the ocean, where they not only hatch, but the small crabs grow and eventually develop.

And because these babies are born in the ocean, they naturally survive because they’re born with gills. Yes, very similar to the ones that fish have. The baby crabs simply extract oxygen from the water in order to breathe.

Eventually, these creatures – who are at this point very tiny, indeed – make their way back to land. At this point these guys are barely 5 mm long. Once they hit land, their first task is to look for their “starter home” – a very tiny shell.

Here’s Why Humidity Is Important

During this initial period, humidity plays an important element in the life. High humidity is needed for any further development of their gills, which need to be kept moist. They also need moisture at this point for drinking as well.

If you’ve ever been on the beach at night, you may notice that small baby crabs “migrate” to the waterline at night. Here they can breathe the humid air of the dew that falls on the beach.

The crab is careful to spend as little time as possible out of his shell. It’s during this time that he is extremely vulnerable to predators. You’ll discover that your crab will be extremely inactive, so much so that you may actually think there’s something terribly wrong with him. The most activity this naked crab undertakes is to burrow into the ground.

Now you have a better idea of what makes your Harriet the Hermit Crab tick. And that means you can take even better care of your crab!


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