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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

A crabby aquarium

Rearing hermit crabs? Learn how to build a home for them
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - March 12, 2011
By: James Ong
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A crabby aquarium

We have talked about how terrapins can be kept by aquarists as an alternative to the usual shoals of fish. Crabs are another type of creature that can be kept as pets in a tank. But not just any kind of crab makes a suitable pet – what you want is the land hermit crab.

Setting up tank

Hermit crabs like living in a warm, humid environment and are best kept at room temperature of about 28oC. Any much lower, the crabs will become weak, stressed or ill. Get at least a 10-gallon tank, preferably with a glass or plastic lid to keep the humidity in.

Like fish, crabs breathe through gills. To ensure that they can breathe through fluid exchange of oxygen in the air, invest in a humidity meter or a hygrometer. Also place a fairly large chunk of sea sponge in a dish of water to improve humidity within the tank. But note that while dry air in the tank will suffocate the crabs, condensation from the excess humidity will on the other hand encourage growth of bacteria and fungi.

Hermit crabs also like some light – they are more active if you have lighting installed in the tank. They may even bask near the lights for warmth. Get low-wattage lighting which allows an automated 12-hour light/dark cycle for the comfort of your hermit crabs.


Sand is the substrate of choice for hermit crabs as they will burrow down into it as part of their natural behaviour. Rinse, dry, and bake the sand at 150oC to sterilise it before using it. Besides natural sand, you can also get aquarium sand or calcium-based sand from pet stores. Some of these types of sand come in a wide array of colours.

Choosing your crabs

Hermit crabs are active, sociable and curious, and require relatively little maintenance. When choosing a hermit crab for your aquarium, ensure that all three pairs of its legs are present, its head’s shell is intact, it is lively, and has no parasites or small bugs infesting it. Choose hermit crabs of the same size to live together, or you will risk fights and bullying. Hermit crabs are omnivores with a natural diet of plants and small animals.

Other trivia necessities

Hermit crabs live in an empty snail shell to protect their small, soft abdomens. As the owner, you will have to find progressively larger shells for them as they grow bigger.

For food dishes, use shallow ceramic dishes which are sturdy and easy to clean. Hermit crabs need access to both fresh and salt water, thus your two water dishes should be big and deep enough to let them to crawl into if they want to soak in the water. But they must also be easy to get out of – use river stones or corals as ramps or steps for the crabs to climb out. All water given to the hermit crabs or used in the tank must be de-chlorinated. Salt water should be prepared using marine aquarium salt – not table salt!

As hermit crabs love to exercise by climbing, provide pieces of coral and driftwood for them to climb up and down. You can also put interesting basking or hiding structures (even items built from Lego bricks) or artificial plants to provide variety and interest for your pets.


Pet farm living conditions – acceptable or unacceptable?