Tag Archives: hermit crabs

hermit crab in seashell

Hermit Crabs and Why They Must Fight For Those Seashell Homes!

hermit crab in seashell
Tiny Hermit Crab at Beach

If you read this blog, you have probably grown tired of me talking about hermit crabs, but here I go again!   Usually I am complaining that every awesome shell I come across out in the backwater is inhabited by a hermit crab.

This time I am going to tell (and show) you just how crazy things can get when hermit crabs fight for those seashell homes. It’s a crab vs. crab world down under the sea.

First of all, if you know next to nothing about crabs, here’s a bit of info.

Hermit crabs are not like regular crabs you find along the beach.  We don’t eat them.  Regular crabs scurry across the sand without taking their home along on their back.  It’s difficult to ever see the entire body of the hermit crab, as it is usually hidden within a shell.  A hermit crab will “hang” out of the shell sometimes (like in the photo above), but he will not come all the way out.  If you are lucky enough to be present when he swaps his old shell for a new one, you can get a quick glimpse of the back end of his body.

That shell it carries with it used to belong to a snail – land, or marine.  The hermit crab did not make the shell he lives in, and will stay in it only as long as he fits well inside.   Once the fit is too tight, he will have to find another shell to occupy.  His life depends on it.  The shell will have to be already empty… they don’t kill snails or mollusks to take a shell.  And they don’t fight other hermit crabs that are already inside a shell.

hermit crabs

Imagine that your present home will have to be abandoned as you grow.  You can’t stop growing, so it’s a constant hunt for a new place to live.  Without a shell to hide in, a hermit crab’s life is in peril.

In this NatGeo video, deceptively entitled “Hermit Crab vs. Conch”, a large Horse Conch chases down a tulip snail (banded tulip) and digests it. But the main story is about the hermit crabs who need to find new and larger real estate for their growing bodies. They realize that the horse conch will spit out the left over shell when he’s done eating the snail and they all want that house!

Did you see the shells those hermit crabs are scurrying around in? One was a pear whelk (yellow shell), and one was a shaped like a shark’s eye, or moon snail.

Here’s another amazing video of a hermit crab changing shells, but this one takes her “friends” with her!  Smart creature!  (This shell looks like some kind of knobbed triton.)

You may wonder why the crab doesn’t just find a big shell to live in so he won’t have to worry about trading out his home.  That won’t work because if the shell is too big, he can’t carry it around as easily.

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(Photo credits: Pixabay)

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The Crown Shell is a Perfect Home for Hermit Crabs

IMG_0607 hermit crbThe crown shell, sometimes called king’s crown, is recognizable by it’s pointy ridges and horizontal stripes.  When cleaned up, it’s a beautiful specimen.  When found in the wild, it may only be recognized by the points along the top of the swirls.

While visiting the intracoastal waterway (Indian River) backwater area this summer, I saw many crown shells in a variety of sizes.  They were often inhabited, not by the mollusk that made them, but by a hermit crab.

Many years ago my kids had hermit crabs as pets. This was mostly due to the fact that my daughter wanted to have one of every kind of animal on earth as her pet. We had to buy gravel to put in a small container for the crab and we had to provide empty seashells for it to move into when it grew.

Now I wonder how the hermit crabs we had as pets lived at all, since the ones I saw in the wild stay completely under water. And it’s salt water. They are walking all over the shallows and could be in deeper water too I suspect.  Apparently, after learning more about hermit crabs, there are different types, including my run in with the Giant Red Hermit Crab.

I would have come home with quite a nice collection of shells if not for the fact that hermit crabs had taken up residence in every one available!

hermit crab
Besides the beautiful striped crown shell, I found pear whelks and lightning whelks. The unique round shark’s eye was another I couldn’t collect.

Then, I finally found a crown shell with it’s owner inside. I took it out of the water for a moment to snap a photo and then I put him back. One day his shell will most likely be a hermit crab home.
crown shell and mollusk inside

hermit crab in seashell

Hermit Crabs in the Wild

Hermit Crab
Image by goingslo via Flickr

My kids had hermit crabs as pets at one time.  They lived in a little box and we provided various size shells for them to change into as they grew.  (Hermit crabs live in the empty shells of mollusks.)

We fed them peanut butter and provided water in a little shell for them to drink.  They would molt as they grew and we considered ourselves lucky to be present when they actually came out of the shell to scoot into a larger one.

They didn’t live very long and that was due to the fact that we didn’t really know what they needed to survive.  Back then, I admit to being ignorant of keeping wild animals as pets.  These days, I would have explained to my daughter that these animals belong in the wild.

When we got our pontoon boat, our family would cruise up and down the Intracoastal along the  Indian River and stop at various little islands to explore and fish.

One of the islands we visited regularly was an island which I named “Broken Palm Island”.  We noticed there were many very tiny hermit crabs roaming the beach there.  I have a picture some place of my son with a little hermit crab crawling on his foot.

The kids thought it was awesome to find so many little crabs living in the wild as they were meant to.    No one had to provide empty shells for these guys, they were finding plenty on the sandy shore.

Since this time, I’ve been out to the backwater areas and have discovered there are many more types of hermit crabs – and they are everywhere!  I’ve even found a Giant Red hermit crab, which is rare for the area where I travel.