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)


The Crown Shell is a Perfect Home for Hermit Crabs

IMG_0607 hermit crbThe crown shell is recognizable by it’s pointy ridges and striped appearance. While visiting the intracoastal waterway this summer, I saw these crown shells everywhere, but they were most 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.

They scuttled out of the way as we backed the boat in, and when we stopped at islands along the waterway the hermit crabs were there too. And more often than not they were in a crown shell.

hermit crab
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 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.) I think we fed them peanut butter and provided water 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.  Now, with the internet available it’s easy to find articles about caring for pet hermit crabs.

When we got our pontoon boat we would cruise up and down the Intracoastal at Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon and stop at various little islands to explore and fish, and one place we used to visit regularly was an island I named “Broken Palm Island”.  That is where we came across a bunch of wild hermit crabs – very small ones – roaming the beach.  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 as they were meant to.    No one had to provide empty shells for these guys, they were finding plenty on the sandy shore.

Hermit Crabs

In Florida, we would take our pontoon boat out on the intracoastal waterway and usually dock on one of the little islands all along the river. Quite often we would find hermit crabs scurrying along the beaches. My kids got a kick out of that since they’d had hermit crabs as “pets”. 

Our hermit crab experience began when a teacher at the elementary school asked us if we would like to take her classroom hermit crabs home for the summer vacation and “babysit” them.

It turned out that my daughter wanted some of her own and the fun began. We bought a container and filled it with small pebbles or sand (I can’t remember). We used upside-down cockle shells as the food and water bowls and fed them hermit crab food along with peanut butter! This site has advice on caring for hermit crabs.

The most interesting thing about them is that they molt as they grow and empty shells must be provided for them to live in once they outgrow the shells they occupy.

Having the opportunity to actually watch the crab change shells is rare – they seem to always do it when no one is around, but we did manage to catch them change once or twice.

My daughter named her crabs (identifying them by the shell they occupied), but once they started growing and changing shells it became more difficult to know which was which!

As pets, they are inexpensive to care for (the container will be the most expensive item, and how extravagant it is, is up to you). They are able to be held, but do pinch and it hurts! So watching them is better than holding them unless you use gloves.

The Naples Seashell Company has shells for sale specifically for hermit crabs and for more information about keeping them as pets, visit this site.

A Close-View of a Hermit Crab

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