If you are considering caring for hermit crabs at home, there are certain things you’ll need to know about providing a well-balanced, healthy diet that suits their nutritional needs. Most importantly, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what they can’t eat because they can’t make that distinction for themselves.
Hermit Crabs in the Wild
In their natural habitat, hermit crabs are known to be omnivores who eat a wide assortment of food. Some of the most common types of food they eat are decomposing wood and leaf litter, fruit, different varieties of grass, plants, and almost anything else they can get their “claws” on. Additionally, algae, plankton, deceased ocean life, and small shrimp are all popular choices for a hermit crab.
Hermit crabs aren’t particularly fussy by nature and will try most types of food.
What do Pet Hermit Crabs Eat?
You can find a suitable commercial diet for your hermit crabs online or locally at some pet stores. There are some concerns about the preservatives and ingredients found in these foods as some are known to be harmful to hermit crabs. More specifically, the antioxidant Ethoxyquin, Copper Sulfate, and BHT (butylhydroxytoluene).
For this reason, some people choose to feed their hermit crabs an all-natural diet. If this isn’t an option for you, reliable hermit crab commercial foods are ZooMed Hermit Crab Salad, Fluker’s Freeze Dried Diets, Hikari Bio-Pure Frozen Foods, and Gardner’s Hermit Crab Food.
There are other safe brands of food out there for your hermit crabs, you’ll just need to check the label for any harmful ingredients or preservatives to make sure.
Fruits & Vegetables
Hermit crabs are known to prefer sweet foods, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they respond well to being offered pieces of fruit to snack on. You can offer a few small pieces of fruit each day but might want to consider the sugar content before giving them extra pieces. Popular choices of fruit to offer your hermit crabs include mango, coconut, apple, banana, strawberry, melon, and pineapple.
Vegetables are another healthy option to offer your hermit crabs and can be given a bit more often than fruit. Spinach, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, and corn are all great choices.
It might surprise you but yes – your hermit crabs can eat some whole grain products too!
Whole grains like oats, quinoa, rice, and barley are all safe to include in well-balanced diet but it’s important to note that you should be offering them raw, not cooked. Important nutrients are lost when given cooked, and your hermit crabs will enjoy munching on them raw.
Meat & Alternatives
Protein-rich foods are an important staple of a hermit crab’s diet and should be offered everyday. Some recommended choices are fresh or freeze-dried fish like krill or plankton, eggs, and lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon.
Plant proteins are important too and should not be neglected. Some choices your hermit crabs might enjoy are alfalfa sprouts, lentils, and wheat germ.
Hermit crabs need two types of water available in their enclosure everyday for easy access. The first type of water needed is dechlorinated fresh water and the second type is dechlorinated saltwater.
Water is important because hermit crabs use it to bathe, drink, and replenish necessary moisture. Your hermit crabs should be able to climb in and out of their water dishes on their own, otherwise there is a strong chance they could drown.
You need to use dechlorinated or distilled water because chlorine will burn a hermit crab’s sensitive gills, making it difficult to breathe and often leads to a slow, painful death.
To make saltwater, you should always use aquarium salt because household table salt often contains iodine, a harmful substance for hermit crabs.
Calcium is an important aspect of a hermit crab’s diet because it helps support the development of the exoskeleton, especially during times of molting. Luckily, it’s easy to find sources of calcium for hermit crabs. Popular choices are cuttlebone, calcium supplements, crushed egg shells, and coral sand. You can also find sources of calcium in common vegetables like spinach, sweet potato, and cucumbers.
Although fruits are safe for your hermit crabs to eat, their high sugar content make them more appropriate to offer as a treat. Other good choices for treats are popcorn (unsalted, unbuttered), seeds and nuts, and dried fruit.
Foods for Hermit Crabs to Avoid
Your hermit crabs might be excited to eat the same food as you, but processed food shouldn’t make it into their enclosure. Most processed food contain a long list of chemicals, salt, and sugar all of which can be harmful to the health and wellbeing of a hermit crab.
You should do your little friends a favor and skip the processed food even if it’s given sparingly as a treat. There are healthier options like air-dried plain popcorn, nuts, and seeds that you can offer them instead.
Chlorine Treated Water
- Provides slime coat
- Removes Chlorine, Chloramine
- Detoxifies Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate
As mentioned earlier, hermit crabs should never be given water that has been treated with chlorine unless it has been dechlorinated using an appropriate water conditioning product like Seachem Prime. Another option is using distilled water because it doesn’t contain any impurities including chlorine.
Chlorine is dangerous for hermit crabs because it burns their gills causing them to slowly suffocate. As you can imagine, this would be a slow and painful process for your hermit crabs to endure.
Fertilized/Treated Flowers & Grass
Most edible flowers, grasses, and plants are a tasty treat for hermit crabs. The only trouble with them is the possibility of being treated with harsh fertilizers or pesticides. Fertilizers and pesticides are toxic for hermit crabs and can burn their gills like chlorine leading to premature death.
It’s important to know where all plants, flowers, and grasses are sourced from before offering them to your hermit crabs. If you aren’t sure – don’t offer it.
Every animal deserves to be fed a well-balanced, healthy diet. Luckily, hermit crabs aren’t very picky, and they can eat a lot of the same foods you do. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that they will eat anything, so you need to ensure that everything you offer them is safe for them to eat.