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When you first bring home your hermit crab, you’re probably wondering what the timid little guy could possibly eat. The fishy-smelling pellets may be off-putting to your senses. And what about treats? Surely a little variety will make your hermit crab happy.
So, what do hermit crabs eat? Hermit crabs are scavengers and opportunistic eaters. In the wild, a hermit crab will eat just about anything, including carrion, fallen fruit, plankton, seaweed, and other plants. A pet hermit crab should eat a combination of hermit crab food and fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Hermit crabs can be incredibly easy to feed as long as you avoid a few categories of food and ensure it is getting the proper nutrition. In this article, we will go over both the foods you can feed your hermit crab and those that should be avoided.
Hermit Crabs Are Omnivores
In the wild, hermit crabs are adventurous omnivores and successful scavengers. This means they will not only eat a wide variety of meats and plants, but they’ll also eat things we wouldn’t consider food at all like rotting wood and carrion. They will eat just about anything they can get into their mouth.
Obviously, a pet hermit crab won’t have the same food options that it would have in the wild, and you don’t need to worry about recreating that diet because they are more than happy to gobble up just about anything!
What to Feed a Pet Hermit Crab
Feeding your pet hermit crab is super easy, and adding healthy treats to its diet is a fun way to bond with your new crustacean friend.
Hermit Crab Food
The main staple of a pet hermit crab’s diet should be a hermit crab food pellet or cake. Pellets that are specially formulated for hermit crabs have the proper amount of nutrients for your pet to thrive.
Hermit crab food, like TetraFauna’s Hermit Crab Meal Cakes (on Amazon.com) should be protein-heavy, and they should also provide calcium and other vitamins essential to keep your crab healthy.
Treats for Hermit Crabs
Having adventurous eating habits in the wild means that hermit crabs appreciate variety in their diet. Providing regular treats for your hermit crab will undoubtedly make it happier. You can feed a hermit crab just about any fruit or vegetable as long as they are in small pieces or mashed.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables will provide plenty of variety for your hermit crab and important nutrients like calcium and carotenoids. Be sure to swap out the treat, and not only feed the same type of fruit or vegetable day after day.
Here are some hermit crab friendly fruits and veggies:
- Lettuces like romaine, red leaf, and spinach
Make sure you wash all fruits and vegetables before feeding them to your hermit crab and avoid citrus fruit or acidic vegetables.
Protein-rich foods are essential to a hermit crab’s health. Don’t skim on meaty snacks! Here are some hermit crab friendly protein options:
- Brine shrimp
- Freeze-dried shrimp
- Cooked meat with no sauce or seasoning (every now and again)
- Nut butters with no added sugar or salt
As long as your hermit crab eats its pellets, you don’t need to add more protein to its diet except as a tasty treat. It is likely getting plenty of protein from its pellets!
Foods to Avoid
Because hermit crabs are adventurous eaters and will eat just about anything, you’ve got to do the thinking for your little friend by avoiding foods that aren’t good for them, even if they seem to love it.
Here are the foods that are not hermit crab friendly:
- Large, hard pieces of food: Now, a hermit crab may be able to handle a large piece of food over time, or for a little nibble, but it will find smaller chunks of food easier to eat.
- Salty or sugary foods: Too much salt and sugar aren’t good for humans, and it isn’t good for hermit crabs either! Make sure all food you give your hermit crab as no added sauces or salt!
- Processed foods: Foods like pretzels, bread, pasta, potato chips, and so on tend to have added salt and sugar as well as added preservatives that are not good for your hermit crab.
- Dairy: Hermit crabs are living their best lives in the Caribbean milking cows. They do not need dairy, nor are they habituated to it. A lot of dairy options also contain added sugars and salt as well, so it is an all-around poor option for hermit crabs.
- Canned meats: Be wary of canned meats that may contain too much salt to be healthy for your hermit crab!
- Acidic foods: Some experts, like those at PetCo, believe that hermit crabs should not be given citrus fruits or other acidic foods, but this is up for debate. It is likely that in their tropical natural habitat, hermit crabs have access to citrus fruits, so in moderation, they shouldn’t be an issue.
Do Hermit Crabs Need Supplements?
If your hermit crab is eating their hermit crab pellets and you are supplementing with healthy fruits and vegetables, it isn’t likely that your hermit crab will need any special treatment. Still, if your shell dweller is looking a little off-color, you could provide some extra access to calcium and carotenoids.
Calcium for Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs have an exoskeleton, which basically means that they wear their skeleton on the outside of their bodies instead of inside. As a hermit crab grows, it will molt, or shed its exoskeleton and grow a new one. This process requires a lot of calcium.
Lucky for you, there are tons of ways to increase the amount of calcium in your hermit crabs diet. Here are some calcium-rich treats for hermit crabs:
- Hermit crab calcium supplement powder
- Oyster shell
- Sweet potatoes
Although you can buy calcium powder for your hermit crab, you can just as easily increase the number of calcium-rich vegetables you offer or shave off or sprinkle some cuttlebone over their food.
Carotenoids for Hermit Crabs
Carotenoids are what give hermit crabs their vibrant coloring. If your hermit crab’s coloring is fading out to tan or gray, this is a sure sign of a carotenoid deficiency.
Carotenoids like beta carotene and lycopene are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Here is a list to get you started:
- Red bell pepper
Do Hermit Crabs Eat Wood?
Like I’ve said, hermit crabs will eat just about anything, and that includes the wood you might consider putting in their tank for décor or for the hermit crab to climb and play on.
If you decide to put wood in your hermit crabs tank, just be sure it is nontoxic, untreated, and a hermit crab friendly variety like Cholla. For a list of woods that can and cannot be used in your hermit crab’s tank, check out this list by The Crab Street Journal.
What if Your Hermit Crab Isn’t Eating?
If your crab isn’t eating, here are some tips for getting the root of the cause:
- If you don’t think your crab is eating, first consider that it might be eating tiny quantities of the food you’re putting out, and you just can tell. Additionally, your crab could be eating the substrate in the tank or the wood and not the food! Pay very close attention to how much food you put out.
- Hermit crabs are nocturnal. If you don’t see your hermit crab eating during the day, it could still be snacking at night! Many hermit crab owners feed their crab at night and take the bowl out for cleaning in the morning.
- Before a crab eats, it will first need to smell the food. Try putting two options in the tank that have a distinct smell about equal distances from the hermit crab and then see if this entices him out for a bite.
- Some hermit crabs will refuse to eat the pellets. While these are a nutritionally sound option, if your hermit crab won’t eat them, it’s not the best option for it! Try some of the other options listed above with an emphasis on protein options and see if that gets him snacking again.
- Make sure all the conditions of the tank are as they should be, including the temperature, humidity, and access to water.
If nothing seems to be helping, you can always make sure your crab is healthy by taking it to a vet that is familiar with hermit crabs.