You may not be aware of this but hermit crabs are not really classed as true crabs because they do not have their own shell and they have to source a discarded shell to move into. Once you become the proud owner of one or more of these little critters, not only will you be responsible for settling them into their new habitat, or crabitat as it is commonly known, but you will also need to become the provider of hermit crab shells for your new family members.
The little crabby critters need to be provided with a good variety of shells so that they can move into a new shell as and when they want. They can be quite picky when choosing a new shell, and in the wild it is not unusual to see a couple of crabs fighting over one particular shell. They will even fight to the death so you can see how important sourcing suitable crabby shells for your little companions can be.
Some species of the little crawlers like to change shells more often than others, but it is a good idea to have a variety of similar shells in different sizes for each individual critter that you own. The purpose of the shells for your little crabby pet is to protect the soft abdomen, which houses both the digestive glands and the reproductive organs, and also to keep predators at bay. It is important for the little guy to have a snug fitting shell as this helps retain the moisture which is vital to his well being. Too small a shell will render it difficult for the little guy to retreat into and too large a shell will make it almost impossible for the crab to hang onto.
Shells come in all shapes and sizes and with different shaped openings such as oval or round, and some even have more of a thin open slit. Until you get to know which sort your crab prefers, it’s probably better to provide a variety. Different species of these little crabby crawlers tend to pick out specific shapes. When choosing your crabby pet’s shells it is imperative to make sure that they are clean, both inside and out, and that there are no cracks or porous openings. Always boil the empty shells in a pan on the stove and leave to cool before presenting them to your pet.
The hardest part of providing your pets with shells can be finding them in the first instance. Some shops sell painted shells but I would be a little wary of choosing these because the paint could be harmful to the crabs. You may find your pet store stocks a few but the choice is likely to be limited. Alternatively you may be fortunate to find some on your local beach, but if all else fails, then I would recommend buying from a specialist online store. The good thing about buying your pet’s shells from a specialist online store is that their shells are usually numbered in size, so once you know what size your crab is wearing, you can easily order the next size up when he is ready for a new shell. Another bonus is that most stores will accept the return of an unused shell in exchange for a different size.
So you can see choosing hermit crab shells and getting the right fit, is almost as tricky as choosing a new pair of pants! However, now with all your new knowledge, picking out the right one for you and your little crawling companion should be that much easier.