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How to Choose Hermit Crab Shells

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Hermit crabs have soft abdomens. They require a strong shell to protect them. As a hermit crab owner you need to make sure that you provide good hermit crab shells to keep your hermit crabs growing healthy and living a long life. However, it can be difficult to know what shells to choose from because there are a lot of options.  


Why Hermit Crabs Need Shells

Hermit crabs are unusual creatures. They have a hard shell on the front half of their bodies, but they have a soft abdomen. As brand new babies they come up on shore and they then pick out a home. In most cases, they crawl into abandoned snail shells. This causes their abdomens to curl to the right. From then on they will need to wear shells that fit onto their bodies. Some snails have been found in bottle caps, bamboo tubes, and even the glass bottles from airline flights. However, the natural coarse of action is for them to choose a shell on the beach in their native lands.  


Hermit Crab(96200)

What Types of Shells Work?

The most important thing about the shells that your hermit crab needs is that the shell is clean and free from imperfections. They can't have holes or cracks in them. They should also have smooth and clean interiors. These features are what will keep your hermit crabs clean and most importantly safe and healthy.

  • Round Holed Shells – Purple pincher crabs (also known as Caribbean crabs) prefer shells that have round holes. The best or favorite kinds of these hermit crabs are turbo shells. There are a lot of great turbo shell options in a huge variety of colors. You can also get them polished and ones that have had the top layer removed to show the pearly colored layer under neath. It is also possible for them to choose murex shells. These can have interesting shapes and often come in the larger shells. When choosing these options you should make sure that they don't have large spikes, branches, or bumps that would make it difficult for the crab to get around the tank.
  • D-Shaped Holed Shells – Ecudorian crabs prefer shells with D shaped holes. Popular options are the Babylonia shell that has a mix of brown and white or the whale eye shells that come in creams and browns. Other options include the nerita polita, shark eye shells, crown conch, and nutmeg shells.  

Hermit Crab In Shell

What Size Shells Should You Buy?

In addition to the quality of the shells and the shape of the holes you also want to make sure that you are getting shells the right size. To figure out the size of shell you need to check out your crab. If your crab is in a shell that seems too big for it you might want to buy a couple of shells that are smaller than its current one. Rather than measuring the shell on the outside, you need to measure the size of the whole. You will also want to provide a couple of shells a little bigger than the one that your crab already is in.  


How Many Should You Provide?

If you think that your hermit crab is in a shell that is too big you might want to toss in one or two that is slightly smaller than the shell it is in right now. You should also provide at least two shells that are larger. These should be the shells you provide for each crab in the tank and it isn't a bad idea to have a good sized pile of shells to make sure that you are meeting everyone's needs. You may need more if you have crabs that are of significantly different sizes.  


Hermit Crab Shells
Credit: Amazon

Painted Hermit Crab Shells

There are also a lot of different painted shells. You can find them in every color imaginable and in fancy designs. However, these shells are bad for your hermit crab and even though they look cool, they should be avoided at all cost.  


Glass Shells

Glass shells may be a different story. They are blown from glass and can be found in clear as well as other colors. You should avoid ones that appear to be painted and a lot of hermit crab owners have a lot of arguments against them, but I am just not sure. Here are the common complaints that people have:

  • The glass shell isn't porous and won't let in oxygen and moisture the same way as a natural shell.
  • It also lets in more light and your crab might get sunburn on its delicate body.
  • The clear shell doesn't give it the same feeling of security and is likely to lead to your crab being insecure and stressed.

While those seem like good arguments, if you have one glass shell amongst several other options and your crab chooses the glass shell then it's cool and his or her choice. However, that being said, they start at about $15 and it might be a little pricey for something you don't know your crabs would ever wear. So, unless you want a glass shell somewhere else in your house then it might not be worth giving it a try.  



Getting Your Hermit Crab Shells Ready

Whether you have collected shells on the beach, you have gotten them from the Internet, or you have purchased them from a store you want to bring them home and prepare them for your crabs. You should boil a pot of water. You want to keep them in there for 5 minutes at a rolling boil. Allow the water to cool to room temperature. Remove them from the water and allow them to cool some more before putting them in the crabitat.  


Buying the right shells for your hermit crabs will make it possible for your crabs to enjoy themselves and to be comfortable in their homes. As they get larger they will have enough options in order to grow healthy. If they don't have adequate shells they will try not to molt, will have stunted growth, and will become stressed which could even cause them to die. So, getting a nice assortment of the perfect shells is the best option for your hermit crab!  


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