Introduction: How to Spoil Your Hermit Crabs: Food Edition

Picture of How to Spoil Your Hermit Crabs: Food Edition

Forget buying toxic hermit crab food at the pet store, feeding your crabs a healthy and well-balanced diet is really easy! This instructable contains 4 easy ways to spoil your hermies with food. The guaranteed result? More active, healthy, and fun-to-watch crabs. 

Step 1: Healthy Food Mix (method One)

Picture of Healthy Food Mix (method One)
Head to a grocery store with a bulk foods section. Look for foods such as:
  • grains (wheat bran, oats, amaranth, wild rice)
  • seeds (chia, pumpkin, sesame)
  • unsweeted dried fruits (goji berries, mango, pineapple, raisins, coconut)
  • unsalted nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds)
  • random (granola mixes, nutritional yeast flakes, etc.)
You don't need much! Just a small scoop of each food you choose. Yes, the cashier might think you're crazy for getting $.08 of nutritional yeast flakes or $1.07 of goji berries, but that's ok. 

Don't have access to a bulk food section? Check your pantry for things like:
  • oats
  • granola crumbs from the bottom of the bag
  • nuts
  • healthy crackers or chips (minimal salt, no onion flavoring)

Step 2: Gather Ingredients & Tools

Picture of Gather Ingredients & Tools
  • seeds, nuts, grains, etc. from the bulk food section or your pantry (appropriate amounts shown in bags)
  • calcium powder
  • dried land bugs and water "bugs": mealworms, river shrimp, bloodworms, crickets. I've found Walmart has a better price on these than pet stores.
  • Small plastic tubs (1 cup capacity or less), lacking those, you can use plastic baggies. 
  • Desiccant packets. Not crucial, but very useful in keeping your mixes fresh and dry. They can be purchased on amazon for less than $5 for a large pack.
  • Mixing bowl, spoon
  • Small mortar and pestle. Also not crucial, but it's handy for grinding food especially if you have small crabs. 
  • Cutting board, knife
  • Tape

Step 3: Chop Fruit and Nuts

Picture of Chop Fruit and Nuts

Chop fruit and nuts into small pieces (the smaller your crabs, the smaller the pieces should be). Dried fruit can become sticky, so spread a pinch of calcium powder on the cut sections to help keep them separate. 

Step 4: Choose Your Ingredients

Picture of Choose Your Ingredients

Now put the chosen ingredients into the mixing bowl. Hermit crabs thrive on diverse food, so try to add a different three to five ingredients to each mix you make. Each mix should include grain, animal protein, fat (seeds and nuts), and maybe some calcium. Sweet things like dried fruit are a bonus for your crabs and should be used sparingly.

Step 5: Combine & Package

Picture of Combine & Package

Make a tape loop and tape the desiccant packet to the lid of your container. If you're using baggies you can probably put it right into the mix, but I feel more comfortable keeping it out of the food. 

Your mixes are done. Use a dedicated spoon to stir the ingredients before serving. Usually one spoonful per feeding bowl is a good amount. 

If you keep your mixes stacked, move the mix you're using to the bottom of the stack after feeding to ensure daily rotation :)

Step 6: Popcorn! (method Two)

Picture of Popcorn! (method Two)
If there's one thing hermit crabs love, it's popcorn. But don't even think about sharing your 'extra butter flavor' microwave bag with them. Instead, pick up some plain corn kernels while you're at the bulk food section. 

For perfect hermie popcorn:
  • plain corn kernels
  • paper lunch bag
  • small amount of coconut or other vegetable oil

Step 7: Stir & Microwave

Picture of Stir & Microwave

Stir a small amount of oil into the kernels to evenly coat them. Pour them into the lunch bag, fold it over a few times and microwave using the popcorn setting.

For the love of all that is holy, watch the popcorn the whole time! I set a microwave fire today while making this. I wish I were kidding. As long as you watch and smell carefully this probably won't happen. Kids, please ask parents for help with this one!

Let the popcorn cool and store it in a baggie. Hermies don't mind if it's a little burnt or stale after a few months. You can also add it to a food mix!

Step 8: Chia Garden! (method Three)

Picture of Chia Garden! (method Three)

Chia seeds are the best, awesome for people and crabs. Feed them as seeds or take it a step further and plant a garden in their substrate.

Step 9: Poke a Trench, Plant & Spray

Picture of Poke a Trench, Plant & Spray

Use your finger tips to make a shallow trench in their substrate near the light source. Add a sprinkling of seeds and cover them. Spray them with water.

In about two days you'll see the sprouts. Your crabs will start munching on them soon after and soon the "garden" will be gone. But it's easy to replant. You should be misting the crabs with water daily, so the seeds will be watered in that process and flourish effortlessly.

Hermit crabs use modified gills to breath, so their crabitat needs to be nice and moist at all times!

Step 10: Leftovers! (method Four)

Picture of Leftovers! (method Four)

Do you have a few wilty leaves left over in a tub of greens? How about the core of a sliced apple? Making eggs? Don't toss the shell, share with your crabs!

If you eat organic produce and eggs, you can share the waste from them with your crabs. They are natural scavengers and will enjoy crunching through egg shells (great source of calcium) and pinching pieces from your apple cores and wilted produce.

Why organic? Pesticides, which are bad for your body, are very harmful to theirs. 

Step 11: An Example of a Fancy Hermie Meal...

Picture of An Example of a Fancy Hermie Meal...
This meal includes popcorn drizzled with honey and sunflower seeds, greens, and canned octopus. It was well received.

  • Wondering if a food is hermit crab safe? Check out this list. In general, avoid onion, garlic and citrus. 
  • When picking any kind of dried meat it is critical to look at the ingredient list for a pesticide called Ethoxyquin. It is a common preservative in many commercial hermit crab and fish foods and is poisonous to your crabs.
  • Have questions about hermit crab care? Please feel free to ask me, I would love to help. People tend to receive poor or inadequate advice at the pet store. 
  • For more ways to spoil your hermit crabs, check out my other two Instructables on this topic: Make a coconut castle and more food ideas


grace6 (author)2016-03-29

Can the chia seeds grow in playsand?

Crabby Witch (author)grace62017-11-24

I believe so, if its moiste at the top, remember you dont have to plant very far down. Chia usually sprouts easy.

swright27 (author)2014-06-30

I just got two hermit crabs ,and I'm a beginner and I was wondering if i were to draw on their shell with sharpie if it would hurt them ;-( ?

Noelle2003 (author)swright272016-10-04

It will not not hurt them as it is just a shell it is a sepratr piece the wear unlike a turtle it is not attached the changh shells when they grow so you can draw on them is u like I HAD ABOUT 6 over the past year I should know.Unforchatly most of them died last Winter but now just a few days ago i got three. As I said u can draw on the shell and in pet stors they actually paint the shells.Hope u r happy?

Crabby Witch (author)Noelle20032017-11-24

Hello Noelle. It is actually very harmfull for anything to be attached, drawn or painted on there shells because they sometimes eat there shells or the shells around them. Many large groups are trying to get them to stop ruining all those beautiful shells by painting on them. Good luck with your new batch of Crabbies and go to hermit crab association maybe that web site will be able to help you, help keep them alive for many, years to come because they live up to at least if not more then 40 years.

LauraS3 (author)swright272014-12-15

Yeah, it can hurt them, because they will eat pieces of their shells (for calcium). Painted and glossy shells are also bad for them.

hayleybadger8 (author)2017-05-21

Awesome post! Thank you for all the vivid information.

SharynG1 (author)2017-01-27

Hello.... new to keeping HCs.... we have 4 about 10 days... they dont "appear" to be eating .... how much should I be giving them either a day (each day) or how much every few days? They have eaten crumbled popcorn and broccoli... but dont touch other stuff (provided to us)

DayiniL (author)2016-12-02

I made the mixed hermit food, and put them in containers only to discover the whole lot went mouldy in a few days. And I made a heap! what a waste. Would freezing it next time help make the food last?

Hermiegirl68 (author)2016-09-02

Thanks! Great idea! They just opened a store near me with a great bulk section! I know where I'm headed,lol?

RockyR12 (author)2016-01-21

Thanks for the info.... ive had my crab for about 2yrs now... never would thought you could give boiled egg... little guy went for it...

WingraMax (author)2015-10-19

I am a very loyal hermit crab owner and have NEVER thought of going to the bulk food section! Ingenious! Awesome idea!

ashleyjlong (author)2015-04-06

Love this! I give my crabs some popcorn every time I make some. I'll have to try the planted chia seeds --that's an excellent idea.

Ashwawa (author)ashleyjlong2015-08-13

Will the chia seeds grow in play sand?

Ashwawa (author)2015-08-13

Could you make an instructable on hermit crab tank ideas? I like doing different setups for them once in a while.

Ashwawa (author)2015-08-13

I made this for my hermit crabs and they love it!

taygirl123 (author)2015-07-25

but they pinch

lilly7 (author)2013-11-13

Yeah, I practiced with a hermit crab I had, because he always pinched me when I held him, but I kept practicing and eventually he like it. I bet it would be hard with a whole herd of
Crabs, although you could just do it with a few

rvt1985 (author)lilly72013-11-17

I will try this for sure, and PM you if I have any success :)

lilly7 (author)2013-11-13


lilly7 (author)2013-11-12

Well, maybe you could practice with a glove untill he enjoys it?

rvt1985 (author)lilly72013-11-13

It's gonna take a long time to get 20 hermit crabs to like me, but I'll start looking for a suitable glove, thanks for the idea ;)

lilly7 (author)2013-11-12

Yes, mine would let me hold it and he will crawl on my hand

rvt1985 (author)lilly72013-11-12

Pretty cool! Mine only crawl *off* my hands or try to pinch me.

lilly7 (author)2013-11-11

Do you play with your hermit crabs? I play with mine all the time and I get crazy looks

rvt1985 (author)lilly72013-11-11

Occasionally, but I'm more of a hermie observer. Are your crabs tame? I've heard some people can hand feed theirs but I don't think mine would go for it.

Mattakers (author)2013-11-11


rvt1985 (author)Mattakers2013-11-11

It was fun! Thanks for the request :)

Mattakers (author)2013-11-07

Can you make more instructables about hermit crabs? I'm thinking about getting 3

rvt1985 (author)Mattakers2013-11-07

Sure, I will get to work on it and hopefully have one by the weekend :)

Sammi11402 (author)2013-11-04

They also like peanut butter lol >3<

rvt1985 (author)Sammi114022013-11-04

So I've heard! Hermit crabs love many kinds of food, and what they love most and are stimulated the most by is variety :)

DianaJosie (author)2013-11-03

What is the best substrate? I've tried sand and now peat moss. I am thinking of switching it to organic soil.

rvt1985 (author)DianaJosie2013-11-03

I use a mix of playsand and coconut mulch (expandable bricks from the seedling section), both purchased at Home Depot. It should be pretty moist, almost sand castle consistency. Also, it should be very deep (mine is 7 inches deep). The bigger your crabs, the deeper it should be. Organic soil alone may retain water a little too well and you might find problems with mold.

Babyseal123 (author)2013-11-02

My hermit crabs loved your food! Thanks for the tips!

rvt1985 (author)Babyseal1232013-11-02

I'm so glad to hear that! It's fun to watch them enjoy a meal :)

TheMrCOOLguy2 (author)2013-11-01

My hermit crabbed called out of its shell and didn't go back into another one

fishydrew3 (author)TheMrCOOLguy22013-11-01

Take the crab's old shell & boil it in water for 15 mins. Let it cool for 20 mins & clean out with a q-tip. Isolate the crab & the cleaned shell & hope it decides to crawl back in.

rvt1985 (author)TheMrCOOLguy22013-11-01

I'm sorry... that happens sometimes. Hermit crabs can be very picky about what shell they want to wear so it's a good idea to have a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from.

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