How to Spoil Your Hermit Crabs: Food Edition

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About: I love thinking of ways to make my everyday life more pleasant and efficient. Thanks to those who chose to subscribe to me, it's a big honor!

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)

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

Ingredients:
  • 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.
Tools:
  • 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

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

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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...

This meal includes popcorn drizzled with honey and sunflower seeds, greens, and canned octopus. It was well received.

Notes:
  • 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

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    47 Discussions

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    swright27

    4 years ago


    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 ;-( ?

    4 replies
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    AceJ5swright27

    Reply 8 days ago

    i think it would be ok but make sure the fumes dont hurt them

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    Noelle2003swright27

    Reply 2 years ago

    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?

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    Crabby WitchNoelle2003

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    LauraS3swright27

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

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

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    AceJ5taygirl123

    Reply 8 days ago

    ive had my hermit crab for almost a year now and it has never pinched me

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    cryslyo1982

    Question 5 months ago on Step 1

    Can you feed a hermit crab Orchard Valley Harvest antioxidant mix it has almond dried sweetened cranberries blueberries cashews and pitas

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    DianaJosie

    5 years ago

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

    2 replies
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    rvt1985DianaJosie

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    Mattakers

    5 years ago

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

    2 replies
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    rvt1985Mattakers

    Reply 5 years ago

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

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    Crabby Witchgrace6

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    LoreanY

    Question 6 months ago on Introduction

    My granddaughter mistakenly gave her hermit crab garden onions. She thought they were green peppers because they were already diced up. This was a very active crab, not the typical crabs we're use to getting in the pet stores or at the beach. It has an entirely different look and instead of retreating in his shell when picked up, like most of them do, he would walk all up and down my granddaughters arm. But now he is hardly moving! As soon as I saw the onions in there last night, I immediately took them out. But she said he ate one little piece. Do you think he will be ok?

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    hayleybadger8

    1 year ago

    Awesome post! Thank you for all the vivid information.