Curiosity arises about hermit crab food preferences when watching them fighting for an empty gastropod shell.

Hermit crabs are crustaceans belonging to the Paguroidea family that holds a legacy of living in other creatures‘ shell-like snails, gastropods, corals, and sponges, to secure their exoskeleton.

These crabs are sub-divided into two categories: one that lives in the saltwater (seas and oceans), usually at the bottom levels, and another on the land area, preferably tropical regions, and requires freshwater and saltwater for gills wetting.

There are many unique features about them, but here we will find out what do the hermit crabs eat.

What Type of Food do Hermit Crabs Eat?

Hermit crabs are omnivores, aquatic/ semi-aquatic animals, with basic amenities readily available in their native zones. Both the types of hermits grasp whatever fits in their small-mouth.

But they compulsively need to full fill specific body requirements for a healthy life. Calcium and water, specifically for the land dwellers, are unavoidable substances in the hermit crab food. Here is how you can ensure them in crab’s diet

Best Hermit Crab Food: Calcium

The hermit crabs primarily require calcium-rich high-quality food regularly.

They possess a non-calcified exoskeleton, due to which they need to follow the empty shell capturing system. Hence the hermit crab diet must include a lot of calcium content.

This essential calcium requirement gets fulfilled through mineral-rich supplements and natural elements like oyster shells, eggshells, coral sand, and cuttlebone.

Water as a Necessity for Hermit Crabs

The underwater hermit crabs rarely make an effort to come up to the surface and roam on the beach. Very few out of the 800 species may travel to the land but do not wait for long.

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They mostly stay on the sea bed and find it difficult to survive out of the water without wet gills.

The other group that finds its home on the land still requires freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater is always necessary for drinking purposes, while few species also sip saltwater.

Water for hermit crab is naturally essential for living as well as breeding. These crabs regularly need it to dampen their gills, through which they breath-in oxygen.

Fact: A unique feature that these land dwellers have is the capacity to carry water to keep the gills moist.

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Formulating Saltwater for Crabs in Captivity

To prepare saltwater, you need a box or a dish that should have enough depth to submerge the crab completely.

The concentrate must not be the regular table salt. You can, however, use a mix of dechlorinated water with marine salt, usually advised for fish tanks.

What do Hermit Crabs Eat as Their Favorite Food?

Hermit crabs can consume plants, green vegetation, dead meat like small fishes, micro-organisms, etc. Interestingly, they do not rely on any potential prey, as they are ready to eat everything.

Their dietary habits make them easy pets at home aquariums or for breeding. It is the peculiarity of this crab that it takes in anything that is offered or available. Below are the food items the hermit crabs like to eat.

  • A small quantity of fleshy fruits (like banana, papaya, apples, mango), strawberries, non-citrus watery fruits (such as melons, grapes)
  • Coconuts
  • All sorts of green vegetations (like lettuce, spinach, grass, bark leaves, algae)
  • Vegetables (like carrot, broccoli, and cress)
  • Unsweetened/ unsalted cereals, rice cakes, crackers, corns
  • Nuts
  • Semi-cooked meat, eggs, seafood
  • Live & freeze-dried – Planktons, shrimps, small fishes, insects, worms

What Does a Hermit Crab Eat in the Wild?

Hermit crabs living in the wild have enhanced body features that uniquely affect their eating fundamentals.

They can smell the food from a long distance. Their body has small sensing antenna-type structures that give them the sense of food detection.

They react too slow to catch prey with their tiny claws and usually have to settle down on the dead or decaying matter.

At times they predate slow-moving small worms or larva but hardly find them and hence look out for plant matter or mortal flesh.

The hermit crabs are intrinsically sub-divided into two major categories of land and saltwater. These crabs have slightly different food choices, although they are known for following no-picky nature regarding food items.

Let’s find out what specific food each group of hermit crabs eat.

Fact: Hermit Crabs can rotate their eyes to 360 degrees which helps them look out for food at every visible location.

What do the Saltwater Hermit Crabs Eat in the Wild?

The crabs which do not come out of the water usually drift on the bottom and find food. These are typical scavengers and can sense the food particles on the sea bed.

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Their most prominent food includes

  • Dead animals like fishes, insects, snails,
  • Seaweed
  • Driftwood
  • Green plants matter
  • Vegetable particles

What do the Land Hermit Crabs Eat in the Wild

The giant robber crab is considered the largest of all the land resident hermit crabs. These land crabs had to struggle a lot for food, not just because of its unavailability but majorly because they had to hold back an exogenous shell as their mobile home.

They survive over: –

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Flowers (they enhance the reddish color of the exoskeleton)
  • Green leaves
  • Seeds
  • Canola
  • Algae
  • Decaying plants or meat particles

Author Note: The hermit crabs are rarely seen fighting for food and show a lot of patience in grabbing it.

What do pet Hermit Crabs Eat?

If you plan to pet a hermit crab, you must carefully read this exclusive feeding guide.

Irrespective of their acceptance of any food item, there are some critical challenges that you may face while feeding them.

As the hermit crabs have different food choices when in the wild, similarly, the pets belonging to the different cultures & lifestyles show diversity in feeding preferences.

What to Feed a Land Hermit Crab

The land hermit crabs can be easily fed with a staple diet of meat and vegetables. They are slow eaters and usually prefer the food at night.

Hermit crabs take small bites of the food particles, and hence a powdered form of food helps them eat sufficiently. Fruits & carotene-rich vegetables in the chopped form are best for easy chewing and should be their regular diet.

Occasionally, you can offer them crushed pellets or flakes and shells of oysters, eggs, or cuttlebone for calcium supplements. Highly nutritious commercial foods are also available for hermit crabs and should be given once or twice a week.

How Should you Feed the Land Hermit Crab?

The eating habits of hermit crabs generally cause them health issues; hence, the most obvious advice is to provide them food in clean utensils each time.

Metals are unsuitable for them. So, use plastic utensils or any other make to give them food. You must use the same dish or bowl with which they are familiar.

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These are nocturnal crustaceans, so a dark non-disturbing environment is best while they feed. You must remove the leftover food after some time.

What can you Feed a Hermit Crab From the Beach (Seawater)?

The hermit crabs you brought from the beaches are quite an easy pet in an aquarium. These are habitual of eating every edible item available at the bottom of the sea.

So, if you have a juvenile crab, feed it with algae or small particles of fish food. As they grow to become adults, you can supply good-quality pellets, flakes, carrots, and leafy vegetables.

For nutrition, through dead meat (since they cannot hunt fast swimmers,) shrimps, fishes, invertebrates, crickets, and small live worms are excellent options.

How Should you Feed the Beach Hermit Crab?

Hermit crabs from the sea can only survive in aquariums, so regularly change the water and remove the uneaten food particles from the tank.

These crabs also stay active at night, so you have to arrange their food sessions in the dark. They might behave a bit demanding of food when in closed captives.

Thus, you should put a small quantity of food in variety and let them eat what they want while increasing the amount simultaneously.

How Much do Hermit Crabs Eat?

Hermit crabs are tiny animals and usually size up to an average of six inches. They eat a portion of significantly less food; therefore, whatever you feed should contain some nutritional value.

According to the experts, a teaspoon of crushed or chopped food completes their daily diet. They take small bites and, at times, are observed to stay away from it for hours. During the molting process, they do not eat for many days.

How Often do Hermit Crabs Eat?

A convenient thing about petting these hermit crabs is that you only need to feed them once in 24 hours. They do not eat a lot of food and only feed in the dark.

So, you have to clean the tank water, or in the case of land dwellers, clean their dish/ bowl, provide a small amount of powdered food, and leave them alone. They will consume it whenever they feel hungry.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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