What Do Hermit Crabs Eat in the Wild and as Pets?


If you have been to the beach or anywhere near the ocean, you’ve probably seen at least one or two of these shelled little critters walking around that don’t exactly look like your normal crabs. The hermit crabs are cute little decapod crustaceans that have been popular as pets by ocean lovers and pet enthusiasts alike!

But when obtaining your own hermit crab (or crabs, they love being in groups!), It is important to know what kind of food you can or cannot feed them. What do hermit crabs eat?

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About the Hermit Crab

Before finding out what hermit crabs eat, first we need to know a few important things about the hermit crab. The hermit crab is a decapod crustacean, meaning they have ten legs and live in a shell. However, the hermit crab is not your usual crustacean as they survive by jumping from one shell to another, relying on shells of other animals rather than growing their own. The hermit crabs molt to grow approximately every 18 months, depending on the conditions, which means they will have to look for another shell should they outgrow the one they are currently using.

They are usually found near both salt water and fresh water where they can scuttle, burrow, and search for food while also finding a place to store their eggs. Hermit crabs are nocturnal animals, meaning they are more active at night than the day.

hermit crab in the wild
Image Credit: Wildehilde, Pixabay

What Do Hermit Crabs Eat in the Wild?

Hermit crabs are omnivorous scavengers, enabling them to eat both plant-based and animal-based foods. This means they can eat just about anything they find! In the wild, they find food in two ways. Despite having no nose, they find food through smelling with the receptors on their antennae. They also find food through observation, eating the same things they see their fellow hermit crabs eat as well!

But when caring for a hermit crab, it is important to feed them healthy foods rather than just about anything to ensure they get the necessary nutrients they can get under your care.

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Foods to Feed Your Hermit Crab

As hermit crabs are omnivorous in nature, you can feed them animal and plant-based foods. It is important to give your hermit crab a balanced diet between the two. Hermit crabs are natural scavengers, so it is important to provide variety of foods so that your hermit crab does not get bored!

Animal Based Foods

Protein is essential in your hermit crab’s diet. Protein can be obtained from different meats and fish. Eggs are also a good source of protein and can be feed scrambled or hard boiled.

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs

Plant-Based Foods

hermit crabs eating watermelon
Image Credit: Katrin85, Shutterstock

Fruits and Vegetables

Plant-based foods are also important in a hermit crab’s diet. Organic fruits and vegetables are preferred to ensure that your hermit crab is not eating any harmful chemicals. A small number of fruits and vegetables are recommended every day to keep a balanced diet. Sea vegetables can also be fed as well!

  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Melon
  • Berries
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Algae
  • Seaweed

Other-Plant Based Foods

Aside from fruits and vegetables, there are also other foods that can be fed to your hermit crab that are beneficial. Flowers, leaves, and grasses are good fill-ins to your hermit crab’s meals.

You can also give them different grains and seeds as these are good sources for carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. You can consider giving grains such as rice or cereals, and seeds like sunflower or chia seeds. Oils can also be given on occasion on occasion as these are also good sources for the mentioned nutrients such as olive and coconut oil.

In addition to the meats, plant-based proteins can also be given such as broccoli, soybeans, spinach, and kale to name a few.

Calcium Sources

Aside from the animal and plant-based foods mentioned, hermit crabs need a substantial amount of calcium in their diet to support their exoskeleton, which is very important during their molting. Here are a few foods that can be given that are good sources of calcium. Just remember to prepare them to be small enough for your crabs to consume them!

  • Cuttlebone
  • Coral sand
  • Oyster shells
  • Egg shells, boiled and crushed
  • Calcium vitamin supplements
  • Fish flakes

Commercial Diets

Commercial diets are generally not recommended due to the risk of chemicals and non-nutritious ingredients that can potentially harm your hermit crab and must be avoided. Should you consider giving your hermit crabs commercial foods, ensure that these are high quality from your local pet store. Some examples of good commercial hermit crab foods are HBH Pisces Pro and Florida Marine Research which are available for online purchase.

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Final Thoughts

Although hermit crabs can eat about anything, it is still important to give them a balanced and healthy diet. Knowing what your hermit crab likes may be a trial-and-error game by trying out different kinds of foods.

Hermit crabs are nocturnal creatures, so they may be ready to eat at night compared to during the day. Ensure that you prepare and give them healthy food with good balance every day to ensure that your hermit crabs are happy in your care!


Featured Image Credit: Paul Tessier, Shutterstock





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