Why Hermit Crabs May Not Be Good Pets for Kids

I have enjoyed owning a hermit crab and so have my kids, but they are a lot more work than you would think.

Hermit crabs make fantastic pets, but you may want to avoid getting one for your child. Without the proper care—which goes well beyond clean food and water—pet hermit crabs are disappointing and live a short life struggling to survive.

This article will help you learn more about keeping them as pets and will dispel some common myths that you may have heard from friends or pet store employees. In this article, we will take a look at:

  • What your child wants
  • What you want
  • What the pet store wants
  • What makes a good children's pet
  • Why hermit crabs can be great for kids
  • Recommended websites
  • Recommended products

If Your Child Wants a Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs can make good pets, but there is a lot to consider before buying one for your kids. Let's take a look at hermit crabs and pets in general through the eyes of a young child.

Your child wants to play with the crab every day.

  • Hermit crabs need to be able to bury themselves entirely without disruption as part of their growing process. In order to grow, they have to molt or shed their tough exoskeleton, a process which will take a week or longer and may happen as often as every month. During this time, the crab will not be able to move. So, for several weeks, your child's patience will be put to the test—handling the crab during this sensitive time will almost certainly kill it. Molting takes longer (several weeks or months) but is also less frequent as the crab becomes larger.
  • Several inches of moist beach sand is the perfect bedding for them (enough to cover your largest crab by at least 2 inches). Gravel, stone, and dry sand do not allow them to dig, so just get playground or beach sand and keep it at "sandcastle building consistency." It is also good to add a coconut fiber product such as Eco Earth to the sand to hold the moisture.

Your child sees a SpongeBob shell with legs.

  • They will need to leave their brightly painted shell to grow and stay healthy. Find a pet store with hermit crabs in natural shells and your child will be more likely to develop an attachment to the animal instead of the shell.
  • Provide a selection of shells that are the same size and slightly bigger than the one currently occupied by your crab. Avoid specialty shells, as your child may want to force the crab into a particular shell, and painted shells are not healthy for them.
  • The crab will select its new shell by rolling the candidates around, inspecting inside and out, until the most comfortable shell is found, and there is no safe way to force one to use or discard a particular shell.

Your child wants a carry-around pet.

  • You will need to teach your child how to handle a hermit crab. If held improperly, teased, or forced to come out of its shell, they may pinch and not let go. Keeping your hand taut reduces their ability to grab on, and maintaining a steady walking surface will keep them from being startled. Pick a crab up by the corners of its shell and hold your other hand under the shell to provide support when the crab comes out.
  • A small plastic container is portable, but it is not adequate housing for one. For two small crabs, you will need, at a minimum, a 5 or 10-gallon glass aquarium, 3–6 inches of sand, and two water bowls. See the proper care section for more details. A smaller plastic "travel tank" is okay for show-and-tell but it cannot satisfy the housing needs of the crabs.

Hermit crabs are happiest when they have friends.

If You Want One for Your Child

You may have heard that hermit crabs are fun, easy to care for, and inexpensive. This is often true, but you must first do the research, then decide if it is the right choice.

Are you looking for a low-maintenance "throwaway pet?"

Hermit crabs can be relatively low-maintenance, but they have strict housing and care requirements. They will not live more than a year without meeting these requirements, whereas ones living under proper care can live 10 years or longer. They should never be considered as "throwaway pets."

You should be prepared to buy more than one.

Hermit crabs are social creatures, and they do not do well when alone. Buying two instead of one ensures that they will have a friend and you will also get more use out of the shells and food that you purchase.

If a Pet Store Employee Suggests One

Many pet stores sell and promote hermit crabs as good pets for children with little care requirements and short life expectancies. As you have already learned, that's not the whole story.

The pet store wants you to buy all the hermit crab supplies and toys.

Many products marketed directly for use with them are either unnecessarily expensive or improper for use with hermit crabs. You can buy hermit crab supplies, such as sea sponges at a craft store, beach or playground sand at a hardware store, and coconuts at a grocery store for a fraction of the cost.

What Makes an Animal "Good for Children?"

Consider the following when choosing a pet for your child, then check out some of the best pets for children:

Health risks

  • Salmonella and other bacteria present a very serious risk for young children.
  • Reptiles, amphibians, and birds are particularly high-risk, while hermit crabs do not carry any known human diseases.
  • Know your child's allergies.

Care requirements

  • Give your child the responsibility to care for the animal, but be prepared to share some of the tasks.
  • In addition to food, some animals need special lighting, water care, and dietary supplements.

Secondary and recurring costs

  • A fish itself may cost less than a dollar, but don't overlook the cost of the aquarium, food, gravel, lighting, filter, and decorations!
  • Some animals, like most reptiles, need live food which can be expensive, smelly, and may have its own requirements.
  • Will the animal need new supplies as it grows? Iguanas are infamously bad childhood pets for this reason.


  • There is no such thing as a "throwaway pet." With proper care and provision, most pets can live long lives as your child grows and becomes more responsible.
  • If your child's pet dies, research the proper care of the animal instead of simply buying a replacement. This is an opportunity to teach your child about life and to help them learn more about their pet.

Pets Are a First-Hand Lesson in Responsibility

Hermit Crabs Can Be Great Pets for Children!

If you are prepared to properly care for a few hermit crabs, they can be excellent pets! Here are just a few reasons why you may decide, after researching and ensuring that you can care for them, to buy hermit crabs as pets for your children:

  • They're not aggressive—friendly and fun if handled properly.
  • They are disease-free—they do not carry human diseases, and do not need to go to the vet.
  • They are hypo-allergenic, meaning they're a safe pet for children with allergies.
  • They have a long lifespan, so hermit crabs can grow with your child.
  • They have a small appetite, which means very low food and supplement costs.
  • No live food is required and dried, and fresh foods are easier to keep.

© 2009 fritteritter

Lmao on April 23, 2020:

Luv the article, THX whoever made this!

Hannah on August 17, 2018:

My hermit crab lost three legs and one claw

Blake on July 10, 2018:

Why does my hermit crab cut its sponge

Brandy on October 16, 2017:

Hermit crabs do not pose a salmonella risk. This article has some false information. Please join Hermit Crab owners on Facebook for better information about crabs and the care of them.

Dan the man on August 29, 2017:

This article is very helpful!

Fluffy on August 29, 2017:

I'm about to have a hermit crab named cuddles and this article was very helpful to me and I can't wait to see cuddles tomorrow!! So thank you pet helpful! I have two questions though are painted shells okay for hermit crabs? and how do you keep the the cage humid? Well thanks again bye!!!

Makayla on August 29, 2017:

This article is very helpful since I'm new to having a hermit crab. My little sassy the hermit crab is going to be loved but have privicy to!

crab on July 07, 2017:

this article is amazing because it tells the best things even about pet stores.

Hannah on April 15, 2017:

This was super helpful and definitely helped me and my parents decide on if to get it or not!!!

Rythegreat on April 06, 2017:

Wow I'm just finding out about these articles. Comment below and let me know if you have read theese recently

hoppinghammy on March 28, 2014:

good website thank you also I was wondering if I could maybe have 2 hermit crabs in a 10 gallon tank?

THE HERMIT on March 23, 2014:

wow this is good stuff I think I may be getting 2 hermit crabs soon not sure but now I got the idea of how to care for them THANKS!!!!!!

unkown on March 23, 2014:

very good information to know I am considering getting 2 hermit crabs to put in my 10 gallon tank.

Feline Pet Store on July 23, 2012:

I believe that every kid should have the opportunity to own a pet. Dogs and cats make great pets and you don't have to buy one from a pet store. Adoption of a needy dog or cat is always a good option

MJE on May 08, 2012:

The moral of this story; Sadly, most people are dumb and lazy, and just want a pet to distract their kid for a few seconds, so they do not have be a parent. This is a living thing, not a videogame. Treat hermit crabs with some respect.

unknown on March 16, 2012:

i dont know if ill get 2 of theese little guys. i have a 5 gal tank. but thx great article

Shaddie from Washington state on February 26, 2012:

I like this article but it's unfortunate you bash pet store employees near the end. Having worked at Petsmart for 4 years, my "team" and I were very obsessed with letting unwary families know just how much care these animals require. But most customers don't want to hear the truth, they don't read the material we hand them, and they disregard our warnings and instructions. Being a responsible, knowledgeable pet store employee is a thankless job, and we usually get nothing but complaints from both customers, who only want to hear what they want to hear, and scoffing pet experts, who assume everyone working at a pet store is an uneducated jerk.

Anyway... Great hub with lots of accurate information. I agree that hermit crabs, and many other pet store animals, make horrible first, second, or third pets for children.

hermitcrabcarer on January 25, 2012:

This article was very informative, thank you, now i know many more things on how to take care of shelly!

jamiesweeney from Philadelphia, PA on September 14, 2011:

Glad to visit this page. Great article.

adelina on August 29, 2010:

I love dogs becuse they come in all sizes and shapes and are loyal and friendly they also like playing and love anyone so I think a dog or puppy! are the very best pets and Im just 8!

yankecam55 on August 04, 2010:

Great article but the molting you should put a little more empasses on

hermys owner on July 10, 2010:

this really helped!!! Thanks

Book Scorpion on June 08, 2010:

Thank you for this informative article, it's so nice to see accurate information on hermit crabs for a change :)

Celeste on February 07, 2010:

Very informative. Thanks!

Moose on October 22, 2009:

This article is fantastic!

It's not everyday you find someone posting about the proper care of a hermit crab.

Kudos! (:

2. Hermit Crabs Live In Mansions and You Are Their Butler

Does your house have a hammock and giant green tube?

Probably the best thing about owning a hermit crab is getting to decorate its tank, and no we’re not talking about the little plastic square containers they often sell them in at the pet stores, as these are disgusting and unsuitable for crabs. They are way too small. Rather, a 30 gallon fish tank of crab paradise. While it may sound silly at first, crabs love to be active. They are nocturnal animals that spend most of their night playing and climbing on things and eating. It is so much fun to not just build your pet crab a habitat, but a “crabitat”. You can include all kinds of neat features in this crabitat. Some owners have even found that purchasing items like bird ladders and setting them up on one wall of their tank has kept their crabs happy as can be. Watch them fight each other to try to get to the top first. Hermit crabs love to climb, and they love to bury themselves. The options are endless. You can build them tunnels out of old toilet paper rolls, PVC pipe, or plastic tubes, or even make them slides. Some crab owners have made steps or ladders out of legos or blocks. Pieces of netting make great hammocks for your crab to rest or swing on. Many pet stores also sell cute little “crab shacks” “crab pools” and coconut huts for your crab to hang out in. Be sure to include one dish with fresh water and one with salt water for your crab to drink from and bathe in. Each should contain a small piece of sponge that your crab can latch onto to keep from drowning. Your crab will also love pieces of cuttlebone, driftwood, logs, rocks, sea shells, wire walls, bridges, coconut fiber walls, coconut fiber substrate, dirt, sand, plants, and/or other aquarium décor. By the time you’re done decorating, your crab will have a nicer house than you!

Complete Guide To Caring For A Hermit Crab

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Every summer, my wife’s family rents a place on Cape Cod. We pack up the kids and join her family for a wonderful week of beach and sun. Without fail, my daughter will spend the first day combing the beach outside our door for beautiful shells, rocks, and inevitably hermit crabs. She has so fallen in love with the little creatures that we decided to look into having one as a pet. Here’s what we found out.

How do you care for a hermit crab?

Hermit crabs, as simple as they appear, are complex creatures that require very specific habitats and food to live. You must give them a warm, humid environment. You must provide access to both salt and freshwater. You must provide deep damp sand. You should adopt more than one of them.

It is important that you understand what a hermit crab is and how they live in their normal habitat before you decide to adopt. It is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize.

Here is a complete guide on how to care for a hermit crab so you can make the right decision and give your hermit crab the life it deserves.

Between work and family obligations, today’s parents are busier than ever. You know the value pets have for kids, but you don’t have the time right now for a dog or cat. Fortunately, there are plenty of inexpensive and low-maintenance pets for kids that can teach your children responsibility while offering fun and some companionship. One caveat: While elementary school-aged children can provide most of the care for these inexpensive pets, parental oversight is necessary to ensure the pet is fed and watered properly and lives in clean conditions.

1. Betta Fish

Formerly known as Siamese fighting fish, brightly colored betta fish make a good first pet for youngsters. Because male bettas will fight with other males, they must live alone in bowls or small aquariums. Female bettas are less brightly colored. They can live together and with other types of fish. With good care, a betta should live between 2.5 and 3 years. Bettas require a pellet or two of food created for their species daily, and regular changes of water. Make sure your child does not overfeed their bettas.

2. Hermit Crabs
If your kids love the beach and its native fauna, they should enjoy caring for hermit crabs. Once these creatures “come out of their shell,” so to speak, your kids will learn that these little pets possess real personalities. House land hermit crabs in a 10-gallon aquarium or similar set-up. Since they are social sorts you’ll need to get more than one—and three or four is better than just two. Line the bottom of the tank with some sort of substrate, such as sand, that they can dig in. They also need a non-metal bowl of fresh water–not tap water, however, as chlorine can kill them–and a non-metal bowl of salt water available at all times. The former is for drinking and the latter for bathing. Keep pieces of wood and other objects in the tank that the crabs can climb. Feed your hermit crabs pelleted crab food, but add small bits of fresh fruits and veggies, too, to keep them healthy. With good care, hermit crabs can live for years.

3. Hamsters
Small and adorable, hamsters are an easy-care pet for an older child. The most common hamster is the Syrian, also known as the golden hamster. Because Syrian hamsters aren’t keen on company, they are best kept by themselves. The Teddy Bear hamster is the long-haired version of the Syrian. Dwarf hamsters, often available in pet stores, can live in pairs, but tend toward nippiness so may not prove the best choice for young children.

Purchase a large, escape-proof hamster cage for your pet. For bedding, use hay, straw or other fibers, and clean the cage daily. Make sure the hamster always has fresh water available in a dish or drinking bottle hung on the side of the cage, and feed commercial hamster food along with small pieces of carrot, apple, pear or parsley. For exercise, place a hamster wheel in the cage so your pet can get plenty of running in while confined to a small space. Under supervision, kids can take a hamster out of the cage and gently play with them. Use food rewards to teach hamsters simple tricks, such as fetch.

4. Parakeets
Parakeets, also known as budgerigars, make wonderful pets for kids. These small, highly sociable birds make a variety of noises, and some of them will talk. Males are more likely to mimic household noises. Male parakeets also tend to be more social than their female counterparts, but all parakeets like company and need it to be happy. With patience, kids can teach their parakeets to perch on a finger and perform certain tricks.

Purchase a suitable cage for your parakeets, the larger the better. Since budgies need stimulation and exercise, place numerous perches and small mirrors within the cage, along with bells, ladders and other bird toys. Your parakeets requires fresh, clean water, along with bird seed, at all times. Clean the bottom of the cage daily. You can purchase special cage floor linings for quick pick-up, but paper towels will also do the trick.

5. Guinea Pigs
When it comes to kids and pets, guinea pets have a lot of advantages. Also known as cavies, guinea pigs are generally friendly, easy to handle and not as skittish as other small rodents. Give them a large cage lined with newspaper, plenty of hay to chew on, fresh water and pelleted guinea pig food, and they’re happy little creatures. These little “pigs” have personality to spare, and when petted many purr like a cat. While hamsters, mice and similar small rodents live only a couple of years, guinea pigs may live to seven, eight or beyond. The good news is your pet is around longer, but the bad news is that your child may go off to college and you’ll have to care for the cavy yourself. They are, however, a low-maintenance pet.

Watch the video: Baby Hermit CrabCamowants her shell back! (July 2021).