usa | world | animals | vocabulary | health | science | math | history

Hermit crabs are crustaceans but, despite the name, distinct from true crab species. Most hermit crabs salvage empty seashells to shelter and protect their soft abdomens. There are about five hundred known species of hermit crabs in the world; although they are mostly aquatic, there are also some terrestrial species. A number of species, most notably king crabs, have abandoned seashells for a free-living life; these species have forms similar to true crabs and are known as carcinized hermit crabs.


GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 Aquariums: There are several species of hermit crabs that are common in the marine aquarium trade. These omnivorous or herbivorous species are useful in the household aquarium as scavengers, eating algae and other debris.

The scarlet hermit crab, or red reef hermit crab (Paguristes cadenati), is a handsome and interesting species with a bright red body and yellow eyestalks, and stays rather small (about 2-5 cm / 1-2 inches across). Smaller species of a similar passive nature include the zebra hermit crab (brown legs with white bands), the red-tip crab and blue-legged crab. In Europe, the common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus) is popular.

Size: While most species available in pet stores are small like those listed above, and are simply scavengers, others may grow quite large (some on the Pacific coast can grow to 30 cm / 12 inches) and may eat coral, clams and other crustaceans.

Salinity: Most marine hermit crabs will appreciate a salinity of between 1.023 and 1.025, and temperatures between 4 to 14°C (temperate species) to 24 to 27°C (tropical species), with a good bed, algae to graze on and a variety of shells to change into. They will happily switch shells frequently if given the opportunity - an interesting display to watch.

GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 Pets in USA: The terrestrial species most commonly kept as pets in the United States are the Caribbean hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus,) and the Pacific hermit crab (Coenobita compressus). Other species such as Coenobita brevamanus, Coenobita rugosus, Coenobita perlatus or Coenobita cavipes are less common but growing in availabilty and popularity as pets. The terrestrial species live primarily on land and require very different habitats to marine hermit crabs.

Fossil Record: The fossil record of in situ hermit crabs using gastropod shells stretches back to the Late Cretaceous. Before that time, at least some hermit crabs used ammonites' shells instead, as shown by a specimen of Palaeopagurus vandenengeli from the Speeton Clay, Yorkshire, UK from the Lower Cretaceous

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Arthropoda

 Subphylum: Crustacea

 Class: Malacostraca

 Order: Decapoda

 Suborder: Pleocyemata

 Infraorder: Anomura

 Superfamily: Paguroidea