With their alien looks, crustaceans look both disgusting and fascinating. And among all the crabs that I have seen in the beaches, none fascinates me more than the Hermit Crab.
So imagine my surprise when I came home today to a small basin of crawling Hermit Crabs in the middle of our living room.
Once out of a shell, Hermit Crabs appear to have long bodies, and seem to have a passing resemblance to shrimp when they curve their abdomens inwards.
Unlike regular crabs, they don't have a shell of their own and rely other empty shells for protection. As they increase in size, the need for bigger shells also grows with them. So you will find them swapping shells over their lifetime.
Most species are aquatic, so you'll see quite a few of them in the water when combing the each in the early morning. But some, like the ones before me, can exist comfortably on land. Although the ones I have will still require sea water for breeding and growth.
They are nocturnal, so that means they will be active at nights. And as you can imagine, the bigger the crag, the noisier it will be. Perhaps its chirping won't be as loud as a Chihuahua, but sliding around its habitat results in scratching noises. And the larger the crab, the louder the scratching.
When I first saw this batch, I must admit to feeling a little concerned because I was worried it would be difficult to care for them.
On one hand, know how it feels to care for sea water aquariums. Images of a few friends and relatives show them putting in a lot of time, effort, and money just to maintain these types of aquariums. Maintaining the proper oxygen levels, keeping it free from waste, keeping the fish properly fed, and even constantly trucking in fresh sea water wasn't something I saw myself doing.
On the other hand, caring for Fresh Water Cray Fish was a breeze as they didn't require much attention. All they needed was a small bowl filled with fresh water and a little food every now and then.
The only problem I had with them was that they tended to wander in the evenings. It was not uncommon for me to find one or two crawling under my bed when I woke up on the morning.
Given my limited knowledge of Hermit Crabs, I assumed that caring for them will be on the more difficult and expensive side. So I naturally worried.
But when I searching the internet for information on Hermit Crabs, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that many people find them to be good pets. And while they do require more care than a Fresh Water Cray Fish, they aren't as delicate or as time consuming as Sea Water animals.
The interesting thing about them is that they can sometimes live longer than dogs, even in captivity. Some owners have said their pet Hermit Crabs have lived as much as fifteen years, outliving their dogs.
[Well, this is certainly better than a pet rock that doesn't do anything.]
Oh, and just in case you think they're harmless, keep in mind that they are still crustaceans that have claws. So if you don't handle them carefully, you might end up with a nasty nip.
After combing the internet, going over the conversation with the seller, and my limited interaction with with Hermit Crabs in the wild, the entire family is looking at creating a permanent living area for them.
One of the things I found interesting was that Hermit Crabs need to socialize with others of their kind. Yes, I know that hermit is a misnomer in this situation, but people have explained to me that they need to be around others to live happily.
And since I'm currently staring at seven crabs of varied sizes, I'm glad I don't have to place them in separate habitats.
[Hmm... who would've thought...]
Unfortunately, we don't have any aquariums at home and purchasing one isn't exactly cheap now-a-days. Luckily its the Christmas season and I will be seeing friends and relatives over the holidays. And I just might be lucky enough to come across someone who just wants to get rid of their Ten Gallon aquarium to make some space for other things in their home.
In the mean time, I'll have to leave them in the current basin they are residing in now. While not ideal, the wall of this plastic basic are smooth and high. This should help prevent them from climbing out to wander our home at nights.
Sea crabs will basically eat anything they can get their claws on. Whether it is a live fish, sea grass, or even another crab, they aren't exactly known to be picky.
Thankfully the ones I have are just as easy to feed. A check on the internet shows that it can eat all sorts of fruit, grass, tree bark, and leaves. The also eat wet and dry coconuts and won't pass up poop!
The person who sold them to us suggested giving them dry bread as a meal, in the even we cannot find any other food. And from the looks of things, they seem to be enjoying that tiny morsel of Pandesal we placed in the basin.
Getting back to their diet, if you really get down to it, these little critters are going to be mighty helpful in the kitchen as they feast on leftover fruit and vegetables.
[Sound like the perfect recycling machine!]
Some pet owners recommend sand, while others recommend gravel as flooring for Hermit Crabs. And since I don't happen to either of them, I will go with another recommendation, which are Coconut Fibers.
And since my dog is fond of stripping Coconuts down to their fibers, I can use the result of his intense efforts. Then again, it might be full of saliva, so maybe I'll look an alternative way to get those fibers.
And since the fibers can form part of their diet, I won't have to worry about them going hungry.
Most of the people I have spoken to during my trips are unanimous in saying Hermit Crabs love to climb. In fact, when I walked around Bohol Beach Club, Stilts, and even Sotto Grande Hotel and Resort during the evenings, I could see silhouettes of them on the bark of Coconut trees.
And since we do have a few branches lying around the garden, these little critters now have logs to climb on.
I could get plastic toys, like trees and stuff that are also used in aquariums, but at this stage, I prefer to stick to natural items. Perhaps once a permanent Crabitat is available, I'll think about decorating it with artificial toys.
We have a total of seven Hermit Crabs crawling about in our little plastic basin. The three big ones are almost the size of my palm, while the four smaller ones are t-sized.
Four are brown and three are pink in color. The large pink one, which happens to be my favorite, is closer to red than pink.
When they were first deposited in our blue basin, they remained stationary as they took in their surroundings. After twenty minutes, the bigger ones started exploring the basin. And by the time the hour was up, each one of them were crawling all over the place.
Now that the evening has arrived and the basin floor lines with shreds of Coconut, I find it interesting that have of them have decided to hide under the fibers and go to sleep. Well, I guess they got tired from the trip.
Anyway, now that all is quiet, it is now time to find a place to put the basin in.
Though the top of the basin wall appears to be out of reach, I am not about to underestimate the determination of these little critters.
That was the same assumption I made with my Fresh Water Cray Fish and every morning was an exercise in hunting it down. This time, I ain't gonna let that happen.
[Besides that, the claws on these babies are much, much bigger!]
Well, it will be our first night with the newest members of our family. Even my dog gave them a nice wet welcome by lapping up the water they bathed in earlier this afternoon.
Hopefully, I can get a permanent Crabitat for them soon as I look forward to hearing some of them chirp in the evenings.
I'll also need to find bigger empty shells for them. They say that the shells should be at least 15% larger that the ones they have now so it'll be possible for them to move house when they grow. But then, I'll leave that for another day.
Before I go, I will say that these are probably one of the ugliest critters I have ever seen. But then, that's what makes them so beautiful!
Hermit Crab Video
We would like to thank Rosario Juat for literally lending a hand in taking this article's pictures.