Did you just get your pet crabs today? Chances are, you have heard some misinformation from the pet store. Everyone has heardstories as to what is bad and what is good for hermit crabs.  Some of them have a basis in fact, but more are myths and completely unfounded.  Here I will try to explain some of the myths and facts that abound today.

Myth #1.  Hermit crabs bite.  Ah here is a classic one!  Anyone who has owned a hermit crab for more than a week knows that hermit crabs can not bite.  They have no teeth in their mouths at all, just soft, fuzzy mouthparts!  Hermit crabs can pinch, but they can not bite.

Myth #2.  Hermit crabs spread disease.  Wrong-o!  Hermit crabs are only as dirty as what you let them get into.  For years, pet stores have kept hermit crab supplies in the same area as reptile supplies, so people get the idea that hermit crabs, like reptiles, harbor salmonella and/or other harmful bacteria.   Simply not true.  Hermit crabs' exoskeletons render them completely hypoallergenic.  So kiss-a-crab today! 

Myth #3.  If my crab's big claw falls off, he will die.  This is a common myth.  The crab uses its big purple (or brown) claw as a trap-door to its shell home, and without it is more vulnerable to predators.  However in captivity, it has no predators to be concerned with (except its cage-mates).  Thus, there is no real reason why a crab who loses its large claw should die.  I have had at least five hermit crabs lose large claws and regenerate them.  I have also had some crabs lose BOTH claws and still manage to feed themselves and thus stimulate themselves to molt and regenerate the missing claws.  Continue to give your claw-less crab optimum care -- he will grow a new "limb bud" and a new claw before you know it!  The same applies to the crab's legs -- a missing leg or antennae will be regenerated!  

Myth #4.  Using a shell dish causes calcium to be added to the drinking water.  The latest literature available on the subject suggests that a negligible amount of calcium get into the crabs' drinking water this way --  not nearly enough to make a difference in the crabs' general nutrition.  The same water would have to sit in the same dish for days and days before it would  absorb anything even vaguely approaching a beneficial calcium level.  Do your crab a favor and give him or her a chunk of cuttlebone in the crabitat, or add some ground cuttlebone to their food.  They will ingest much more important calcium that way.  Don't put the cuttlebone into the drinking water -- it will only get slimy and foul the water.  

Myth #5.  Hermit crabs do not dig in to the substrate to molt.  I want to share a secret with you.  All hermit crabs will attempt to dig into the substrate to molt.  HOWEVER if the substrate is kept bone dry or is not deep enough, they will be unable to dig and will "give up."  This is why many people say that their crabs "voluntarily" molt on top of the sand.  I know this from experience because until a few years ago, I was also taught to "keep the air moist and the sand dry." I firmly believe it is the hermit crabs' nature to dig in to molt, and those people who's crabs "don't dig in" have probably been dug up repeatedly or have been prevented from molting naturally due to harsh pet store conditions.  No one will admit to digging them up either because it's shameful -- we should let them do their thing the natural way. Since I've put about 6 inches of soft, moist sand into my isolation unit, I've had successful molts from pea-size all the way up to base-ball sized jumbos. That speaks for itself!  So if you see your crab has been digging in the sand of the crab tank, give him his own little isolation unit to dig in.  You'll be glad you did later, when he digs up to the surface with a beautiful new exoskeleton!

Myth #6.  Bathing is bad for hermit crabs.  Absolutely false!  Bathing is critical to the care of hermit crabs, but the critical step is that they must be able to bathe THEMSELVES. Some people will tell you that any bathing is bad bad bad but that is not the case! Bathing should not be something you do to a hermit crab, it should be something they do themselves by walking into their dishes. Hermit crabs know how to take care of themselves and they automatically know when they need more fresh or salt water to replenish their "shell water." A hermit crab is certainly a "land crab," however they carry a little bit of water with them whereever they go, inside their seashells. This "shell water" keeps their abdomen and gills moist enough to properly function. Without adequate moisture they suffer from respiratory distress and eventually death. You must provide your hermit crabs with two water dishes, each one deep enough that your largest crab can crawl in deep enough to immerse his entire body (but not necessarily his shell) to replenish his/her shell water. If you have crabs of varying sizes, be sure to provide some pebbles in the dish so smaller crabs can climb out of a deep dish and not drown. One dish should contain dechlorinated fresh water, the other sea water or an equivalent. NEVER add table salt to the water, only use salt intended to make synthetic "sea water" for keeping saltwater aquariums.

Myth #7.  Hermit crabs can "catch" diseases from old hermit crab shells.  Not true!  If you boil all shells at a rolling boil for about five minutes and allow them to cool, your crab will not "catch" anything from a shell.  Make sure the shell is nice and cleaned out before you boil it, though.   Rinse it in the tap and pour out the water repeatedly. If the shell was recently occupied, you should probably soak it overnight before boiling, especially if the crab who was wearing the "old" shell came from a pet store recently. If there is dirt stuck on the outside of the shell, try rubbing it with a damp dish cloth until all the dirt comes off.

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ęChrista Wilkin 2008