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Land hermit crabs are one-of-a-kind, playful, and wonderfully strange pets. They hide their soft body within shells, and are capable of completely changing the shape and appearance of their bodies. In spacious tanks, they thrive on burrowing and climbing, and enjoy hiding away and getting exercise within little caves and huts.
We talked to hermit crab owners and enthusiasts about the best way to nurture their crabs, common misconceptions about living requirements, and recommendations for the ideal crab habitats, or "crabitats." The ideal crabitat should retain heat, prevent escape, maintain the proper humidity, and have plenty of space for your hermit crabs, their accessories, and their favorite substrate.
Our favorite hermit crab habitat is the REPTI ZOO Full Glass 15 Gallon Reptile Tank, which comes with a PVC liner for easy cleaning and a clever siding screen lid, with a separate port for feeding. However, if you are completely new to hermit crabs, then you might want to check out the Zoo Med ReptiHabitat Hermit Crab Kit instead, since it comes with every accessory you'll need to host a hermit crab. We have several other recommendations that might work even better for your crabitat needs.
Here are the best hermit crab habitats.
Best Overall: ReptiZoo Full Glass 15 Gallon Reptile Tank
Sturdy, with high-quality glass
High-quality ventilated top to prevent escape and for temperature maintenance
PVC tray to control substrate moisture
Lacks extra amenities that kits provide
Screen top is less effective at retaining humidity
Most of the tanks on the market that are best for hermit crabs are primarily marketed as homes for reptiles or amphibians. While it's common to see hermit crabs sold in small plastic terrariums, they provide an inadequate amount of space for your hermit crab's optimal health. Look for an aquarium or terrarium with a minimum 10-gallon capacity to ensure that your crab has enough space to live their best life.
The ReptiZoo Full Glass 15 Gallon Reptile Tank has a ventilated top with a thin net screen designed to allow for heat penetration (from an external light, for example) and temperature control—perfect for creating the hot and humid climate in which hermit crabs thrive. The lid also has a separate feeding hole, so you don't have to remove the entire lid to access the tank.
With generous dimensions—20 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and 14 inches high—there’s also plenty of room for hermit crabs to move around, climb on branches and rocks, and dig down into your preferred hermit crab substrate. While the sides aren't sealed like an aquarium, the tank includes a PVC tray at the bottom that allows you to control the wetness of the sand and substrate to keep your crabs comfortable.
The ReptiZoo Full Glass Reptile Tank comes packaged as individual panels that are a cinch to assemble.
Best Starter Kit: Zoo Med ReptiHabitat Hermit Crab Kit
Sliding screen top for temperature control
Easy to clean
Designed as a starter kit
May need a bigger tank as crabs grow
Zoo Med makes one of the highest-end—but not prohibitively expensive—all-inclusive kits on the market. Most importantly, it has a 10-gallon tank that fits the recommended dimensions for young (less than 5 years) and non-oversized hermit crabs. (If you are trying to accommodate a significant number of larger crabs, a 20-gallon aquarium or terrarium will serve your purposes better.) The 20 by 10 by 12-inch design provides enough space for your be-shelled friends to roam a little more freely.
The terrarium also comes with a sliding screen top, which is a perfect way of both maintaining air circulation within the crabitat while controlling temperature and humidity and not leaving the tank totally exposed. With the five-pound white sand bag and a brick of soil, the kit also provides the requisite amount of substrate for your crab or crabs or to burrow into happily. To keep the sand clean and fresh, you can bake or rinse and dry it for easy reuse.
To keep your crabitat sanitary and well-balanced with the nutrients hermit crabs need, Zoo Med’s kit includes both salt and drinking water conditioners and mineral blocks. There’s also a nice portion of crab food, which can be placed in an accompanying tree-stump-like small food and water dish that blends right into the picturesque habitat. All of the directives about how to use these items to take care of your little friends, of course, are covered in the Kit’s accompanying Hermit Crab care guide.
Before you invest in this cost-effective package, note that is a starter kit. The dimensions of the terrarium are the minimum for what is recommended for a crab tank, designed to house 4 hermit crabs that are 1 inch wide or less, or 2-3 crabs that are 2 inches wide. Should they grow extensively, or if you want to add more to the family, you’ll need to invest in a bigger home, since generally 10 gallons is the minimum recommended size.
Best Splurge: Tetra Aquarium 20 Gallon Fish Tank Kit
Some extras unnecessary for hermit crab
At a slightly higher price point than the Repti-Zoo 15 gallon we recommended, hermit crab owners can get 5 extra gallons and some extra room for their crabs to move around in. The tank is 24.2 inches long and 12.4 inches wide, providing enough space to accommodate multiple hermit crabs.
Designed for fish originally, this Tetra product also offers significantly more high-tech temperature and lighting control options, coming complete with an LED hood and a mini-heater. For hermit crabs, 8 to 12 hours of LED light are ideal, and the built-in heater will offers additional capacity for keeping humidity and warmth at exactly the desired levels.
While many of the included accessories will be useful for a hermit crab habitat, there are several included items that will go to waste, including a water filter and artificial aquarium plants—one potential downside to this kit.
Best Budget: Aqueon Standard Glass Rectangle Aquarium 10 Gallon
Strong glass and construction
Lack of top
Unnecessary fish care extras
This budget starter tank option distinguishes itself from other similar options because of its better quality glass and one-piece, center-braced frames—since it's strong enough to hold water without the glass bowing, it will be more than adequate for retaining a hermit crab substrate. It also has generous dimensions that will permit crabby roaming at every angle. It’s an attractive as well as sturdy line of aquariums, too, available in a wide range of sizes with black or oak trim styling.
The only drawback is the lack of a top, but this can be purchased separately.
Best Portable: OMEM Portable Reptile House Terrarium Habitat
Good temperature control ventilation
Limited size and capacity makes this inadequate for longer habitation
The breathable OMEM Portable Terrarium habitat is best for travel or short-term habitation, such as when cleaning your hermit crabs' regular tank. Available in three sizes, the largest of these miniature terrariums offers 12.6 by 9 inches of space for your hermit crab.
The OMEM Portable Terrarium has a ventilated top, an easy-to-access feeding port, and a non-slip grip bottom. It even comes with a little built-in water dish. Made from sturdy PVC, this terrarium can also stand up to the rigors of travel.
Best Hidey Hut: SunGrow Hermit Crab Huts
Textured exterior provides a great climbing surface
Mimics your crab's habitat in the wild
Handmade, so sizes can differ
In a crabitat, good hideaway huts are sometimes considered a cute accessory rather than a necessity. But given hermit crab’s need for sun protection, they are critical to any healthy and functioning crab environment, often a sense of a home base and a respite from sunlight. Make sure to invest in a hidey hut or two, at least—they don’t cost much and they are the compliment to shells that hermit crabs need to maintain comfort and peak health 24 hours of day.
This 3-pack of shady 5x3 inch huts will give your crabs a comfortable resting spot. Often, owners build the huts into a larger tunnel-like living space for the crabs, or spread them out in their tank to give them separate outposts to move between. Made of coconut hide, Sungrow’s huts will give your crab tank a great aesthetic, but also, the rugged, textured exterior provides a great climbing surface for crabs trying to get in some exercise or make full use of their space. It also nicely creates the look of hermit crab’s indigenous marine home in the wild.
Our best overall pick is the roomy and thoughtfully-designed ReptiZoo Full Glass 15 Gallon Reptile Tank, which provides your hermit crabs with 15 gallons of space and comes with a PVC tray that makes managing substrate easy. If you're looking for an all-in-one kit that comes with everything you need to home a hermit crab, check out the well-designed Zoo Med ReptiHabitat Hermit Crab Kit instead. which is perhaps the most comprehensive and safest all-in-one starter kit for hermit crab owners available on the market today.
What to Look for in a Hermit Crab Habitat
The biggest mistake new hermit crab owners make is not investing in a big enough tank. Many tanks advertised for hermit crabs are inadequate to their space needs, especially if you plan on hosting multiple crabs. With the exception of our "Best Portable" recommendation, we only suggest products that provide at least a 10-gallon capacity. That's adequate space for up to four very small hermit crabs (an inch wide or less), or two larger crabs.
A hermit crab tank requires numerous accessories that can take up a lot of space, including their food and water dishes; climbing toys and hiding huts; plus extra shells for them to consider. Even with all of that included, you'll still want to provide open space in your crabitat for your resident crabs to run around.
Since hermit crabs need room to roam, look for a tank that provides 20 inches of length and 10-12 inches of width. It should also be high enough to accommodate several inches of substrate, which is necessary because hermit crabs love to burrow and dig little tunnels for themselves. Generally, you should enough substrate to cover your crab's height, multiplied by three.
Some serious owners recommend starting at 20 gallons to not have to invest in another tank when the crabs grow to a larger size. That being said, hermit crabs are typically small, beginning at roughly a half-inch across and progressing to 1 inch of the course of several years. It usually takes about 5 years for a normally-sized crab to reach the 2 to 3-inch width.
Shell Type and Size
Shells are one of the most crucial elements to provide in a crabitat. The shell offers support for crabs’ soft abdomen. The interior of the shell also controls the level of moisture for the crab, which allows their gills to function appropriately and get enough air.
It also is necessary to prepare a good variety of shells for your hermit crabs to make sure they find ones they like, and so that they can evolve in their choice of shells. Part of offering variety is not just the overall size and look of the shells, but also offering variety in the size of a shell's opening.
In addition to pickiness, crabs can be territorial about their shells. So if you’re presiding over a tank with two or more crabs, make sure you’re monitoring their behavior and lining the crabitat with enough shells for everyone to find one they love. Crabs will often battle to maintain ownership over the shell in which they feel most comfortable.
Temperature and Humidity Control
As mentioned earlier, temperature control is very important for the health of a hermit crab. Hermit crabs fare best at temperatures around 80 degrees, with humidity in the range of 75 to 80 percent. This can be achieved through use of a ventilated but firm lid on their tank, combined with either an external heat lamp source, or a heating device installed beneath the substrate.
What do I need for a hermit crab habitat?
The most essential ingredient for a crabitat are a tank—an aquarium or terrarium with the appropriate type of lid—with a minimum capacity of 10 gallon. You also need an adequate collection of snail shells of different types to the crabs to choose from and move between. The recommended amount is 3 to 5 shells per crab, with a variety of sizes, opening size, and types. The shells should also be high-quality and fully intact.
It’s also crucial that your tank has a lid and includes lights of a heater to control temperature; most crab experts recommend a combination of undertank heaters (UTHs) and lights. The constitution of the substrate bottom of the crabitat should be silica-based children's play sand, cocofiber, or a mixture of the two. (A generally accepted ratio is 5:1.) A sufficiently sized water dish that contains both salt and fresh water allows hermit crabs to feed properly.
How do I set up a hermit crab habitat?
As seen on the list above, some first-time hermit crab owners opt for purchasing a kit including the essential ingredients listed above. Generally though, these kits do not create the most reliably healthy situation for crabs, especially multiple ones. Therefore, it usually is more of a shopping list situation, customized for the needs of the number of crabs you want to house, and the size of the crabs.
The setup process generally involves tweaking the substrate amount and levels, making sure the crabs have the number of shells and types of shelter needed, getting the temperature within the tank at the level it needs to be (usually with the help of a heater or lights), and other trial and error processes. It may take a bit of time to determine the correct balance.
How often do I clean a hermit crab habitat?
It is important to clean your crab’s tank regularly and comprehensively. For larger groups of crabs, cleaning may occur more regularly; with more modest situation, once a month or every few months for a deep clean can be possible.
There are a variety of tasks which should be taken care of almost daily—common-sense-type activities including cleaning up obvious messes or debris in the sand. The deeper cleans require you to move the crabs to a temporary home for a day or two while the substrate, shells, toys, and entire tank are cleaned and disinfected, through boiling and other methods.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets
This article was written by Winston Cook-Wilson, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. Winston is a writer and editor based in New York City. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Ringer, Vice, Pitchfork, Spin, and elsewhere. While researching this article he not only surveyed a wide range of available products, but also consulted with hermit crab experts and enthusiasts. He conducted phone interviews and corresponded with hermit crab owners via enthusiast forums in his search for the best advice on care and equipment.