10 Top Marine Hermit Crabs that are Reef Safe

Not all Hermit Crabs are considered to be safe for reef tanks. Many Hermit Crabs are known to destroy corals, eat other invertebrates, and even eat fish! These hermits are considered to be reef safe.

Tip

Growing or molting Hermit Crabs are always on the lookout for a larger shell to settle in so large snails in your tank might not be entirely safe; have many empty shells always available.​​

  • 01 of 10

    Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab

    Blue Legged Hermit Crab
    Madelyn Catob

    The Blue Leg Hermit Crab (Clibanarius tricolor) is a great addition to a saltwater aquarium because it eats many kinds of algae including red slime algae (cyanobacteria). If sifts and aerates the sand as well. This tiny crab lives in abandoned snail shells. Or it may attack and eat the snail, then use the shell for its home. Members of this genus are sometimes called "Equal-handed Hermit Crabs" as both claws are the same size.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1.5 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Blue legs with red banding and white tips; both claws are of equal size

  • 02 of 10

    Dwarf Red Tip Hermit Crab

    The Red Tip Hermit Crab has claws of equal size and, for this reason, it is also called an "Equal-handed Hermit Crab." This hermit crab is native to the coastal waters surrounding Mexico. In the home aquarium, it does best in a saltwater reef or fish-only systems with sand substrates in which they can forage and dig.​

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 2 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Bright red face and legs

  • 03 of 10

    Dwarf Yellow Tip Hermit Crab

    The striking Dwarf Yellow Tip Hermit Crab (Clibanarius sp.) stands out in almost any aquarium. Its small size allows it to get into all of the nooks and crannies in a reef tank.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1 inch

    Physical Characteristics: Bright yellow bands on its green to black legs

  • 04 of 10

    Dwarf Zebra Hermit Crab

    Dwarf Zebra Hermit Crab

    Joe Martin

    The Zebra Hermit Crab (Calcinus laevimanus) gets its name from its distinct coloration. Like other members of the genus Calcinus, the Dwarf Zebra, or Orange & Black Hermit Crab, also has long eyestalks.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1 inch

    Physical Characteristics: Colored pincers; white or orange bands on otherwise dark legs; brilliant blue eye stalks fading into an orange-tinged upper half

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Polka Dot Hermit Crab

    The large white and red spotted Right claw looks like a closed snail shell when it is retracted, giving the appearance that there is a snail inside.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1 inch

    Physical Characteristics: Pale orange legs with white bands, candy cane motif on large Right claw, red and white dots on dark red stripes

  • 06 of 10

    Electric Orange Hermit Crab

    Electric Orange Hermit Crab

    Keoki Stender

    The Electric Orange Hermit Crab is endemic to Hawaii. The Electric Orange Hermit Crab (Calcinus sp.) is a great addition to a saltwater aquarium because it eats detritus, uneaten food and many kinds of algae. It sifts and aerates the sand, as well.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 2 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Bright orange legs with brown banding, unusually blue eyes

  • 07 of 10

    Halloween Hermit Crab

    Halloween Hermit Crab (Ciliopagurus strigatus)

    Larry Yarbray

    The Halloween Hermit Crab is endemic to Hawaii. It grows to a very large size, so it may bulldoze rock work and other obstacles it comes across in the tank.

    Species Overview

    Length: 2 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Legs have alternating orange and white bands, giving a Halloween costume appearance; orange eyestalks

  • 08 of 10

    Left-Handed Hermit Crab

    Left-Handed Hermit Crab

    Keoki Stender

    Found in Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Ocean, this terrific little reef safe crab has a different look. The Left-Handed Hermit Crab (Calcinus laevimanus) is so named because its left claw is considerably larger than its right. If a predator attacks, the Hermit Crab can back into its shell and use the large Left claw to block the entrance to its shell. This hermit crab spends all of its time seeking out algae, even Red Slime Algae, detritus, and decaying material.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1 inch

    Physical Characteristics: Long eye stalks; blue lower half of the eyestalk, orange upper half

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab

    Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab

    Craig Smith

    Native to the Caribbean and Western Atlantic, and also known as the Red Reef or Red Legged Hermit Crab, the Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab is named for its red body.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 1.5 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Bright red legs; yellow face

  • 10 of 10

    Elegant Hermit Crab

    Hawaii Elegant Hermit Crab
    Crab dragging heavy shell across substrate.

    This species from Hawaii is a large hermit crab. Although it will not eat corals, it may damage them by dragging a big heavy shell over sessile reef animals, the ones that are fixed in place.

    Species Overview

    Length: Up to 3 inches

    Physical Characteristics: Blue, red, or yellow knuckles on brown legs; long eye stalks with blue on the lower half of the eyestalk, orange upper half