Why Hermit Crabs May Not Be Good Pets for Kids
Hermit crabs make fantastic pets, but you may want to avoid getting one for your child. Without the proper care, which goes well beyond clean food and water, pet hermit crabs are disappointing and live a short life struggling to survive.
This article will help you learn more about keeping them as pets and will dispel some common myths that you may have heard from friends or pet store employees.
In this article...
What your child wants • What you want • What the pet store wants • What makes a good children's pet • Hermit crabs can be great for kids! • Recommended web sites • Recommended products • Reader comments
If Your Child Wants One
Hermit crabs can make good pets, but there is a lot to consider before buying one for your kids. Let's take a look at hermit crabs and pets in general through the eyes of a young child.
Your child wants to play with the crab every day.
- Hermit crabs need to be able to bury themselves entirely without disruption as part of their growing process. In order to grow, they have to molt or shed their tough exoskeleton, a process which will take a week or longer and may happen as often as every month. During this time, the crab will not be able to move. So, for several weeks, your child's patience will be put to the test—handling the crab during this sensitive time will almost certainly kill it. Molting takes longer (several weeks or months) but is also less frequent as the crab becomes larger.
- Several inches of moist beach sand is the perfect bedding for them (enough to cover your largest crab by at least 2 inches). Gravel, stone, and dry sand do not allow them to dig, so just get playground or beach sand and keep it at "sandcastle building consistency." It is also good to add a coconut fiber product such as Eco Earth to the sand to hold the moisture.
Your child sees a SpongeBob shell with legs.
- They will need to leave their brightly painted shell to grow and stay healthy. Find a pet store with hermit crabs in natural shells and your child will be more likely to develop an attachment to the animal instead of the shell.
- Provide a selection of shells that are the same size and slightly bigger than the one currently occupied by your crab. Avoid specialty shells, as your child may want force the crab into a particular shell and painted shells are not healthy for them.
- The crab will select its new shell by rolling the candidates around, inspecting inside and out, until the most comfortable shell is found, and there is no safe way to force one to use or discard a particular shell.
Your child wants a carry-around pet.
- You will need to teach your child how to handle a hermit crab. If held improperly, teased, or forced to come out of its shell, they may pinch and not let go. Keeping your hand taut reduces their ability to grab on, and maintaining a steady walking surface will keep them from being startled. Pick a crab up by the corners of its shell and hold your other hand under the shell to provide support when the crab comes out.
- A small plastic container is portable but it is not adequate housing for one. For two small crabs, you will need, at a minimum, a 5 or 10 gallon glass aquarium, 3-6 inches of sand, and two water bowls. See the proper care section for more details. A smaller plastic "travel tank" is okay for show-and-tell but it cannot satisfy the housing needs of the crabs.
If You Want One for Your Child
You may have heard that hermit crabs are fun, easy to care for, and inexpensive. This is often true, but you must first do the research, then decide if it is the right choice.
Are you looking for a low-maintenance "throwaway pet?"
Hermit crabs can be relatively low-maintenance but they have strict housing and care requirements. They will not live more than a year without meeting these requirements, whereas ones living under proper care can live 10 years or longer. They should never be considered as "throwaway pets."
You should be prepared to buy more than one.
Hermit crabs are social creatures and they do not do well when alone. Buying two instead of one ensures that they will have a friend and you will also get more use out of the shells and food that you purchase.
If a Pet Store Employee Suggests One
Many pet stores sell and promote hermit crabs as good pets for children with little care requirements and short life expectancies. As you have already learned, that's not the whole story.
The pet store wants you to buy all the hermit crab supplies and toys.
Many products marketed directly for use with them are either unnecessarily expensive or improper for use with hermit crabs. You can buy hermit crab supplies, such as sea sponges at a craft store, beach or playground sand at a hardware store, and coconuts at a grocery store for a fraction of the cost.
What Makes an Animal "Good for Children?"
Consider the following when choosing a pet for your child then check out some of the best pets for children:
- Salmonella and other bacteria present a very serious risk for young children.
- Reptiles, amphibians, and birds are particularly high-risk, while hermit crabs do not carry any known human diseases.
- Know your child's allergies.
- Give your child the responsibility to care for the animal, but be prepared to share some of the tasks.
- In addition to food, some animals need special lighting, water care, and dietary supplements.
Secondary and recurring costs
- A fish itself may cost less than a dollar, but don't overlook the cost of the aquarium, food, gravel, lighting, filter, and decorations!
- Some animals, like most reptiles, need live food which can be expensive, smelly, and may have its own requirements.
- Will the animal need new supplies as it grows? Iguanas are infamously bad childhood pets for this reason.
- There is no such thing as a "throwaway pet." With proper care and provision, most pets can live long lives as your child grows and becomes more responsible.
- If your child's pet dies, research the proper care of the animal instead of simply buying a replacement. This is an opportunity to teach your child about life and to help them learn more about their pet.
Pets are a first-hand lesson in responsibility
Which animal makes the best pet for children?
Hermit Crabs Can Be Great Pets for Children!
If you are prepared to properly care for a few hermit crabs, they can be excellent pets! Here are just a few reasons why you may decide, after researching and ensuring that you can care for them, to buy hermit crabs as pets for your children:
- They're not aggressive—friendly and fun if handled properly.
- They are disease-free—they do not carry human diseases, and do not need to go to the vet.
- They are hypo-allergenic, meaning they're a safe pet for children with allergies.
- They have a long lifespan, so hermit crabs can grow with your child.
- They have small appetite, which means very low food and supplement costs.
- No live food is required, and dried and fresh foods are easier to keep.
The photos used on this page were taken by the author, fritteritter.