Hermit Crabs: Land Hermit Crab Species
There are many different hermit crab species, but only a few of them are sold in the U. S. as pets. In fact, you probably have more than one species in your tank! This guide is about the most common species of hermit crabs, as other species are very rarely sold in pet stores.
The two most common species of hermit crabs are the Coenobita clypeatus (Caribbean crab) and the Coenobita compressus (Ecuadorian crab). Fortunately, these species look completely different from each other, so it is simple to identify them. Other hermit crab species include: Coenobita perlatus (strawberry hermit crab), Coenobita cavipes, Coenobita rugosus (ruggie), and Coenobita brevimanus.
Caribbean CrabClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Caribbean crab has many nicknames such as the purple pincher crab, tree crab, and soldier crab. They usually have deep purple or brown legs with a little orange or red, as well as a tan head, often with a dark spot on it. They also have round eyes, distinguishing them from the Ecuadorian crabs whose eyes are more elongated. Additionally, their claw is very large and dark purple, normally with a light-colored tip. You should notice a specially-armored orange or yellow leg that fits around the claw, too, that is a deeper color than any of the other legs. Caribbean crabs usually favor turbo shells, which have round openings.
Ecuadorian CrabClick thumbnail to view full-size
In contrast, the Ecuadorian crab, or “Eccie”, is most often tan, though their colors can range from orange, yellow, gray, and even sometimes have a bluish tint to their bodies. The Ecuadorian crabs have striping on the sides of their heads, elongated eyes, and a wider, flat thorax. In addition, their claws are the same color as their legs and they are more active than Caribbean crabs. They are reluctant to switch shells and you may notice them molting without changing ‘clothes.’ Whereas the Caribbean crabs prefer round shells, these crabs are known to prefer shells with a D-shaped opening.
NOTE: The Ecuadorian crabs live on the Pacific seashore and can metabolize the salt in the water. In fact, they do it so well that they actually need saltwater to survive. On the other hand, Caribbean crabs live inland where they collect water from puddles on the forest floor and do not need seawater to survive. It is important to keep both saltwater and freshwater in your crab’s home. You can easily buy synthetic sea salt at local pet stores to mix with water.
Strawberry Hermit Crab
Now, maybe your crab isn’t Caribbean or Ecuadorian. It could be a Coenobita perlatus- or a strawberry hermit crab. These hermit crabs are probably the easiest to identify since their entire bodies are a bright, strawberry red. Their color depends on their diet, however; if the crab does not get enough carotene, when it molts, its color will be washed out. Strawberry hermit crabs are not recommended for beginners because they are very delicate. They require plenty of room to roam around, constant temperature, high humidity, as well as lots of seawater. Strawberry crabs are also known to prefer turbo shells.
Cavipe hermit crabs are most often shades of purple or orange, and you can recognize them from their bright red eye-stalks and feelers. These crabs have a stripe on their big claw, and are very picky about their shells, preferring shells with D-shaped openings, snail shells, and murex shells.
Another species of hermit crabs, the Coenobita rugosus, looks very similar to the Ecuadorian crabs except for a few key differences. The rugosus, or ruggie, comes in a variety of colors: black, blue, tan, gray, peach, and even white. However, Ecuadorian crabs have more variation of color, such as darker-colored feet, whereas the body of a ruggie is the same, uniform color. Like Ecuadorian crabs, the ruggie has elongated eyes and striping on the sides of its body. Look for orange feelers, sandy-colored eyestalks, and small, diagonal lines, “stitch marks”, on its claw. Although Ecuadorian crabs have these marks as well, they are usually more pronounced on ruggies.
Finally, there is the Coenobita brevimanus, nicknamed the Indonesian crab, even though it’s not the only crab that comes from that area! Coenobita brevimanus is brown or purple in color and has a heavily armored body. They are easy to recognize because of their enormous claw that looks like it belongs to a hermit crab much larger, as well as their dark, narrow eyestalks. They also have a thick exoskeleton in order to minimize water loss (they don’t like getting wet!).
Of course, there are many more species of hermit crabs, but these are the most common that are sold in pet stores. With any luck, this article has helped you identify the species of your hermit crabs. All these species are very entertaining and unique pets to own, yet some hermit crabs have slightly different needs than others, and knowing their species will allow you to let them live the happiest lives under your care.