Finatics enjoys writing about animal care and is "owned" by a guinea pig, four hermit crabs, three African dwarf frogs, and a betta fish.
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)
- Coenobita brevimanus
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 that is a deeper color than any of the other legs. Caribbean crabs usually favor turbo shells, which have round openings.
In contrast, the Ecuadorian crab, or "Eccie," is most often tan, though their colors can range from orange, yellow, and gray; they 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.
Eccies Need Saltwater
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. They 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. If the crab does not get enough carotene, when it molts, its color will be washed out.
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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 they 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 much larger hermit crab, 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!).
Enjoy Identifying Your Hermit Crabs!
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.
Kylie Anne on July 23, 2020:
ALL hermit crabs need access to salt water. This missed a few species and is full of bad advice.
Anyone with crabs, please check out Hermit Crab Owners on Facebook (the one with 15k+ members, there have been a few fakes popping up but the real on is a non profit organization with an admod team fully trained in proper hermit crab husbandry).
Whoever wrote this article, the admod team would love to help you fix some of the misinformation to either update this article or for future articles.
Redi on June 24, 2020:
Hey it’s me again I just got another hermit crab it’s a baby I wanted it so I got it my friend next-door still doesn’t know that I got a another hermit crab I think I’m going to tell her today I just wanted to say how my crabs are the best I hope you guys get one too They make a good pet.
Redi on June 23, 2020:
I love my hermit crab. Because it is talented and it loves to hide.
Angelina on June 22, 2020:
I just got a baby hermit crab,my brother has a big hermit crab,my sister has an egg hermit crab and those are not the hermit crabs me and my siblings have can you post more hermit crab pictures
Telmer on May 08, 2020:
I have two hermit crabs, and I like this website because it showed me that they are both Ecuadorian crabs.
joshua on March 30, 2020:
do you have more from the gulf coast? thank you ..
Hermit lover!!!!!!!! on January 05, 2020:
Hi, I love hermit crabs im willing to help any of you wonderful people out! I've had so many so take care of them and also LOVE THEM
Cily on November 16, 2019:
I have just one cute-she-baby hermit crab (Caribbean). Although she is still a little I am thinking of a proper company for her. Don’t have much of experience and will appreciate any help on the subject.
Callie on September 04, 2018:
Can purple pincher hermit crabs go with blue legged hermit crabs
Anonymous on May 09, 2018:
My hermit crab started out as a scaevola then turning in to compressus ,then purple pincer
So what’s my hermit crab specie?
jason on April 28, 2018:
i have 2 purple pincer hermit crabs which one of these other hermit crabs can go with them if any of them can.
Luke on October 22, 2016:
I'm getting a hermit crab myself and they look like fun. The ruggie is so cute but can be killed easily.
ZavtaR on October 03, 2016:
Hello , I have a Hermit crab in my room , but i can't tell its species , people post comments but there's noway to upload a picture for I wanted to take a picture of my hermit crab and post it here in order to get knowledgeable comments , is there a way to do it please ?
Thank you in advance.
Identifying a hermie on October 26, 2015:
I have a hermit crab that is different from the PP & Ecuadorians that I have. This guy's feet all come down to one point, and he looks like a golfball. I can forward pictures, if anyone would be so kind as to email me. Thank you. email@example.com
mili on June 03, 2014:
I want to get a hermit crab... and i learned how to take care of them but are all taken care of the same?
Faf on March 24, 2013:
This website has helped me identify my hermit crab do you have any info on the blue hermit crab
britni on January 03, 2013:
I like this website.
Someone16 on December 26, 2012:
I got a hermit crab for Christmas it's so Cute!
Someone16 on December 26, 2012:
finatics (author) on June 21, 2012:
@Edmund, I actually wrote a hub that describes the diet of a hermit crab, you can navigate to it her: https://hubpages.com/animals/feeding-your-land-her...
finatics (author) on June 10, 2012:
That just mean that his molting process is just about over, and he is still recovering. He will emerge eventually, just be patient :)
Carlise on June 04, 2012:
My hermit crab started molting 5 days ago. He's been inside the shell quiet and changing colors. at first he was light pink now he is dark brown, not a single motion. He is been isolated since we noticed the molting process. any coments ? please help ;)
finatics (author) on June 02, 2012:
@randi, if she is not willing to change, you can't force her to. If she feels uncomfortable in her shell, she will try to switch eventually.
Edmund on May 17, 2012:
Hi, I am a Singaporean who is a hermit crab lover. I house a total number of 18 land hermit crabs in my room. Thanks guys but I need some knowledge on their appetite as I am thinking of having my own formula. Pls help.
caroline on May 05, 2012:
i am getting a hermit crab and if i have a boy i will name it sharkie and if have a girl i will name it zinze. bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
randi on April 10, 2012:
my hermit crab is name is megan and she is supper stuburn and she is a eruadation crab I just cant t her to change no matter how many shells I put in with her any sugestions pleeeeese heeelp megan im really worried for her she's my only pet
finatics (author) on April 07, 2012:
kjrzeek1 from New Jersey, USA on April 05, 2012:
Hermit crabs bring back such great childhood memories of fun and the beach! Thanks for the Hub & memories!
jordan on February 28, 2012:
this is an awsome website