Setting Up a Crabitat: Choosing a Substrate for Land Hermit Crabs

Updated on April 26, 2018

Types of Substrates

Hermit crabs dig in substrate for protection and because they are nocturnal. The crabs usually ‘chill’ in the sand during the day and scavenge for food when it’s nighttime. Since they lie in it all day, it is crucial to have good, healthy substrate in your tank.

There are many different options of substrates: sand, forest bedding, crushed coral, gravel, small river pebbles, potting soil, and wood chips. But not all of these are ideal for your crabs. Some of them prevent hermit crabs from digging, some are too rough, and some cannot hold moisture well.

Below are descriptions of the different substrates and which ones are healthy for pet hermit crabs.

Source

Sand

Sand is a fine choice for substrate since it is beautiful and the crabs can easily burrow under it without it collapsing. It’s also inexpensive- you don’t need to buy those bags of “hermit crab sand”. A 50 lbs. bag of play sand for three dollars at the hardware store is just as good as hermit crab sand, only cheaper.

Before you put any sand (or any other substrate) in the crabitat, always check for any insects or cracks in the bag. Sniff it, and if there is an odd smell, do not use it in the tank. Although most sand is washed or sterilized before it is packaged, it’s still a good idea to rinse the sand, let it dry, and bake it in the oven.

The depth of the sand should at least be enough for the crabs to fully immerse themselves in it. It should also be moist, as well, so as you’re setting up the crabitat, add some water to make it damp, but not too watery- a “sandcastle consistency” is what you should be aiming for.

Forest Bedding

Sold compounded into a hard brick, forest bedding is an excellent substrate to use in crabitats. Forest bedding is coconut fibers that are as finely shredded to feel almost like soil. Over time, it hardens a little so the crabs can dig underneath it. Place the forest bedding in a bowl, add some water to it, and wait for it to soak up enough water to soften and break up easily. To make it healthier, add pre-arranged salt water. The crabs love to eat the substrate, and this gives them the extra minerals they need.

Forest bedding is a nice substrate because it holds in moisture well, keeping the humidity at a good level without having to mist the tank. The only problem with it is it can attract fungus gnats, little black bugs. They will lay eggs in your tank and begin breeding inside it! 

Forest bedding is made of coconut fibers that are very finely shredded. Many crab owners have seen their crabs experience beautiful molts in it.
Forest bedding is made of coconut fibers that are very finely shredded. Many crab owners have seen their crabs experience beautiful molts in it.

Another acceptable substrate for hermit crabs is crushed coral; the hermit crabs, many owners report, seem to love the crushed coral.

Other Substrates

Plenty of crab owners instead opt for a combination of sand and forest bedding (makes probably the best substrate for crabs), providing a great consistency for digging.

Avoid using wood shavings, as they dry out hermit crabs.
Avoid using wood shavings, as they dry out hermit crabs. | Source

Harmful Substrates

The substrates mentioned above are suitable for hermit crabs. Gravel (unless very fine gravel), small river pebbles, potting soil, or wood shavings are NOT acceptable. The rocks are too coarse for the crabs and the crabs cannot dig beneath them. They also do not hold enough moisture for the crabitat, and water can pool underneath the rocks. It is okay to use small pebbles and gravel in small areas of the tank, as long as they are not used as the main substrate.

Potting soil could contain pesticides and other chemicals dangerous to your crabs. You should also avoid using moss, which not only promotes bacterial growth, but attracts bugs as well.

A lot of pet stores sell a substrate called Calci-sand, which is very healthy for the hermit crabs to eat. However, it should only be sprinkled in the food dish because when it gets wet, Calci-sand hardens like a brick and blocks hermit crabs from burrowing in it.

NOTE: Never use any substrates like corn, pine, or cedar shavings because it dries hermit crabs out extremely and has even resulted in death.

Gravel does not hold moisture well and is too coarse for hermit crabs.
Gravel does not hold moisture well and is too coarse for hermit crabs. | Source

Choosing the Right One

With so many options, it can be hard choosing the right substrate, especially if you don’t know much about them. As hermit crabs sit in the substrate all day, it’s critical that it's healthy for them. With the proper care, your hermit crabs are off to long, health lives.

Sand is a great substrate for hermit crabs.
Sand is a great substrate for hermit crabs. | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      ella 

      5 weeks ago

      I'm about to get hermit crabs and this has helped me out so much!

    • profile image

      DD 

      11 months ago

      Thanks I love the website I have been on it for ever it is so help ful BEST WEBSITE EVER

    • profile image

      Stacy 

      13 months ago

      Do not reuse the substrate from the snake tank. Who knows what kinds of bacteria the snake might have had. Thoroughly clean the tank and buy fresh bedding.

    • profile image

      Pjones 

      13 months ago

      i bought a used tank it use to house a snake he left the bedding in it i believe it is like coconut hair is it alright to use it or should i start fresh

    • profile image

      Hi 

      16 months ago

      Can you use clay for hermit crab substrate?

      I'm planning a big co-pets system.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)