Home | Frank's Creatures | Terrestrial (Land) Hermit Crab Care – The Importance of Salt Water

Terrestrial (Land) Hermit Crab Care – The Importance of Salt Water

The Terrestrial, Purple-Pincher or Caribbean Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus) makes an endearing pet.  However, it may in a sense be “too hardy” for its own good.  For example, crabs may live for years even when denied salt (marine) water and other basic needs, giving owners the false impression that all is well.

Links to the Sea

Terrestrial Hermit Crabs have almost made a “clean break” from the sea – but they need to return to it to reproduce, and they must have an occasional drink of sea water.

Their requirement for salt water is one of the least known aspects of their care, and may be behind the fact that few reach old age in captivity (Hermit Crabs have a potential life span of over 20 years!).  Terrestrial Hermit Crabs need the minerals in marine salt in their diets; such seems to be especially important at Hermit Crabmolting time, when resources are drawn from the crab’s body in order to grow a new exoskeleton.

Please don’t be fooled by the fact that you may have had your crab for 3-4 years and have never provided it with salt water.  As mentioned, they are hardy creatures and may also obtain some minerals from their diets (certain populations live at altitudes of 3,000 feet above sea level, and may rely mainly on dietary salts).  Over time, however, the lack of salt water will weaken your pet and likely lead to its early demise.

Providing Salt Water

Pet Hermit Crabs should always be provided with 2 bowls of water – 1 fresh and 1 salt.  Both should be large enough to allow for soaking, but shallow and easily-exited, as Hermit Crabs will drown if unable to get back on land (our Hermit Crab Swimming Hermit Crab PoolPools will do nicely).

Their salt water can be prepared using Instant Ocean Salt Mix at the concentration prescribed for marine fishes.

Other Hermit Crab Supplies

There’s a lot more to Hermit Crab husbandry – please be sure to check out our extensive line of terrariums, books, heaters, foods, substrates and other useful products.

Further Reading

Please see The Complex Life of a Common Pet for an interesting peek at Hermit Crab reproduction.

You can read more about this crab and its relatives (Note: related species illustrated in photos here), and see a video of them in action.


Photo of Coenobita variabilis by Vanessa Pike-Russell from Wikipedia


  1. avatar

    wow. not very intellegent huh?

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. They are surprisingly complex creatures…please keep an eye out for my soon-to-be-posted article on some fascinating hermit crab behaviors that have recently been discovered.

      Good luck and enjoy.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  1. Pingback: Useful Articles About Do You Have A Hermit Crab Pet?

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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