What Do Hermit Crabs Eat?
In order to keep your hermit crab healthy your crabs will need a balanced diet. Just like we need our meat and vegetables, so do hermit crabs. A hermit crab’s diet is balanced with some seafood, meat, calcium supplements, protein supplements, fresh foods such as fruit, nuts, seeds; and then rare treats offered now and then, such as peanut butter, popcorn and honey. Hermit crabs are omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything when they need to, but that does not mean that you should feed them anything.
Avoid Ethoxyquin and chemicals. Keep in mind what they would eat in the wild like fruits, fish, seaweed, wood and even bark and leaves. Remember, each crab has different preferences. With fresh fruit treats inside the tank, remember to clean out daily. The hermies get all messy and the tank will stink, especially if there is fresh seafood such as prawns. Remember to remove fresh treats as soon as they show signs of spoiling, and refresh the dry treat daily. As a special treat, you can offer popcorn, Nori strip (seaweed), steamed fish or a slice of meat. For a full list of hermit crab foods view the list below.
What Food Are Vital For Hermies To Eat?
It is important to feed them a varied diet which includes Commercial, Fresh and Dry. Commercial foods need to be free of Ethyoxyquin and other chemicals. They should be specially formulated for land hermit crabs and provide the nutrients they would receive in the wild, although there are reptile food products and fish food products that work as well. See the products at the bottom of the page for recommended commercial foods.
Remember — not all commercial foods are developed with the dietary needs of land hermit crabs in mind. Read the label and check for ethoxyquin, preservatives, additives and chemicals which you wouldn’t ingest yourself.
Alfalfa, Almonds, crushed Amaranth (Ancient grain – calcium), Anchovy oil, Apple and natural, unsweetened apple sauce, Avocado, Banana, Barley (calcium), Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green or purple), Bee pollen, Bilberries/Huckleberries, Blackberry, leaves, Blackberry, Bladderwrack, Blueberries, Broccoli and leaves, Brown rice, Canteloupe, Carnation flowers, Carrots (carotenoids), Carrot tops (vit. E), Cauliflower and leaves, Celery leaves, Chamomile flowers, Chard, Cherimoya, Cherry, Chicken bones, Chicken (cooked and unseasoned – smash the bone for marrow access), Cholla wood, Cilantro, Clams, Clover blossoms and leaves, Coconut and coconut oil, Cod liver oil, Collards (calcium), Cooked eggs (protein), Cork bark, Corn (on the cob, too), Cornmeal, Cranberries (dehydrated), Cucumber, Currants, Cuttlefish bone (powdered or whole), Dandelion (flowers, leaves and roots), Egg (scrambled or soft boiled), Eggshells, Extra-virgin olive oil, Fish flakes w/out chemical preservatives, Fish Oil, Flax seeds (crushed), Flax seed oil (small amounts infrequently), Frozen fish food (esp. algae, krill and brine shrimp), Garbanzos (calcium), Grape Leaf, Grapes, Grapevine (vines and root), Green and red leaf lettuce (not iceburg; dark green), Green Beans, Hempseed Meal, Hibiscus flowers, Hikari products (brine shrimp, krill, crab cuisine, sea plankton – no preservatives), Honey (organic, or at least locally produced, for anti-microbials), Honeydew Melon, Irish Moss, Jasmine flowers Kelp (calcium), Kiwi, Lobster with crushed exoskeleton, Mango, Marigold flowers (calendula), Marion Berries, Mint (but not peppermint!), Most organic baby foods, Mushrooms, Mussels, Nasturtium flowers, Nettle (wilted), Oak Leaves and bark, Olive and olive oil (extra virgin), Oranges Oysters (zinc), Pansy flowers and leaves, Papaya, Parsley (calcium & vit. C), Passionfruit, Peaches, Peanut butter (avoid sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated oils), Pears, Pecans, Pecan bark, Pineapple, Plain calcium carbonate powder, Popcorn (unseasoned, unflavored, unbuttered), Potato (no green parts, including eyes), Quinoa (New World grain – calcium), Raisins (no sulphur dioxide), Raspberry, Red raspberry leaves (highest bio available calcium source + vit. C and trace minerals), Rolled Oats, Rooibus, Rose petals, Rose hips (high in Vit. C), Royal Jelly, Salmon, Sand dollars, Sardines (calcium), Scallops, Sea biscuits, Sea fan (red or black), Sea grasses, Sea salt, Sea Sponges, Sesame seeds (crushed), Shrimp (or prawns) and exoskeletons, Spinach, Spirulina (complete protein and chlorophyll source; highest in beta carotene), Sprouts (flax, wheat, bean, alfalfa, etc.), Squash, Strawberry and tops, Sunflower Seeds (crushed – flowers and leaves), Swamp cypress wood (false cypress, taxodium sp.), Sweet potato, Tangerine, Tomato, Tuna (zinc), Turnip greens (calcium), Violet flowers, Walnuts, Wasa All-Natural Crispbread (Oat flavor), Watercress (vit. A), Watermelon, Wheat grass (magnesium), Wheat (calcium), Wheat germ (B vitamins), Whitefish, Whole Wheat Couscous, Zucchini
* This food list includes information from Summer Michealson and Stacey Arenella’s book, “The All-Natural Hermit Crab Sourcebook“, and expanded on by Julia Crab and others
What foods are bad for hermit crabs?
While it is true that crabs are scavengers with a wide repertoire of foods they can eat, there are many plants and foods that just should not be fed to a crab. The foods on this list are to be avoided. Some are toxic, some are insect repellents or used as insecticides, and some the crabs just won’t go near, such as lemon — lemon won’t hurt them, but they certainly won’t eat it.
Aconite (Monk’s Hood), African violet leaves, Alder bark, Aloe vera (interferes with potassium absorption), Amaryllis, American Hellebore, Anemone/Windflower, Aniseed, Avocado leaves, Azalea/Rhododendron, Bindweed, Bird of Paradise Flowers, Bluebonnet, Bottlebrush flowers, Bougainvillea, Boxwood, Buckthorn, Buttercup, Carnation leaves, Castor Bean, Catnip, Cherimoya Seeds, Chrysanthemum, Cinnamon, Citrus (leaves and branches to be avoided; part of the evergreen family. The fruit is fine), Columbine, Compost (unless 100% organic), Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus – (contains cyanogenic glucosides), Crocus, Crown of Thorns, Cube Plant, Custard Apple (young fruit), Cyclamen, Delphinium, Derris, Dieffenbachia, Dill, Dittany, Eucalyptus, European pennyroyal, Evergreen (pine, cedar, juniper, etc.), Feverfew, Fleabane, Garlic, Geranium, Golden Pothos, Green hellebore, Hemlock, Holly Berries, Ivy (of any kind), Juniper Berries, Kalanchoe, Larkspur seed, Laurel, Lavender, Lemon Balm (Sweet Melissa), Lemongrass, Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana), Mayweed, Mistletoe, Morning Glory, Oleander, Onion, Oxeye daisy, Papaya seed, Parsley Seed (fruit), Peace Lily, Pencil Tree Cactus, Peppermint, Philodendron Pine or cedar wood or needles, Prickly juniper, Pride of China fruit, Prunus species trees (apricot, bitter almond, cherry, cherry laurel, nectarine, peach, plum – Fleshy fruits are edible – everything else contains a cyanide-like compound and is fatally toxic, including seeds, wood, leaves, bark and flowers), Red Emerald, Rosemary, Sago Palm, Sanseveria, Schefflera, Stargazer Lily (Lilium x Stargazer), Sweet Flag, Tansy, Tea Tree, Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora), Thornapple, Thyme, Tobacco, Verbena, Vinca, Wild Angelica fruit, Wormwood, Yew Yarrow
Other foods to avoid are commercial foods which include Ethoxyquin and Copper sulfate.
FMR Hermit Crab Food
Krabooz Munchiez Mix
Tetrafauna Hermit Crab Cakes food
Tetra Vitaminized Hermit Crab Meal
ZooMed Hermit Crab food
and more. Check the label!
Dried Food Mix
Ethoxyquin is an antioxidant, preservative and known pesticide that is in a lot of pet food and especially in fish meal which is a popular ingredient in commercial hermit crab food. Please avoid it and if in doubt do without. Below are some products which have been researched and to be found free of ethoxyquin and used by hermit crabbers.
Make Your Own
I create a Tropical Banquet which contains organic Banana, Mangosteen, Mango, Incaberries, Pineapple and Coconut chips that hermies love. Make sure not to offer your hermit crabs prepared muesli or nibble mixes high in chemicals such as sulphur and preservatives so that they keep. Organic is best and remember to check for stale food as it may perish faster.
Shrimp Treat is a favourite with land hermit crabs in Australia and the USA. I created a treat which includes dried shrimp to supplement their diet of items such as shrimp/prawns, crab shells and other items they would find washed up on the beach that are a source of calcium and chitin. As well as the tiny shrimp I have added coconut, spirulina flakes, blood worms, calcium powder, Organic Tropical Fruit, Wheat germ, Linseeds and other tasty ingredients. A gentle shrimp smell that is very pleasant compared to other shrimp-based foods. Watch it disappear before your eyes.
Treat Mix is a basic treat mix that contains fibre, fruit, nuts and seeds.
NOTE: It is a good idea to rotate between the foods you offer your hermit crabs on a regular basis, as it has been proven that hermit crabs will spurn leftovers. If they smell the same foods over and over, they may not eat the foods because they desire something new. Variety really is the spice of a land hermit crab’s life.
Often marketed for reptiles and amphibians, also great for land hermit crabs
Common brands are RepCal, StickyTongue
Attractive and natural source of calcium that hermit crabs love.
Used either as a calcium supplement, coral sand comes in many different grades, from fine, medium, coarse and actual pieces of broken coral branches. You can put coral into the water dish for traction or crush it up as a quick calcium powder bonus for your hermit crabs.
If you have access to a beach and you can find some crab exoskeletons (outer shell) you can rinse them in ocean water and offer them to your hermit crabs.
versatile calcium source
Grated, shredded, crushed, in pieces or whole. Can be added to food or served in a separate container (flat shell is suitable).
Crushed, Dried Egg Shell
if you do not have a source of cuttlebone or oyster shell, then some boiled, crushed, dried egg shells from a hen is a good alternative.
Crushed Oyster Shell
high calcium supplement
As found in pet stores and offered to birds. A good source of calcium for your hermies.
natural calcium source
Spirulina is high in calcium, protein, beta carotene and other nutrients which are needed in a healthy land hermit crab diet.
Hermit crabs are nocturnal so the chances are your hermies are feasting when you are asleep. They have been known to go without food for a few days and still be quite healthy. Just try to vary their foods as hermit crabs have been found to not like leftovers, that is, they don’t like the same food day in, day out. I would suggest fresh foods in one day, dried foods in the next, a mixture the day after that, etc.
One final note of advice: some romaine lettuce with a small amount of peanut butter on it, or a sprinkling of coconut over dried food has done wonders for picky hermies! You will wonder where they put it all! Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen right away. They only eat small parts at a time so it might not look like much to you but it is a lot to them. When you bring them home from the store they will be very active and want to explore their cage and get used to their environment. If you leave some food in a bowl they will take what they need during the night or day and they can go for many days without food.