If you are getting new pet hermit crabs or already have hermit crabs at home, you need to feed them regularly. You might be thinking, “what do hermit crabs eat, what to feed them, which foods can they eat and should not eat” and more. In this post, you will learn all about the hermit crab diet, what to feed them, feeding schedules how often hermit crabs need to eat, what foods they can eat, how long they can go without eating, if you need to use supplements and much more.
Hermit crabs are naturally omnivores + scavengers, which means that they consume both live organisms and vegetables/greens/fruits. While hermit crabs are easy to feed, you need to remember some crucial feeding rules. Depending on what you feed your hermit crabs, they can be healthy or become sick rather quickly.
What to feed hermit crabs? Feeding schedule
While hermit crabs are omnivores, you need to feed them healthy foods and avoid any junk or sugary foods. What is more, hermit crabs need some protein with each meal (7 days a week). The protein source should mainly come from animal sources, with some plant-based protein too. Other important sources of food for hermit crabs are vegetables and greens, including sea vegetables, so feed various types of those 6-7 days a week.
So follow this schedule when feeding hermit crabs:
- Proteins – mainly animal-based (and some plant based), 7 days a week.
- Vegetables and greens, 40-50% of those should be sea vegetables, 6-7 days a week.
- Fruits – 1-3 times a week as a treat, or smaller amounts more often
- Supplementation with calcium – 3-4 days a week. Feed calcium-high foods and offer some cuttlebone, or reptile calcium powders
- Provide some healthy fats 2-3 days a week (nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, Macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, anchovy oil, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, cod liver oil etc.). Very small portions, as they are fatty.
- Treats – some peanut butter on a cracker (without added sugar, hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)), fish flakes, herbs (basil, cilantro/coriander, rosemary and more), popcorn (no sugar, butter or salt), brown rice
- Indian almond leaves like this – great for shelter, food source
Below, you will find a list of foods for hermit crabs in each category. Variety in your hermit crabs’ diet is very important.
Commercial foods for hermit crabs
There are many ready-made hermit crab foods that you can get for your hermits. These are sold in the form of pellets, flakes, ground powder and more, and provide convenience and nutrition for hermit crabs. You will find buffet blends, fruit mixes, high-protein mixes (made from animal and some protein sources). Some brands even sell hermit crab meal cakes like this.
If you don’t have time to prepare meals for your hermit crabs, you can feed them commercial foods, but always supplement with fresh vegetables and protein 3-4 times a week. Always make sure commercial foods are soaked or sprayed with plenty of water.
Watch out for preservatives, such as butylhydroxytoluene, ethoxyquin, copper sulfate and others, as they could possibly have a negative effect on hermit crab health. When choosing, check the label for ingredients.
Apart from buffet blends, you can also get omnivore buffet blends, freeze-dried mealworms, freeze-dried or canned bloodworms, snails, grasshoppers, crickets, silkworms, crickets, shrimps and more.
Top sources of protein for hermit crabs
Top sources of protein for hermit crabs include animals proteins, and partially plant proteins (around 70-80% animal and 20-30% plant protein). Below you can find a list of top animal and plant protein sources for hermit crabs.
Top animal protein sources for hermit crabs:
- Sardines (without salt, in water)
- Egg whites
- Fish (trout, tuna, whitefish)
- Fish flakes with no preservatives (only as a treat)
- Sea urchins, sea fans, sea sponges
- Lean pork (small amounts only, no seasonings, no sausages, ham or bacon)
- Lean beef
- Lean turkey
- Worm castings
Some insects, such as waxworms and superworms, are extremely fatty, so limit them in the hermit crab diet. Meats should also be unseasoned and lean (too much fat, especially saturated fat, can have negative effects).
Top plant protein sources for hermit crabs:
- Wheat germ
- Snap peas
- Flax seeds/linseed (nutritious, also provides healthy oil and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Hemp seeds
Greens and vegetables for hermit crabs
Vegetables and greens are also an important part of hermit crab diet. Those include sea vegetables, such as seaweed. When offering greens and vegetables, you must limit certain types to only 1-2 times/week. These belong to the group of high oxalic acid and high goitrogenic vegetables and greens.
It’s always best to feed organic vegetables and greens, because they are generally cleaner and healthier. Also, you can sometimes harvest some foods, but make sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides/insecticides.
High oxalic acid foods can disrupt calcium absorption in the organism, leading to calcium deficiency in high quantities. Goitrogenic foods can have an adverse effect on iodine absorption. Below you will find a list of top vegetables and greens, as well as a table with high oxalic acid and goitrogenic foods.
Best vegetables, sea vegetables, greens and fruits for hermit crabs
- Seaweed, seagrass, sand dollars
- Dandelion leaves
- Prickly pear cactus
- Collard greens
- Corn, cornmeal
- Kale (limit to 3-4 times a week)
- Bell peppers (red bell peppers have the most vitamin C)
- Mustard greens
- Grape leaves
- Rocket (arugula)
- Carrots (avoid/limit carrot tops as they are high in oxalates)
- Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro (coriander)
- Turnip greens
- Passion fruit
- Melon, especially cantaloupe
- Cholla wood pieces like these – free from pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers
Vegetables, greens and fruits to feed less often (goitrogenic or high oxalate foods)
- Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower cabbage, bok choy, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, Brussel sprouts – high in goitrogens
- Peaches, plums, apricots, pears, figs, grapes, kiwi (oxalic)
- Watermelon – low in nutrients, high in sugar
- Bananas – high in sugar
- Strawberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries (oxalic)
- Sweet potatoes (high in oxalates)
- Rapini (goitrogenic)
- Rutabaga (goitrogenic)
- Parsley (oxalic)
- Swiss chard (oxalic)
- Lettuce, especially iceberg (low nutrition, mostly good for water)
- Radicchio (oxalic)
- Citrus (pineapples, tangerines, oranges etc.). Avoid lemons
Bad foods for hermit crabs – avoid
- Dog or cat food – can only offer a few pieces once in a few months
- Avocado and avocado leaves – toxic
- Fatty meats, processed foods, deli meats, sugary cereals and other foods
- Bay leaves
- Artificial Sweeteners
and many more. If you are unsure that the food is safe, please double check before feeding.
Do you need to feed hermit crabs every day?
Yes, you need to feed hermit crabs every day. Of course, you would need to put food for them in the morning, and remove any leftovers before the next day. Some dry foods can be left for 2 days.
How long can hermit crabs go without eating?
While hermit crabs need to eat daily, they can go for some time without eating. Hermit crabs can go around a few days to 10 days without eating, but that’s not good to their health.
Can hermit crabs eat dairy (drink milk or eat cheese)?
In general, hermit crabs can consume some dairy products, but very rarely. Dairy products are very unnatural for hermit crabs, so don’t offer more often than once in 2-3 months.
Hermit crab diet – feeding rules
When buying and choosing food for your hermit crabs, always try to choose the best quality products. Hermit crabs are very sensitive to various pesticides, preservatives, insecticides, fertilizers, and some food additives. Try to choose natural, preferably organic options when you can.
Remove uneaten fresh food from the tank every day, and uneaten dry foods – maximum every 2 days. If you have more than 4 hermit crabs, place food in two separate dishes, so they can eat comfortably.
What is more, you will need to have 2 water dishes in a hermit crab tank. One water dish should have normal water (treat with some water conditioner) for drinking. The second water dish needs to have saltwater and it will be for soaking (you can get a saltwater solution like this one to make it).
Sea sponges are great for hermit crabs to drink from, consume minerals and exit their water dish safely. However, sea sponges will harbor lots of bacteria and can create an unpleasant smell if left in a dish for too long. If you wish to use a sea sponge, make sure to change it every 2-3 days. Otherwise, make sure the drinking dish is quite shallow for your hermit crabs to exit safely without drowning.
Thanks for reading this post on hermit crab diet. To discover more posts on hermit crab care, see this page.