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Safe Foods For Your Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs, the adventurous beach dwellers, are known for their eclectic diet, consuming virtually anything they find along the shorelines or on the forest floor. From the remains of other creatures to seaweed and unintentionally offered human snacks, their dietary range in the wild is impressively vast, encompassing even decayed wood and the unexpected choice of sifting through animal feces. Consequently, the variety of foods they can safely consume within your care extends significantly.

However, caution is advised when selecting commercial hermit crab foods, as many options on the market contain potentially harmful heavy metals and copper-based preservatives. Even common alternatives like fish flakes might pose a risk to these small, yet resilient creatures.

To ensure your hermit crabs thrive, enjoying a long and fulfilling life, it’s essential to provide a diverse and fresh diet that mimics their natural scavenging habits. A monotonous diet of pellets or repetitive foods can lead to boredom and unhealthy scavenging behaviors. In this guide, we’ve curated a selection of hermit crab-safe foods that promise to keep their meals exciting and nutritious, eliminating the concern of dietary monotony for your cherished pets.

How To Prep Foods For Your Hermit Crabs

Hermit crab being held by its shell for a pic in Galveston TX
Hermit crab being held by its shell for a pic in Galveston TX

There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing food for your hermit crabs. They are very sensitive to certain chemicals and seasonings.

Washing your fruits and vegetables is probably a standard practice in your household, but with hermit crabs, you can’t just use tap water to wash their food. Tap water contains chlorine which is toxic to hermit crabs. Trace amounts can be left behind and harm your little pets so use distilled or bottled water to clean their foods.

Hermit crabs can eat many of the same foods that we eat, but they can’t handle all the seasonings we put on our food to make it taste extra delicious. When fixing dinner for your hermits, be sure to skip the salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Plain is best.

Hermit crabs do need salt, but they get their salt from the saltwater in their enclosure. Table salt usually contains iodine and preservatives such as silicon dioxide which isn’t good for your little “crabbies.”

Hermit Crabs Need Variety

These little crustaceans need a wide variety in their diet, so you should feed them sources of meat and protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and more. You can also feed them treats like popped popcorn, peanut butter and jelly crackers, and dried fruit.

These items should only be fed rarely. The bulk of your hermit crab’s diet should consist of protein, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Without further ado, here is a big list of safe foods for your hermit crab.

Safe Protein Sources For Your Hermit Crab

In the wild, most protein hermit crabs eat come from carrion—dead fish, crabs, clams, etc—or insects. Hermit crabs are scavengers and not hunters, so they can’t catch fast moving critters.

You can feed your hermit crab typical proteins that we eat such as beef, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, seafood, and turkey. You can feed them raw meat as long as it’s fresh and prepared safely. You should always wash your hands and surfaces after touching and preparing raw meat.

One problem with raw meat is it will go rancid quickly and start to stink up the tank if you’re not fastidious about cleaning it up. To avoid this problem, just boil a few tiny pieces of meat for your hermit crabs.

Cook them in unchlorinated water and don’t add any seasonings. Plain is fine for your hermit crabs.

You can also feed them sardines, oysters, shrimp, tuna, salmon, and other canned seafood, as long as you check the label for salt and seasonings. Plain, canned tuna or salmon in water is a great source of protein for your little crabs.

Any type of fresh fish is great for your hermit crab as well.

Eggs are another great source of protein for your hermit crabs. Boiled eggs with the shell on them are not only a lean protein source, but the shell adds extra vital calcium. You can also feed them scrambled eggs.

What About Insects?

Insects and worms are great sources of lean, seasoning free protein. You can even get freeze dried insects such as crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, and more. Earthworms, blood worms, and soldier fly larvae can be fed to hermit crabs as well.

If you are feeding your hermit crabs live insects, it’s best to smash their heads first. I know that may sound barbaric, but it’s safer for your hermits. Superworms, crickets, and mealworms can burrow and get away from the slow moving hermit crabs.

You don’t want crickets overrunning your crabitat. Also, the above insects can bite and harm your hermit crabs, especially superworms, so smashing their heads first, eliminates a big headache…for you that is.

Stay Away From Processed Meats

Pork is another meat that can be fed to your hermit crab as long as it’s cooked and not processed. Bacon, sausage, deli meats, ham, and other similar meats contain way too much salt and preservatives for the sensitive little hermit crab.

Use lean cuts of meat as well. This goes for beef and other animal protein sources. You don’t want to feed your hermit crab fatty ground beef. All that fat can mess up their tiny systems.

List Of Safe Protein Sources

Hermit crab eating dead eel
Hermit crab eating dead eel
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Oysters
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Krill 
  • Plankton
  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Mussels
  • Blood worms
  • Sardines
  • Clams

Hermit Crabs Need Vegetables

Much of their wild diet includes vegetation. You should be feeding them some source of veggies nearly every day. Seaweed, algae, and spirulina should be fed to them quite often.

Just be sure the seaweed is unseasoned. There are delicious sheets of seaweed snacks that are tempting treats, but they contain a lot of salt and other preservatives.

Hermit crabs can also eat nearly any kind of vegetable with the exception of onions and garlic. Anything in the allium family needs to be avoided; this includes shallots, chives, and leeks.

Hermit crabs can eat potatoes too, just make sure you peel and cook them. Mashed potatoes can be fed as a treat, but this usually contains too many carbohydrates to be offered regularly.

Leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Kale, spinach, turnip greens, mustards, and collards are all wonderful choices to feed your hermit crab. You can also feed them leafy lettuces, but stay away from iceberg lettuce.

Iceberg lettuce is the most popular lettuce, but it contains no nutrition. It’s basically just leafy water.

Summer and winter squash are excellent, nutritionally dense options to feed your hermit crabs as well. Yellow, zucchini, pattypan, acorn, butternut, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin are all equally good to feed your crabs.

Try to choose organic varieties when possible to reduce the amount of pesticides. Washing your produce helps some, but most are covered in a waterproof, waxy coating. Also, be sure to wash your produce with distilled water so you don’t leave any traces of chlorine on your veggies.

Here is a list of vegetables that are safe for your hermit crab. This list doesn’t cover every type of vegetable because there are so many varieties.

Safe Vegetables For Hermit Crabs

  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Leafy lettuces
  • Bell peppers
  • Soybeans
  • Algae
  • Kelp 
  • Seaweed
  • Spirulina
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sprouts
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash

Safe Fruits For Your Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs in the wild don’t come across fresh fruits very often. When they are fed fruits at your home, they will readily devour them. You can feed hermit crabs fruits, just make sure it’s in moderation because too much sugar can be harmful to them.

Feeding fruits once or twice a week is perfectly safe. You can feed them fresh fruit, freeze dried, or dehydrated fruit. Keep an eye on the ingredients for dried fruit as some are coated in extra sugar and preservatives.

If you have a food dehydrator, you can easily make your own and store them in an airtight container for later use.

Most fruits can be fed to your hermit crab except citrus. Some people say you can feed them the flesh inside but stay away from peels, the wood, flowers, and leaves. I say that if there’s this much debate about if it’s good or toxic, I’ll err on the side of caution and feed them something else.

When feeding your hermits fruit, a good practice is to remove any seeds or pits. Berry seeds on strawberries, in blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are fine. Tiny seeds like those from kiwis and bananas are safe as well.

You do want to make sure you remove apple, pear, papaya, and watermelon seeds as these can be toxic to them. Also, remove any cherry pits, peach, nectarine, plum, and other stone fruit pits.

List Of Fruits You Can Feed Your Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs eating coconut
Hermit crabs eating coconut
  • Apples
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Coconut (fresh or sugar-free dried)
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Papaya-remove the seeds
  • Guava
  • Passionfruit
  • Melon-remove watermelon seeds
  • Raisins
  • Berries
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Nectarines
  • Apricots
  • Melons
  • Pears

You Can Feed Hermit Crabs Wild Plants And Flowers

You can feed hermit crabs flowers and plants that are probably growing in your yard too. These are great treats for hermit crabs that they will enjoy, plus it costs you nothing, only your time to go out and collect them.

You have to be aware of potential pesticides and other chemicals so don’t harvest wildflowers or grasses unless you know for sure the yard does not use chemicals.

Only pick flowers and plants that you are very familiar with because many plants and wild mushrooms can be extremely toxic not only to the hermit crab but to you and your family as well.

You can feed these flowers and plants as often as you feed them vegetables.

With that being said, here is a list of popular, safe flowers, and plants that may be growing in your yard that you can feed your hermit crab.

Safe Wildflowers And Plants To Feed Your Hermit Crab

  • Wheatgrass
  • Herbs such as:
    • Basil
    • Dill
    • Parsley
    • Cilantro
    • Rosemary
    • Bee balm 
  • Mulberry, raspberry, and blackberry leaves
  • Marigold
  • Hibiscus
  • Dandelion-all parts of the plant
  • Carnation
  • Jasmine
  • Nasturtium
  • Pansy
  • Rose hips and flower petals
  • Passionflower
  • Chickweed
  • Chamomile
  • Clover

Nuts Grains And Seeds Are Good For Hermit Crabs

These items are great for hermit crabs and should be fed every couple of days. They love nuts which are great for hermit crabs because they contain plenty of healthy fats and minerals.

Hermit crabs seem to love munching on seeds, nuts, and grains, so provide them with these nutritious foods often. Look for raw, or roasted nuts without salt and sugars. Don’t reach for the salted kind, while they taste great by the handful, they will have too much sodium for hermit crabs.

Raw Uncooked Grains

Most animals, especially birds are not supposed to eat uncooked rice, but that’s not the case for hermit crabs. Many of these little crustaceans will really enjoy munching on uncooked white, or brown rice. Besides, when you cook these grains, a lot of the nutrition is leeched right out.

You can also feed them plenty of types of seeds. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, millet, chia, and flax seeds are great options for hermits. You can even leave the sunflowers in the shell if you want.

Large nuts like pecans, walnuts, almonds, and others need to be shelled for the hermit crab as they won’t be able to get inside of them.

Safe Nuts, Grains, And Seeds For Hermit Crabs

  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Millet
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Filberts
  • Pistachios
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Flax seed
  • Wild rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Wheat germ

Hermit Crab Treats

We all want to spoil our pets, and what’s better than treating our pets to delicious, occasional treats? Fruits can be fed as treats because they shouldn’t be offered all the time. Here are some other foods that can be offered rarely as treats.

Safe Hermit Crab Treats

  • Popped sugar free, salt free popcorn
  • Peanut butter (and jelly) on a cracker
  • Plain rice cakes
  • Cereal (plain no sugar added)
  • Crackers (unsalted)
  • Applesauce
  • Baby food
  • Cooked pasta

Other Foods And Foraging Options For Hermit Crabs

Even when you provide plenty of great tasting, nutritionally packed foods, your hermit crabs may fill up on foods you wouldn’t think are appetizing. In the wild, hermit crabs will often eat moss, rotting wood, and soft bones, or oyster shells.

Don’t be surprised if you see them munching on things in their enclosure that aren’t what you’ve fed them.

Driftwood and cholla wood are often sold in pet stores for hermit crabs. They love to climb on these things, but they will also eat them. There’s no harm in it, and it’s actually a part of their wild diet.

If you have a mini ecosystem inside your hermit crab’s tank, they will likely feed on insects in there, plants, and may even sift through the substrate.

Hermit crabs love to munch on decaying wood. You can find your own wood from outside to put in the crabitat, but only safe woods from the list below. Some wood can be toxic to hermit crabs such as fruit trees, boxwood, elm, black locust, yew, and hemlock.

You can also add bamboo to the crabitat but stay away from the increasingly popular lucky bamboo. It’s not actually a true bamboo. Lucky bamboo, despite the name, it’s more closely related to water lilies and has so many oxalates that it can be toxic to hermit crabs.

True bamboo is perfectly safe for hermit crabs.

Safe Alternative Foods For Your Hermit Crabs

  • Cuttlebone-great source of calcium, just remove any metal pieces attached to them
  • Crushed oyster shells
  • Eggshells
  • Moss
  • Cholla wood
  • Driftwood
  • Grapevine
  • Bamboo (not lucky bamboo)
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Pecan
  • Mangrove
  • Willow
  • Sycamore
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Cypress
  • Birch

There You Have It

Hermit crabs thrive on a widely varied diet because that’s what they would eat in the wild. They are part of nature’s cleaning crew and feed on nearly anything. As your pet, you should give them a variety as well.

They need a lot of protein and vegetables. The brighter and more colorful the veggies, the better. Hermit crabs also feed on nuts, grains, fruits, seeds, and many other items most of us wouldn’t think of.

You can feed them the foods that you normally eat, just be sure you don’t season their food. They do better with bland, salt free, seasoning free foods.

More hermit crab guides

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