What do hermit crabs eat in the wild?

In this brief guide, we’ll address the query: “What do hermit crabs eat in the wild?” Also, we’ll explain what hermit crabs are, and what role hermit crabs play in the environment. 

What do hermit crabs eat in the wild? 

The diet of a hermit crab is quite varied, as they’re omnivorous opportunists–scavengers, experts say. 

Due to their limited size, they feed on carrion or smaller animals such as mussels, sea slugs, clams, algae, and the odd leftover goods left on the beach such as leafy greens, fleshy non-citric fruits, and other food types that they can break down with their pincers to ingest.  

Some folks own hermit crabs as pets and provide them with a more varied diet such as berries, papaya, mango, grains, nuts, and seeds

Hermit crab owners avoid intensely flavored foods such as garlic, citrics, and onions. The compounds in these types may be noxious and even lethal to their health. 

It should be noted that wild hermit crabs live longer than those kept as pets despite the effortless lifestyle that comes with being a pet. 

What are hermit crabs? 

Hermit crabs are crustaceans, who are distinguished because they bear empty mollusk shells as a means to protect their fragile bodies from impact and the elements. 

Unlike true crabs, hermit crabs cannot generate their shell, and their bodies are softer and more susceptible to physical damage. Their legs are of a comparable sturdiness to real crabs and they’re the only parts left exposed from the shell, as a means to navigate their environs. 

Hermit crabs are distributed in balmy climates, such as those found in the tropics, and they’re commonly found in coastal areas and wetlands. They require high levels of ambient humidity to prevent desiccation and by extension, death. 

It so happens that hermit crabs are more closely related to lobsters, than to real crabs. 

When they’ve outgrown their shell, Hermit crabs must abandon it and find one that’s a better fit.

Curiously, many crabs can gather around an abandoned shell and try it on for a fit. The crab who finds it to be the ideal size claims it and leaves the scene with his new real estate, while in other instances, crabs may come to blows for a new shell. 

They locate their shells due to biochemical signaling, via the secretion of pheromones into the environment. 

The term hermit crab can also create misconceptions, as they’re not solitary animals and in the wild, there have been reports of a hundred or more individuals living together. 

Most of the hermit crabs shoppers find in pet stores are sourced from wild populations, as they’re difficult to reproduce in captivity. 

Therefore, being a hermit crab owner may be deemed an unfriendly option for the environment. 

What role do hermit crabs play in the environment? 

Hermit crabs are important to their environments, as they scavenge and use resources that would otherwise go to waste by decaying. 

As bottom dwellers, they play an essential role in recycling complex molecules by using them as nourishment and returning these metabolized products to the environment in more basic forms. 

Additionally, hermit crabs are an important part of food chains, as they constitute a source of animal proteins for coastal-dwelling birds, fish, larger arthropods, and mollusks. 

Hermit crabs are especially sensitive to plastic pollution. Some individuals have been found dead and trapped in plastic containers. When they’ve outgrown the plastic they’ve taken up residence in, they may find it cumbersome to escape and as a result, remain trapped. 

Perhaps more concerning is that their biochemical stress signals can be given off into the environment, where they’ll draw in other hermit crabs and repeat the deadly cycle. 

We encourage our readers to practice responsible pet-owning and prioritize stewardship, by avoiding having hermit crabs as pets, and by being responsible whenever they visit an environment where hermit crabs dwell. 

Hermit crabs have a shorter life span than those in the wild and when visiting their environments, it’s important to avoid littering with single-use plastics, or any other type of casing that could prove deadly to hermit crabs.  


In this brief guide, we’ve addressed the query: “What do hermit crabs eat in the wild?” Also, we’ve explained what hermit crabs are, and what role hermit crabs play in the environment.  






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