If you are thinking of getting an interesting new pet, you may have considered either a hermit crab or a snail. They may be pretty similar in appearance at first glance because of the shell, but they are very different animals.
It is less costly and much easier to keep a snail than a hermit crab, and even garden snails make excellent pets for beginners. Hermit crabs need an environment with regulated temperature, humidity, fresh and marine water, and replacement shells to remain in good health and thrive.
Hermit crabs and snails are both fascinating low-space critters that are fun to keep, but they have some pretty different care requirements. Let’s compare them in terms of care so you can decide which would be best for you.
Hermit Crab vs. Snail
They may both have shells and be more active at night, but that is where the similarity between hermit crabs and snails ends. They are entirely different creatures, and the only reason a hermit crab has a shell that looks like a snail is because it is wearing one, much like you would wear an overcoat.
Hermit crabs and snails have become popular pets because they are relatively easy to keep and do not demand as much attention as traditional pets like cats and dogs. So long as their primary conditions are met, they are not too fussed about interacting with humans.
When referring to hermit crabs as pets, in this case, we are speaking about land hermit crabs which can exist for long periods out of water. Marine hermit crabs rarely leave the water and should only be kept as pets if you own a specialized saltwater aquarium.
If you are looking for a super-low maintenance pet, then a snail is a better option. In fact, you can go ahead and find a pet snail right out of your garden.
A garden snail is an ideal pet for someone who isn’t yet sure about the care commitment of owning a pet, as you can rerelease it in a suitable spot anytime.
When acquiring a hermit crab or a snail, many pet owners don’t realize that both can have surprisingly long life spans if properly cared for. So they are most definitely not short-term pets.
Let’s take a look at a simple hermit crab vs. snail comparison table that will take the guesswork out of choosing your next pet:
|Land Variety Hermit Crab
|Will need to be purchased
|Can purchase or collect from the garden – some species are illegal to keep, so check before buying a pet snail.
|10-20 gallon tank for 2 to 4 small hermit crabs
|A 5-gallon terrarium tank for long-term pets
|Hermit crabs in the wild can live for more than 30 years. Pets rarely survive more than a few years.
|2 – 15 years
|Require daily feeding – scavengers that enjoy a varied diet. Include fish heads, shrimp and fruit, and vegetables
|Daily feeding – mainly fruit and vegetables.
|They are social and need company, so at least two, preferably a few more, so long as there is adequate space.
|Seem to do better if there are at least two.
|Replacement shells in various sizes.
A hygrometer to keep the tank humidity level correct.
Thermometer to ensure the temperature remains correct.
Requires a special substrate for the base of the tank.
Fresh water and saltwater ‘dips’ need to be available at all times – special marine salt needs to be used, not table salt.
Water needs to be de-chlorinated before use.
|Calcium supplements – can be homemade from eggshells.
|Tank Setup and care
As you can see from the table, keeping hermit crabs requires more knowledge and outlay than snails. To keep these tropical creatures, you need to pay special attention to the temperature humidity and ensure that conditions in their tank mimic their natural environment as closely as possible.
Keeping snails happy is far simpler. They grow their own shells, and if you find them in your garden and have a suitable terrarium tank, you probably already have everything you need to keep them healthy and happy as pets.
Can You Keep Hermit Crabs and Snails Together?
Since their tanks often look similar, you may be wondering if you can keep hermit crabs and snails together in the same tank. After all, hermit crabs use empty snail shells, so the two do cross paths in nature.
The answer to this depends on how well you understand the needs of both creatures, and how much space is available in the tank. If you leave a group of hungry hermit crabs with your snails, it will not end well for the gastropods.
However, in tanks with plenty of space and adequate fresh food, hermit crabs don’t usually prey on the snails. To keep the chance of conflict to a minimum, try to mimic the natural environment of each species as closely as possible.
When planning an exhibit that includes both hermit crabs and snails, be sure to pay special attention to the following:
- Regular and adequate food for both
- Plenty of spare shells for hermit crabs to move into as they outgrow their current size
- Provide hiding places for the snails, like large leaves and undergrowth.
Always ensure that you provide plenty of empty alternative-sized shells for hermit crabs to move into when they outgrow their current shell. This will not only keep your snails safer, but crabs are less likely to fight with each other to secure a correctly sized new shell.
Keep in mind that hermit crabs require very specific temperature and humidity conditions to remain healthy. Snails are less fussy in terms of specific requirements but should not be forgotten about if you plan to keep them as pets in the same tank.
Getting a new pet can be exciting. As fun and exotic as hermit crabs may seem, unless you are committed to keeping their environment optimal, there is a high chance of early mortality.
On the other hand, snails, even regular garden variety snails, can be fun first pets that don’t need a lot of interaction or special equipment. These tiny creatures can be fascinating to watch and care for and have a surprisingly long lifespan.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.