The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Dwelling in the sand for a majority of the time, hermit crabs make great low-maintenance pets for those with minimal free time. You do not have to do much for them to live happily and healthily in their enclosure.
Many wonder how they take a drink of water when they go for their periodic dips. Even when studying them closely, it can be difficult to tell when they are getting hydrated.
If you do not know what to look for, you likely will not be able to tell that they are drinking at all. Since they are a creature that dwells mainly outside of water, they take in a lot to drink and will hydrate both inside and out.
There are a few habits to look for that will become telltale signs that your hermit crab is hydrating itself successfully. You must also learn what kind of water to keep in the tank and how much of it is necessary for survival.
Claws and Hydration
Looking closely, you will see that your hermit crab has a large claw and a smaller claw. Both of them are able to scoop up water when they get thirsty.
If you ever hold your hermit crab, you will be able to take a better look. Because they are so tiny, it can be difficult to differentiate between the sets of claws from afar.
When your hermit crab is sitting in or near water, it can reach in with a claw to scoop up the water. Usually, the water will be taken directly into the mouth with the occasional clawful to the gills.
Your hermit crab has modified gills, and they are located just behind the base of their legs. You might be able to see them up close because they are partially located underneath the shell.
Both of these successfully hydrate your hermit crab when it needs to take a drink. Typically, people will keep two different pools of water that can be used for taking a dip and for drinking.
Be careful because you cannot just provide your hermit crab with any water you have. There are only certain types that are suitable for drinking.
Another way that your hermit crab stays hydrated is by scooping water directly into its shell. When it is stored here, your hermit crab is still getting hydration as it absorbs the water through its gills.
It is ideal that your hermit crab’s gills and body remain moist at all times to stay healthy. This is a process that happens naturally because your hermit crab will absorb water into its shell when it starts feeling the lack of moisture.
Each time your hermit crab is bathing in one of the plastic containers, water is likely being taken in under its shell. Even if you cannot see it happening, this is one way that it will reserve moisture to stay hydrated when it is done taking a dip.
If you see your hermit crab taking a long dip, let them be. This is another essential part of their survival, and they might actually be thirsty instead of simply wanting to sit in the water.
Many people think they need to move their hermit crabs because they look uncomfortable, but trust that they are getting what they need. If they decide to take an extended dip, they might be enjoying the water while simultaneously taking a drink.
Hermit crabs should be able to move freely around the tank at all times, and it is important they have access to water 100% of the time. Even though you will mostly find your hermit crab outside of the water dishes, they will submerge when they need additional hydration.
Appropriate Types of Water
Freshwater and saltwater are both safe to keep in your hermit crab’s enclosure, but you cannot obtain the water from just any source. You need to make sure that you are taking the right safety precautions.
Using plastic dishes that are shallow, you can create these two options that are both safe for consumption and taking a dip. This is why the tank needs to be large enough for two water dishes and an area of open, dry land.
Primarily, a hermit crab will choose to drink freshwater and this is what you can expect to see a majority of the time. If your hermit crab does decide to drink the saltwater, this is also okay.
Even if it occasionally decides to drink from the saltwater container, this will not harm your hermit crab or impact its hydration. Your hermit crab might choose between the two containers depending on what type of water it feels like drinking.
Avoid giving your hermit crab tap water directly from the sink. While this type of water is okay for humans to drink, the chlorine levels can prove to be toxic for your tiny hermit crab.
Bottled water is considered safe for hermit crab tanks, as long as it is all natural. Make sure to check the chlorine content before giving it to your hermit crab.
Pet stores sell bottles of both freshwater and saltwater to make it easy for you to provide your hermit crab with water that is safe. They come conveniently bottled, and you can pour them directly into the plastic containers as needed.
This is probably going to be your best option because you already know it is safe for all of your hermit crab’s needs. It is still important to know which water is safe and which is not in case you cannot get to a pet store for the specially formulated water.
Setting up the Water
As mentioned, plastic dishes work great for keeping your hermit crab’s water sources safe. Shallow plastic dishes work the best because they are easy for crabs to climb into without tipping them over in the process.
If you want to provide them with additional help, you can place some small gravel or pieces of natural sponge at the bottom of each dish. This will assist with traction by making it easier for the hermit crab to maneuver in the water.
Doing this will also give your hermit crab a bit of variety when it comes to the depth of the water they choose to take a dip in. Sometimes, they enjoy being very submerged while other times, they might only want to go into the shallow end.
Some pet stores sell dishes that are meant to mimic natural stone that also have a makeshift ramp that can ease your hermit crab in. These are great and also add a nice decorative touch to the tank.
You will become aware of how well the dish is working out depending on if your hermit crab can tip it over or not. If it can tip the dish, then you should try switching it out for something shallower.
This is another reason why plastic or imitation stone is ideal because they will not break or shatter the glass of the tank if they do happen to tip over. You will also prevent your hermit crab from getting injured if there is a spill.
Additional Water Safety
You already know that tap water is a no-go for hermit crabs, but there is a way to treat it if you do need a quick solution. Using a dechlorinator, you will be able to create safe water to be used for taking a dip and drinking if needed.
When looking for it at the pet store, it might also be labeled “water conditioner.” Make sure that it dechlorinates the water, and you will know that it is safe for your hermit crab.
Your hermit crab likely will not die if they bathe in chlorinated water, but it becomes toxic when consumed in large amounts. It is better to not take the risk at all.
As a precaution, you should keep a dechlorinator handy in case you do need to use tap water in a pinch. This will keep your hermit crab safe and prevent you from stressing over the condition of the water.
Pay attention to how far your hermit crab submerges when taking a dip in the water. Even if the dish is not tipping over, you do need to make sure that the water level is not going completely over its shell.
Even though they do benefit from collecting shell water, this can still be achieved with a relatively shallow dish. A good indicator is if your hermit crab can submerge its body and part of its shell without completely going under.
If you decide to make your own saltwater for the enclosure, do not use traditional table salt. You should only use special ocean salt that is sold at pet stores for this.
There is iodine in table salt that can prove to be harmful to your hermit crab. Many people make this mistake, and unfortunately, it can turn fatal.
You will want to change out both dishes of water daily to create a clean environment. Because your hermit crab is bathing in the water and drinking it, the containers will get dirty pretty quickly.
Due to dirt and other debris coming loose, you will definitely start to notice an odor and potential cloudiness to the water once it gets dirty. Even if you have recently changed the water, it is best to change it again if you notice either of these things happening.
There is no need to put any decor into the water dishes or anything other than the small gravel/rocks or natural sponges because you will have to remove them each time you change out the water. This can become an unnecessary and time-consuming process.
You also need to be careful of any toxins on decor that you might be unaware of. These toxins can actually poison the water and become very dangerous for the well-being of your hermit crab.
Less is more when it comes to owning a hermit crab. They are creatures that are relatively self-sufficient and do not need a lot of help from you other than making sure that they have the right kind and right amount of water available.
Hermit crabs drink by either scooping water into their mouths with one set of claws or by soaking water up under their shell for later consumption and additional hydration. Even when you cannot see this happening, it is still a natural and important process for your hermit crab to go through.
Always make sure that your hermit crab has access to shallow dishes of clean water, one containing saltwater and the other freshwater. While your hermit crab will bathe in both, they might also drink from both.
This is okay because neither one will hurt the hermit crab as long as it is free of chlorine and other toxins. While you can make your own by using dechlorinator or ocean salt, there are also bottles for sale with the mixtures already formulated to suit a hermit crab’s needs.
You can place small gravel into the dishes or pieces of natural sponges to help your hermit crab move around inside of the dish. This is optional, but it does give them some necessary traction for when they want to slowly submerge inside the water.
Make sure that you do not place random objects or pieces of decor into the water. There could be harmful toxins on the objects that will permeate the water and will eventually be consumed by your hermit crab.
You can think of the dishes of water as both bathtubs and water bowls. This is how you will better understand how important it is to keep them clean and to regularly change them out.
Remember, hermit crabs are low-maintenance pets. They are going to do whatever is best for them, and you do not have to interfere with this process. Change the water daily, and make sure to pay attention to any foul odors or smells coming from the dishes.
If the water does become dirty in between changes, you can always quickly swap it out for a refresher. You will get used to your hermit crab’s habits and functions as you pay attention to their daily routines.