The Caribbean Hermit Crab, or Purple Pincher, (Coenobita clypeatus) is the most popular species of land hermit crab that is kept as a pet. Native to Bermuda, Florida, Venezuela, and throughout the Carribean Islands, they are born in the ocean and then adapt to live on land. After this adaptation, they can no longer be submerged into water or they will drown. Their gills (which have been modified to breathe air) must be kept moist to function.
Hermit crabs most likely came by their name because of their quick response to pop back into their shell at the slightest hint of danger. Encased in their shelled home with one claw acting as ‘the door’, it would seem they were behaving as a hermit would, desiring no interaction with the outside world! However, their name betrays their nature, and as any hermit crab owner will attest, they are very active and engaging pets.
Hermit crabs are intricately designed, possessing ten legs and two sets of sensory organs. The first set of sensory organs are the antenna (long feelers), which they use to touch and feel, just like a person's hands would. The second set are called antennules, which enable them to taste and smell. Their left claw, usually the larger of the two, is used as the protective covering to the opening of their shell, keeping them safe when a retreat is necessary. Both of the hermit crab's claws are used for eating, drinking, collecting foods and protecting their home (shell). Hermit crabs possess acute eye sight, possibly due to their eyes being located on the very top end of moveable stalks!
One, Two or More?
Despite their name, hermit crabs are very social and prefer to be kept in groups. A single hermit crab left alone becomes inactive, stressed and will have a much shorter life span than those kept in small groups. Be aware that all hermit crabs will disagree from time to time.
When handled safely, your hermit crabs will enjoy exploring the 'outside world' (always under direct supervision). Remember when handling your hermit crabs to hold your hand flat, otherwise they may pinch if they feel scared, insecure or stressed. Be gentle and allow them to explore. If they play shy to begin with, be patient and never try to pull your hermit crab out from its shell; to do so would be extremely damaging. Always remember to wash your hands before and after handling your hermit crabs.
With the proper environment and nutrition, your hermit crab's life expectancy can be 10 to 20 years or more! The unauthenticated record for the longest living pair of land hermit crabs in captivity is 29 years.