How to Care for your Crazy Crabs
What is a "Crazy Crab?"
Crazy Crabs are actually land hermit
crabs. Their latin name is Coenibita variabilis. These
crabs are native
to Australia and are slightly different
to species found in the United States. In the USA some
species of land
hermit crabs live in desert regions, with
others are found along the coastlines in warmer climates.
In Australia, land hermit crabs are usually found along
beaches and around mangrove swamps in the
regions. Land hermit crabs live in large
colonies and move between the sand dunes and the high
tide mark at
different times throughout the day. Hermit
crabs are nocturnal. During the daylight hours, they
of their time snoozing amongst low growing
vegetation or buried in the sand. At night, they venture
the beach searching for food, bathing and
exploring new shells to move into.
In Australia, land hermit crabs hibernate inland from
the coast underground, between late April
and late August, the winter months. Top
Reproduction and How They Live
Land hermit crabs breathe air, and
drink fresh water. Their life cycle has two stages,
an aquatic stage and
a terrestrial stage.
They begin their life as part of the plankton mass in
the ocean. Reproduction is by way of a mass spawning
beach, then the eggs are carried out to
sea on the tide where they grow and develop. During
this juvenile stage,
they have gills similar to a fish and extract
oxygen from the water to breathe.
The crabs move onto the land after growing to around
5mm where they move into their first sea shell home.
stage of life, their gills change slightly
and must be kept moist to allow oxygen to be extracted
from the air.
Humidity is important for both keeping
their gills moist, and for extracting moisture for
drinking. This is why the
crabs venture down to the waterline at
night to breathe the humid air contained in dew that
falls on the beach. Top
Why does it need a shell to live in?
These crabs are crustaceans and have
a hard exoskeleton on the front half of their body,
the rear half is soft
and needs to be protected from predators,
that is why they require a shell to live in. The main
land hermit crabs are birds and other crabs.
The crab squeezes its' soft body into the shell backwards.
On the end of their body is a small "hook" which
then grips the internal spiral inside the
shell. This keeps
the crab securely inside the shell. It is
most important that the shell is the correct
size. If too large, the
crab will have trouble lifting and carrying
it around, and if too small, it just won't
fit. A little like buying
new shoes! Crazy Crabs prefer a lightweight
seashell as it has to be lifted slightly
off the ground as the
crab walks along. Heavy seashells drag and
make climbing over obstacles more difficult. Top
What do they eat?
In the wild Crazy Crabs eat a wide
variety of foods. They eat almost whatever they can
find either by the
waves washing it up onto the beach, or scraps
other animals leave behind. They are one of the many
on the beach.
Their main diet consists of seaweed, cuttlefish, driftwood,
dead fish and washed up fruit including mango
seeds and mangrove seed pods. To a Crazy Crab, the
beach is a banquet!
In captivity, they do like a varied diet, so they can
be happily fed a number of different foods. "Crazy Crab
Chow" is a great base diet which can be supplemented
with some fruit and vegetables. These crabs
eat around a match head of food every few
days, they have very small
tummies, so remember to remove uneaten fresh
foods like fruit before it spoils. It will
make their home smelly
and bacteria can breed.
A little cuttlebone from the beach is a rich source
of calcium for the crabs, they need calcium
in their diet. Top
What about water?
Crazy Crabs need to drink plenty of fresh water. They
cannot drink salty water as it causes dehydration. Fresh
water should always be available, preferably in a shallow
dish so that they can crawl in and out easily. Crazy
Crabs will drown in a deep water dish if they cannot
Terracotta bowls allow the crabs to grip
the sides as they move in and out of the
water. Make sure the sides are not too high
for the crabs
to climb over to get a drink.
Most tap water contains minerals and chlorine. If your
tap water is high in metals, use cold boiled
water instead. If your water has a lot of
chlorine, leave it stand overnight
before giving it to the crabs. The chlorine
will evaporate from the water overnight.
Another way to remove chlorine from your tap water is
to purchase some dechlorinator liquid from
your aquarium shop. Read the directions on
the bottle on how to use
Land hermit crabs store water both in their body and
also inside their shells. Green algae can
form inside the shell, this algae coating
protects the crabs' soft
body from irritation from sand inside the
shell or rough internal shell edges. This
algae is harmless to the crabs'
In the wild, land hermit crabs obtain moisture from
the food they eat, also from dew on plants
amongst the dunes in the early morning. This
dew trickles down into
the sand along the plant stems.
Why does my crab need a regular saltwater bath?
When crabs are small and living in
the ocean as plankton, they have a certain amount of
salt within their body.
After they come to land, this amount of salt
is reduced, and because they only drink fresh water,
they need to
replace the salts in their body.
In the wild, the crabs get this salt from bathing on
the shore, and from crawling around on wet
beach sand as they look for food. Some would be obtained
foods they find there.
In captivity it is a very easy task to keep your crabs' salt levels right.
There are two ways you can do this:
Once a fortnight, you can give your crab a weak salty
bath. By placing some room temperature
water with a pinch of rock salt into a shallow
bowl, either pick
up the crab by his shell and
gently dip his legs into it, or just let him crawl
in and out at his leisure.
You can leave this salty water
in their cage, but don't forget, they only drink
the fresh water. Some people
find it easier to do the bath
every few weeks, and just supply fresh water everyday.
If you have beach sand in your crabs' enclosure,
the salts from this sand will
end up mixed with their drinking water, so will
create a somewhat saltwater
bath. It won't be as strong if
you replace the water every day, so should do your
crabs no real harm.
The salt water helps clean their skin too which can
become sticky from fruits and mushy types
What to keep them in
should be kept in a smooth sided container,
such as a glass aquarium or plastic fish bowl
or tank. As they are expert climbers, wooden or cardboard
are not suitable. Crabs will chew on wood and
Choose a container that suits the number of crabs you
want to keep in it. Remember to make sure
there is room enough for a food
bowl as well as the crabs
themselves. It's no good having a small container where
the crabs have to crawl through the food and water to
move about. Also consider the decorations
and climbing objects
you want to have
in their enclosure.
Most pet stores carry a wide range of suitable
and they are not expensive, but it really depends on
what you would like your crabs to live in. If you have
other pets, such as cats, it may be an idea to make sure
the crab home has a lid. If the tank gets knocked over,
the crabs will quickly escape if there is no lid to keep
On the bottom of the Tank
On the bottom of the tank you can
use aquarium gravel, beach sand, untreated wood shavings
or river pebbles.
The gravel or sand does not have to be
deep as the crabs do burrow and you can't see them
if they are buried too
deep. The floor needs to be kept dry as
wet sand and high humidity can create a smelly and
for your crabs.
With gravel, you can wash the gravel when it gets dirty.
Just use some hot salty water, not soaps
or detergents. Salt is a natural sterilizer, so won't
leave any residue
that can harm the crabs. Rinse well and
leave out in the sun to dry. It is handy to have
enough gravel so
that when some is being used, the other
is being stored dry for use when the first lot needs
washing. Never use
sand from your garden, it could have chemicals
in it which may harm the crabs. Top
In the winter months, a wet, soggy
floor, and cold weather can make crabs very unhappy.
Untreated wood shavings,
chips or sawdust make a great place for
your crabs to snuggle down and sleep. When the weather
move the crabs to a room in your house
where the temperature stays fairly constant. Don't
put them next to the heater.
A sunny window sill during the day will warm the sawdust,
then when you bring the tank back into
the house, the crabs will stay snug and warm in the
the cold night. The window sill is the
coldest place in the house at night, glass is a poor
bring them away from the window at night. Top
In the summer months, crabs will
be more active because they come from a tropical
environment. Drinking water
is very important so don't let your crabs
Keep the crabs inside or under shade during the summer.
Too much direct sunlight can make them
overheat, and their shells can get very hot. If you
want to take them
outside, keep them under the patio or in
the shade. Top
In a tropical environment, the temperature
remains fairly constant. If where you live, you get
cold winters and
hot summers, there are some points to remember
to keep your Crazy Crabs happy and healthy, in all
In the winter, keep your crabs in a part of your house
that keeps a stable temperature. Concrete
floors and ceramic tiles are cold, so keep your crabs'
home on a
bench or cupboard off the floor. If it
gets really cold where you live, a small light in
the crabs tank may keep
it warmer. Suspend the light from the top
of the tank, but don't put the electrical cord in
or your crabs will
crawl up it and escape. A low wattage globe,
around 15watt is recommended.
Heating pads are also a great way to keep them warm
in the winter. The pad plugs into the electric
socket and attaches to a foam pad which sits under
The devise only draws 8v so is safe for
pets and children. The gentle heat radiates up through
the gravel or sand
to around 30 degrees celcius. Heating
for crabs are the same as the ones used
for reptiles. Try a pet store near you that
stocks them for lizards and snakes. These pads provide
a gentle heat
which will not cause your crabs to dehydrate.
Note: It is illegal to keep native reptiles as pets
in Western Australia, so accessories such
as these may have to be purchased from a company
in the eastern states,
where reptile keeping is a legal activity.
If we do manage to find a supplier for these, we
post it onto the website. Top
Humidity is the amount of water vapour
in the air we breathe. Crazy Crabs require high humidity
to keep their
gills moist and allow them to breathe properly.
When humidity is low, the air is drier and they become
and some become dehydrated.
The crabs can suffocate if the air is too dry. To ensure
you have enough humidity in their enclosure,
make sure there is plenty of water in their drinking
some sea sponge can help the humidity too.
absorbs water creating a damp sponge, which adds to the
humidity. Crabs eat sponge in the wild so it won't hurt
to have some in their enclosure, both for climbing on,
and for humidity.
Decorations for your Crab's home
just love to climb and explore! Pieces of
coral, sea sponge, driftwood, rocks and ceramic aquarium
ornaments are all great for Crazy Crabs to play on. Make
sure your decorations
don't lean onto the rim of their
house, they are great climbers and can escape quickly.
Next time you visit the beach see what treasures you
can find for your crabs
Your pet store will have a range of ceramic and resin
ornaments such as branches, boats, stones
and other shapes for you to choose
change shells throughout their lives as
they grow. Growth is slow, around 1-2mm per
year so spare shells should always be available just
incase your crab
needs a better fitting shell. In the wild,
shells can be hard to find, so your crab may need
a new shell as
soon as you buy it. Lightweight shells are
best as the crab has to be able to carry it for a
long time, all
day, every day.
If your crabs fits snugly into his present shell, when
he withdraws back into it, no legs hang
out past the opening, this shell is the correct size
and fit. If they
do not fit snugly in the shell, their legs
hang out, and a new shell is required.
When selecting shells for your crabs, the size of the
opening will determine whether or not the
shell will fit your crab. Have a look at the opening
on the shell
that your crab has on already, then get
a new shell with just a slightly bigger opening.
As the crabs grow, their
legs get thicker, so need more shoulder
room in their shells. A selection of new shells is
better than one
shell that just does not fit your crab.
If you have a few crabs, they will probably all swap
and change shells
are crustaceans, they have their skeleton
on the outside of their body, it is called an exoskeleton.
In order to grow, once or twice a year, they shed this
Some crabs become sluggish and inactive when
they are about to moult, others spend more
time than usual in and around the water bowl.
drink more water in order to make their body swell slightly
in order to 'crack' their outer skin and
this helps the skin to be discarded in
a single piece. The crabs only shed the front half of their
skin, as the back half is soft, it is not
covered by this hard outer skeleton.
When crabs moult, it is a very traumatic time for them,
so you should take care not to touch them
too much whilst they are moulting. After
moulting, the skin is usually
left on the floor. You could be mistaken
in thinking it is another crab. If you do
find a skin, you can leave
it there. Crabs will eat this skin as it
is rich in calcium. They may eat this discarded
old skin before you know
they have actually moulted.
You will know when your crabs have moulted as they will
appear to be a slightly different colour.
Their legs and body may appear to be a pinkish/orange
quote blotchy. At this time, their outer
skin is very soft and easily damaged.
Crabs will usually bury in the sand for a week or so
while their skin hardens up. Do make sure
there is plenty of food and water in their
enclosure even if they are
inactive. They feed mainly at night so will
sneak out and feed during the night. While
their skin is soft,
don't touch the crabs, just leave them alone
but make sure they have plenty of food and
As Coenibita variabilis hermit crabs come in many colours,
whites, greys, browns and pale orange tones,
your crab will return to the original colour it was before
once his skin has hardened.
Once your crab has molted it is a good idea to remove
him from the other crabs and set him up in
a small isolation tank alone, with food and water, to
allow him to harden
up in peace and quiet, away from other crabs.
Some crabs change into a new shell after moulting, others
return to their old shell.
can lose legs and claws for many reasons.
They do regenerate these lost ones over several moults.
The legs will grow back with each moult though they will
appear smaller, but will increase in size each time the
crab moults. Crabs lose legs through fighting with other
crabs, stress, and through illness.
live in large colonies in the wild, with
members of all shapes and sizes. As there
is competition for new shells, this can lead to some
crabs trying to
pull others out of their shells so they can
steal them! Sometimes the crab being pulled by the
other crab will
drop a leg off to save himself. If you have
several crabs, make sure there are plenty of shells
to choose from.
Crabs will also fight if they are overcrowded. Bigger
crabs tend to push smaller ones out of
the way as they move around the tank. The solution
- provide some more
climbing objects so the crabs can spread
out a little, or get a larger tank for your crabs.
In captivity competition for food is not a problem as
numbers are not as large and adequate food
for them by you. Top
Stress among hermit crabs can be caused by:
Overcrowding and bullying
Extremes in temperature, too hot or too cold
Being dropped onto hard surfaces
A crab kept alone
Stress can make crabs inactive and sluggish. They can
also come out of their shell and walk about
'naked'. Some crabs just crawl off into the corner and
return to their shell. This leaves them open
to attack from other crabs, and they have no protection.
not normal for these crabs to walk about
without a shell on their soft body.
Many, many Crazy
fall victim to poisoning without
their owners realizing it. It is very important
to remember not to spray any chemicals
near your crabs, or where
your crabs play.
Cleaning chemicals such as furniture polish, insect
sprays, room deodorants and fresheners can
kill your crabs if the spray gets into
the food and water bowls.
Crabs then drink or eat the contaminated
food and water leading to poisoning and
death. As they have very small
bodies, only a small amount can have devastating
Another area for concern, is placing your crabs onto
carpet for recreation. Many carpets are cleaned
with chemicals, and much of the chemical
is left as residue
within the carpet fibres after the carpet
has dried. Crabs pick up these particles
of soap and cleaning chemicals
when they walk about on the carpet.
It is safer to play with your Crazy
on tiles or
linoleum floors which are cleaned and rinsed
so no residue remains.
Keeping your crabs in any room in the house where there
are sprays being used can cause poisoning.
In the bedroom, hair sprays and deodorants
are chemicals toxic to crabs
Signs of poisoning include the crab dropping its' shell
off and crawling about naked. They may also
head for the water bowl and stay there.
The shell is held on by
muscles in the crabs' body, when they are
sick, they cannot hold the shell on. They
cannot wash off toxins
on their bodies, and will pull the affected
legs off. As their skin is porous, toxins
can get in through their
skin and kill them. Poisoning is usually
Remind mum to cover the crabs' home when spraying household
cleaners around your house. Top
In the wild, Crazy
have been known to live for
around 50 years. Growth in these crabs is
around 2mm per year, so to reach the size
of a tennis ball would
probably take around 50 years! They change
shells throughout their whole lives as
they grow bigger.
In captivity, life expectancy is really a matter of
how well they are cared for. Some people
have them for years without any trouble,
other owners have problems.
If you follow the simple rules of caring
for them, your Crazy Crabs can live for
a very long time indeed. Top
Handling your "Crazy Crabs"
no matter what size, need to be handled
with care. All crabs need to be placed on
an open palm and allowed to walk from hand to hand.
Don't let your
crab fall as this can cause injury and even
Never dangle him by the shell, he can reach around and
nip you on the finger as he is frightened
and thinks you may drop him onto the floor. In the
wild, birds pick
them up and carry them away, so keep them
on a steady open palm of your hand. Crazy
will usually only bite when they are frightened.
It is more of a pinch than a bite and causes
no damage to skin.
Larger crabs crawl quickly so handle them accordingly.
If your Crazy Crab does pinch you, lay your hand flat
on the ground and let him crawl off. He
will feel safe knowing you won't drop him. Or you
can run him under
cool water instead. Top
Games to play with your "Crazy Crabs"
Many crab owners take their crabs everywhere they go,
to school, friends' homes or even on holiday! If you
have friends with Crazy
, why not get together for
some fun activities such as Crazy Crab Races, or climbing
Many schools here in Western Australia have Crazy Crabs
in the classroom. They make great classroom pets, and
don't require complicated care. Ask your teacher about
getting some Crazy
as your classroom pets!
Where to buy your "Crazy Crabs"
Merv Cooper's 'Crazy
Crabs' were first introduced to
the Australian pet marketplace back in 1979. We were
the first company in Australia to market these cute little
The name "Crazy
Crabs" is a registered trademark
and can only be used on our merchandise
sold by our company. Crazy
Crabs has become a household name to Australians
and these pets seem to have never gone out
They are suitable for all types of people, whether you
live in a flat or unit, a caravan or even
on a boat. They are very easy-care and fun to keep
If you want to purchase a real "Crazy
Crab" look for
the bright pink posters in your local pet
store window. These stores support our
company and can supply you with
all the tips and accessories for
your Crazy Crabs. All our products have the
name/trademark of "Crazy
These stores know how to care for your
crabs so you can count on them for expert
advice about your Crazy
Crabs and their care.
If your local pet store cannot give you
the answers to your questions, or doesn't
stock Crazy Crabs, you
can always contact us for advice. ( Pet City
Carries a whole range of Crazy
Crabs and Crazy
Or Contact Merv Coopers Crazy Crabs Direct:
Merv Coopers' CRAZY CRABS
P.O. BOX 7037, Safety Bay WA 6169
Telephone: 08 9528 2722
Fax: 08 9528 2733
Email: mailto:email@example.com Our
retail store is situated at 12 Ambrose Street, Rockingham
Remember - If you want to email
us with a question, please make sure
your return email address is valid
and can receive mail. There is no way
of us answering your question if your email
address is invalid and
our reply to your question gets returned to us undelivered.
How to Purchase a healthy Crab
Visit your local pet city store and see whiat
they have in stock Crazy
. There are a number of things to
look for at the pet store, to make sure you
buy a healthy crab.
Is there a good selection of crab sizes in the
Do they have sufficient food to eat and water to
Are the crabs active or all asleep
Does the shop have a range of accessories for Crazy
Is the crab display clean or dirty
Does the crab display tank smell bad
When choosing a Crazy
, look for a crab that is
moving about. They do sleep during the day,
this does not mean they are unhealthy or
Ask the staff to turn a few crabs over, this usually
gets them moving around and gives you a chance
to see them properly.
Choose a crab that is active and has all
it's legs, antennae and two eyes. Leave the
ones that stay asleep.
Active crabs make better pets and respond
well to being handled. Top