A House for Your Hermit Crab

Now that you've read the preceding page about the correct shell for your type of crab, it's time to examine different shells and see how they measure up.  Note that most of these shells are for use by the purple claw crab. For shells for Ecuadorian or C. Rugosus crabs, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The following shells have actually been worn by hermit crabs, but discarded for one reason or another. They are in three groups: great crab shells, good crab shells, and uncomfortable crab shells.

The great crab shells are shells that your crab will have a hard time resisting, and if s/he does change shells after being in one of these, chances are the crab will switch to another of these shells or other shells in the same category.

The good crab shells are shells that your crab will switch into if there are no other great shells available, or will switch into for a day or so, sort of like 'trying on new clothing' and realizing it just doesn't 'go' with anything else in the wardrobe!

The uncomfortable shells are shells that your crab will absolutely LEAP out of to get into shells of the other two categories. They are shells that a crab in the wild would view favorably, but which our 'spoiled' crabs in captivity prefer to avoid.

Let's look at some sea shells!

Great crab shells! These shells are 'it'-- the 'creme de la creme' of hermit crab shells. With their smooth mother-of-pearl interiors, nice heft, perfect coil to the right, these shells are nirvana for a crab's delicate abdomen. The mother-of-pearl caresses the soft abdominal skin, while the thickness of the shell insulates the crab from predators and temperature extremes. Click on the pictures to make them larger.

Green Turbo Tapestry Turbo Trochus pica or native shell
Turbo Sarmaticus Gold Mouth Turbo
Good crab shells! These shells are the types of shells that your crab will likely be wearing when you buy him or her at the pet store (with the exception of the trochus pica or native shell above). A crab will stay in these shells for a while, but, given a consistently available choice of the shells of the proper size in the great category above, the crab will likely switch in a few days to a few months.
Fox Shell Pink Murex Striped Land Snail
Unidentified tan shell

Uncomfortable shells!
Your crab will thank you a hundred times over if you stay away from  Muffin shells and Tonna shells.  The chances are high that if you have any of these shells lying about, it is because your crab left them behind without so much as a backwards glance as soon as you gave him or her an alternative from either of the categories above! They are uncomfortable for our 'spoiled' crabs because they either are thin-walled and do not offer much protection from the elements, or perhaps the coil of the shell is awkward for the crab to maneuver. Whatever the reason, if your crab is wearing one of these, please endeavor to find him/her a more suitable home from the selections in the previous two categories! Tonna shells in particular are waaay too thin to stand up to the rigors of happy and healthy hermit crabs.  Retailers offer them at a lower price than other shells but don't be fooled!  The extra money you spend on one turbo is worth having to buy five tonnas and then send them back because of holes in them and/or crab disinterest.  

Shells for Ecuadorian and C. rugosus: Suiting our bright-eyed rambunctious little friends!

As you read in the previous page, Ecuadorian crabs (and also crabs of the species C. Rugosus, commonly called Ruggies) prefer shells with more of a slit-shaped opening. Specifically, they adore shells from their native environment.

If you are looking for a shell for either of these species, your best source is the pet store where you bought him or her. The sad fact is that since many pet stores don't know how to take care of these crabs correctly, so there will probably be a fish bowl or other container of empty shells at the pet store from hermies who have died there.  Pick out one that seems to fit your crab and sterilize it well once you get home.

The picture below will help you find an ideal shell for your Ecuadorian crab. It compares an 'ideal' purple-claw crab shell with an 'ideal' Ecuadorian crab shell. Note in particular the shape of the shell opening.

E Shell vs. PP ShellThe next picture is a small collection of favored Ecuadorian shells. Feel free to print out the picture and take it with you to the pet store to make sure you get the right shell for your Ecuadorian crab. A few shells Ecuadorian crabs favor can be found at Seashells.com. Look in the "medium shells" category. In particular, the shark-eye moon shells are Ecuadorian favorites. A Collection of Ecuadorian Shells

There you have it, a beginners course on your crab's favorite type of shell! Most of the 'great' (and some of the 'good') purple-claw crab shells can be purchased online at my favorite crab sea shell places, Sea Shell City, and Shell Horizons.com. You can get lovely turbo shells in bulk at Shell Horizons for a steal of a price!

Special note about jumbo crab shells: Shells for the 'big boys' are often difficult to find and very expensive. I've paid up to $30 PER SHELL for quality jumbo shells. You don't have to any more! Numerous sites sell the beautiful green turbo shells that jumbo crabs cherish!  I have found them at Petdiscounters.com for less than $12 per shell. Be warned, however, most of the other shells they advertise for jumbos will not be received gladly by your big guys. My jumbos (with the notable exception of Tank in the late 1970s) all abandoned any murex or tonna shells they were in at the pet store and leaped into the turbos at the first opportunity. Some other good sites for jumbo shells are Shell Horizons.com (go to the Gems of the Sea page). Also, the employees at Sea Shell City are very helpful when it comes to extra-large shells, and, if necessary, will PERSONALLY search their inventory to find a shell for your crab.

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Christa Wilkin 2005