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Do Hermit Crabs Live in Water? (And Can They Drown?)

Do Hermit Crabs Live in Water? (And Can They Drown?)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s no secret that hermit crabs are becoming quite popular as pets. They’re certainly still considered to be exotic pets, but many people are opening up to caring for them in their homes.

Many think that they’re good options since they aren’t very big. A hermit crab habitat doesn’t take up a lot of space, and that’s great for people who don’t have large homes.

You might know a bit about hermit crabs already, but there are things that many people are confused by. For example, many people don’t understand if hermit crabs can only live on land or if they can live in water as well.

Do hermit crabs live in water? Continue reading to get all of the important information about this topic.

Once you’ve read everything, you’ll feel more informed about the different types of hermit crabs that exist. It should make it easier to decide what you want as a pet, too.

Can Hermit Crabs Breathe Underwater?

There are indeed hermit crabs that can breathe underwater. However, you should know that hermit crabs that can breathe underwater are significantly different from the ones that are commonly sold at pet stores.

The hermit crabs that you see at pet stores living in terrariums without water cannot breathe underwater. You see, there are land hermit crabs and marine hermit crabs.

Some hermit crabs are capable of living on land while others are only capable of living underwater. A marine hermit crab lives its entire life in the ocean, and it can only go on land for very brief periods without dying.

Land hermit crabs would die if they stayed in the water too long. Water is still very important to land hermit crabs, but they can’t breathe underwater the same way that marine hermit crabs can.

So it’d be terrible to try to put a land hermit crab in a fish tank with water. It’d simply wind up dying if you did that.

Likewise, you can’t try to put a marine hermit crab on land. It’ll die without having water, and it needs to have the right type of water to survive, too.

Knowing this, it’s easier to differentiate between the two basic hermit crab categories. You should know that land hermit crabs and marine hermit crabs always have completely different care requirements.

Both are sometimes kept as pets, but marine hermit crabs will be kept in fish tanks. Some people keep marine hermit crabs in community tanks with fish.

Can Hermit Crabs Drown?

Hermit Crab Crawling Out of a Water Dish

Land hermit crabs can and will drown if they get stuck in the water. So you want to be very careful when caring for these pets.

Marine hermit crabs cannot drown in water since they have normal gills. Land hermit crabs are different.

When a land hermit crab submerges itself in water it can only survive for a certain amount of time. This is no different from a human being diving under the water.

Humans cannot breathe underwater either, and they will drown if they don’t come back up for air. The same is true for land hermit crabs.

One reason to take note of this is that hermit crabs need water to survive. Water is important for these creatures.

You’re supposed to keep two shallow water dishes in the hermit crab’s habitat. One is supposed to be filled with salt water while the other should contain fresh water.

Generally, hermit crabs will drink the fresh water and use the salt water for bathing. However, they might also drink the salt water sometimes, and it isn’t unusual for them to bathe in the fresh water either.

The shallow water dishes in the tank need to be deep enough so the hermit crab can fully submerge its body. However, it must also be easy for the hermit crab to get out of the water.

Many hermit crab owners buy shallow water dishes that have a ramp attached to them. This can make it simpler for the hermit crab to get out.

If a hermit crab gets stuck in the water, it’ll easily wind up drowning. So choosing the water dishes very carefully is truly important when you’re trying to keep these pets safe.

How Long Can Hermit Crabs Stay Underwater?

Of course, marine hermit crabs can stay underwater indefinitely. They have gills and they can simply breathe underwater.

Land hermit crabs are completely different. They can only remain submerged in the water for a limited amount of time before drowning.

Exactly how long a land hermit crab can stay underwater might differ from crab to crab. They can survive for longer underwater than most humans can, though.

On average, it’s said that a land hermit crab can stay underwater for twenty to thirty minutes before drowning. It’s not a good idea to let the hermit crab stay underwater for that long since you don’t want to push it.

Sometimes you might submerge a hermit crab to get it clean. This is also done when trying to get rid of parasites such as crab mites.

Hermit crabs also bathe themselves using the water dishes that you provide in the habitat. You want to make sure that they can get out of the water dishes easily so that they don’t stay stuck underwater for too long.

If a hermit crab stays in the water too long it’ll wind up dying. So always keep the safety of the hermit crab in mind.

Can Land Hermit Crabs Live in Water?

Hermit Crab Near Water

No, land hermit crabs cannot live in water. They can go in the water for brief periods of time safely, but they cannot live in water.

Land hermit crabs need sand and water to be able to function normally. They just don’t need to live in the water.

So a hermit crab habitat absolutely must have dishes of water that the hermit crab can utilize. It’ll store water in its shell, drink water, and bathe itself.

Don’t ever try to put a land hermit crab in water for too long. As mentioned above, you can bathe them to try to get rid of mites, but they can’t simply live in the water.

If you were to put a land hermit crab in a fish tank, it’d wind up dying within thirty minutes. It’d be cruel to do this to a land hermit crab.

Why are land hermit crabs able to breathe on the land, though? What makes them so different from marine hermit crabs?

Do Hermit Crabs Have Gills?

All hermit crabs have gills, but land hermit crabs and marine hermit crabs possess different types of gills. A marine hermit crab has standard gills that function like the ones that fish have.

A marine hermit crab can breathe underwater using its gills. Land hermit crabs still possess gills, but they work differently.

Land hermit crabs have developed modified gills that allow them to breathe oxygen. They function by staying moist, but these hermit crabs cannot stay submerged in water or they will drown.

A land hermit crab must live in a humid environment or its gills will dry out. This is why it’s important to use a humidifier when you’re keeping hermit crabs in a tank.

Also, hermit crabs use water to moisten their gills. They store water in their shells, and then they wet their gills with the water as necessary.

A marine hermit crab cannot survive on land. A marine hermit crab might be able to live on land for a few hours before dying, but this depends on how hot it is.

So you can see how different the two types of crabs are. They both possess gills, but they function so differently.

Can Hermit Crabs Live in Freshwater?

Only marine hermit crabs are supposed to live in water. Aside from this, you should know that marine hermit crabs are supposed to live in water that has specific parameters.

They need the proper salinity and pH balance to be able to thrive. This information is all based on where they can be found in the wild.

There are many different types of marine hermit crabs. To get the best information, it’s best to look up each hermit crab by species.

This will tell you the exact water parameters that you need for the hermit crab in question. You don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes due to not checking to see if everything is okay.

Don’t just place a marine hermit crab in freshwater and assume it’ll be okay. You need to meet the specific water parameters for these crabs just as you would when caring for fish.

Can Hermit Crabs Live in Tap Water?

Tap Water

It’s absolutely unwise to make marine hermit crabs live in tap water. Tap water is generally not suitable for marine life.

You shouldn’t be using tap water to fill a fish tank whether you’re caring for fish or marine hermit crabs. Why does this matter so much?

Well, tap water contains traces of chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride. These chemicals can be very harmful to fish and creatures such as hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs are very sensitive to chemicals. Land hermit crabs are also sensitive, and this means that you can’t give them tap water for drinking or bathing.

You need to make sure that you’re using distilled water. Even if you’re making saltwater for an aquarium, you need to start with distilled water as a base.

It’s only possible to use tap water if you dechlorinate it first. This involves using tablets or a special type of liquid to remove the chlorine from the water.

Can Hermit Crabs Swim?

Hermit crabs cannot swim. Marine hermit crabs walk around and climb while under the water.

Land hermit crabs can’t swim either. They do, however, need to submerge themselves in water regularly.

It’s important to have shallow water dishes for the hermit crab to use. The crab will submerge itself to stay cool, replenish its water stores, and for other reasons.

Sometimes hermit crabs might wade in the water. They just don’t swim.

You’re not going to be seeing either marine hermit crabs or land hermit crabs swim in a traditional sense. They can get around in the water, but it’s mostly walking and wading.

A marine hermit crab is far more adept when it comes to moving through the water, of course. The ability to breathe underwater makes a huge difference.

Final Thoughts

You’ve learned a lot about hermit crabs and their relationship with water. These creatures are so interesting, but not all of them can live in water.

Land hermit crabs have modified gills that allow them to breathe oxygen. These hermit crabs live on land, but they can survive for about twenty to thirty minutes when submerged in water.

Marine hermit crabs have normal gills and they can live underwater. They spend pretty much their whole lives underwater, but they can survive on land for brief periods of time before dying

The hermit crabs that you typically see in pet stores are land hermit crabs. You don’t want to try to put them in a fish tank filled with water.

These pets need to live in a terrarium environment with lots of sand, a humidifier, and a heater. They need water dishes for both freshwater and saltwater.

Marine hermit crabs can be kept as pets, too, but their care is more like the care necessary for fish. You have to put them in fish tanks with the right water salinity and pH balance.

Now you know more of what to expect when you are looking into hermit crabs as pets. They truly are good pets to own, but you just have to decide which type you want.

Even when sticking to land hermit crabs, there are many different options. You can find hermit crabs that grow to be quite large, as well as ones that stay fairly small.

Pick out the hermit crabs that will appeal to you the most. You should have a good experience as long as you do your best to meet their basic care needs.

Only buy hermit crabs if you’re ready to care for them properly. Be sure to let your friends and family members know what you learned about hermit crabs today, too.

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