Strawberry Hermit Crab

Coenobita perlatus

Last updated: September 7, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Lauren Suryanata/Shutterstock.com

When strawberry hermit crabs find shells that are larger than their own, they gather in a line from biggest to smallest. Once the biggest one sheds its shell, the next one in line will claim it, which is repeated down the line.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Malacostraca
Order
Decapoda
Family
Coenobitidae
Genus
Coenobita
Scientific Name
Coenobita perlatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Conservation Status

Strawberry Hermit Crab Locations

Strawberry Hermit Crab Locations

Strawberry Hermit Crab Facts

Prey
Fish, seagulls, true crabs, octopus
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
When strawberry hermit crabs find shells that are larger than their own, they gather in a line from biggest to smallest. Once the biggest one sheds its shell, the next one in line will claim it, which is repeated down the line.
Biggest Threat
Overcollection for pet trade
Most Distinctive Feature
Red-orange coloring
Habitat
Tropical and subtropical coastlines
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Common Name
Strawberry hermit crab
Location
Indo Pacific ocean

Strawberry Hermit Crab Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
  • White
Lifespan
25 years in the wild
Weight
2.5 to 3.5 ounces
Length
3 to 4 inches
Aggression
Low

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The strawberry hermit crab belongs to the Coenobitidae family, which includes the coconut crab. They are named after their famous red-orange coloration.

Strawberry hermit crabs occur mainly in the Indo-Pacific from Indonesia to Mauritius and the Great Barrier Reef. They primarily inhabit coastal areas with access to seawater, which helps with osmoregulation and breathing.

These crabs obtain their shells from marine gastropods, which they use to protect their supple abdomen. In addition, the shell protects them from drying out or shock and shields organs like the gonads and liver. They are nocturnal creatures like their giant cousin, the coconut crab.

Three Amazing Strawberry Hermit Crab  Facts

  • Strawberry hermit crabs are sought out for home aquariums because of their tiny size and attractive coloring
  • They use their olfactory antennae to locate water, food, and mates by capturing odors from the surrounding air.
  • These crabs live long in the wild, between 25 to 30 years. However, in captivity, their lifespan is very short and only ranges between 1 to 5 years.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Scientific Name

The strawberry hermit crab’s scientific name is Coenobita perlatus, and they belong to the Order Decapoda, which contains more than 8000 species of crustaceans in this order, and includes:

They have five pairs of thoracic legs, which is where the name decapod (Greek for “10 legs”). However, members vary significantly in size and diversity.

Strawberry hermit crabs are members of the Family Coenobitidae, which includes 17 species in two genera. They are land crabs that primarily inhabit tropical and supratidal areas. With the exemption of the coconut crab, they all shield their soft abdomen with a molluscan shell or any hollow receptacle they can find. In fact, on the Solomon Islands, they crawl into empty cartridge cases left over from World War II.

Other Types of Hermit Crabs

There are several types of hermit crabs, with the most well-known being:

Caribbean crab ( Coenobita clypeatus )

The Caribbean crab goes by many names like the West Atlantic crab, soldier crab, tree crab, and purple pincher. They are land crabs that inhabit the Bahamas, west Atlantic, Belize, Venezuela, Virgin Islands, Florida, and the West Indies.

Adult Caribbean crabs usually hide under the roots of large trees and can be found quite some distance inland. Similar to other terrestrial crabs, they breathe in air through modified gills. In addition, their shells aid in maintaining humidity levels and help gas exchange function properly.

Ecuadorian crab (Coenobita compressus) 

The Ecuadorian crab is one of the smallest species of land hermit crab, measuring only 0.47 inches in length

They have one large pincer, one small pincer, and four legs and antennae. People keep Ecuadorian crabs as pets, and they are very active. Ecuadorian crabs are extremely fast walkers, even quicker than Caribbean hermit crabs.

Land Hermit Crab (Coenobita cavipes)

Land hermit crabs tend to live close to the shoreline because they need access to both land and water. They have recently become trendy aquarium pets but do not breed in captivity, so they are collected from their natural habitats, which is detrimental to their population size.

The land hermit is an omnivore and scavenger. These crabs are not picky eaters and will generally eat anything they can find. However, they do not consume former residents of their shells.

Ruggies (Coenobita rugosus)

Ruggies are land hermit crabs that originate from Indonesia, the east African coast, Australia, and the southwest Pacific. They live close to shorelines but can be found up to 300m from the beach. Ruggies prefer to inhabit sand dunes, mangroves, and sandy areas because they cannot swim.

They do go into the water but can only stay there for brief periods. Ruggies use this time to moisten their gills and to bathe. However, if they spend too much time underwater, they can drown. If they can not access water, they use the liquid from damp soil or food to wet their lungs.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Appearance

It is really easy to identify the strawberry hermit crab because of its orange-red coloration. They are considered to be the most attractive crab of their genus.

Adult strawberry hermits are usually bright red with white spots covering their bodies, with a pure white abdomen. Their eyes are primarily brown; however, sometimes, they are gray or deep black.

Juveniles are a lighter orange to red color. However, once they start to grow, their color gradually changes to vibrant red. In addition, they have white streaking on their legs that fades as they age, giving them the nickname “candy cane crabs.”

Strawberry hermit crabs are one of the larger species of their genus and can grow up to 6 inches long. However, their average length is 3-4 inches, and they can weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 ounces.

A strawberry hermit crab in profile
You can identify a strawberry hermit crab by its orange-red coloration.

Lauren Suryanata/Shutterstock.com

Fun Fact

When strawberry hermit crabs find shells that are larger than their own, they gather in a line from biggest to smallest. Once the biggest one sheds its shell, the next one in line will claim it, which is repeated down the line.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Behavior

These colorful crabs like to keep busy and enjoy exploring their habitats by climbing, burrowing, and roaming, mostly at night. However, they are active during the day but are primarily nocturnal. This is because they stand a better chance of avoiding predators in the dark.

As pets, they are very messy and will rearrange nearly everything in their tank within hours. They do well in groups because they are social animals and are often seen toppling over each other. In addition, they frequently have feeler fights and pushing contests, which is an opportunity to smell each other.

When they are threatened or want to rest, they will retreat into their gastropod shell and, when in captivity, might attack a tank mate with its pincers.

Shells are a hot commodity in a strawberry hermit crab’s world and their most treasured possession. So, naturally, they fight over shells, often losing them in the process. During these volatile encounters, they make a chirping noise.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Habitat

Strawberry hermit crabs are indigenous to tropical and subtropical areas. They are widely distributed across the Indo Pacific in places like:

They are generally found along coastlines on lower terraces, within close proximity to the sea. It’s very rare for strawberry hermit crabs to venture inland because of their dependency on salt water.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Diet

Strawberry hermit crabs get their vibrant coloring from their diets. Therefore, they need food with high amounts of carotene, which is a natural pigment found in many plants, animals, fruit, and vegetables.

These crabs are omnivores, meaning they need meat and plant-based food for a healthy and balanced diet. Their diet usually consists of:

  • Seaweed
  • Washed-up fish
  • Mollusks
  • Other invertebrates
  • Terrestrial plants

Strawberry Hermit Crab Predators and Threats

Because of their tiny bodies, strawberry hermit crabs fall prey to many animals. However, their main predators include:

Their biggest threats are over collection for the pet trade and pollution. However, there is no data on their population size, and they are not listed on IUCN’s Redlist.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Strawberry hermit crabs have a long lifespan in the wild and can live for 25 to 30 years. But unfortunately, in captivity, they only live between 1 to 5 years.

This is because it’s hard to replicate their natural habitat, and they need a regular supply of seawater, which is not easy to maintain. Therefore, they do not breed in captivity. So, the pet trade relies solely on wild-caught species.

No visible distinctions between males and females make it hard to tell them apart. The only way to tell them apart is the presence of genital openings in females.

Male strawberry hermit crabs initiate mating by gently tapping and rocking the shell of females, which coaxes them to come out of their shells.

Females carry thousands of eggs inside their shells and venture to the ocean to release them. The eggs hatch into planktonic marine larvae. These larvae need salt water to develop and survive and are very responsive to light.

Strawberry Hermit Crab Population

Unfortunately, there is no available information on record about the strawberry hermit crab’s population size.

Strawberry Hermit Crab as a Pet

Having a strawberry hermit crab in your home aquarium is no easy task. They have very specific requirements that, if not met, can cause fatalities. Their main needs are a spacious, clean, organized tank and to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible.

Aquarium Size

Only having one strawberry hermit crab will be detrimental to their health. They must stay in pairs but having two or three means a larger tank ( at least 30 gallons). These crabs need all this space because they are so active and like to crawl around a lot. In addition, they are also diggers and climbers. For example, in the wild, they can travel several miles in a few hours.

If put in a small tank, they will become aggressive and attack each other, causing stress and reducing their lifespan.

Water

Strawberry hermit crabs cannot survive without seawater and need a constant supply for survival. However, they also need fresh water intermittently.

Their tank will always need a bowl of salt water and fresh water. These bowls need enough water for the strawberry hermit to completely submerge itself (usually a few inches deep).

There is no need to travel to the ocean every time salt water is needed. Instead, Instant Ocean Marine Salt will do the trick and won’t break the bank. Please note that simple aquarium salt or table salt should never be used!

Freshwater should always be distilled or bottled spring water. Tap water contains chlorine, which is toxic but can be used if it’s left to age for 24 hours.

Any substances containing chloramine, chlorine, and contaminants must be removed from the water before being added to the aquarium, and the water must be changed every 2 to 3 days.

Temperature

Because strawberry hermit crabs are cold-blooded, their body temperature varies with their environment. This means they depend on an external heat source since they do not control their heat balance.

The best temperature for strawberry hermit crabs is 80 °F; however, their temperature can fluctuate between 75 – 84 °F, which is what they experience in their natural habitat.

Humidity

Humidity is a huge factor in the strawberry hermit crab’s survival. This is because they are very susceptible to fluctuations in humidity. Ideally, it should be 80% around the clock; however, anything above 70% will work too.

Although they live on land because of their modified gills, in order to breathe, they need to keep their gills moist. Humidity aids in slowing down the dehydration rate.

Sand

The aquarium needs damp sand so the strawberry hermit crab can burrow. Once underneath the sand, you mustn’t dig them up!

The sand must always be damp so the crabs can form a cave. However, it can’t be too wet, causing wet pools of water. Good options are:

  • Pool-filler sand
  • Play sand
  • All-purpose sand

To prepare the sand, place it in a bucket and use a hose to spray it down. Next, the excess water will flow out of the bucket and will be cloudy at first. After a while, the water will start to run clear; that’s when it’s ready for use.

Lighting

Just because strawberry hermit crabs are nocturnal doesn’t mean they don’t need lighting. Therefore, they need special light and basking bulbs. However, ensure the output is not too hot; otherwise, the tank can overheat, which will harm the hermits.

These crabs have taken to UVB lamps; this could be due to them triggering vitamin D production. These bulbs should be replaced twice a year.

Decorations

Strawberry hermit crabs are very active and need a lot of stimulation. Therefore, adding items like driftwood or natural vines would be beneficial.

Tankmates

These crabs thrive with members of the same species. However, other animals make good tank mates, too; they include:

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

Strawberry Hermit Crab FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How big can a strawberry hermit crab get?

Strawberry hermit crabs are one of the larger species of their genus and can grow up to 6 inches long. However, their average length is 3-4 inches, and they can weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 ounces.

Do strawberry hermit crabs live in water?

They are land crabs that primarily inhabit tropical and supratidal areas.

How much do strawberry hermit crabs cost?

Strawberry hermit crabs can set you back $19 to $20.

Sources
  1. Aquariadise, Available here: https://www.aquariadise.com/strawberry-hermit-crab/#:~:text=Strawberry%20hermit%20crab%20diet,wild%2C%20strawberry%20hermits%20are%20omnivores.
  2. Tetiaroasociety, Available here: https://www.tetiaroasociety.org/island/invertebrates/strawberry-hermit-crab
  3. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coenobita_perlatus
  4. Aquarium Breeder, Available here: https://aquariumbreeder.com/strawberry-hermit-crab-detailed-guide-care/

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