Can You Keep Halloween Moon Crabs as Pets?
The answer is … YES!
I was recently asked to write something up about Halloween Moon Crabs by a friend, Mary, who recently acquired one. She loves her pet (a lot!) and is planning on getting a second one to keep it company since crabs are known to be social creatures by nature and live longer, healthier lives when in the company of crabs of the same species.
Halloween Moon Crabs (also known as the Halloween Hermit Crab) can be found in mangrove, sand dunes and rain forests along the Pacific coast from Mexico south to Peru and Costa Rica. They can grow anywhere from 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 cm) long and have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years! They are nocturnal and can digs burrows – sometimes as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters) in the wild. They live in the forest at least some of their adult lives but need to return to the ocean to breed. Moon Crabs are largely herbivorous and consume leaf litter and seedlings.
The Moon Crab has a pair of largely purple claws, reddish-orange legs, and an almost entirely blackish carapace (the dorsal [upper] section of the exoskeleton or shell), with a pair of yellow, orange or maroon spots behind the eyes, and an additional pair of whitish spots on the central-lower carapace.
HOLLOWEEN MOON CRABS AS PETS
The Halloween Moon Crabs do quite well in captivity. They are tame but do require constant attention. Being nocturnal, Moon Crabs sleep during the day and come out at night. These reptiles require a lot of heat and moisture and several homes (shells) throughout their lifespan.
Halloween Moon Crabs do not need much space when they are young, and as they grow their environment must be able to sustain them. The most common size for an enclosure is a 10 or 15-gallon aquarium with at least two water dishes and some things to hide in.
Moon Crabs enjoy climbing, so make sure they have something to climb on. This can be rocks, rough wood, plastic plants, or better yet, a piece of cork bark.
Halloween Crabs need access to water to keep their gills moist. The water dishes should adequate and must be shallow and wide to allow access and keep the water from running dry. Water should be changed daily to ensure the water is clean and to prevent bacteria from growing.
A moist substrate needs to be provided to create a good humidity level for your pet and provide them a place to dig. The most commonly used substrate is about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of sand, plus an additional 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) of moist peat moss. Moon crabs need a large amount of water to survive and a constant humidity level right around 70%. The terrarium should be set up so that the temperature is between 80° and 85°F and should not be allowed to drop below 78°F or be raised above 85°F at any time.
A low wattage light bulb is the most suitable lighting for Moon Crabs because it helps keep the humidity high while keeping the terrarium darker. Less light will make the crab feel more comfortable and safe while still providing enough light to see them and enough heat to create evaporation.
Molting is the process of the crab losing a layer of skin and growing a new one, which happens about once every 18 months or so. This process usually takes several days to complete. The first signs that a crab is molting is when it turns a very dull color and/or turns white around the eyes. During this time, darkness is encouraged and handling should be limited to little or none. Provide food as normal but keep the lights low or off, and do not try to peak at or disturb the crab if it is hiding.
After the molting process is complete the crab will eat some or most of its old skin to gain the calcium and other nutrients in it. This is natural and should be allowed to happen. If the exoskeleton is not completely eaten within two days of molting then it is okay to take it out. For a healthier diet, some people recommend grinding up the remainder of the exoskeleton and adding it to the next meal.
Good food sources for the Halloween Moon Crab include fruits such as what they would find in their natural environments like mangoes, papayas, and coconuts. Vegetables of all kinds also provide proper nutrients. They will also eat meats, but the meat must be cooked thoroughly or your Moon Crab may be at risk of health problems. Crabs will not eat when they are not hungry, so overfeeding will not be a problem. Place a small amount of food in the feeding dish each day and remove any left-overs from the day before. If there is no leftover food then try adding a little more each day until there is at least a little leftover. Under feeding your pet can be deadly.
Each Moon Crab has its own attitude and behavior, so handling can sometimes be tricky. Try to handle your pet crab every day so that it will get used to human interaction. Doing so may change a “crabby” disposition to a more human-friendly one. (Halloween Crabs have those pincers and know-how to use them.) Some may always want to pinch or stay tucked away and then there are others who are always craving attention and are not shy at all. The best advice is to learn your crab’s behaviors and deal with them accordingly.
Updated: This post was first published on 8/4/1014.
** Thank you, MARY STEWART and “SEBASTIAN” for suggesting I do a post on Halloween Moon Crabs. **
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