How to Care for Halloween Moon Crabs

These animals need the right environmental conditions to thrive. Keeping Halloween moon crabs as pets means creating the best habitat you can for them.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please start there.

Photos by: Kirsti Stephenson
This is not a good beginner pet for a novice crabber or a child. Photos by: Kirsti Stephenson

I’ve heard that the average life span of Halloween moon crabs in captivity can range from months (if proper care guidelines aren’t followed) to 5 or 6 years. My 2 beauties are thriving at almost 8 years old since I received them, and there is no way to tell how old they were when I got them.

I’ve learned a lot during that time about caring for these animals. In this article, I discuss substrate, temperature/lighting, what to feed them and how to handle these amazing pet crabs.

Substrate

I moisten the substrate with a 2-liter jug of water regularly so that it penetrates the deep layers right to the bottom and remains moist for burrowing and digging, but it should not be soggy.

My crabs have 1.5 feet of substrate in depth to explore, which I believe has contributed to their longevity. Keeping them simply on newspaper, as the reptile store owner suggested, would have quickly led to their demise.

The substrate recipe I have invented and used most successfully:

  • It’s a mixture of condensed coconut husk fibers that comes in bricks at reptile stores and expands 4 times its size when soaked in water.
  • To this I added organic black soil that has no chemicals or pesticides added, as well as calcium-fortified reptile sand.
  • You can buy shells and bags of natural stones at the dollar store or a craft store to decorate the tank. This allows the crabs to roll them around and bury them to fortify the walls of their tunnels and underground dwellings. These crabs are intelligent and quite accomplished architects.

Temperature and Lighting

Temperature and proper lighting are important to this species, as Halloween moon crabs are generally found in tropical climates.

It’s essential that you use a reptile electric heating pad (affiliate link). Place it on the bottom or the side of your glass (not plastic) habitat. Alternatively, you can use a reptile lamp stand with a minimum 100-watt bulb hanging over the aquarium’s screen on one side of the environment.

As far as thermometers, you can use a reptile thermometer inside the cage to ensure the temperature is at least 75–90 degrees Fahrenheit on the hot side. Much like reptiles, Halloween moon crabs are cold-blooded animals and need to moderate their body temperature.

Halloween moon crabs
Offer your Halloween moon crabs a variety of food each night, then replace the food the next day.

What to Feed Halloween Moon Crabs

I provide a smorgasbord of tempting morsels offered in a shallow food dish that closely replicates what they would scavenge for and eat in the wild.

Over the years, some of their favorite and nutritionally beneficial foods have included:

  • Raw coconut (flesh and juices)
  • Seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Small pieces of fresh mango, pineapple or papaya
  • Romaine lettuce and mixed salad greens
  • An occasional sprinkling of commercial crab food
  • Freeze-dried mealworms
  • Fresh frozen and thawed crickets
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Sardines or plain uncooked, unspiced fresh fish
  • Shrimps with the shell on
  • Chicken
  • Applesauce

Basically, any fresh fruit and vegetables I am making for myself, I set aside some for my omnivorous Halloween moon crabs.

Keep in mind that crabs have small stomachs, so large amounts of food left in their food bowl will tend to go moldy quickly and smell. It’s best to offer a variety of items each evening and replace their food the next day.

Watch this contented Halloween moon crab mosey around his aquarium:

Handling Them

Try to handle your crabs as little as possible — it may stress them out, and their pincers are strong enough to penetrate a human finger.

I typically wear leather gloves to safely handle them and pick them up by the body from behind. Don’t pick them up by their pincers or legs — this could result in the loss of a limb.

Once every few weeks I allow them to run around my bathtub for additional space and exercise, and I place food items under fresh foliage to keep their wild instincts intact.

Halloween moon crabs, like other land crabs, are found in groups — so you shouldn’t keep them single. And it’s especially interesting to observe their behaviors and interactions at night.

One Final Word of Caution

My experience observing and interacting with these fascinating and beautiful creatures has been rewarding and enjoyable.

A word of caution if you’re considering Halloween moon crabs as your next pet: Make sure you have the finances, time and patience to provide a sizable habitat and the resources to maintain their requirements for healthy living.

This is not a good beginner pet for a novice crabber or a child. That being said, among all the different crabs I’ve had or encountered in my life, these colorful characters possess a wide range of unique personality traits and communal behavior that make them a wonderful and precious addition to your family.

Kirsti Stephenson

View posts by Kirsti Stephenson
An animal lover and herpetologist, Kirsti Stephenson volunteers with many conservation groups. She has many pets, from a Cornish Rex cat to sugar gliders, Halloween moon crabs, snakes, geckos, a bearded dragon and a door mouse, and she is a foster mom to chicks and ducklings to be released as adults to a local educational farm in her hometown of Toronto.

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