Although hermit crabs are sought after as pets, they can be fun to observe in their natural habitat. They might be difficult to find because of their camouflage and their tendency to run when disturbed. If you understand their behavior and know where to look, a day at the beach can become a playful for these peculiar crustaceans.
Find a rocky beach. Hermit crabs thrive where the ocean meets the land. A rocky habitat give them plenty of places to hide when the tide goes out.
Wait for low tide. When the tide ebbs, the ocean reveals part of itself that is inaccessible when the tide is high. At low tide, you can explore more of the hermit crab's natural habitat.
Approach the hermit crab habitat slowly. They will scuttle into the nearest shelter when they see you looming over them. By sneaking up on them, you have a better chance of spotting them as they run for cover.
Find a tide pool. Hermit crabs gather in the calm pools of water left behind by the sea at low tide.
Lift stones carefully. Hermit crabs will scramble for cover when frightened. Often, they will hide under loose rocks. Lift the rocks gently so as not to crush any creature beneath it.
Look for snail shells at about an inch across or larger. Hermit crabs have a soft shell, so they curl their bodies inside empty shells. As they grow, they abandon their shells for larger ones. If you see something that looks like a snail but moves fast or is easy to detach from the rock, it's probably a hermit crab.
Handle the crab gently. Its limbs will still be exposed when it retreats into its shell. If scared, it may abandon the shell, leaving it vulnerable to the environment.