Buying hermit crabs as pets can be a fantastic experience. However, it’s wise to learn about them before making a commitment.
Many people buy hermit crabs and don’t know what to expect. This causes them to make mistakes that can put the hermit crabs in danger.
You might have heard about hermit crabs molting. If you’re completely new to hermit crabs, you might not even know what molting is yet.
Do hermit crabs molt? What does this entail?
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about hermit crabs and molting. This should help you to have a smooth experience as a new hermit crab owner.
What Is Hermit Crab Molting?
Molting is a process that all hermit crabs go through. This is something that will occur many times throughout a hermit crab’s life.
So yes, hermit crabs do indeed molt. Molting is a part of a hermit crab’s growing process.
You see, like most living things, hermit crabs are going to grow as they age. They have exoskeletons that do not grow with them.
As the hermit crabs grow, they’re going to outgrow their current exoskeletons. Eventually, they will need to shed their exoskeletons and go through a molting process.
During the molting process, hermit crabs are able to grow new exoskeletons. It can take quite some time, but they will be able to regain control of their bodies once they’re done.
A hermit crab grows a new exoskeleton and it will harden. While the hermit crab is molting, it’ll be in a vulnerable state.
Hermit crabs bury themselves in the sand when molting. They remain motionless during this process, and many new hermit crab owners mistakenly think that their crabs have died.
You’re not supposed to disturb hermit crabs while they’re molting. So leave your hermit crab alone until it resumes normal activity.
Why Do Hermit Crabs Molt?
Hermit crabs molt as a natural part of their life cycle. This is something that they need to do.
They molt when they need to shed their exoskeletons. The old exoskeleton is shed and the hermit crab will often eat it.
This is done in an effort to gain energy to get through the molting process. When the hermit crab sheds its exoskeleton, it is molting so that it can grow a new one.
Growing a new exoskeleton takes time. Hermit crabs need to have exoskeletons because they’re incredibly vulnerable without them.
Even the exoskeletons don’t provide a lot of protection. This is why hermit crabs utilize shells that used to belong to sea snails.
Without an exoskeleton, a hermit crab could easily die. Growing a new exoskeleton is of the utmost importance.
During the molting process, hermit crabs can regrow limbs as well. Hermit crabs can lose legs for many different reasons.
Stressed hermit crabs are sometimes known to lose a leg. Legs can also be lost during fights with predators or other hermit crabs.
Knowing this, you can see why the molting process is important. While molting, hermit crabs can regrow lost legs and even lost claws.
Sometimes it’ll take multiple molting sessions for the hermit crab to fully regrow a lost limb or claw, though. So it’s important for hermit crabs to be able to molt every so often.
How Do Hermit Crabs Molt?
Hermit crabs molt by burying themselves in the sand for protection. They dig below the ground so that they can stay away from other creatures.
By digging, they’re able to create a little “cave” for themselves under the sand. This area will be very dark and it’ll help the hermit crabs to release the molting hormone that they need to release to enter a molting state.
Hermit crabs cannot molt if they’re unable to dig into the ground. They need to fully submerge their bodies in the sand to molt properly.
In captivity, this isn’t going to be a problem so long as you have enough sand in the tank. You need to make sure that the substrate is deep enough for the hermit crabs that you own.
Generally, it’s better to have more sand than too little. So do your best to provide the hermit crab with an appropriate substrate so it can molt properly.
Once the molting process begins, it’ll shed its exoskeleton. It’s common for hermit crabs to eat the old exoskeleton for sustenance.
The hermit crab will remain motionless and buried in the sand while it molts. This can be a long process, but you need to leave the hermit crab alone during this time.
When Do Hermit Crabs Molt?
You’ll find that hermit crabs molt when it’s necessary for them to do so. When a hermit crab has outgrown its exoskeleton, it’s going to need to molt.
Typically, hermit crabs molt once every twelve to eighteen months. An adult hermit crab usually molts every eighteen months, but there can be situations that will trigger the crab to molt more frequently.
For example, when a hermit crab loses a leg or two, it might molt more frequently until it has fully regrown its lost appendages. The same is true when a hermit crab loses a claw.
So sometimes hermit crabs will molt a bit more often than usual. It’s common for them to molt once every twelve to eighteen months, but various factors could sway things in one direction or another.
How Long Do Hermit Crabs Molt?
The amount of time it takes for a hermit crab to finish molting varies based on various factors. For example, a larger hermit crab is going to take longer to finish molting.
Generally, the process is always going to take weeks to finish. It can potentially take much longer than that.
Sometimes a hermit crab won’t be done molting even after a month has passed. It’s common for molting periods to last for four to eight weeks.
It can be nerve-wracking as a pet owner to wait to see if your pet is okay. Sometimes hermit crabs don’t make it through the molting process.
There is a chance that your pet could die while molting. This occurs when the hermit crab doesn’t have sufficient nutrients to make it through.
Generally, this shouldn’t happen if you’ve been feeding the crab well and giving it access to enough water before it starts molting. You never try to feed the crab while it’s molting.
Disturbing a molting hermit crab has the potential to kill it, too. Checking on the hermit crab to see if it’s alive might seem like an innocent choice to make, but it will endanger your pet.
Hermit crabs that get startled during molting will become rather shocked. They might die on the spot, but even if they don’t, it’s common for them to lose their legs.
Hermit Crab Molting Stages
There are four basic stages that you should know about. Hermit crabs will go through these four stages every time they need to molt.
First, the hermit crab will go through the preparation stage. This involves getting ready to molt.
During this time, hermit crabs will start to eat more food than usual. They also drink a lot of water.
You might see the hermit crab digging in the sand more than usual. Eventually, the hermit crab will start to look a bit different.
You’ll see that the hermit crab has a glazed-over look in its eyes. Also, its exoskeleton will start to look gray.
Next, the hermit crab will dig into the sand and make its little cave area. It’ll shed its exoskeleton and begin the molting process.
This period involves growing a new exoskeleton. It takes quite a bit of time for the hermit crab to grow a new exoskeleton.
It’ll also attempt to regrow lost legs or claws during this stage. This won’t always happen in one molt since it usually takes multiple molting sessions to completely regrow legs and claws.
The third step involves hardening the new exoskeleton. After growing the new exoskeleton, the hermit crab will remain where it is as the exoskeleton hardens.
It takes time for the exoskeleton to become hard enough. The hermit crab is still very vulnerable until it hardens properly.
Finally, the hermit crab goes through a recovery period. Your hermit crab will return to normal activity when it’s ready.
Once you see the hermit crab moving around, you can start feeding it normally again. You resume the normal care routine until the next time the hermit crab molts.
Do Hermit Crabs Shed Their Skin?
No, hermit crabs do not shed their skin. If you ever see your hermit crab look as if something is wrong with its body, it could be a sign that it’s irritated in some way.
Hermit crabs only shed their exoskeletons. They shed the exoskeletons when necessary and grow new ones through the molting process.
As mentioned earlier, this is something that happens every twelve to eighteen months for most hermit crabs. It takes a while for hermit crabs to finish molting, too.
Expect hermit crabs to molt for at least four weeks, in most cases. It could take two months or slightly longer, though.
These pets don’t shed their skin like snakes. Molting is different from shedding skin.
Do Hermit Crabs Shed Their Claws?
Hermit crabs can lose their claws, but they don’t shed them. If a hermit crab loses a claw, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
There are a few things that could be happening. The hermit crab might have been injured in a fight or it could have become very stressed.
Stress is something that can cause hermit crabs to lose their legs. It’s even possible that hermit crabs that aren’t being cared for properly will lose claws.
This isn’t as common as losing legs, but it can occur when the hermit crab’s care requirements aren’t being met. Ensure that the tank is in the right condition for the hermit crab so you can keep it safe.
If the hermit crab was injured, there’s a good chance that it was injured in a fight with another crab. Sometimes hermit crabs will fight each other over replacement shells.
This is why you want to try to prevent fighting issues in the tank. When fights escalate, one or both hermit crabs could wind up losing legs or claws.
To keep fighting issues at a minimum, you can buy multiple replacement shells. Keep multiple shells of the same size so the crabs won’t feel the need to fight.
Another thing to consider is whether the crab was damaged while you were handling it. Dropping a crab is dangerous and you can kill it by dropping it if you aren’t careful.
If you dropped the crab a little bit or handled it too roughly, you might have pulled a claw off. This has been known to happen, but it’s not something that should happen if you’re handling the hermit crab correctly.
Do Hermit Crabs Molt in Their Shell?
Yes, hermit crabs molt in their shells. When hermit crabs are molting they will dig down into the sand with their shells.
The shells remain around them while they molt. Sometimes you might see a hermit crab partially hanging out of the shell while it’s molting, though.
They don’t usually leave their shells often. Hermit crabs use the shells for protection and the shells go with them when they molt.
Once the hermit crab is done molting, it’ll begin looking for a new shell. The crab is going to be larger and it’ll need a bigger shell to fit its new body.
This is why you’re supposed to keep replacement shells in the tank. It’s important to have replacement shell options for your pet hermit crabs.
What to Do When Hermit Crabs Molt
It’s imperative to leave your hermit crabs alone when they molt. You don’t really need to do anything.
Once the molting session has started, you can’t do anything to help the crab. Disturbing the crab will risk its life.
You can learn to recognize the signs of molting. This will give you a good idea of when the crab is going to get ready to molt.
Many people like to isolate their crabs while they’re molting. For example, you could put a hermit crab that is about to molt in a separate tank where it can remain isolated and protected.
It’s possible that the other hermit crabs could disturb the molting hermit crab. This could be a problem since it could kill the crab.
So you can preemptively take action and separate a hermit crab that is getting ready to molt. You aren’t supposed to move a crab that’s already molting.
How to Tell if Hermit Crab Is Dead
Of course, you might be worried that the hermit crab has passed away. If months have passed and the hermit crab is still buried in the sand, you might be concerned that it simply died.
This is possible, but you don’t want to jump to conclusions. Remember that sometimes molting periods will take longer than normal.
There are ways that you can tell when a hermit crab is dead, though. You simply need to smell the tank.
Hermit crabs smell atrocious when they die. The smell is very much like the smell of dead and rotting fish.
A dead hermit crab will smell so horrible that you won’t be able to ignore it. So there’s a good chance that your hermit crab isn’t dead if you haven’t noticed a terrible odor.
Smell the tank now and then to see if the hermit crab has died. If the tank starts to smell like dead fish, it’s a sure sign that the hermit crab passed on.
What to Do With a Dead Hermit Crab
If your hermit crab dies, it’s important to dispose of it properly. The hermit crab should be removed from the tank as soon as you know it has passed away.
Generally, it’s recommended to put any living hermit crabs in a temporary holding tank. You can leave them there while you clean the main tank up.
Remove the sand from the tank and replace it with new sand. You’re also going to want to wipe the tank down with distilled water.
It’s prudent to boil decorations and replacement shells to purify them. You simply want to make sure that no bacteria is left behind that might harm the living hermit crabs.
If you want to reuse the shell that your pet hermit crab died in, you can boil it. Removing the shell from the hermit crab can sometimes be tricky, though.
It’s easier if you put the hermit crab in a plastic bag and then stick it in the freezer for an hour or so. This makes the dead crab’s body stiff so you can remove the shell.
Bury the hermit crab in the yard. It’s wise to bury it deep enough so that animals won’t be able to dig it up.
Throw away the old sand and put new sand in the tank. Wipe down the rocks, decorations, and everything else.
Once you’re finished, you can put the living hermit crabs back in the tank. Do this every time a hermit crab dies in the tank just to be safe.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.