Buying a hermit crab as a pet might be a very good idea. Depending on your situation, this might be the perfect pet for you.
Many find hermit crabs to be very convenient pets. They don’t take up a lot of space and they’re also relatively low-maintenance when compared to other pets.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t potential downsides. You might be wondering whether these creatures smell bad and if that’ll be a problem if you choose to buy one as a pet.
Do hermit crabs stink? Continue reading to get all of the information that you need about these fascinating pets.
Hermit Crabs Can Get Smelly
Hermit crabs can indeed get smelly. However, you can mitigate this by cleaning the habitat regularly.
You’ll learn more about hermit crab habitat maintenance later. For now, you should know that it’s common for hermit crab habitats to be a bit stinky.
You see, hermit crab habitats are small confined spaces. Sometimes it’s the habitat that will start to smell bad because it needs to be cleaned.
The humidity needs to be kept at a certain level in the habitat. This creates an environment where bacteria can grow and you might even have to deal with problems such as mold.
This is why it’s imperative to clean the tank every so often. If you don’t, the crab’s habitat is going to be unbearably odorous.
1 – Leftover Food
Leftover food might be what you’re smelling in the hermit crab’s habitat. Sometimes hermit crabs might not eat every single bit of food that you give to them.
The high humidity level in the habitat makes it so the food will rot rather fast. This makes the tank smell bad because you’ll smell rotting bits of food.
In some ways, the habitat might smell like a garbage can that hasn’t been emptied in too long. You can prevent this from happening by being as clean as possible.
Do your part to avoid leaving leftover food in the habitat. Try not to give your hermit crab too much food at once so there won’t be leftovers.
When you notice organic debris in the tank, it’s wise to clear it out. This should help to prevent issues with strong odors due to rotting food.
2 – Not Cleaning the Tank
Cleaning the tank is an important thing to do when you want to keep it smelling okay. If you don’t take the time to clean the habitat, it’s going to get rather stinky.
It’s wise to go around and do some spot cleaning of the tank each day. You can clean up excrement, bits of food, and any other debris that you see in the tank.
Regular spot cleaning makes it easier to keep the habitat smelling decent. You should also do a larger deep cleaning of the habitat on a weekly basis.
When you clean the tank more thoroughly, it’s best to move the hermit crab(s) to a holding tank. This will allow you to rinse the tank and ensure that it’s in good condition.
Regular habitat maintenance will ensure that it will never get too smelly. If you’re not a proactive pet owner, you might forget to do this.
For example, a pet owner who forgets to clean the hermit crab habitat for a month is going to have a very smelly problem to deal with. Someone who cleans a bit daily and does weekly deep cleaning sessions won’t have nearly as much to worry about.
3 – Stress Might Cause Hermit Crabs to Smell
Did you know that stress can cause hermit crabs to smell bad? There are many things that are known to cause hermit crabs to feel stressed.
When you first bring a hermit crab home from a pet store it might be smelly. This is because it’s stressed due to the situation.
Hermit crabs will be nervous about being moved to a new location. A hermit crab will take time to learn to trust you, and the stress will cause it to smell more than usual.
Of course, this issue will subside as the hermit crab becomes more comfortable with its new home. There are other things that might cause the crab to feel stressed, though.
When hermit crabs live in habitats that don’t have enough substrate, they’ll become very stressed. This is a situation you’ll want to remedy as soon as you can.
Not having enough hiding places in the tank can be stressful for these creatures. Be sure to give them plenty of hiding places so they can feel comfortable.
Bright lights and lots of noises can cause problems for hermit crabs. They will become scared and stressed if you put their habitats in noisy locations.
Handling hermit crabs too much will stress them out, too. You should keep handling to a minimum since this isn’t something that hermit crabs truly enjoy.
When the habitat gets too dirty, it’ll cause hermit crabs to feel stressed. This is another reason why cleaning the habitat is so crucial.
As you’d expect, problems with the temperature and humidity are known to cause stress. You should always monitor the conditions in the habitat to keep things safe.
Even loneliness has been known to cause stress. You should keep hermit crabs with others of their kind.
Ideally, you should keep a group of three or four hermit crabs in one habitat. You’ll need to buy a habitat that is large enough, but it is better for hermit crabs to have others of their kind to interact with.
Hermit crabs are social creatures, after all. They do best when kept with friends.
Now you know about the things that can stress hermit crabs and make them smell bad. Stressed hermit crabs will smell worse than usual, but you can turn things around by getting rid of the sources of stress.
4 – Overheated Hermit Crabs
It isn’t good to expose hermit crabs to temperatures that are too high. Generally, you want the temperature in the habitat to stay at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll use a heater most of the time to keep things where they need to be. It’s also important for the humidity to stay at 80% or close to it.
When temperatures start to get too hot, it’s not going to be good for the hermit crab. You see, high temperatures can cause hermit crabs to start drying out.
Overheated hermit crabs are going to be in danger. One of the first signs that a hermit crab is overheated will be a strong musty odor.
If you notice a musty smell near the hermit crab’s habitat, it’s wise to check the temperature to see what’s going on. Check the temperature and see if it’s higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You may need to make some changes to get things where they need to be. It could also be that the humidity level is off somehow.
Fixing this issue is important because the hermit crab could die. When hermit crabs dry out, it’s going to be impossible for them to breathe.
Misting the hermit crab might be a good temporary measure to take. The hermit crab can also cool off in a shallow dish of water by submerging itself.
5 – Molting Hermit Crabs Smell
Hermit crabs molt and this is something that they will do somewhat frequently. Eventually, hermit crabs are going to grow and they will need to molt.
Molting is crucial to hermit crabs because it’s a part of their survival. When hermit crabs molt, they shed their existing exoskeleton to grow another larger exoskeleton.
The discarded exoskeleton is simply dead tissue. It makes sense that this discarded exoskeleton would smell bad.
It’ll eventually start to rot and you’ll notice the smell. The crab itself will smell a bit unpleasant during the molting process, too.
Sometimes people worry that the hermit crab has died when it’s just molting. Once you’re more familiar with hermit crabs, it’ll be easier to recognize the signs of molting.
Before molting, hermit crabs will start to eat and drink more. This is to build reserves of water and fat so that they can survive the molting process.
It’s common for hermit crabs to dig more frequently when they’re preparing to molt. They will also wind up having their eyes look glazed over.
Eventually, the hermit crab will be a bit lazy. It might act lethargic for a little while before the true molting begins.
You might notice that the hermit crab will change colors and it’ll appear to be gray. Sometimes hermit crabs spill water on the substrate to create moisture, too.
The molting process takes quite a bit of time. During this molting process, the hermit crab is going to be fairly stinky.
Molting could take weeks or even months. It’s something that frustrates many hermit crab owners, but it’s something you have to accept when keeping these pets in your home.
6 – Dead Hermit Crabs Smell Terrible
Hermit crabs smell absolutely terrible when they die. This smell is nothing like the odor that you’ll notice when a hermit crab is molting.
Most people agree that dead hermit crabs smell sort of like dead fish. If you’ve ever smelled rotting fish before, it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect when a pet hermit crab dies.
This is a truly unpleasant odor that you won’t want to tolerate for long. When a hermit crab perishes, it’s wise to get rid of the body as soon as you can.
Of course, you must confirm that the hermit crab is actually dead first. If the hermit crab is just molting, you need to leave it alone.
Sometimes there is confusion about what is going on. The smell could be coming from a rotting exoskeleton, but the hermit crab could be eating that exoskeleton as a way to survive the molting process.
So you might need to wait if you’re unsure that the hermit crab is dead. Disturbing a molting hermit crab can actually cause great shock and this can lead to death.
One way to tell that a hermit crab has died is to look at how the other hermit crabs are reacting in the habitat. If the other hermit crabs seem very interested in the inanimate hermit crab, there’s a good chance that it died.
You see, hermit crabs are scavengers that will eat what they can in the wild. It’s normal for these creatures to eat their own dead.
It’s not wise to allow them to do this, though. The hermit crab could have died due to being sick or ingesting some type of toxin.
You should get rid of the body and throw away the substrate as well. Move any living hermit crabs to a holding tank while you dispose of the body.
Discard the old substrate and then clean the habitat thoroughly. Put new sand in the tank and then you can safely put the living hermit crabs back in there.
Now you know that hermit crabs can indeed be very smelly. This is one of the more annoying aspects of owning pet hermit crabs.
It’s not something that’s too tough to deal with, though. You can keep a hermit crab’s habitat smelling okay by cleaning it regularly.
Doing regular spot cleaning and cleaning the tank thoroughly each week will help. You can also work to keep the hermit crab from becoming stressed.
Since stress leads to making the hermit crab stinky, you’ll want to avoid stressing the crab. Give the crab an ideal environment and ensure that it has whatever it needs to thrive.
Molting hermit crabs are going to smell a bit bad. You do have to put up with this for a certain period of time.
It can be an annoyance, but it’s a simple fact of caring for hermit crabs that you must accept. Truly, it isn’t that big of a deal even though it can be nerve-wracking at times.
If your hermit crab perishes, it’ll smell like dead or rotting fish. This is a horrible odor and you’ll want to get rid of the body as soon as you can.
Knowing what to expect should make it easier to decide what to do. If you’re worried about the smell, buying a pet hermit crab might not be the best choice for you.
However, it’s not too tough to deal with overall. If you’re interested in having one (or more) of these neat little pets, it shouldn’t deter you from getting one at a local pet store.
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.