You know that hermit crabs have to change shells now and then. This is why you have other shells in the habitat for your pet hermit crab.
You know that you’re supposed to buy shells of various sizes and keep them in the habitat. This should make it easy for the hermit crab to find a new shell.
What does it mean when a hermit crab keeps switching shells? Does this mean that the hermit crab is indecisive?
It’s normal to worry in this situation because you want your pet crab to be okay. Below, you’ll learn about why hermit crabs might keep switching shells.
Why Do Hermit Crabs Switch Shells?
Typically, hermit crabs only switch shells when they grow. Hermit crabs are going to grow larger as they age.
Eventually, the hermit crab will molt. Molting involves a hermit crab shedding its old exoskeleton and growing a larger one.
This process can take weeks or even months. It’s something that hermit crabs do many times as they continue to get older.
When the hermit crab is finished molting, it’s going to need to find a larger shell. It’ll look around for a more appropriate shell.
Sometimes this will take a bit of time, but the hermit crab should eventually find the shell that it needs. What does it mean when the crab doesn’t just stick with a shell, though?
There are hermit crab owners that have seen their pets going back and forth between different shells. Is there something wrong with the crab if it keeps switching shells?
It’s possible that a few different things could be happening. You just need to examine the situation and try to determine what’s going on.
1 – Trouble Finding the Right Size
Perhaps the hermit crab is having trouble finding a shell that’s the right size. Hermit crabs have good intuition when it comes to determining what types of shells they need.
It could be that your pet hermit crab isn’t finding an appropriate shell in the habitat. Perhaps there isn’t a shell in the tank that it can properly utilize.
Of course, there could be a shell in the tank that’s perfect. It just might not be able to find it.
You’ll learn about this a bit later. For now, focus on what to do if the hermit crab doesn’t have appropriate shell upgrade options in the habitat.
So what if you don’t have the right shell size in the tank currently? It’s wise to get more shells and put them in the tank for your pet hermit crab.
It’s a good idea to keep shells of many different sizes in the hermit crab tank. Aside from looking neat, these shells are there for when the hermit crabs need to change shells.
You should have multiple shells in the tank of various sizes. This gives the hermit crab plenty of shells to choose from.
Buy hermit crab shells from pet stores and try to get as many sizes as you can. It’s very likely that one of the shells will be perfect for your hermit crab assuming that you’re trying to buy a variety of different sizes.
2 – It Can’t Find the Shell Even Though It’s There
Sometimes hermit crabs get stuck in a loop. You might observe a hermit crab going back and forth between the same two or three shells.
Even if there are dozens of shells in the tank, the hermit crab might be having trouble finding the specific shell that it needs. Hermit crabs seem clever, but keep in mind that they’re creatures with simple brains.
They’re capable of so much that sometimes people forget that they aren’t that intelligent. They have some minor intelligence, but they will not remember which shells they have already tried out.
So if your hermit crab is stuck in a loop of trying the same shells, you can help it out. To do this, simply try rearranging the shells in the tank.
This will give the hermit crab a chance to try out some new shells. Simply changing the position of the shells might help the hermit crab to discover new possibilities.
It could be a simple action such as this that will help your hermit crab to find the shell that it truly needs. When hermit crabs keep switching shells, it could be because it can’t find the right one and needs a bit of help.
3 – Problems with the Environment
Some owners say that problems with the hermit crab’s environment can cause it to switch shells constantly. It could be that you’re making mistakes while caring for the crab.
One of the most common mistakes involves getting the environmental settings wrong. For the hermit crab to stay in good health, it’s important to keep the temperature and the humidity in a certain range.
Typically, you want to keep the temperature set near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity level in the tank should be around 80% as well.
If the humidity is too low, the crab is going to have a tough time breathing. This could cause it to experience erratic behavior.
Temperatures that get too high or too low can cause behavioral issues, too. Your hermit crab’s strange activities could be related to environmental problems.
Solve any issues with the humidity levels in the tank as soon as possible. The same goes for the issues with the temperature in the tank.
Hermit crabs can die when they start to dry out. You must keep the humidity and temperature in the right range to protect your pet.
4 – Stress
Another possibility to consider is that the crab is stressed. Stress can cause hermit crabs to act in unusual ways.
There are many potential causes of stress. A hermit crab can get stressed by being in a room that is too noisy.
Loud music, television noises, barking dogs, and loud traffic can cause hermit crabs to feel stressed. Ideally, you should find a peaceful and quiet room for the hermit crab’s habitat.
There could be problems with the food that you’re feeding the crab as well. Ensure that you’re giving the hermit crab high-quality foods so that it can stay healthy and happy.
Loneliness has been known to make crabs act weird. It’s said that you shouldn’t keep hermit crabs by themselves.
You’ll likely have a better experience if you keep hermit crabs in groups. They’re social creatures that like interacting with their own kind.
Handling the hermit crab too much can make it experience a deep sense of stress. Try to avoid handling your hermit crab excessively since it will bother the crab and make it feel uneasy.
Switching Shells Isn’t Necessarily a Problem
If you’ve checked to see if anything is wrong and can’t find anything, you might have nothing to worry about. As long as you’re sure that the crab isn’t stressed, it’s likely that it just needs time to figure things out.
Switching shells isn’t necessarily a big problem. It’s normal for hermit crabs to take some time to decide which shell is right.
A shell is pretty much a hermit crab’s home. The crab will be using the shell for quite some time until it grows again and needs to change shells.
Sometimes hermit crabs just need a little while to make a decision. It isn’t that unusual for hermit crabs to go back and forth between different shells trying to figure out which option makes the most sense.
All you can really do is try to support the crab. Make sure it’s healthy and that the environment is okay.
So long as the hermit crab has what it needs, it’ll find the right shell eventually. You just need to make sure that you give it many options to choose from.
Having a better idea of what’s happening should set your mind at ease. The most likely scenario is that you need to buy more shells for the habitat.
Your hermit crab might simply be having a hard time finding a shell that is perfect for its current size. Try buying shells of various sizes for the tank so that it will have more options.
Often, buying three or four shells that are a bit larger than the current shell will work nicely. It might be beneficial to buy shells with different opening styles, too.
Remember to never buy painted shells since those are toxic for hermit crabs. You only want to buy safe natural shells from trusted pet stores.
Occasionally, hermit crabs might get stuck in a loop. The right shell size might be in the habitat, but the crab is going back and forth between the same shells.
Rearranging the shells in the tank might help the hermit crab to find the right shell. Simply providing a bit of help could be enough to turn everything around.
Don’t worry if the hermit crab takes a bit of time to decide. It’s a big decision and it’s not always going to be made quickly.
Now that you know what switching between shells is all about, you can make good decisions to support your crab. Always be sure to have multiple shells of each size in the habitat when you’re keeping multiple hermit crabs in the same tank.
This helps to avoid issues with fighting. After all, you want all of your hermit crabs to be safe and happy under your care.
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.