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The Stages of a Hermit Crab’s Life Cycle

The Stages of a Hermit Crab’s Life Cycle

This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addtion, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Buying a hermit crab as a pet is something that has the potential to be so much fun. These pets are rather inexpensive, and that makes them practical for most people.

You do need to buy some special equipment to be able to care for hermit crabs properly. Even so, it’s easy enough for average people to get what they need.

If you’re on the fence about hermit crabs, you might want to know more about the hermit crab’s life cycle. How long do these creatures live and what does a normal hermit crab life cycle look like?

Keep reading to learn information about the hermit crab life cycle. Having a better understanding of what a hermit crab’s life is like will help you to decide if you want to buy one as a pet.

The Beginning

The beginning of the hermit crab life cycle begins as the parents lay eggs. A male and a female hermit crab will partially leave their shells so they can mate.

Female hermit crabs have the potential to lay many eggs at once. A very large female crab might lay thousands of eggs.

The eggs are carried by the female hermit crab for one month. In the early days, the eggs are brick red, but they wind up turning dark gray over time.

Once a month has passed, the female hermit crab will release its eggs into the ocean. The eggs then go through various developmental stages.

At this point in time, the young hermit crabs are known as zoeae. They don’t actually resemble hermit crabs yet.

There are between four and six different stages that the zoea passes through. At the end of these stages, it’ll turn into a megalopa.

A megalopa looks like a cross between a lobster and a hermit crab. This stage will last for approximately one month.

During this time, the megalopa should find its first shell. It’ll start to spend a bit more time out of water as well.

The crab will eventually reach a point where it needs to molt. It’ll burrow into the ground and when it emerges it’ll be a normal land hermit crab.

Now the land hermit crab has its modified gills that are capable of breathing oxygen. Before it reached this stage, it would have to return to the water in order to breathe.

This also means that the land hermit crab will now drown if it’s submerged in water for too long. Thus, the hermit crab will spend the rest of its life on land.

Normal Life

The land hermit crab will now be living a normal life. There are different types of land hermit crabs out there.

Land hermit crabs are known to live in a few different environments. Some live in trees and most live in mangroves.

Typically, these creatures never stray more than a mile or two away from the shore. Some land hermit crabs will return to the shore more often than others.

Many of these hermit crabs will be able to use moisture from morning dew and rainfall. Moisture is very important for hermit crabs since they need to keep their gills moist so they can breathe properly.

Water is stored in the hermit crab’s shell. It’ll store water in the shell so that it can use it for drinking water or to moisten its gills as necessary.

Hermit crabs are scavengers that will eat whatever they can to survive. They’re omnivorous creatures that consume plant matter, dead fish, dead animals, and many other things.

Many people consider them to be one of “nature’s cleanup crews.” They go around cleaning areas of dead things so that they can eat.

Throughout the hermit crab’s life, it’s going to rely on shells. Hermit crabs don’t grow their own shells.

They wind up seeking out sea snail shells that are left behind by dead snails. Without these shells, they’d be rather vulnerable.

Hermit crabs have soft bodies and they’re going to be easy prey for predators when outside of their shells. Thus, hermit crabs generally don’t leave their shells without a good reason.

Typically, hermit crabs only leave their shells when they need to change shells. Hermit crabs will molt periodically as they grow larger.

The molting process involves the hermit crab shedding its old exoskeleton and growing a larger one. When it’s done molting, it’ll need to find a larger shell.

Molting is something that can take several weeks or even over a month. It just depends.

End of Life

You’ll find that hermit crabs have the potential to live for a very long time. Exactly how long a hermit crab will live depends on various factors.

Some types of hermit crabs are known to live for decades. It’s common for many hermit crabs to live for up to thirty years in the wild.

There are some hermit crabs that can live to be forty years old. Of course, not all hermit crabs are going to live that long.

A hermit crab does run the risk of being killed by predators out in the wild. They could also get killed by environmental hazards caused by humans.

In the wild, hermit crabs will likely mate at some point during their lives. This will lead back to the section described earlier at the beginning of the hermit crab’s life.

How Long Do Hermit Crabs Live in Captivity?

Hermit crabs often don’t live as long in captivity as they do in the wild. They still have the potential to live for decades, but it all depends on the quality of care that they receive.

Sadly, many hermit crab owners only keep their hermit crabs alive for a few years. It’s common for hermit crabs to die due to poor care or being exposed to chemicals in tap water.

If you wish to keep a hermit crab alive for a long time, it’s imperative to give it the best care that you can. You must focus on giving the hermit crab an ideal environment.

This means keeping the humidity in the right range and monitoring the temperature. The hermit crab also needs a habitat that is large enough and contains the things that it needs to thrive.

Hermit crabs need to have access to sand. They have to burrow in the sand to molt during various points in their lives.

You also need to feed the hermit crab appropriately. To add to this, hermit crabs seem to do best in captivity when they’re kept in groups.

Despite the name, hermit crabs are actually social creatures. They can get lonely, and it’s recommended to keep them in groups of three or four.

Do Hermit Crabs Make Good Pets?

Many people say that hermit crabs make good pets. They’re becoming rather popular pets in modern times.

You can find hermit crabs being sold at most pet stores now. For some, they’re convenient pets because they don’t take up a lot of room.

Owning hermit crabs can be a positive experience, but you shouldn’t buy them if you’re not prepared to care for them properly. Hermit crabs won’t do well if you don’t look after their needs.

You must monitor the temperature and humidity levels in the habitat. The temperature is supposed to be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and you want the humidity level to be close to 80%.

The crab needs to be fed properly and you need to keep the tank clean. Failure to clean the tank will stress the crab and it could cause issues with bacteria and mold.

So there is a level of responsibility to consider. Taking care of hermit crabs doesn’t involve as much work as caring for dogs or cats, but it still does require you to do tank maintenance.

Some might think that hermit crabs aren’t as fun as more interactive pets. Hermit crabs don’t necessarily like being handled by humans.

They can learn to tolerate it to an extent. However, handling hermit crabs causes them to experience stress.

Stressed hermit crabs might have a tougher time staying healthy. So you want to limit handling hermit crabs so as not to cause them to feel uneasy.

You mostly observe hermit crabs instead of directly interacting with them. They can be fed by hand, but you do need to be careful so as not to get pinched.

Hermit crabs love to play, but they’ll mostly play with each other or by themselves. Depending on whether mostly observing a pet sounds fun to you, you may or may not be interested in hermit crabs.

They can be absolutely fascinating to observe, though. Hermit crabs can learn to recognize your voice, too, and they’ll come to appreciate you even if you don’t interact with them directly a lot.

Final Thoughts

Now you know more about the life cycle of hermit crabs. These creatures have the potential to live for many decades.

They often live to be several decades old in the wild. It’s not as common for them to live that long in captivity, but it is possible with excellent care.

Hermit crabs are becoming popular pets. They aren’t too hard to care for, but they do require a bit of effort.

Even so, they’re not that hard to take care of when compared to many other conventional pets. If you’re interested in owning hermit crabs and you’re ready for the responsibility, they’re easy to find at local pet stores.