Caring for hermit crabs is great. So many are discovering just how wonderful hermit crabs can be as pets.
They’re pretty simple to care for even if you’re a beginner. You do need to put some effort in to keep them in good health, but most people should be able to learn how to take care of them easily.
However, there are many ways that you can make mistakes. You can cause your hermit crab to die by not caring for it properly.
If your hermit crab isn’t moving, you might be very concerned. Are you worried that the hermit crab has died?
How can you tell if a hermit crab is dead or alive? Continue reading to learn all of the important details.
Hermit Crab Molting or Dead?
Often, new hermit crab owners will mistake molting for the hermit crab being dead. If you don’t know a lot about these pets yet, you might not be that familiar with molting.
Molting is something that hermit crabs do fairly often. Hermit crabs molt every twelve to eighteen months on average.
When these creatures molt they’re going to be very still. They burrow into the sand to protect themselves while they grow a new exoskeleton.
Hermit crabs have to do this because their exoskeletons do not grow along with their bodies. So hermit crabs keep growing, and they eventually outgrow their current exoskeletons.
The hermit crab will have to shed the exoskeleton and molt to grow a new one. It’s common for hermit crabs to eat the old exoskeleton to give them energy for the molting process.
The hermit crab is going to be molting for quite some time once it starts. This process can take anywhere from weeks to months.
Since molting takes so long, many new hermit crab owners get nervous. They worry that the crab might have passed away.
It’s normal to worry about these things. Hermit crabs can indeed die during molting.
However, it’s imperative not to jump to conclusions. You should never disturb a molting hermit crab.
If you bother a hermit crab while it’s molting, you might wind up killing it. Hermit crabs are incredibly vulnerable during the molting process, and they can die when they’re bothered.
Even if the hermit crab doesn’t die, it might get severely stressed. This could lead to the hermit crab losing several legs.
So you must exercise patience. It isn’t wise to assume the hermit crab is dead when it’s very likely molting.
Generally, it’s recommended that you wait to take action until the hermit crab smells as if it’s dead. When the hermit crab smells atrocious, that’s generally an indication that it has died.
Do Hermit Crabs Sleep?
Yes, hermit crabs do indeed sleep. Like most living creatures, hermit crabs need to sleep every so often to replenish energy.
Usually, you’ll notice hermit crabs sleeping during the day. They are nocturnal creatures that are more active during the night.
So if you look at hermit crab habitats during the day, you’re more likely to see them sleeping. Don’t mistake a sleeping hermit crab for a dead one.
Hermit crabs are nocturnal for a very practical reason. These creatures need to keep their gills moist so they can breathe.
Dehydration is something that can cause hermit crabs to die. It’s hottest during the day, and hermit crabs are more likely to become dehydrated when exposed to the sun.
So it’s safer for them to hide out somewhere during the day and sleep. Even if a hermit crab doesn’t sleep the entire time the sun is out, it’ll be far less active during this time.
How Long Do Hermit Crabs Sleep?
Hermit crabs sleep during the day. How long they sleep might vary from day to day.
For example, changes in the weather might cause hermit crabs to sleep more or less during the day. Even so, it’s said that hermit crabs sleep for an average of eight hours during the day.
In this regard, hermit crabs are somewhat like humans. They sleep for around eight hours and conserve their energy for when they can be more active at night.
It’s important to note that this information isn’t concrete. For example, you can’t say for sure that hermit crabs are sleeping the entire time that they’re inside their shells.
They could be awake and simply hiding instead of truly sleeping. Experts still guess that hermit crabs sleep for around eight hours during the day, but it could be more or less than that.
How Do Hermit Crabs Normally Sleep?
Typically, hermit crabs like to sleep inside their shells. Since hermit crabs need their shells for protection, it makes sense that they would fully retreat inside their shells to sleep.
They need to be protected from predators while they’re sleeping. If the hermit crab was outside of the shell even a little bit, it’d leave itself open to attack.
Even when a hermit crab is being kept as a pet, it’ll still sleep inside its shell. Hermit crabs are good at detecting danger while they sleep, too.
Hermit crabs have two antennae that they can use to detect things. The hermit crabs will point the antennae toward the opening of the shell while sleeping.
They do this so they will be able to detect predators that are trying to sneak up on them. These habits will remain the same in captivity.
Do Hermit Crabs Ever Sleep Outside Their Shells?
Sometimes you might see a hermit crab sleep outside its shell. This is a bit unusual, but it doesn’t mean that the hermit crab is dead.
Of course, if you see a hermit crab hanging out of its shell, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the crab has died. However, you should know that some situations might cause a hermit crab to sleep outside its shell.
Typically, this happens when the temperature outside or in the hermit crab tank is too high. If your pet hermit crab is doing this, it’s important to take note.
You’re supposed to keep the hermit crab tank in a specific temperature range. When things are too hot this is going to be dangerous for the crab.
A hermit crab might sleep outside of its shell in an effort to get some relief from the heat. This is a sign that your tank is way hotter than it should be.
If you’re using a heating lamp, the lamp could be positioned too close to the tank. You might need to move it further away to keep your hermit crabs from getting too hot.
When using a traditional heater, you should keep things set at the right temperature. You want the tank to stay between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do Hermit Crabs Hibernate?
Under normal conditions, hermit crabs won’t hibernate. However, if the temperature is too cool, these creatures might go into a state that’s similar to hibernation.
It’s said that when temperatures dip below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, it will trigger hermit crabs to burrow into the sand. They do this to try to stay warm.
Hermit crabs can’t regulate their own body temperatures. They can’t create warmth themselves and need to absorb it from the environment.
When necessary, hermit crabs will burrow into the sand for protection and warmth. These creatures aren’t supposed to hibernate, though.
So hermit crabs are rather vulnerable during this time. This is why you’re supposed to keep the temperature in the tank in the right range.
There’s no reason for your hermit crabs to be exposed to cool temperatures. You should be using either a traditional heater for the tank or a heating lamp.
When hermit crabs get cold, they’ll be very sluggish. Cool temperatures can stress the crabs and make them sick.
Be very careful to avoid exposing the crabs to cool temperatures. Now that you know this can be a problem, it should be easier to avoid making such mistakes.
When Are Hermit Crabs Most Active?
Hermit crabs are most active at night. They’re nocturnal, and this means that they’re more active when the sun goes down.
In captivity, some hermit crabs might learn to be active during the day. However, this doesn’t always happen.
Many enthusiasts say that it’s best to set lighting up to mimic a natural day and night cycle. This is healthy for the crabs and helps them to stay in a normal rhythm.
So you won’t see the crabs doing too much during the day under normal circumstances. They will usually sleep during the day and save energy.
In the evening, crabs will start being more active. You’ll see them playing, climbing, and eating during the evening and nighttime hours.
How to Tell if Hermit Crab is Dead
Now that you’ve learned about hermit crabs molting and sleeping, it’s time to learn about how to tell if a hermit crab is dead. There are a few ways that you can tell a hermit crab has died.
Below, you’ll learn about the different things you can look for. This will help you to figure out if your crab is molting, sleeping, or dead.
Dead Hermit Crabs Smell Atrocious
Dead hermit crabs smell atrocious, and the smell is pretty much unmistakable. When a hermit crab dies, it’s going to start decomposing.
As the hermit crab is decomposing, it’s going to start breaking down and smelling bad. The smell is going to be very much like the smell of dead fish.
A dead and rotting fish smells so bad that it’s hard to ignore the smell. The same can be said for the smell of a dead hermit crab in a tank.
It’ll be such a powerful scent that you won’t be able to ignore it. It’s very likely that you’ll be assaulted by the odor when the hermit crab passes away.
So smell the tank so you can determine if the crab is alive. If your hermit crab is dead, the tank will have a rotten, salty, and terrible scent.
What to Do When Hermit Crab Isn’t Moving
If the hermit crab doesn’t appear to be molting, you can check on it. Is the hermit crab not moving and it’s outside of its shell?
In this situation, you should try to move the crab and see if it reacts. If the crab moves even a little bit, the crab isn’t yet dead.
When a crab isn’t moving and it’s inside of its shell, you can try to get it to move by offering it food. Place some food near its shell and then observe the crab.
Try to see if the crab pokes its head out to grab the food. If it doesn’t, the crab might very well be dead.
Of course, the smell that was mentioned above is the real indication that the crab has died. So you’ll likely notice the smell if the crab is truly dead.
What to Do with a Dead Hermit Crab
If your hermit crab has died, it’s important to get rid of the body. Most people choose to bury their hermit crabs in their yards.
You want to bury it deep enough so that animals won’t dig it up. It’s fine to bury the hermit crab while it’s still inside its shell.
If you wish to reuse the shell, you can remove the hermit crab from the shell. Sometimes this is hard to do, but it’s easier if you put the hermit crab in a plastic bag and then stick it in the freezer for a few hours to make it stiff.
You’ll need to boil the shell before you can reuse it. Also, it’s wise to replace the sand in the tank, boil the rocks and decorations, and clean the tank thoroughly.
This is done as a precaution to protect the other hermit crabs. It won’t take long to do, and it’s best to be safe.
Now you know that hermit crabs that have died will smell terrible. When a hermit crab dies it’s going to smell so bad that it’d be hard not to notice the smell.
Your hermit crab could simply be molting if it doesn’t smell like rotten fish. Leave the hermit crab alone if it appears to be molting.
Molting hermit crabs will be motionless, and the molting process can take weeks or months. So you must be patient.
Hermit crabs sleep during the day, too. So don’t mistake a sleeping hermit crab for a dead one.
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.