The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Hermit crabs have become popular pets. They are exotic, cute, and entertaining, so it can be worrying if you notice that one of your hermit crabs has lost a claw.
The top 10 reasons that your hermit crab lost its claw:
- Incorrect diet
- Mite infestation
- Fighting over resources
- Incorrect humidity or temperature
- Poor tank conditions
- Molting complications
- Post-Purchase Death Syndrome
Fortunately, hermit crabs can regrow a claw that has fallen off. You must act quickly to address the cause and get your hermies back into tip-top condition.
Why Did My Hermit Crab Lose a Claw?
Every hermit crab kept as a pet has been taken from the wild. This means that to keep your hermit crab healthy, you need to recreate warm, humid tropical conditions.
When a hermit crab loses a claw, it signals that something isn’t right in its environment or might have been injured. While missing limbs don’t need to be fatal, everything needs to be checked right away to avoid any further health concerns.
If your hermit crab has only lost one claw, it can still eat without help, but it does help if you adapt its diet to make things easier. Usually, one claw holds the food and the other breaks off bits that go into the mouth.
It helps to provide food that does not need tearing or breaking. Offer a varied, calcium-rich assortment of finely ground food, so your crab has the best chance of regrowing its missing limb as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, crabs do not lose blood when they lose a claw, so they won’t bleed to death. Crab blood instantly clots, and a second membrane quickly forms to create a nub-like covering that will develop into a new limb.
The first sign that a new limb is starting to form is a bump or bud, referred to as a gel limb. Although the new claw may never be as big as the original, it should gradually increase in size after each molt.
The wound where the crab claw was attached does not need to be attended to. The most crucial consideration for hermit crab owners is to quickly understand why the hermie lost a claw, remedy the problem and encourage the growth of a new one as soon as possible.
Losing a claw does not need to be fatal so long as the crab is provided with the nutrients and care it requires to grow a new one. With correct care, a pet hermit crab can live up to 20 years.
Let’s look at ten reasons why a hermit crab may lose a claw.
1 – Stress
Hermit crabs may appear tough on the outside, but they are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and stress can cause them to lose limbs. Look out for hermies that seem slow, inactive, or isolating themselves, and you may be able to remedy the situation before it loses a claw.
A hermit crab can become stressed because of environmental or social conditions. It may be related to incorrect temperature or space in the crabitat, or you may find it is getting bullied or lonely.
If you have a new crab, don’t handle it too much to begin with. Let it settle into its new home and get used to the new environment. It can take nearly two months for a new inhabitant to feel at home.
2 – Incorrect Diet
If your hermit crab has lost a claw, offer it a variety of food and let it choose what it needs to recover. Calcium-rich foods like hard-boiled eggs with shells, cuttlebone, or crushed oyster shells are vital to support the development of a new limb.
Pelleted food should be crushed when a hermit crab is missing a claw to make it easier to eat. Only put out small amounts each day and remove any uneaten food to avoid it becoming moldy and causing contamination in the tank.
Hermit crabs should receive a variety of food that includes as much natural food like meat, fruit, and vegetables as possible. They are naturally scavengers that forage at night, so offer them a balanced diet and include seafood whenever possible.
Remember to provide fresh water daily. Hermit crabs need to have access to both freshwater and saltwater baths at all times. Use aquarium salt, not regular table salt, as it may contain harmful additives.
3 – Mites
Mite infestation is a common reason that hermit crabs lose a claw or other limbs. If left unchecked, they can even kill their hosts, so swift action is required at the first sign of these microscopic terrors.
If your hermit crab has lost a claw or any of its limbs, carefully inspect the tank for mites. The tiny parasites appear as minute black or tan specks moving around on your hermit crab. They may also be visible on the sides of the tank.
If you suspect that your pets are uncomfortable and stressed because of possible mite infestation, put them into a temporary container and thoroughly clean everything. That includes the tank, substrate, toys, and anything that might have the tiny critters on.
Only use natural cleaners like salt that will not be toxic to the crabs. Avoid any cleaners and bleach, as anything that will kill the mites, will also be harmful to your hermies. You can usually wash the mites off the crabs using room temperature dechlorinated water.
4 – Poisoning
Hermit crabs can lose one or more limbs or claws due to poisoning. This can happen entirely unintentionally if crabs are misted with chemicals, their water is chlorinated, or from the incorrect type of salt.
Other sources of poisoning are painted shells and incorrect substrate or moss in the tank. When selecting new and interesting items to include in a tank, make sure they are safe for hermit crabs. Hollowed-out pine logs must be avoided as pine can be toxic to hermies.
5 – Fighting
One of the most common reasons for hermit crabs to suddenly be without a claw is because of a fight. Although they are usually docile and sociable little creatures, they will occasionally fight over a scarce resource like a shell.
To avoid fights, ensure plenty of space in the tank. Although hermit crabs are friendly and love company, they don’t like to be cramped as it can lead to stress and conflict.
6 – Incorrect Temperature Or Humidity
Keeping hermit crabs in the correct tank is essential to keeping them healthy and happy. They breathe through gills, so the humidity needs to be between 70 -and 80% for them to get enough oxygen from the air.
If the humidity is too low, hermit crabs are slowly suffocating, which will cause them to exhibit signs of distress, including dropping claws or other limbs. It is an excellent idea to invest in a hygrometer to monitor the humidity inside the tank.
If you are concerned that the air inside the tank is too dry, adding a piece of natural sea sponge to a dish of dechlorinated water can quickly add humidity. Remember to change the sponge frequently to avoid unhealthy bacterial build-up.
In addition to high humidity, hermit crabs need to stay warm and do best if there aren’t considerable fluctuations in temperature. Keep the temperature inside the tank between 72-80F.
7 – Injury
An often-overlooked reason that hermit crabs can lose a claw is injury. If you can see the lost claw in the tank, check that it did not get hooked into something.
Hermit crab autotomy is the correct term for the crab letting go of a limb. It is similar to a lizard letting go of its tail to flee from a predator. That may sound a tad extreme, but if a crab feels threatened or trapped, it is often better overall survival to lose a limb than its life.
Remember that hermit crabs are more active at night, so they may be climbing and exploring during the night and seem pretty inactive during the day.
Hermit crabs can also get injured from rough handling or accidents like being dropped and falling on the ground. Always handle these fragile pets as low to the ground as possible to avoid injury if they fall.
8 – Poor Tank Conditions
Setting up a crabitat requires careful planning to ensure that the environment is interesting, suitable, inviting, and hygienic for hermit crabs to thrive. Although some people regard hermit crabs as low-maintenance pets, it is essential that the tank is cleaned regularly and all contaminated or moldy food and the substrate are removed.
The humidity inside a crabitat is high, which facilitates the growth of bacteria. If the tank isn’t cleaned or water dishes get dirty, illness can quickly set in, and hermit crabs can lose limbs or even die as a result.
Check that the substrate that you have in the tank is suitable. The depth should be 3 to 5 times higher than your highest crab so they can burrow easily.
9 – Molting Complications
To grow, hermit crabs need to molt. This process of shedding the old exoskeleton in one piece doesn’t always go as expected. Sometimes parts are shed off one piece at a time. However, as unpleasant as this sounds, if the hermie survives the molt, it can regenerate new limbs.
A hermit crab should never be disturbed while it is molting. Moving it or doing anything to stress it during this vulnerable time is not a good idea. Molting crabs become less active and eat less, but they continue to drink.
If your molting crab could be vulnerable to other inquisitive tank mates during its molt, you can cover it using the bottom section of a 2-liter soda bottle.
After molting, the hermit crab will select a slightly bigger shell, so be sure to have plenty of suitable options available. Only offer natural shells that have been sterilized and none that are painted, broken, or plastic.
10 – Post Purchase Death Syndrome (PPDS)
Post-Purchase Death Syndrome, or PPDS as it is called amount hermit crab owners, is an umbrella term for the relatively regular occurrence of these pets dying soon after being purchased. One of the symptoms that the hermit crab is starting to die is the loss of claws or limbs.
Remember that before you purchase your hermit crab, the creature was at home in its natural habitat. All hermit crabs are harvested from the wild, so the little creature has had to deal with many changes.
Your hermit crap may have already endured very rough handling during transportation, dehydration, and an unbalanced diet during its journey to its new home. It is little wonder that hermit crabs often require a long time to adjust to their new home. Newly acquired hermies need to be provided with a variety of food, water, and plenty of peace and quiet until they have settled and regained their strength.
Do Hermit Crab Claws Regrow?
Hermit crabs are genetically ready to break off a claw if they need to. Of course, they don’t want to for no reason, but when a claw comes off, it separates along a fracture plane situated at the base of the claw. That is their safe breaking point as it is also the best place for new replacement limbs to start forming.
It can be disappointing and rather worrying when you spot a hermit crab without a claw, but fortunately, mother nature has a solution. A transparent limb bud slowly develops and unfolds. After one or two molts, the appearance of the gel leg will start resembling the original lost limb.
Each time the crab molts, the missing claw will develop further. So although it won’t be massive for the first few molts, slowly but surely, it can grow back its stern-looking biceps.
This remarkable process can be supported by providing the crabs with a varied diet that is specifically rich in calcium.
When a hermit crab loses a claw, it can be very concerning. Hermit crab owners should immediately do some detective work to find the reason for the condition. In most cases, the hermit crab can regenerate a new claw so long as the underlying cause is discovered and remedied.