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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When it comes to all the different kinds of animals that you can own, hermit crabs are one of the most unique animals. With their adorable expressions and the different kinds of shells that you can offer them, owning hermit crabs can be an enjoyable experience.
As with owning any type of animal, it is important for you to know what kind of care they need. Hermit crabs are not necessarily the easiest animals to care for, as they have a fair few different requirements (such as humidity or temperature) that you need to be mindful of.
With that being said, when you choose to take on the task of owning hermit crabs, you should make sure to research all there is to know about caring for them as pets.
You should have a good sense of the kind of temperature and humidity they need, what they eat and how often they should be eating, and general signs of unhealthiness in hermit crabs.
One thing that you will notice is that there may come a time when one or more of your hermit crabs is no longer eating food like it should. These animals are so small, so it can be worrisome to notice that they aren’t eating, especially because a lack of appetite in animals is often a sign of illness.
In hermit crabs, not eating is either a sign of sickness that you will need to address and take care of before the sickness potentially spreads to other hermit crabs, or it could be because your hermit crab is going through a natural process known as molting.
There are some secondary signs you will want to look for to find the difference between a problem affecting your hermit crab’s health and a normal part of their behavior.
Knowing What’s Healthy and What Isn’t
Before you begin to worry about your hermit crab’s health, you should know what behaviors are considered normal and are not something to worry about.
Hermit crabs are rather interesting, especially when they are preparing to molt. They can go without food for a long period of time, unlike other animals that cannot go more than a couple days without eating.
In fact, hermit crabs can last up to two weeks without food, as their natural survival capabilities allow for them to store water within their shells and they are able to subsist from food for a while as a part of their nature.
This means that if your hermit crab hasn’t eaten in a few days, it may simply be normal for your little friend and not a cause for concern.
The exact amount of time that a hermit crab can go without food is not quite known, as healthy hermit crabs will not starve themselves, but there have been several instances of hermit crabs going for a couple weeks without eating and still remaining healthy.
For some hermit crabs, going several days without investigating their food may be completely normal, assuming there aren’t other signs of sickness.
Hermit crabs also have a habit of eating their food during the night, meaning that you may not see them eating during the day at all, leading to the belief that your hermit crab isn’t eating anything.
As long as the food in the hermit crab enclosure is gradually going down, you can rest assured knowing that your hermit crab is eating on its own terms and is still healthy.
Another reason why your hermit crab may not be interested in its food is if it is in the process of molting. Molting is an extremely stressful process for hermit crabs, although it is vital to them being healthy.
When hermit crabs are stressed, much like any other animal, they will not eat nearly as much as they would otherwise, and this especially applies to molting hermit crabs.
Hermit crabs that are molting will also be far more vulnerable than they otherwise would be, so even if they get along well with other hermit crabs in the enclosure, they may not feel comfortable going out and getting food on their own.
When a hermit crab is preparing to molt, it will often eat a fair bit more food than it otherwise would, in a similar sense as to how bears and other hibernating animals will do the same before their hibernation begins.
The hermit crab knows it will not be eating much for the entire molting duration (which can take months for some), so it will build up its fat stores and nutrition beforehand.
In short, assuming that your hermit crabs are still going through their water and that there are no other signs of illness, there’s a good chance that your hermit crabs are perfectly fine if they don’t eat for a couple days at a time.
If your hermit crab begins going a week or more without even touching its food, and you don’t think it’s molting, that’s when you may want to start investigating for signs of illness.
You can always switch out foods for your hermit crab to see if it is just being a picky creature. Most hermit crabs appreciate liquid, smelly foods compared to standard dry foods.
A good example of this would be some tuna, honey, or corn for your hermit crabs. Hermit crabs also don’t eat that much at a time when they do eat, so there’s a chance your hermit crabs may be eating fine on their own, but simply not enough for you to notice.
Looking for Signs of Illness
Just because hermit crabs can go a while without eating doesn’t mean that not eating is a normal behavior. When coupled with symptoms that imply illness or injury, not eating can be a serious problem for your hermit crab.
Because of this, it is important to know what some of the signs of illness are in hermit crabs and how they present their problems. If your hermit crab has some of these signs and isn’t eating (or isn’t consuming water), it may be an indication of a more serious problem.
One of the first signs of illness in hermit crabs is a lack of movement. Lethargy can indicate sickness, injury, molting, or stress, so it is important to have a good sense of why your hermit crab isn’t moving around as it should.
Typically, hermit crabs enjoy moving around and playing, so lethargy is a clear sign that something is going on with its health, but also keep in mind that lethargy can be a sign that your hermit crab is preparing to molt soon.
If your hermit crab is lethargic but also hanging out of its shell, this can be a serious indication that your hermit crab is near death and that it may need immediate attention.
Hermit crabs like to stay inside their shells for safety and protection, so if it is limply dangling out of its shell and not eating, it may be nearing the end of its life.
Another sign of illness in hermit crabs is if it is trying to hide or burrow into its enclosure. While this can also be a sign of molting, it can be an indication that your hermit crab is not acting the way it should and when paired with not eating, it can mean your hermit crab’s health is suffering noticeably.
Hermit crabs love attention and often have distinct personalities, so if it begins trying to hide in its sand or soak in its water, this is a sign of a problem. Likewise, if a hermit crab is trying to molt out in the open, this is also indicative that something is wrong.
Knowing the signs of illness in hermit crabs is going to be the first indication for you of whether or not a lack of appetite is simply normal for your hermit crab or if it is an extension of underlying problems with the crab’s health.