Hermit crabs are fascinating in many different ways, and there’s a reason why some people like to keep them as pets. You’re going to need to do your best to care for a pet hermit crab if you want to get the best results, but you’ll likely have a good time keeping one so long as you pay attention to its needs.
If you’ve had a hermit crab for a little while now, then you’ve likely gotten used to caring for it. Some hermit crab owners will note that things will go fine for a long time and then they’ll notice that the crab is not moving in its shell.
Why would a hermit crab stop moving suddenly this way? Is this an indication that something is seriously wrong?
Of course, one of the first things you consider is whether or not the crab has died. You might be worried about what’s going on so much that you’re trying to educate yourself to figure out what to do.
Read on to learn about why a hermit crab might stop moving in its shell. You’ll also learn about what you can do if this happens to your pet.
1 – Hermit Crabs Don’t Usually Move During the Day
If you’re still pretty new to raising hermit crabs, then you might not know everything about them yet. Did you know that these crabs are nocturnal?
This means that if you don’t notice your crab moving in its shell during the day that it’s perfectly normal. The crab will usually be active at night and you’ll have to wait until the appropriate time to see if moving around.
If you wish to observe the crab, then you’ll have to wait until after the sun has set to see it doing normal things. Otherwise, you’re just going to be looking at a hermit crab in its shell being very still.
Once the sun has set, you can put food out and this should coax the crab to be active and eat. In all likelihood, you don’t have anything to worry about if you simply noticed that the crab isn’t moving in its shell during the daytime.
There are other possibilities to consider, though. If your crab doesn’t seem to be moving even during the night time, then you’ll have to think about if something else is going on.
2 – The Hermit Crab Could Be Hiding
Another thing that needs to be considered is whether or not the hermit crab is hiding. If you recently got the crab, then it might not be comfortable in its new environment yet.
A crab will hide in its shell when you’re around when it’s scared of you. It will likely get used to your presence and stop seeing you as a threat eventually, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t take time.
You might be able to see the crab get out of its shell and move around if you leave the room. Leave and come back to see if the crab has moved to a different location or done something else.
It might also be prudent to try leaving some food out for the crab before leaving the room. If you really want to observe the crab to see if it’s hiding from you, then you can do so by leaving some type of camera pointed at the tank so that you can see what’s going on.
This isn’t really necessary, but it’s one way to observe if your crab is active at night while you’re not nearby. Hopefully, it’ll become less wary of you in the future.
If you wish to bond with your crab so that it won’t keep hiding, then you should just keep caring for it properly. Ensure that it has a good environment where it can thrive.
Keep handling to a minimum so that you don’t scare the crab. Eventually, the crab should come to see you as someone who provides them with food and a safe environment.
3 – The Hermit Crab Could Be Molting
It’s possible that the hermit crab could be molting. If this is the case, then you need to avoid disturbing the crab so that it can molt properly.
When these creatures start molting, they’re going to be incredibly still. Sometimes the crab might appear so lifeless that you’ll be worried that it’s dead.
Often, you’ll notice that a hermit crab will be partially hanging out of its shell when it’s molting. If you quietly observe the hermit crab for a long time, then you might be able to see it twitching just a little bit.
However, it should be noted that this isn’t always easy to see during the molting process. You might not see the crab move at all, and you’ll just have to leave it alone based on the evidence that it’s likely molting.
If you’re looking for other ways to determine if a hermit crab is molting or not, then there are many things to look out for. When crabs are getting ready to molt, you might notice that their eyes will become very cloudy.
The crab’s exoskeleton is going to change a bit as well. You should notice that it will have a slightly ashy appearance.
Sometimes crabs will spill water on the sand in an attempt to dampen it before they start to molt, too. In fact, not all crabs are going to molt on the surface, and many of them will actually dig into the sand.
If your pet has dug into the sand, then you should definitely leave it alone. It’s not impossible that the crab could have died, but it’s pretty much a given that it’s molting or that it was molting before it passed away.
It’s actually going to be safer to leave the hermit crab alone if you suspect that it’s molting. This is because trying to interact with the creature during the molting process could kill it.
The shock that a crab experiences when it’s interrupted during molting could easily kill it. This might be frustrating, but you’ll just have to be patient and see if everything is okay.
How Can You Tell If a Hermit Crab Has Died?
If the hermit crab has died, then you might not be able to tell right away. As mentioned above, you’re going to have to try to figure out whether the hermit crab is molting or not first.
At the very least, it’s going to be wise to give the crab a few days to see if everything appears to be okay. The most common way to tell if something is not okay is to smell the tank.
When a hermit crab has died, you’re going to notice a bad smell eventually. It might smell of rotting fish in the habitat if the crab has actually passed away.
If you have other crabs in the tank, then you might notice them trying to eat the corpse of their deceased friend, too. Those who are only caring for one crab will pretty much have to judge based on the smell.
It’s also true that sometimes a dead hermit crab will go completely limp in its shell, but it’s still somewhat possible that it could be alive and molting. If you notice multiple limbs fall off the crab at once, then it’s more likely that the crab has died.
Remember that the molting process can take a long time, though. Sometimes a crab will molt in 45 days, but it could also take up to 120 days in some instances.
This means that you will just have to keep an eye on the tank and see how things are going. If you notice multiple signs that the crab has died, then you can act accordingly.
Now that you know more about why a crab might stop moving, it’ll be easier to figure out how to proceed. There are many reasons why you might not notice a hermit crab moving around, and you’ll just have to see which of the options that have been discussed fits your situation.
If you don’t know a lot about these crabs, then you might not have known that they are nocturnal. This means that you could just be trying to observe the crab during the day when it’s sleeping or inactive.
Another possibility is that the crab is hiding in its shell because it’s afraid. When a crab enters a new environment it is naturally going to be worried for its safety.
The crab doesn’t trust you yet and it might hide from you for quite some time. You might notice that it will come out and move around at night so long as you aren’t around.
This behavior will change eventually as it comes to accept you and see you as someone who provides it with food and safety. You just have to be patient.
Of course, one of the most likely scenarios is that the crab is molting. Hermit crabs might appear to be dead when they’re molting, but they’re really just shedding their old exoskeletons and growing new ones.
You can look out for signs that the crab is molting to see if you can just continue to leave it alone. It’s also possible that the crab could be dead, but you don’t want to disturb the crab while it’s molting to find out one way or the other.
Disturbing a molting hermit crab could potentially kill it. If you notice that the tank starts to smell lof rotten fish, then there’s a good chance that the crab has died.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.