Hermit crabs are small crustaceans living in shallow waters all over the world. They are usually found on shorelines because of abundant food and hiding places.
However, they have evolved to live on land using mollusk shells for protection. Eventually, they’ve become one of the most unusual pets. With proper care, they can live up to 15 years.
Still, as a pet owner, it might be challenging to differentiate a male hermit crab from a female one. That’s mostly because of the shell that hides the distinctive features.
Whether you’re trying to breed your hermit crabs or just want to name them, it can be helpful to know their gender.
Stick around to find out more about a male or female hermit crab!
Hermit crabs are a bit of a mystery when it comes to gender as they don’t have notable differences in size and weight within the same species.
In fact, to confidently tell their gender, hermit crabs must willingly leave their shells.
Although they are mostly the same and hard to distinguish, both genders of hermit crabs have some slight differences.
We’ve just mentioned that most of the distinctive features are under the shell. Yet it’s important not to pry the crabs out of their shells for gender identification. Their bodies are soft and only have exoskeletons covering the front half, so they might just get injured or, worse, torn apart!
But, there are possible ways to tell your hermit crab’s gender without causing serious harm. Here are some clues that you should look out for:
Normally, hermit crabs are arthropods, meaning they have 10 legs that they use for walking, fighting, climbing, covering the shell opening, and holding themselves inside the shell.
Males tend to have tufts of hair on their 5th legs, whereas female crabs tend to have smoother legs.
Appendages are also one of the tell-tale signs of your hermit crab’s gender. If you don’t know what an appendage is, it’s simply a protruding part of the body of a living organism.
The male doesn’t have appendages on his abdomen. Conversely, the female will have three feathery appendages.
If you spot appendages on your little friend, then it might be a female.
Another clue is how much body hair your hermit crab has on its body. Typically, the male crab has more body hair than a female crab.
If you see more body hair on your hermit crab, it has a high chance of being a male crab.
A gonopore, also called a gonadopore, is a genital pore found in many invertebrates, like hermit crabs. It’s located at the back of their legs which are closest to the abdomen.
However, only the females have a set of gonopores. So, if you spot two black dots on your hermit crab, then it’s another sign that your crab is a female.
Since hermit crabs don’t reproduce asexually, both males and females are required to mate. Here’s how hermit crabs reproduce:
Although hermit crabs live on land, that’s not where they reproduce. Instead, the mating takes place in seawater. During mating season, hermit crabs travel towards the shore, usually in mass.
Then, both crabs partially come out of their shells, and the male passes on a pack of sperm, also called a spermatophore, to fertilize the female’s eggs.
Once the eggs are fertilized, the female crab will carry her eggs for about a month. This will look like a cluster of brick-red circular balls attached to its abdomen. During this phase, the female will stay out of seawater until it’s time to hatch the eggs.
Furthermore, as the eggs use up their supply of yolk, they will turn dark gray in color. This is a sign that the eggs are ready to hatch.
After approximately one month, the female crab returns to the ocean to let go of the eggs. Once saltwater surrounds the eggs, they hatch simultaneously, releasing undeveloped hermit crabs that go by the name Zoea.
Each Zoea will then gradually develop and grow in a process called metamorphosis. This process will last up to two months until it becomes a crustacean called megalopa.
At this point, the crab will look like a combination of lobster and hermit crab. After another month, it will find its first mollusk shell and begin spending more time out of ocean water.
Hermit crabs are delightful and social creatures which is why you might want multiple of them. Of course, you can always get more from the pet store as they aren’t expensive. But can you breed hermit crabs yourself?
Hermit crabs don’t reproduce in captivity. They need saltwater to mate and release eggs. To inspire breeding, you have to replicate the natural environment.
Although it’s possible to breed your hermit crabs, it wouldn’t be easy. So, you have to be patient.
Here’s how to do so:
First things first, you need male and female hermit crabs to mate. Once you have their genders confirmed, you can proceed to breed them.
After identifying your hermit crabs’ genders, you can put the breeding pair in a 10-gallon aquarium. Since hermit crabs like climbing, the tank must have a lid. Ensure the tank has plenty of hiding spots, rocks, and sand.
In addition, the tank must not be in direct sunlight. Instead, find a quiet spot where you can place the tank away from the sun. This way, your hermit crabs will be comfortable.
It’s essential to keep the tank humid and hot enough. Remember to maintain the proper environmental conditions for your hermit crabs, especially if you want them to breed.
Hence, you’ll need a humidifier and a heater to protect them. Better yet, install a hygrometer. This way, you can thoroughly monitor the humidity of the tank.
Aside from a breeding tank, you’ll need a seawater tank that should be placed outside. The more natural it looks, the more your hermit crabs will likely reproduce.
The tank must be kept in a safe and secluded outdoor environment where your female hermit crabs can hatch their eggs when the right time comes.
Introduce the male hermit crab to the female. If it gently rocks the female’s shell, then it’s ready to mate. However, if the female doesn’t come out of its shell within 24 hours, replace the male hermit crab with another.
Keep trying with different males. Finally, if the female is interested in a mate, it’ll respond by emerging from its shell.
There you have it! Now you know if you have a male or female hermit crab and how to breed them as well! If you’re looking forward to breeding them or just want to quench your curiosity about their mating cycle, it’s never a bad idea to find out more about your little critters.
After all, the more you know, the better you can take care of your hermit crabs. Besides, knowing their gender will help you figure out what to name them!
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.