Sea Life

How to Tell if a Hermit Crab is Dead?

how to tell if a hermit crab is dead

Hermit crabs are crustaceans that eat the majority of the small things in the water like plankton, small fish, worms, and many other food particles around them. They are also kept as pets because of their easy-going nature. But, like all the other pets, there comes a time when hermit crabs die. But, the problem here is that most of the time, it becomes so confusing whether the hermit crab has died or not when they do move for a longer period of time. 

Hermit crabs shed their outermost skin or the exoskeleton every eighteen months. This process is called molting. Many people confuse the molting phase of the hermit crab with their death. So, it is very important to know when the hermit crab is just molting, which is normal for them and they are not dead. 

Symptoms of Molting of Hermit Crab

There are many symptoms that indicate that the molting of the hermit fish is about to start. Hermit crabs usually change their color and look dull before the process of molting starts. Moreover, they may eat and drink much more than usual for the purpose of storing the nutrients. Some hermit crabs may also start digging because most of the time, the hermit crabs feel good to molt in a dug place rather than on the surface of the land.

When the molting process starts, the hermit crabs become so lazy and sometimes do not even move. They become so weak in this particular phase that they need to rest and regain all the energy to move after the molting process. Hermit crabs, most of the time, eat their own shedded exoskeleton to gain calcium because the older exoskeleton usually has most of the energy and calcium. This molting process is so weakening for the hermit crabs that some hermit crabs do not survive in this time period and die.

How Do I Know if the Hermit Crab has Died?

Because molting is very obvious and normal for hermit crabs, people become unsure whether the hermit crab has just been molted or is no longer alive. When the hermit crab stops moving and stays still for a longer period of time, it becomes concerning as it can be a sign that the crab is dead.

When you feel concerned about whether the crab is alive or dead because it is not moving for so long, you need to consider some other factors before declaring it dead:

Smell the Hermit Crab

The first thing you need to do after suspecting the crab to be dead is to smell it. If it smells normal, then it may intentionally be not moving or it may be molting or just resting. But, if it smells bad, fishy, and rotten, it might be dead. But, this is not a clear signal or proof that the crab is dead because sometimes, molting hermit crabs also smell very bad. So, to know it well, we need to consider other solid factors too.

Observe Their Position

Observe their body language while they are still and not moving. If their body is partially hanging out of their shell, it may be a sign that the crab has been dead. But, since some crabs also partially take out their bodies while they molt, it can also not define the conclusion that the crab is dead. The hermit crab can stay still and at rest for a longer period of time. This is why, many people cannot differentiate between an alive, a molting, and a dead hermit crab. 

What to do After Smelling and Observing?

When the hermit crab starts smelling bad and rotten and also stays at rest for a long, you still need to wait and need not touch it. Because there are higher chances that the cran might be molting at that time and as stated earlier, the molting process is weakening. Even touching or moving the hermit crab while they are molting can kill them. So, the best practice is to WAIT!

A wait of “2 to 3 months” is necessary before predicting anything. If the crabs do not move in this time period and start decaying, then you can declare and confirm that the hermit crab is no more.

The Bottom Line

People often confuse a molting hermit crab with a dead crab because while molting the hermit crabs mostly stays still and at rest. The best practice to understand whether the hermit crab is dead or not is to first smell it. If it smells rotten, observe its position very carefully. If it did not move for so long and has its body partially out of its shell, leave it for two to three months, if it does not move and starts decaying, you can conclude that it is dead.

About the author

Hadia Atiq

A Writer passionate about learning and spreading the knowledge of sea life. I like to spread the knowledge of different types and species of fish and other aquatic creatures.