Do Hermit Crabs Hibernate? (It’s Not What You Expect)


by Simon Griffiths



One of the most intriguing behaviors of hermit crabs is how they molt.

They bury themselves for up two months. Because of this, many pet owners wonder if this is a form of hibernation.

During hibernation, animals go into a state of deep sleep and do not forage for food. Does this also mean hermit crabs hibernate? Well, you might think so, especially because hermit crabs bury themselves underground and go MIA for up to 2 months. 

This post settles this matter – Do hermit crabs hibernate?

Do Hermit Crabs Hibernate?


Do Hermit Crabs Hibernate?

No. Hermit crabs don’t hibernate since they are cold-blooded organisms (ectothermic) and hence cannot down-regulate their metabolism or body temperatures. During hibernation, the animal’s breathing rate and heartbeat slow, which does not happen with hermit crabs. While hermit crabs get inactive when it’s cold, that is not true hibernation, instead, it’s brumation. 

To explain why hermit crabs do not hibernate yet it seems like hibernation during molting, here are a few facts about the hibernation process.

1. Ectotherms such as hermit crabs (cold-blooded animals) cannot hibernate.

2. Only endotherms (warm-blooded animals) can hibernate

3. Hibernation involves

  • Lowing the body temperatures
  • Slowing the breathing rate
  • Lowering the heart rate
  • Lowering the metabolic rate

None of these happens during molting to qualify the process as a form of hibernation.

What happens to hermit crabs during winter?

Although hermit crabs become inactive during winter, that is not true for hibernation. Their form of torpor or sluggishness normally kicks in when temperatures fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. They will just burry themselves into the sand and leave their eye stocks popping out from the substrate. They can remain there for a while until the temperatures resume back to normal. The solution, in this case, is to get a heat lamp.

Are hermit crabs hibernating during molting?

During molting, hermits may seem like they are hibernating. However, that is not the case. Molting stages happen at any time, while hibernation is a process that takes place when it’s cold. During molting, the hermit crab will bury for up two months until it sheds the old exoskeleton and develops a new one.


Molting is a period to grow. To shed the old skin and grow a new one. While hibernation is a protection mechanism when it’s cold. 

It is easy to tell when a hermit crab is preparing to go molting. For starters, it starts to dig a lot, it also feeds a lot in preparation for two months without eating. The crabs know that they need to store food in their bodies because they can’t wake up from their sleep once the molting process kicks in.

You will also notice that the crabs become naturally lazy and won’t explore as much as they used to. The crab will then hide under the substrate and won’t come up for 4 to 8 weeks.

Hermit crabs should be left alone once they go into molting. Disturbing or digging them up from the substrate will cause them a lot of stress and can even result in death.

All you need to do is ensure that the conditions of your crabitat remain optimum. Maintain the optimum humidity and temperature levels to facilitate successful molting.

Related The Best Substrates For A Hermit Crab Tank

What’s The Difference Between Hibernation, Molting, and Sleep?

First and foremost, hermit crabs are nocturnal creatures. They sleep during the day unless they are sick. Healthy crabs will always come out during the night to forage for food, drink water, take a bath, and explore their crabitat. So, if your crab is exhibiting its normal day and night cycle, then he or she is just sleeping.

Hibernation, on the other hand, involves becoming dormant and shutting off most body functions for an extended period of time. A hibernating animal won’t feed or drink water until the process is done. This means that the animal will stay buried for the entire period.

Molting is very similar to hibernation in hermit crabs. The hermit crab buries into the substrate and takes up to 2 months before reappearing. Unlike hibernation, molting can happen in any season and not just in winter. If your hermit crab is hiding below the substrate it’s probably molting. A molting hermit crab may look dead, and it’s very hard to tell whether it’s dead or not.

When the hermit crab is molting, everything in the tank will remain intact for the entire period. On the other hand, if he or she is sleeping, you’ll notice some changes once you wake up in the morning. This can be attributed to the fact that they love climbing, and burrowing and will always make a mess after they eat.

Related How Long Does It Take A Hermit Crab To Molt

Do Hermit Crabs Wake Up During Molting?

No, they cannot wake up until the molting process is over. Remember that these crustaceans will reduce their metabolism during molting. Also, as we’ve mentioned earlier, molting is completely different from sleeping.

If you were to wake up a molting crab, you are basically giving it a death sentence. So, just leave the crabs to do their thing as they can go for weeks without food and water.

Do hermit crabs hibernate in the winter?

No, hermit crabs don’t hibernate during winter. Instead, they brumate. Since hermit crabs are cold-blooded organisms (ectothermic) their body is not able to hibernate.

How long do hermit crabs hibernate?

No, hermit crabs don’t hibernate. Hermit crabs go into molting which looks very similar to hibernation but does not always happen during the cold. Molting is a growth period where the hermies shed the old skin and grow a new one.

Wrapping Up

That’s it on hibernation in hermit crabs. I hope this post has answered all your questions about hibernation.

Remember to leave your crabs in peace if you suspect that they have gone into molting. Disturbing them will only increase their stress levels and even worse, lead to death.


Simon Griffiths

Hi guys, my name is Simon, a fellow pet lover. I love everything about traditional and exotic pets so I am here to help you create a better home for your pets.