Do Hermit Crabs Live in Water?


by Simon Griffiths


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Hermit crabs make adorable pets. While most people do not consider them to be easy on the eyes, a lot of people think they are cute and interesting. You have probably seen them at a friend’s house or people admiring them at the pet store. So how much do you know about these little critters?

Where do they live? What do they eat? What are their unique characteristics?

Read along to find out.


Hermit Crab Anatomy

Just from a single glance, you will notice a few distinct features of the hermit crab; including its oval beady black eyes, some of its front limbs, and its shell.

While most crustaceans grow their own shell, hermit crabs have to ‘borrow’ a shell from other species such as clams and snails. In fact, the fact that they have to borrow shells from other creatures is what gives rise to the name ‘hermit’.

Hermit crabs have both a hard and soft exoskeleton. The hard exoskeleton covers the front part of its body, while the soft exoskeleton covers its abdomen. The abdomen and the last two pairs of legs are adaptive, meaning that they are able to contract to fit inside the shell.

Hermit crabs have ten legs just like true crabs, gills for breathing, and two pairs of antennae. The longer pair of antennae are used for sensory purposes, while the shorter pair is used for tasting and smelling.

They are able to grow because they undergo a molting process many times throughout their lifetime, whereby they shed their exoskeleton and grow a new one.

Where are Hermit crabs found?

There are two types of hermit crabs; marine and land hermit crabs.

Marine hermit crabs spend most if not all of their lifetime in water, while land hermit crabs do not live in water, but live close by. Both species need to live in humid and tropical areas because it is fundamental to their survival.

Some areas in the world where hermit crabs are predominantly found include;

  1. The Western Caribbean
  2. South America
  3. New Zealand
  4. South Africa and Western Africa(Nigeria)
  5. Western Atlantic
  6. Pacific Region
  7. Australia

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Why do hermit crabs live near water?

As we’ve established earlier, marine hermit crabs and land hermit crabs need to live in water and near water respectively. Both aquatic and land hermits cannot breathe oxygen directly from the air, so they need to breathe it from water in their gills.

Marine hermit crabs spend a lot of their time in the water, but they come up to the shore occasionally to mate and for food. Some of them never come up at all.

Even when they come up for the reasons stated above, they cannot stay outside the water for too long. It is the equivalent of holding their breath to them, so they can only do it for a few minutes.

Land hermit crabs live in humid areas as well, including forests and marshy areas that are close to the ocean. Their proximity makes the reproductive and mating process easier, and it is easier for them to find shells when they happen to wash up on the shore. They also need to be close to the water so that they can hydrate their gills when they need to and store some water in their shell.

Hermit crabs need access to both saltwater and freshwater. Saltwater is essential to their respiratory regulatory mechanisms as well as to help in the molting and mating process. They also need fresh water to drink and moisten their gills so that they can breathe.

Related Can A Hermit Crab Breath Underwater? Does it Breathe Water or Air and How Does it Breath?


Can Hermit crabs swim?

If you think the answer is yes, unfortunately, you would be wrong.

Actually, a lot of crustaceans cannot swim. They find a way to move and survive in the water by staying on the ocean floor. The hermit crab is an example of such a crustacean. Even though marine hermit crabs can spend most if not all of their lives inside of the water, they do so by just walking on the ocean floor.

They also live in shallow waters, so that it is easier to come up when they need to mate or look for food.

Their reasons for not being able to swim are more structural than behavioral. Hermit crabs have ten legs, but only four would be able to propel them to swim. The front legs would be too few for swimming purposes. Their front legs are also too short; and while they are able to move them back and forth, they cannot bend them. Bending limbs is an essential part of swimming, so without this ability, they are pretty much stumped.

A lot of true crabs and lobsters are also unable to swim.

Even though hermit crabs cannot swim, they are pretty good at climbing surfaces such as rocks and trees.

Can hermit crabs drown?

Marine crabs will not drown, because their bodies are designed to live in water for a long time. Land hermit crabs, however, do not have this advantage. The gills of land hermit crabs are less developed, so if they are in the water for too long, the oxygen in their lungs mixes with water making them drown.

They can probably be submerged in water for up to an hour and survive, but this depends on their size, age, and species.

Related Can Hermit Crabs Drown in Water And Can They Swim?

Do hermit crabs make good pets?

Just like any other pet, hermit crabs have their pros and cons.

Hermit crabs are low maintenance, in that they do not need too much attention, they only need to be fed small portions and they do not have to be cuddled.

They are also not disease-ridden and do not carry an odor.

On the other hand, if you are not careful, your hermit crab might not survive because the conditions have to be very specific, and they are very sensitive to their environment. The temperature must never drop below 20 degrees Celsius, and the humidity always has to be between 50-70%. They also need both fresh and salty water, and their food always has to be fresh.

Hermit crabs are also not a great choice for children because children love to play with their pets, while hermit crabs sometimes require privacy for molting and are inactive during the day. They also do not like to be held so children might get bored of them very quickly.

Related Do Hermit Crabs Make Good Pets and Are They Easy to Maintain?

Conclusion – do hermit crabs live in water

This is the end of this article, and I hope you’ve had at least a few of your questions answered about hermit crabs.

Hopefully, all this information will come in handy if you decide to buy one as a pet, or if you’re just learning for fun.


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.

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