Is Your Hermit Crab Dead Or Molting? (How Can You Tell?)


by Simon Griffiths


If you’re anything like us, then you love your hermit crab to bits. You keep it in an aquarium, make sure that it always has enough food and water to eat and drink, and clean its home on a regular basis. But what happens when you can’t find your hermit crab? You look around the actual vivarium and don’t even see it. It’s most likely hiding, right? Or maybe it’s molting or dead?

New owners will always panic when they can’t find their little crab. This explains the question- Is my hermit crab dead or molting? Most people cannot differentiate the two and they end up disturbing the crab only to find out it was in the middle of a molt.

For your information, some hermit crabs die from unsuccessful molts, and disturbing your pet crab in the middle of a molt is like giving them a death sentence. So, being able to differentiate between death and molting is very important.

From my experience with hermit crabs, below are some of the ways you can use to differentiate between a dead and a molting crab.


What Is Molting In Hermit Crabs

Molting is a stage of growth in which crabs grow hard outer shells, also known as exoskeletons. Crabs molt to get rid of their old shells and to make way for new ones when they are fully grown. Molting is one of the crucial stages in the life cycle of a hermit crab because it is responsible for characterizing the crab’s physical appearance and overall health.

Some crabbies have been seen to molt a few times in a year. Juvenile crabs do not take a long time to molt, but adult molts can take anything from 3 to 9 months or even longer and this depends on the size, growth, and health of the crab. Crabs can also go through growth spurts where they grow much faster than normal while molting.

Related How Long Does It Take A Hermit Crab To Molt 

Hermit Crab Dead or Molting?

The most obvious sign of a molting hermit crab is when its exoskeleton has turned dark and it has stopped eating. A crab can begin molting as a sign that it is ready to grow into its new shell. Or, perhaps the outer part of its exoskeleton has been damaged. Whatever the case may be, molting in a crab is a completely normal process.

When your hermit crab begins molting, you will see that it stops eating altogether and becomes quiet. Its exoskeleton will turn dark brown or black in color and develop crusty patches on its shell (or legs). Besides, the hermit crab will become as white as a ghost and seem very lifeless. A molting hermit crab is very vulnerable to attacks from predators, so it’s important that you don’t disturb or touch this creature during this time. It’s also crucial to make sure that the vivarium has enough humidity in the air. If not, then the shell will dry out and cause your pet some discomfort.

A molting hermit crab will remain buried under the substrate for 4 to 8 weeks. It may look like it has passed away, but it is actually trying to grow a new exoskeleton. You should not disturb it during this time because the process of molting is rather delicate.

Also, molting hermit crabs do not eat during this time. They will eat a lot of food before they go into molting. This means that you won’t have to worry about your crab starving to death. Most of them will have enough in their bodies to last the entire molting process.

if your crab loves to chirp and make noises at night, it will stop altogether when it enters the molting process. Crabs do so to preserve their energy and use it during the molting process.

Related How To Tell When A Hermit Crab is Dead

How To Tell If A Hermit Crab Is Dead

If your hermit crab is dead, then it will look very different from a living one. The most obvious difference is that it won’t move. If you see your crab moving in its vivarium, then you know that it’s alive. Below are some of the signs of a dead hermit crab:

1. Bad Smell

If your hermit crab smells bad, then it is most likely dead. The majority of times that there is a foul odor, it means that the hermit crab has died. A dead hermit crab produces a rotten smell. Most people say that a dead hermit crab smells like rotten fish. So, be keen on the odor that comes from the crabitat.

2. Faded Colors

If your hermit crab’s colors are no longer vibrant, then it’s dead. When a living hermit crab molts, its new exoskeleton will be fresh and clean. It will be full of luster and shine. But if your crab is rather dull in color (or even faded), then it is most likely dead or dying. Depending on how long your crab has been gone, the colors will be changed to a dark green or brownish color, which is an indication that it has passed on.

3. Lack Of Movements

If your hermit crab has stopped moving, then it is most likely dead. When a crab molts, it changes colors and the shell becomes clean and shiny. But if there is no movement coming from your pet crab, it’s probable that it is in a state of death. A dead crab will have withered eyes and no movement at all.

4. Stiff and Falls Easily From The Shell

5. Exceeded the molting average timeframe

Wrapping Up

Don’t panic if your hermit crab is buried in the sand or its colors have faded. It is most likely in the middle of a molting process. Hermit crabs prefer to go into molting under the sand to protect their delicate bodies. Once they are done molting, they will come up and become active once more. Unfortunately, molting is not always successful, sometimes hermit crabs die during the process. You can tell that your crab is dead if the smell coming from the vivarium is not pleasant. Just make sure to keep an eye on it so that you know when anything goes wrong.

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.