How Do Hermit Crabs Mate?


by Simon Griffiths


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Just like other living organisms, hermit crabs have to mate so that they can pass on the gene pool to the generations to come and keep populating.  We all know that hermit crabs live both in ocean water and on land. Only one unique species lives in freshwater, and it is called the Clibanarius fonticola.

Now, let’s focus on the mating process for  crabs. Even though they live on land, they live in proximity to the water for breeding purposes. In this article, we will discuss their mating process and the entire process of reproduction as well.

Stay tuned and grab your notebooks!


In what season do hermit crabs mate?

Most hermit crabs produce their eggs throughout the year. There is no specific time of the year that applies to all species. For some, mating takes place usually during summer and springtime. This means that breeding occurs between late February and August, but it is at its peak between June and July. Others will also breed between August and October, such as the Dardanus deformis. Some species will breed all year round.

How do hermit crabs pick their mates?

Different hermit crab species have different methods of mating. When the time comes for them to mate, they will all journey to the shoreline in pursuit of suitable mates. The female hermit crabs release a pheromone to indicate that she is ready to find a mate. The males will detect this pheromone and move to where the female hermit crabs are.

The male hermit crabs will engage in mating rituals so that they can find mates. The mating rituals usually consist of fighting one another over mates in order to establish dominance. The female hermit crabs will then make their choice on which male they decide to mate with.

Interestingly enough, size does matter for hermit crabs.

Larger males have been found to mate with larger females, probably because larger females can host more eggs. Some smaller males are relentless in trying to mate with the larger females, but sadly only a few of them manage. This is because as described earlier, they are probably fought off by the larger hermit crab males.

How do hermit crabs mate?

Once a hermit crab chooses its suitable mate, they start the mating process. Both the male and female hermit crabs will come out of their shells, just a little bit for accessibility. The male hermit crab will then proceed to hold the female with one of its claws and use the other claw to brush or touch her gently.

They will press their stomachs together and the male will deposit enough sperm in what is known as a spermatophore to the female’s gonopores. Once the sperms reach the eggs, they are fertilized.

What next? – fertilisation

Once the eggs are successfully fertilized, the female hermit crabs will only carry them for a month. During this time, the mother will stay away from the ocean until they are completely ready to be deposited in the ocean.

The eggs will slowly change color from brick red to dark grey. The color change is a result of them running through their supply of yolk required for the development. Once the color change takes place, it is a sign that it is time for them to hatch.

The mother will go into the ocean and hatch the eggs. Once the eggs make contact with the salt water, they will be surrounded by the salt water and several tiny larvae will emerge from the eggs as a result. The larvae are referred to as zoeae. The zoeae will float on ocean water. Some of them will consume each other, while others will be eaten by other ocean creatures.

The zoeae that manage to survive will move to land after 2 months. During this time, they will have molted a few times and developed into megalopae. A megalopae is very tiny and it looks like a tiny shrimp. This stage will take a month before it is time for the next life cycle.

The next stage is to bury itself in the sand so that it can finish developing and it will emerge as a tiny hermit crab, it can now start looking for its own shell and some friends.


At what age can hermit crabs stop breeding?

Hermit crabs do not have a menopausal stage, so they can breed at any time.

However, just like humans, they prefer to breed early in their lifetime.

Can hermit crabs live alone?

They can, but it will be very lonely for them.

Hermit crabs are very social, and they prefer to live, feed and move in groups. You will probably observe them wiggling their antennae and legs at each other, which is how they communicate.

If you want to keep a land hermit as a pet, consider getting them a friend or two to cohabit with.

Related Where Do Hermit Crabs Live in The Wild?

Do hermit crabs mate in captivity?

It is not a piece of cake, but it can be done.

It is not easy to breed them in captivity because as mentioned in this article, they need to be close to the ocean so that they can hatch their eggs. They also need to find suitable mates, which is particularly hard because they can be picky.

For hermit crabs to mate in captivity, the conditions should be close to perfect so that the female hermit crab feels comfortable enough to hatch their eggs. You can also try pairing different hermit crabs until you find a pair that is willing to mate.

You will need to have a lot of patience, a lot of due diligence, and a whole lot of luck to achieve this.

How can I tell the difference between the male and female hermit crab?

Some of the differences can be observed in their legs. Male hermit crabs have very hairy legs while female hermits have smooth legs. Male hermits also do not have legs on their abdomen while female hermits do.

Another difference that is pretty obvious is that the male hermits will have a penis under their fifth pair of legs while female hermits have two holes known as gonopores above their third pair of legs.


We’ve come to the end of this article, and I hope you have learned a lot. The mating process and reproduction process of a hermit crab is particularly interesting to learn about, and I hope you think so too.

Now that you know, spread some of this knowledge to your friends.

The next time you see two crabs who appear to be fighting, take a second glance, they might just be mating.

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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