how to get a hermit crab out of its shell


by Simon Griffiths


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Hermit crabs are very interesting crustaceans. They do not have a shell of their own, but borrow a shell from another species and keep them as long as they can fit in them.  When they need to switch shells or when a new shell is discovered along the shoreline, they gather for an interesting rehousing situation.

They will arrange themselves in order of the largest to the smallest, and fit shells while leaving their old shells for the next hermit in line. With this arrangement, many if not all of them will find new suitable shells for themselves.

Given that a good shell is hard to come by, separating them from their shells is no easy task. Which is why you should not forcefully remove them from their shells. If you do, there will be some immediate consequences.


What happens if you remove a hermit crab from a shell?

The hermit crab will do any of the following;

1. They will pinch you

Let’s be honest, you probably deserve a pinch if you try to remove it from the shell forcefully without warning.

2. Shed limbs

Hermit crabs have five pairs of legs. The last two pairs of legs are used in supporting and maintaining the shell, so if you try to remove the shell, they may be shed. The shedding also comes about as a result of stress. Even though they regain these limbs during the moulting process, it is still cruel to aid in shedding them.

3. Stress

Shells are a source of safety and security for the hermit crab. When they do not have one, they are basically rendered helpless. This causes them to become stressed.

4. Dehydration

Hermit crabs store water in their shells so that they can consistently hydrate their gills. If you take away their shell, they have no way to do so which is harmful to their wellbeing.

5. Death

Hermit crabs will become dehydrated when they do not have their shells, they will eventually suffocate when their gills are impaired due to lack of moisture and eventually die.

Why a hermit crab may be reluctant to leave its shell

1. Attachment

As we’ve already mentioned, finding a shell that is comfortable and the right size is not easy. Gastropod shells are rare in nature, so when a hermit crab finds one, it immediately becomes attached because shells are crucial to their survival.

2. Stress

Shells provide a sense of security for the shell and enable them to store water and protect itself from predators. They are very sensitive to their environment and any changes in heat, light and air make them vastly uncomfortable and stressed. At this time, getting a hermit crab out of its shell is particularly difficult.

3. Unwanted mating attention

Female hermit crabs are very picky with their mates, so sometimes when they do not want to mate with a certain male, they will strive to remain inside their shell to keep them off.

4. Outgrowing their shell

Hermit crabs grow relatively quickly, which is why they need to switch shells every 12-18 months after moulting. During this time, their shells may become too small for them so they are not able to come out

What are some reasons why people would want to remove a hermit crab from its shell?

Given some of the reasons above, you might be wondering why someone might be cruel enough to remove a crab from its shell. Sometimes it is not necessarily that someone is trying to get a room accessory or bully the hermit crab. Some good reasons for trying to remove a hermit crab from its shell include the following;

1. Checking for illness

If you keep hermit crabs as pets, they might be prone to mites. You need to try and check the hermit crab properly for signs of mites and mould. You might also want to check if they are sick so that you can isolate them from the healthy ones.

2. Checking the sex

If you want to try breeding hermit crabs in captivity, you need to match them with appropriate mates. In order to do this, you need to pair a male and female. You can only ascertain their gender by checking for the penis and gonopores.

An interesting fact, some hermit crabs are actually intersex. They have been found to copulate as males with their gonopores closing after they moult.

3. Encouraging it to get a better shell.

If the hermit crab’s shell is too small, somebody might attempt to remove their old one so that it can get a new one that will fit them better.

4. Death

When the hermit crabs die, they are removed from their shells so that they can be prepared for use by another hermit crab

How to get a hermit crab out of its shell?

If you want to remove a hermit crab’s shell for its own good, use the following guidelines.

1. Get shells

First, make sure you collect or buy enough good shells that can suit it. Avoid painted shells because the chemicals can be harmful to the hermits. Once you get them, wash them properly using a brush and boil them. After washing them, moisten them with salt water, not tap water.

2. Isolate

The hermit crab from the rest so that they do not fight over the shells. Place all the good choices in plain sight so that the hermit crab can be intrigued and move out of their shells to try them on.

3. Lure them with food

You can provide some treats near the new shells so that they will be tempted to move out of their shells and try them on after eating the food.

4. Turn up the heat

Sometimes the hermit crab will require a little nudge. You can try to turn up the heat temporarily so that they can leave their shells. In this process, they will notice the new shells.

5. Be patient and don’t force them

If you try to remove them forcefully, they will become agitated and stressed. Just leave the shells in plain sight and let them come out on their own.

6. Handle with care

If the hermit crab is stuck in its previous shell, you need to give them a helping hand. First, try to bathe them in saltwater so that they can become loose. When you handle them, do not be too rough or use sudden sporadic movements.

Conclusion – how to get a hermit crab out of its shell

Finally, we’ve come to the end of the article. That’s how you can remove the hermit crabs from their shells.

Remember, for this process to be a success, you have to be very patient with the hermit crab and provide it with good options

Good luck, and remember that when you pick them up, do it by the back of their shells, not by the front where they can pinch you.

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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