My Hermit Crab Has Left Its Shell! Will It Die?


by Simon Griffiths


Nothing worries a crab keeper more than a naked hermit crab. When a hermit crab leaves its shell, we refer to it as a naked crab.

Those who have worked with hermit crabs understand the importance of shells to these creatures. Surprisingly, even hermit crabs know that they can’t survive without a shell.

So, anytime your pet crab leaves the shell, treat the incident as an emergency. For your information, these critters do not abandon their shells for the sake of it. There must be a reason why they choose to leave the shell and risk their abdomens drying out or even being attacked by other hermit crabs.

As you probably know, a shell serves two purposes in the life of a hermit crab: the first one is to prevent desiccation and to protect the soft abdomen.

Without going deep into what you should do if a hermit crab abandons its shell, let’s first discuss the causes.


Why Did My Crab Leave Its Shell

Knowing the reasons why hermit crabs abandon their shells will help you find the perfect solution. Below are some reasons we found after scouring the internet and interviewing a good sample size of hermit crab owners:

1. Shell Fight

If you are new to pet hermit crabs, then you should know that shell fight is a common thing among these beautiful creatures. Most crabs actively shop for new shells as they continue to grow. Unfortunately, finding the perfect shell involves a lot of trial and error. And even then, your crab may fail to find a comfortable shell.

That said, hermit crabs will always compete for shells and even fight over them. Sometimes, a crab will relinquish his or her shell in attempt to try a new one. Unfortunately, that might not go into the plan and another crab will steal the original shell, leaving the hermit crab without a shell to live in.

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2. Stress

Hermit crabs are prone to a lot of physical stress, especially now that they are being harvested and sold in large numbers. They have to endure a lot of stress before getting to the pet store. Keep in mind that hermit crabs are not kept in the best of conditions in the pet store.

In most cases, you’ll be getting an overly stressed hermit crab by the time you purchase it. Now combine all the stress and torture it has gone through and try to think what will happen. Sometimes the only solution for these crabs is to leave the shell and wait for its death. I think we can also call it suicide, right?

3. Extremely High Temperatures

Even though hermit crabs need high temperatures to thrive, you should make sure that the temps do not go past 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When heating the crabitat, you should ensure that there is a cool end for the hermit crabs to retreat if the temperatures get too hot.

If the hermit crab feels that it’s too hot, it might end up burying itself under the substrate or even leave its shell in an attempt to cool off. Always monitor the substrate and air temperature to avoid such an occurrence.

4. Low Humidity

Hermit crabs rely on specialized gills to breathe, which explains why they need high humidity. If the moisture falls below the recommended level, then the crab will suffocate slowly. To avoid going through such a slow death, the crab will ditch the shell and soak itself in the water bowl.

Keep in mind that low humidity can also lead to irreversible gill damage. So, always ensure that the humidity levels in the tank do not fall below 80%.

5. Foreign Objects

I am pretty sure you can relate to this and you’d also remove your shoes, shirt or pants if you feel there is a foreign body. Now imagine if there is some object in a hermit crab’ shell. Won’t the crab feel uncomfortable? It will definitely want to get rid of the shell to prevent the discomfort or even injuries to its soft abdomen.

Will A Hermit Crab Die Without A Shell?

As I mentioned earlier, it is uncommon for hermit crabs to leave their shells unless they are shell shopping. These creatures value their shells and they tend to become vulnerable without them.

Unfortunately, a naked hermit crab is more likely to die because he or she might be attacked by other crabs. Besides, the soft abdomen might begin to dry out and eventually lead to death. This explains why wild hermit crabs would rather use coconut shells or empty containers as their improvised shells.

A naked crab in captivity might not die immediately, but it would be best that you protect it and coax it to get back into his or her shell.

Related How Long Can A Hermit Crab Live Without A Shell?  

Shell Evacuation Treatment

Leaving your naked hermit crab exposed is not the best idea. Chances are that it won’t survive or it will get hurt by other crabs. To avoid all these, you need to offer it some form of protection.

Some owners will prefer to place it under a plastic soda bottle cut in half or a plastic bowl. This offers a protective dome, but it won’t guarantee that other crabs will stay away. While at it, you should make sure the crab has access to food and water.

Related How Does A Hermit Crab Look Without A Shell

The other best way to treat shell evacuation is by quarantining your crab. You’ll have to isolate it in a separate tank or plastic container and ensure that the temperatures and humidity remain optimum. Do not forget to place a variety of shells as well as the original shell.

Before you place the shells in the isolation chamber, make sure you’ve cleaned and sterilized them. Also, check if there are any foreign objects in the shells. Once you confirm everything is fine, mist the shells with a mixture of dechlorinated sea salt water and leave them in the isolation tank.

Related How Do You Remove A Hermit Crab From Its Shell and Is It Safe?

Wrapping Up – My Hermit Crab Has Left Its Shell! Will It Die?

A hermit crab leaving its shell should no longer cause panic as long as you know what to do. I believe you are in a better position to handle such a scenario in case it happens to your pet hermit crab.


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.