Why Do Hermit Crabs Bury Themselves?


by Simon Griffiths


Being a new crab owner can be quite stressful, especially if you are not accustomed to the behavior of hermit crabs. One of those behaviors includes burrowing and it’s quite normal for hermit crabs. Unfortunately, new owners don’t know this and they are always asking why their hermit crabs bury themselves.


Why Do Hermit Crabs Bury Themselves?

Well, hermit crabs can bury themselves for fun, to distress, to molt, to hibernate, or just to sleep. They do this in the wild and nothing will stop them from doing it in captivity. There is no need to panic if your hermit crab buried himself and won’t come out. They can do this for days, weeks, or even months without dying.

Without further ado, let’s dissect this topic in detail and discuss what you should do when your hermit crabs go underground.

Possible Reasons Why Your Hermit Crab Buried Itself

As I mentioned earlier, it is the nature of hermit crabs to dig and bury themselves. So if your crab goes MIA, then it’s probably buried in sand or whatever substrate you are using. But why would they hide? Well, you are about to find out!

1. Molting

Molting is a major reason why hermit crabs burrow. As the crab grows, it tends to shed its exoskeleton and grow a new one. During this period which takes about a month or two, your hermit crab will be vulnerable.

Being vulnerable means it can die or get hurt by other hermit crabs. To avoid death or injuries, the hermit crab will dig and bury itself until the molting process is over.

So if your hermit crab has not appeared for weeks, it is probably molting. All you have to do is check for a pungent smell. A dead hermit crab will release a rotten, fishy smell as it decomposes.

If this smell doesn’t come up, you should leave the crab to do its thing. It will eventually emerge as soon as it develops a tougher exoskeleton.

Related The Process and Stages of Hermit Crab Molting 

2. Stress

Just like other pets, hermit crabs can get stressed by a new environment. If you place a crab in a new enclosure, there is a high chance it will hide for a few days. In such instances, the hermit crab will not have to dig too deep.

Distressing is quite common with these crustaceans and they do so by hiding in the substrate. The crab will come out eventually and take a tour of her new surroundings.

Avoid handling or forcing the crab out of hiding as it will only increase the stress levels and make it worse.

3. Sleeping

Hermit crabs also need to rest and their nocturnal nature only allows them to sleep during the day. Your hermit crab might be spoilt for choice on where to sleep and sometimes they will just prefer to do it underground.

Sounds weird, right? L Well, they can choose to sleep under their hides or in the substrate. So, if your hermit crabs bury themselves during the day, they might be sleeping. Of course, they will emerge and become active as soon as the lights go out.

Related Are Hermit Crabs Nocturnal or Diurnal? 

4. Temperature & Humidity Regulation

Hermit crabs are known to thrive under specific temperature and humidity levels. If these levels are not reached, the crab will retract into a hole and bury itself.

A hermit crab can burrow in the sand to seek humidity or stay warm. In addition, if the enclosure becomes too hot, it can bury itself to escape the heat.

Related The Best Substrates For A Hermit Crab Tank

5. Recreation

I am sure you are surprised that hermit crabs also have recreational activities. Well, they like to burrow for fun and make tunnels underground. In fact, you should use a soft substrate in your crab’s cage. This makes it easier for your hermit crabs to dig as they wish.

How Long Do Hermit Crabs Stay Buried?

There is no certain answer to this question. The duration in which a hermit crab stays buried can differ greatly. A molting crab can remain buried for 4 to 8 weeks while a crab that is distressing can stay buried for a few days.

The reason why your hermit crab is hiding will determine the duration. If it’s something minor, the crab is likely to emerge after a few hours or days.

The only time you should worry about your hermit crab is when it stays buried for long and there’s a bad smell coming from the tank. Keep in mind that large and old crabs can take up to 6 months to finish molting.

Related How Long Does It Take A Hermit Crab To Molt 

Should You Dig Up A Buried Hermit Crab?

Digging up a hermit crab from its hole is the worst thing you can do. It is like you are giving your little crustacean a death sentence.

These creatures should be left alone when they go into hiding. You don’t want to dig up a molting hermit crab as it will die sooner than later.

Disturbing a buried hermit crab will heighten its stress levels. Remember that a stressed crab will not eat and might starve itself to death.

Let these creatures be and you shall never have to deal with a dead or sick hermit crab.

Related Why Did My Hermit Crabs Die?

Can Hermit Crabs Get Stuck Underground?

Crabs are well-suited to dig underground and there is absolutely no way they will get stuck. So, if your hermit hasn’t come up in a long time, don’t even think of digging it up.

It’s definitely not stuck or requiring your help. It’s just molting or distressing and it should be able to dig itself back to the surface.

Related How To Tell Whether Your Hermit Crab is Molting or Dead

Wrapping Up

There you go crabbers, I have answered your question and explained to you why hermit crabs dig and bury themselves. You don’t have to panic when this happens, just leave the crab to do its thing.

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.