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16 Feb 2021: Gosh, it was back in early 2017 when I made a major update! I have successfully migrated this website to a new web host. The Forums have been upgraded to phpBB 3.3.3 for better security and features.

Care Sheets

Care Sheets
Our very basic care sheet is available for download in Australian and American English. Please refer to our Crab Care section for more thorough explanations.


If quoting any text from this website, please reference back to our page with a hyperlink. Do not copy any images without the original photographer's permission.


What is moulting?

Humans consist of body tissue encasing their skeleton. On the other hand, land hermit crabs consist of body tissue encased by their skeleton. Such a skeleton is called an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton of a hermit crab grows at a slower rate than its body tissues; therefore the hermit crab must shed it periodically to survive. This process is known as moulting. Do not confuse the process of moulting with a hermit crab changing the shell that it wears. Most hermit crabs will bury themselves to moult.

Why are deaths often associated with moulting?

Moulting is akin to a test that every crabber has to take. Since it is an extremely stressful process for hermit crabs, any additional stress factors such as malnutrition, low temperature and humidity and poor choice of bedding will push their limits and easily kill them. If you have a successful moulter, then it may be indication that you are caring for your hermit crabs properly. Hermit crabs are able to delay moulting if they feel that the tank is not set up properly, but they will die if they wait too long. This is what ultimately kills the majority of hermit crabs kept in plastic carriers with gravel. Unfortunately, even under the care of experienced crabbers, some hermit crabs die trying to moult due to irreversible PPS-induced damage.

Do deaths always indicate that I am doing something wrong?

Unfortunately, even under the care of experienced crabbers, hermit crabs do not always recover from the aftermath of PPS and die trying to moult for the first time in captivity. Since hermit crabs are vulnerable and immobile without their exoskeleton, they are prone to cannabalism. Although cannabalism is difficult to prevent, you can reduce the risk of it happening by not overcrowding your hermit crabs and feeding them plenty of meat. Give your hermit crabs plenty of room to dig and space themselves out. You can also isolate suspected pre-moulters in a smaller tank to eliminate the possibility of cannabalism, but most hermit crabs would have buried themselves already before their owners can notice any pre-moult symptoms.

How do I know if my hermit crab is going to moult soon?

Hermit crabs may display symptoms of moulting before they bury themselves. Likewise, hermit crabs displaying any of the symptoms below may not be pre-moult. The symptoms listed below have been arranged from the most reliable indicators to the least.
1.  Gel buds darkening in colour where limbs are missing (see Lost Limbs for more information).
2.  Presence of a dark, round sack of fat and water inside the hermit crab's shell.
3.  Sitting in the salt water pond for a long time.
4.  Ashy exoskeleton that looks dull or worn out.
5.  Lethargy and unwillingness to socialise with other tankmates.
6.  Change of the hermit crab's eating and drinking habits. Some hermit crabs will eat more, while others will not eat at all.
7.  Cloudy cataract-like eyes.
8.  Constant urge to dig.

What do moulting nests look like?

Hermit crabs are expert burrowers and will carve out a 'nest' under the bedding to moult in. Usually the nest is large enough for the hermit crab to turn around in and to shed their exoskeleton in front of their shell. In order to build a nest, the sand needs to be moist enough for the sand to hold, but the nest may still collapse if touched by the human hand. Nests can be hard to find as hermit crabs usually dig diagonally and then downwards. If you accidentally collapse a nest, cover the trench with loose bedding and gently smooth it out so that other hermit crabs will not find the area suspicious and dig down out of curiosity. Do not compress or push down the bedding as this can cause the hermit crab to suffocate. The photo below depicts what an uncovered nest looks like.
[ Submitted by appps ] Moulting nest

My hermit crab buried itself! Is it moulting?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by new crabbers. Hermit crabs may bury themselves for many different reasons and moulting is merely one of them. They may also bury themselves to stay alone, hide, rest, cool down or for fun. Do not worry too much if your hermit crab has buried itself. However, if you do have some hermit crabs that always stay on the surface except to moult, it may be a good idea to isolate them before they stay underground for too long and moult. Although it is often advised not to dig up hermit crabs, you are unlikely to cause significant harm to a hermit crab that has not been buried for long. It is a good idea to eliminate the risk of cannabalism.
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