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How to Choose a Healthy Hermit Crab

Updated on September 26, 2015

Healthy hermit crabs can live between 6 to 15 years, but unhealthy hermit crabs may only live 6 to 12 months. When choosing a hermit crab, you want to look for signs of good health.

Even under your well cared for hands, it's easier to keep a healthy pet healthy than it is to rehabilitate a sick one... And, with hermit crabs, it can sometimes be hard to rehabilitate, depending on the illness.

Evaluate the Store Setup

When choosing a hermit crab, evaluate how the store is housing the hermit crabs. Are there tons of hermit crabs piled into one small space? Are there sufficient water bowls and food available? Is the temperature and humidity accurate?

Substrate: Many souvenir shops at the beach house their hermit crabs on beach-type sand without adequate water or humidity. Many use wire cages like the one you see here.

Temperature and Humidity: Hermit crabs actually need higher humidity at about 70%, so dry conditions can cause dehydration and death. The temperature should be no lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit; temperatures that are too cold or too hot will affect the hermit crab's metabolism and behaviors, and can cause death.

Limbs and Dead Crabs: Look for dropped limbs and dead crabs. Neither dropped limbs nor dead crabs can be out of the ordinary, but if you notice many claws or legs lying around or multiple dead crabs, there could be a problem with the population.

Empty Shells: Look for a large number of empty shells of the same size and style. Now, this may be nothing, or it may be that there were once many inhabitants in the shells that have since died.

Dirty Cage And, lastly look for excess waste, mold or mineral streaks... This means they don't care for their cages.

Don't feel like you have to rescue any hermit crabs that are in poor conditions.

If everything checks out and appears to be fine, it's time to choose your hermit crab.

Choosing the Crab

Activity Level: Look for hermit crabs that are active. An active crab has a better chance to survive. Even if the crab is really active but missing limbs, it will have a better chance than an extremely passive crab.

Natural Shells: Try to stick with hermit crabs that are in natural shells versus painted shells. Hermit crabs in natural shells are usually more healthy.

Limbs: Ask a store employee if you can handle the crabs. Count the limbs, sometimes stressed crabs will have dropped limbs; active crabs may be missing limbs do to fights with other active crabs.

Smell: Smell the crab. If it has a musty smell, it may be molting, which is a natural process but it adds stress to the crab. A crab that is molting is more likely to die if you take it home. A musty smell could also mean a fungal infection, especially if the set up is too warm and wet.

Mites: Mites are tiny brown or grey bugs that live in the the shell and the cage; an infestation can kill the hermit crab. Look for mites running around the hermit crab. Mites don't like light, so hold the crab up to a light to expose the darker areas of the crab.

Bringing Home A Healthy Hermit Crab

Once you've selected your healthy crab, bring it home in a small kritter keeper with moist bedding. Crabs brought home in the dry, cardboard boxes are not as likely to survive because it's very stressful during the transport. A kritter keeper that resembles a setup is much less stressful during transport.

If you already have hermit crabs, you'll want to separate your new one for a month or so. This will give you time to make sure that your new hermit crab is healthy. You don't want to bring illness, fungus, bacteria or mites into your existing tank.


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