Hermit Crab Stress: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Hermit Crab Stress Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Hermit crabs are fascinating pets, but they are not immune to stress. On the contrary, one of the main issues that a lot of hermit crab owners face is stress. Therefore, understanding the causes, symptoms, and solutions is crucial for your pet’s life.

Stress in hermit crabs can be caused by a variety of factors, such as improper housing, diet, aggression, shell availability, etc. Stress can (and, eventually, will!) cause major health issues and shorten lifetime if it is not treated.

As responsible pet owners, we must be able to spot the symptoms of stress and act quickly to address the issue.

In this article, I will be talking about the main causes, symptoms, and solutions of hermit crab stress. By following these guidelines, it will be much easier to make your hermit crab healthy and live a happy life.

10 Main Causes of Hermit Crab Stress

  1. Inadequate habitat (suboptimal conditions)
  2. Sudden environmental changes
  3. Inadequate nutrition
  4. Keeping them alone
  5. Overcrowding
  6. Excessive handling
  7. Molt disruption
  8. Poor maintenance
  9. Shell availability
  10. Pre/post purchase syndrome

1. Inadequate habitat (suboptimal conditions):

Each species of hermit crab require specific environmental conditions to thrive such as proper temperature, humidity, and substrate. If their crabitat is not set up correctly, it will certainly stress them out.

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2. Sudden environmental changes

Hermit crabs do not like environmental changes. For example, if such changes occur in their natural environment, they prefer to wait out this period in their burrows, digging deep into the ground.

Basically, that’s why they essentially dig their burrows – to rest, chill, and control the conditions they prefer.

3. Inadequate nutrition

Hermit crabs require a balanced diet that includes fresh food, water, and calcium supplements.

If their diet is inadequate, it can cause stress and weaken their immune systems.

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4. Keeping them alone

It is a well-known fact that hermit crabs are social creatures, they benefit to be in a group.

In the wild, hermit crabs live in groups and constantly interact with each other, so being completely alone can be unnatural for them.

Therefore, a lack of social interaction will definitely cause stress to them.

5. Overcrowding

Although hermit crabs thrive in large groups, excessive overcrowding can lead to resource and food-related aggression.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that in captivity, these crabs are LIMITED to the confines of their crabitats. Whereas in the wild, they can move across significant distances when they want to avoid unnecessary attention for other crabs. 

6. Excessive handling

Hermit crabs are not pets you can play with.

Do not take them out just because you want to. You should really handle him as little as possible. Do not allow children to poke and provoke them to pinch.

They stress very easily when disturbed.

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7. Molt disruptions

Molting is a process that all hermit crabs go through in order to grow. The molting process involves the crab shedding its old exoskeleton and growing a new one.

Unfortunately, during molting, they become extremely vulnerable, weak, and stressed, as it takes a lot of energy from them.

Hermit crabs typically molt in their burrow. Therefore, we need to be extra careful about that. Molting hermit crabs should only be disturbed/handled in emergency situations.

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8. Poor maintenance

Although hermit crabs are considered to below-maintenance pets, it does not mean that we can drop and forget about them.

We need to check their habitat, clean and replace water and substrate regularly.

If their living conditions are not maintained properly, it can cause stress and health problems for them.

9. Shell availability

Hermit crabs depend critically on gastropod shells for their survival. Limited availability of shells can lead to hermit crabs competing and fighting for them.

Shells are THE MOST valuable resource for them.

That is why we need to give hermit crabs shells of different shapes and sizes. It is recommended to have at least 5 shells per hermit crab, but more is always better.

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10. Pre/post purchase syndrome

There is still no scientific definition of the pre/post-purchased syndrome but this problem is real.

Although being given resources including food, water, and a controlled environment, hermit crabs frequently die after the purchase. Why?

Most likely, those hermit crabs had been already living for a long time under constant stress, sub-optimal conditions, and without proper food before people get them.

Sure, we can start taking good care of them but the damage is already done because of that stress from a while back.

Symptoms of Hermit Crab Stress

Stressed hermit crabs may exhibit various symptoms that pet owners should look out for. These are the most common ones:

  1. Lack of activity: If a hermit crab is not moving or appears lethargic, or weak, it may be a sign of stress.
  2. Loss of appetite: You will notice a sudden change in their appetite. Stressed hermit crabs often refuse to eat or only eat very small amounts of food.
  3. Surface molting: When Hermit crabs are going to molt they will usually bury themselves entirely. Surface molting is a sign of stress or some other physical conditions. 
  4. Leaving the shell: Healthy and happy hermit crab will never voluntarily leave its shell and expose its soft abdomen to the environment. If a hermit crab leaves its shell without replacing it, it is a sign of stress or an underlying health issue.
  5. Aggressive behavior: A stressed hermit crab may become aggressive towards other hermit crabs.
  6. Lack of grooming: Check out their grooming behavior. Hermit crabs that are stressed may not clean themselves as often as they used to.
  7. Excessive hiding: Hermit crabs that are stressed may burrow, hide in their shell, or retreat to a hiding place more frequently than usual.
It’s important to approach burrowing factor with caution when caring for hermit crabs.

Unfortunately, many new hermit crab owners do not realize that hermit crabs require time to prepare for molting. Burrowing does not mean that they will start molting right away. Actually, it can take hermit crab weeks and even months (depending on the size of the crab and its health conditions) before it starts molting.

All these symptoms can also be signs of other health problems or environmental issues.

Solutions for Hermit Crab Stress

The most important – do your research, and learn more about the species of hermit crab you have!

Provide a spacious and properly set up crabitat with the right substrate, temperature, humidity, lighting, hiding places, and decorations. Make sure the enclosure is big enough for your hermit crab to move around, dig, and climb.

Maintain a stable environment. If you have to make changes, do it slowly and gradually. Avoid sudden noise, light, or movement that can scare your hermit crab.

Feed your hermit crab a varied and balanced diet of fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, protein, and calcium sources. Avoid or be very careful with spicy, sour, fatty, salty, sweets, and food from the table. For example, foods high in oxalic acid also impede the absorption of calcium by binding the mineral.

Keep your hermit crabs in a group (ideally, other crabs should be of similar size and species). Provide enough space and hiding places for each hermit crab to thrive. In case of bullying and aggression, separate aggressive hermit crabs for a few weeks.

Minimize handling your hermit crab, do it as little as possible. Ideally, you should not disturb your hermit crab during molting at all, as it is a vulnerable and critical stage for them.

Clean and maintain their enclosure regularly (water changes, substrate replacement, and decoration cleaning).

Provide a variety of empty shells in different sizes and shapes for your hermit crab to choose from. Monitor their shell usage and replace any damaged, unusable, or unsuitable shells.

In Conclusion

Hermit crabs are very delicate animals and can easily experience stress due to environmental, diet, social, and many other issues.

It is important to do your research and understand their needs in order to give a comfortable and stress-free home.

By monitoring them closely and we can address the issues immediately. So that your hermit crab thrives and lives a long, healthy life.

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