Why Is My Hermie Losing Limbs?


There are cases where one hermit crab will act aggressively towards another hermit crab. It could be territorial or over a desired shell. In the wild a hermit crab will "throw" a claw or leg if another hermit crab tries to pull them out of their shell. This is a responsive behaviour and their limbs are built in a way that they are able to "drop" or "throw" a limb easily so they may survive an attack. This is called Autotomy.

Example Shell Swap Behaviour:

When one crab likes another's shell, say Crab A likes Crab B's shell, Crab A will go up to Crab B's shell, knock its shell ( that of Crab A) against the other crab's shell (Crab B), causing the crab in the desired shell (Crab B) to come out and have a look at what is going on. Now the first crab will try to pull the second crab out of its shell by a cheliped or other limb. The second crab will normally drop his cheliped(grasping claw) or leg/s and retreat inside his shell, using his remaining cheliped to protect himself. Preferring to loose a limb instead of loosing a shell.

Illness from contaminated living conditions

There are many stores that do not meet the needs of the land hermit crabs they sell. If there is mould/mold, fungus, bacteria or pests inside the tank, there is a chance that even with the best of care the hermit crabs could die. In Australia it is a breach of pet store 'code of ethics' to sell a hermit crab that is suffering from disease, illness or injury and they should seek prompt vetinary attention for any animal in their care that is so affected. If you see such a tank, talk nicely to the owner and recommend some hermit crab care tips, or give them my number to contact me and I will send them out an 'introduction' kit with caresheets, checklists, beginners kit (food, treat, hc salt, water conditioner, mister bottle, 2 seasponges and an iso unit. If after several attempts to reach the manager/owner of the store is fruitless, either wring the RSPCA or contact me by email and I will contact them on your behalf.

Mite infestation

If your hermit crab tank has a mite infestation you will need to get rid of them ASAP! Visit the MITES page for more information


Fluctuating temperatures - it is important to keep the temperature and humidity as stable as possible so as to keep your hermit crabs from becoming stressed. Just as we feel uncomfortable with the changes in environment (when there is a cold morning, hot afternoon and cool evening etc) so do the hermit crabs. As warm blooded humans, hen it gets hot, our bodies sweat to cool down, and when it gets cold we shiver to get warm. With hermit crabs when they get cold they become inactive and go to sleep to preserve body warmth, or dig down to the warmest section of the tank. When it is too hot they may come out of their shells or hang near the water dish. A stable temperature is the best method, perhaps with the use of a thermostat or rheostat to keep it steady.

If hermit crabs are stressed by environmental factors such as their crabarium being: too hot, too cold, too humid or too dry then they may lose limbs and slowly die. It is important to keep your crabarium as close to the environment they are plucked frm in the wild. That means recreating the tropics which as we know means warmth and moisture.

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