My hermit crab is out of his shell, isn't moving, is missing 2 legs, but doesn't smell. Is he dead?


2 Answers

Ashley Nicholson Profile
Hermit crabs sometimes lose their legs (including their claws), and these can be grown back on subsequent molts. However, losing legs is often related to stress from improper living conditions (temperatures, humidity, cleanliness), so if you have a hermit crab losing legs, you should rule out any problems in their environment.

 Aggression from other crabs, mite infestation, wounds, or illness are other causes. While losing a limb is not death sentence for a crab, it is usually an indication of some sort of problem that needs attention immediately! 
Also, how long has your hermie been out of its shell and not moving for? If it has been more than a day, then I think he may be dead, but not necessarily, so don't bury him yet! 

How To Keep A Hermit Crab Healthy
  • Humidity: Make sure the humidity is high enough, but not too high either (should be 70-80 percent relative humidity - invest in a hygrometer to be sure).
  • Temperature: Too high or too low, too much fluctuation, or hot spots can be bad for your hermit crab. You should aim for temperatures between 72-78 F or 22-26 C.
  • Chlorine in the water - use a dechlorinator on all water in the tank.
  • Residual chemicals from cleaning in or around the tank - use only hot water for cleaning the tank.
  • Condition of substrate: Not too damp, no mold.
  • Cleanliness of the tank: Clean the tank regularly to remove and wastes or uneaten food.
  • Bathing: Once a week is plenty under most conditions. Too much bathing can harm your hermie.
You also might want to check if any of these are causing the problem:
Check the tank and the crabs for mites, which will appear as tiny specks moving around. Hold your crab up by the shell until the crab extends itself a bit (blow gently on the crab to entice him or her out if necessary) and check it body for mites. If you think your crabs and tank have mites, see Vanessa's Crabarium for help.

Shell Fights / Aggression
Hermit crabs are usually pretty peaceful, but sometimes they will fight over resources - especialy coveted shells. If your crabs are fighting over shells, you need to increase the number of appropriately-sized shells, in a variety of styles, to make sure there is enough selection to cut down fighting. 
You might also want to consider larger tanks, more hiding places and more feeding/water bowls if your crabs are fighting. If the problem persists, you might want to separate the crabs.

Illness and Severe Stress
If you have a crab that is very stressed or ill, it may drop multiple legs.
If your hermit crab has lost more than one leg in a short period of time, then isolate the crab (still maintaining proper conditions, especially temperature and humidity). The causes of dropping legs are not usually contagious, but this will help keep the crab comfortable and free from the stress of competing with other crabs. Crabs that drop multiple legs are often so stressed that they cannot be saved.

Sometimes new crabs start dropping legs shortly after you get them home; this is more likely due to the conditions they experienced during collection, shipping, and their time at the pet store than anything you are doing wrong. Just make sure your conditions are ideal and hope that the stress reaction is reversible.

Now What? Regeneration of Legs
Usually, the dropped leg will grow back. At first a "gel limb" forms, which starts out as a little bud or bump, then develops over the course of a few molts into a new leg (or claw), though it may be smaller than the original. Your crab may undergo more frequent molts until the limb is regenerated.
If this doesn't help, watch this:

Good luck!

Christen Braundmeier Profile
Hermits never come out of their shell unless they are molting, exchanging their old shell for a new shell, or have been mugged of their own shell. 

If a hermit crab sees an occupied shell he wants, he will battle the other hermie for his shell - sometimes it kills them. 

Molting and Growing 

Hermit crabs have to molt to get bigger, and they have a 50/50 shot at surviving a molt. In order to shed their skin, they bury themselves in the sand and come out of their shell.

When they are freshly molted, their exoskeleton is soft like gelatin, and they can be hurt very easily while trying to get into a new shell.  If you touch your crab and he does not move in response, then he is dead. 

I am very sorry. Hermits are hard to keep. I gave up on my hermit crab hobby because they are so high-maintenance.

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