Jasmine The Hermit Crab Molts

Hermit Crabs have to molt (shed) their entire exoskeleton in order to grow.  They bury themselves in the dirt in the wild so that they can do this in safety.  A newly molted crab is soft and unable to defend itself after a molt.  In order to grow and harden properly, they must then eat their exoskeleton.  Yep, even their old claws!

When you keep them as pets you have to supply substrate deep enough for them to molt.  Trial and error has led me to use separate tanks for them to molt in.  Turns out some crabs like to eat their freshly molted brethren or steal and eat their exoskeletons.  Fortunately, the loss of their exo does not automatically spell death.  But it does stunt the crab and it’s the color of a lunch bag.  It may take another two or three molts before that crab begins to grow normally again.

If you go the route of separate tanks, it means you have to pay attention to your crab’s behavior.  Eating large amounts of salt and food, soaking in or emptying the water dish everyday, and constant digging/tunneling in the substrate are signs of a crab heading into a molt.  All crabs will exhibit this behavior occasionally, it’s the consistency that counts.  The crab can then be moved to the molting tank where he has privacy and his own personal food supply.

However, some crabs like to surprise you occasionally with a sudden drop down in the tank.  I even had one molt on the surface!!!  Thank goodness I found that crab before somebody ate him!  Today I was doing a ‘fluff and pick’ in the tank and found Jasmine barely covered next to the food dish.  Why so many crabs dig down in high traffic areas with the other crabs marching over their heads, I do not know.  When I reached in to remove the food dish my pinky finger poked down right into her molting chamber.  She jerked back into her shell so fast she took bedding with her.  I said something I won’t repeat here.  Both because she had dug down right next to the food dish and also because I saw her pinkness and was afraid I had hurt her.  She did appear to be fine, but she needed to be moved to the molting tank.

See how light colored she is?  She had probably finished her molt an hour or two before I found her.  When crabs are freshly molted they are almost completely white and wet.  Notice how life like that empty shell looks.  She will eat all of that before coming up.

See how light-colored she is? She had probably finished her molt an hour or two before I found her. When crabs are freshly molted they are almost completely white and wet. Notice how life-like that empty shell looks. She will eat all of that before coming up.

Another view.  And take a look at her claw.  It's open and prepared to pinch. She is NOT happy about having her picture taken.  Even though she knows I won't hurt her (I've had her nearly 9 years.), she is very vulnerable right now and instinct tells her she should be hidden.

Another view. And take a look at her claw. It’s open and prepared to pinch. She is NOT happy about having her picture taken. Even though she knows I won’t hurt her (I’ve had her nearly 9 years.), she is very vulnerable right now and instinct tells her she should be hidden.

She is too soft and weak to dig herself a hole so I must do it for her.  The hole needs to be 1 1/2 times her length and heighth.  Spray it down good and wet. Then you put the crab in with its exoskeleton and cover with a 'roof'.

She is too soft and weak to dig herself a hole so I must do it for her. The hole needs to be 1 1/2 times her length and heighth. Spray it down good and wet. Then you put the crab in with its exoskeleton and cover with a ‘roof’.

Cork wood makes a good, lightweight roof that holds in the moisture.  A crab Jasmine's size will take, on average, 10 to 14 days to eat her exoskeleton.  There are fast eaters and slow eaters, so this is not a hard and fast rule.

Cork wood makes a good, lightweight roof that holds in the moisture. A crab Jasmine’s size will take, on average, 10 to 14 days to eat her exoskeleton. There are fast eaters and slow eaters, so this is not a hard and fast rule!

See you in about 2 weeks Jasmine!

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3 responses to “Jasmine The Hermit Crab Molts

  1. Hope Jasmine enjoys the privacy. And see you later today!

  2. That is so cool! I have never seen a molting crab of any sort. You obviously take very good care of your critters.

    • I think it’s an absolute miracle. The first time I found one, I found the exo and thought it was a dead crab. Then I picked it up and ‘SQUISH’ it was empty! And then I knew what I had found and went looking down in the shell for the crab. I was so thrilled!

      And then later on down the road one night, I was on my way to bed and stopped to say goodnight to the crabs and spotted one naked (no shell). This is generally A Bad Thing. I managed to scooch him back into the shell and he went in without a fuss. But a couple of minutes later he reached out and started dragging himself across the ground sans shell. He then started pulsing and heaving and I thought I was watching him die. Then I noticed he was looking ragged and went for a flashlight. His skin was splitting! He wasn’t dying, he was molting! I woke everyone up and dragged them to the livingroom. I was so excited! My husband was like, yeah, okay. And the kids watched for a minute and went back to bed. I was SO disappointed! I thought the kids would be thrilled. So I stood there for nearly an hour by myself in the dark with a flashlight watching a crabby molt. I loved it. Of course, I kept the other crabs away and when he was done and moving about I moved him to a safe place.

      The next morning I looked at the kids and told them I couldn’t believe that they didn’t stay and watch the crab molt. How could they not be thrilled? They looked confused. What crab? When? Turns out neither of them had actually woken clear up. They didn’t even remember getting out of bed! My daughter was SOOOOO upset. “Next time smack me or shake me or something and make sure I’m AWAKE! 😀

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