Hermit Crab Without Shells (What to Do)

by | Aug 30, 2022

Hermit Crab Without Shells

Did you come home to find your Hermit Crab without shells and don’t know why or what to do? 

This blog post will look at why your Hermit Crab will discard its shell and what you need to do to make it return to its shell.

We will also discuss all other things you need to know about Hermit Crab shells. 

First, let us examine why your Hermit Crab will leave the comfort of its shells.

Why Do Hermit Crabs Leave or Change their Shells

While Hermit crabs need to stay in their shells, it is rare for you to see them without one. However, there are several reasons why they leave or change their shells. Let’s look at some of them. 


Stress is one of the major reasons Hermit Crabs leave their shells. Hermit crabs can get stressed when transported from one place to another, especially when young. 

Transporting the Hermit Crab can cause damage to its body and shells, and the lack of proper care during this period can make them stressed.

And when they are too stressed, they leave their shells to die. Seeing your Hermit crab without its shell can mean it is so stressed and about to die. 

Shell fighting

If you have multiple Hermit crabs, they may fight each other for the best shells. 

Shell fighting usually happens when there are not enough good shells around. 

If one Hermit crab outgrows one shell and leaves it to find a bigger one, another Hermit crab takes the one he just vacated. 

If he cannot find another shell that fits, he may be without a carapace for a while unless he fights another Hermit Crab for its shell. This fighting can be dangerous and even fatal for some Hermit Crabs.


Hermit crabs can leave their shells if they feel irritated. 

The crabs do this when they get debris or sand in their shells, rubbing against their skin in the carapace, and they want to get rid of it. 

In trying to get rid of the irritants, they may decide to leave the shell for another one.  

Less ideal environment

Hermit crabs need an ideal environment to thrive. 

Their tanks or paludarium need to have a certain level of requirements, ranging from temperature to humidity and substrate. 

Hermit Crab Sand

  • A calcium carbonate sand substrate in four fun colors
  • No paint or dye is used in the processing
  • Precisely what your Hermit Crab needs

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If they don’t have all these requirements, or the tank is too cold or too hot, they may feel uncomfortable and leave their shells. 

Crabs, being cold-blooded animals, can’t regulate their temperature and need all the external help they can get. 

That is why they need a cold and hot side in the tank. 

Failure to have both of these can make the Hermit crabs leave their shells. 

Ensure the hot side does not exceed 85°F and the cool side doesn’t drop below 70°F.


There can also be a more permanent reason your Hermit crab has vacated its shell. 

Unfortunately, that reason is death. When a Hermit crab dies, it will fall from its shell. 

If you find your Hermit crab out of its shell and immobile, you must ensure it is still alive before taking action.  


Another time Hermit crabs leave their shells is during molting. 

Hermit crabs start molting when their bodies have outgrown their exoskeleton and need to shed their skin. 

During the shedding, they can leave their shells and stay immobile for a while. If you think your Hermit crab is molting, you should not try to handle it. 

Instead, place the bottom of a two-liter bottle over them and pock holes in it for ventilation. 

After this, place at least two suitable shells in the bottle. If they try to dig deep into the substrate, scoop the area up without touching the Hermit crab. 

Try not to touch or add water to the substrate. The Hermit crab is still fragile and not in the right frame of mind. 

Once they are ready, they will climb back into the shell. You should monitor them during the process as they can still be tired and vulnerable. 

Where to Buy Shells for Hermit Crabs?

Getting a suitable shell replacement for your Hermit Crabs can be challenging.

I have taken the time to research a good supplier of Hermit Crab shells on Amazon. This seller has excellent reviews and feedback. Check it below:

Buy shells for hermit crabs

Hermit Crab Shells

  • Natural, large and mixed colors
  • Quantity: 4 PC; Smooth Polished finish
  • Size: 1-3/4 Inch ~ 3 Inch
  • Opening Size: 1 ~ 1-1/4 Inch

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How To Get Your Hermit Crab Back Into Its Shell

If you decide to put your Hermit crab back in its shell, you must be careful as they are fragile. 

If you don’t handle them well, you can accidentally kill them.

Step 1

Before you do anything, carefully pick up the Hermit crab behind the leg and scoop them up using a spoon. 

Examine their bodies to know if they have any external injuries. 

Once you are sure everything is fine, it’s time to check the shells. 

Step 2

Boil the shells in dechlorinated water to eliminate debris, bacteria, or irritants in the carapace. 

Put the shell and your Hermit crab in a container and add dechlorinated water to cover the bottom. 

The water will help moisture the Hermit crab’s body and make it easier for them to get back into the shell.

Step 3

Now place them in another container that is only big enough to take the shell and the Hermit crab. 

Monitor the process, but don’t try to force the Hermit crab into the shell. 

This process can sometimes take a while for some Hermit crabs to re-shell. 

Why Are Shells Essential For Hermit Crabs?

If you have been around Hermit crabs, you will notice they usually hide in their shells. 

They do this because the shells protect their exoskeletons and give them a sense of security. 

The shells also prevent their bodies from drying out and protect them against environmental elements. 

A Hermit crab without a shell is vulnerable to heat, cold, and light and can even die if they are not in the carapace and exposed. 


If you find your Hermit crab without a shell, it can be for various reasons, and you should not panic too much. 

You should check to be sure why your Hermit Crab left its shell before taking action. 

After that, you can follow the steps above to encourage your Hermit crab to use its shell again. 

You should also provide a lot of shells if you have multiple Hermit crabs in your tanks.

About Me

Hi, I am Sarah! At Amado Pets we are passionate about pets and love sharing our knowledge and research with you. We strive to be the ultimate resource for you to learn all that you can about caring for your pet!