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Why won't my hermit crab eat?

Why Isn’t My Hermit Crab Eating or Drinking?

(Last Updated On: January 20, 2023)

Hermit crabs may refuse to eat or drink due to stress, being fed the same foods, a lack of saltwater (muting their sense of smell), excessive noise, and disturbances.

Hermit crabs can go for 3-14 days without food or water. They store water in their shells so that they can moisten their gills.

Happy and healthy hermit crabs will never intentionally deny themselves food or water.

Do Hermit Crabs Eat and Drink Every Day?

Hermit crabs will emerge from hiding when the sun goes down and the temperature cools.

This is when they seek food and water, so they’ll traverse the beach, seeking nourishment and hydration. Upon eating their fill, hermit crabs return to the safety of their burrows.

Pet hermit crabs begin life in the wild because breeding in captivity is practically unheard of in hermit crabs. They’ll be accustomed to eating daily, so you must replicate this in captivity.

How Long Can Hermit Crabs Live Without Food or Water?

Hermit crabs can survive for up to two weeks without eating or drinking. However, survival is entirely different from growing and thriving.

Many owners assume that hermit crabs can survive for a long time without nourishment as they burrow for weeks while molting, but this isn’t entirely accurate. While hermit crabs may stay under the substrate during a molt, they don’t deprive themselves of food or water.

Hermit crabs understand when a molt is impending, so they’ll take this opportunity to eat and drink more than usual. This helps them add fat to their exoskeleton and store water in their shells.

While molting, hermit crabs sustain themselves on their shed exoskeleton. As noted, this will contain more fat than usual, keeping them nourished throughout the process. Likewise, water stored in the shell provides hydration until they eventually resurface.

hermit crab stopped eating

What Happens When Hermit Crabs Stop Eating or Drinking?

If deprived of food and water for too long, hermit crabs will grow sick and die. Refusing to drink is the most concerning of these behaviors.

Even land hermit crabs need regular water. They live in hot, tropical climates, so a tank should be heated to 80 degrees, so hermit crabs must hydrate to remain alive.

As well as quenching thirst, drinking water keeps the gills moist. If their gills dry out, breathing becomes more difficult, eventually suffocating the hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs don’t just use food for energy; they need protein and calcium to maintain a strong, healthy exoskeleton. If your hermit crabs aren’t eating, they’ll grow increasingly unwell.

My Hermit Crab Won’t Eat

While hermit crabs aren’t glutinous animals, that doesn’t mean they’ll starve themselves.

Some hermit crabs are pedantic about when they eat. If you provide food at sundown, not all of them will immediately eat, as some prefer to have their meals later in privacy.

Hermit crabs are nocturnal animals, so they likely eat food after dark. If you leave food overnight and it has disappeared by morning, this will be the explanation.

As hermit crabs are natural scavengers, they may be hiding their food.

Full Stomach

Hermit crabs eat every day, but they eat in small quantities. If you place large amounts of food in a tank, a lot may be left, creating the impression that hermit crabs are starving themselves.

The hermit crabs may have eaten their fill. Don’t forget that the food you serve in a dish isn’t the only thing that hermit crabs eat, as they may have eaten insects, wood, moss, and algae.

Negative Connotations with Food

Hermit crabs can forge an emotional connection with food. More importantly, they’ll remember a negative experience. As per The Biological Bulletin, hermit crabs will avoid food that led to sickness.

For example, hermit crabs may show a sudden and unexpected aversion to fresh fruit, which may be due to fussiness. However, hermit crabs may have buried fruit until it went rotten.

If hermit crabs ate this spoilt fruit and experienced negative physical side effects, they’ll remember how the food made them feel.

Behavioral Processes explains that the scent of food alone can be enough to deter hermit crabs from eating, which is why managing food exposure is important.

If hermit crabs consider all food smells negative, they may cease eating.

Excessive External Stimulation

If hermit crabs have stopped eating for seemingly no reason, consider if anything has changed outside their habitat. External stimulation can be distressing and distracting to hermit crabs.

As per Animal Behavior, hermit crabs find their senses dulled by ambient noise.

If you’ve moved the tank, this could explain their reluctance to eat, as they’re picking up on external sounds, such as music or TV. If you provide quieter surroundings, the situation may improve.

Lack of Saltwater

Hermit crabs need two disparate water sources in their habitat: freshwater and saltwater. The latter is critical regarding feeding, as is appropriate humidity. Without them, hermit crabs can’t smell food.

Proceedings of the Royal Society explain how hermit crabs rely on water vapor to activate their sense of smell. If they scent something tasty, their antennae will start to twitch. Then, they’ll investigate the food source and, under ordinary circumstances, eat.

These senses are blocked if the humidity level’s below 80% or there’s no marine salt in the water bowl. Hermit crabs will never eat what they can’t smell, so rectifying these issues may stimulate appetite.


Almost all hermit crabs go through post-purchase syndrome (PPS), which is a period of intense stress upon transitioning from the beach to captive living.

Hermit crabs remain burrowed under the substrate throughout PPS, which is called de-stressing. You mustn’t disturb them at this point, as they’ll emerge when they’re ready to eat.

Be aware that stressed hermit crabs may shed limbs, including their claws (chelipeds), which will regrow during the next molt. In the meantime, the hermit crab will struggle to eat.

Hermit crabs eat by picking up food with their large claw, moving it toward the mouth, and guiding it with their small claw. If your hermit crabs lack these appendages, they must be hand-fed.


Hermit crabs aren’t susceptible to species-specific diseases and don’t develop common health complaints that affect mammals. However, hermit crabs can still grow sick.

Hermit crabs that stop eating and drinking grow unwell; not eating and drinking magnifies these health concerns. Stress and an inappropriate environment can sicken hermit crabs.

Check that your hermit crabs aren’t too hot or cold in their habitat. Ensure they’re enjoying an appropriate balance of darkness and light.

Provide company and stimulation as bored hermit crabs grow withdrawn and sick.

How To Get A Hermit Crab to Eat

A hermit crab that refuses to eat isn’t sustainable. Skipping one meal isn’t a problem, but you’ll need to address the issue if the loss of appetite lasts several days. Here’s how:

Offer Different Food

Variety is the most important element of the hermit crab diet. In the wild, hermit crabs scavenge from different food sources. Most of these are unappealing to humans, but hermit crabs enjoy the freedom of choice.

According to the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, hermit crabs frequently ignore the food they consumed less than 24 hours earlier. They would rather wait for a different taste experience.

No matter how much your hermit crab enjoys certain foods, never subject them to the same daily meal. Always keep an array of different foods on hand to prevent them from growing bored.

how long can hermit crabs live without food?

Make Existing Food More Tempting

Finding different food may not always be possible, and familiarity can breed contempt regarding nourishment. Spruce up existing foods to make them more appealing. Sweet flavors and sensations work well.

If your hermit crabs ignore fresh fruit as they ate it yesterday, glaze it with honey, natural jam, or preserves. The sweet scent will capture the imagination of your hermit crabs. They’ll likely rapidly descend upon their meal, demonstrating a renewed zeal for this previously ignored food.

Hand Feeding

Hand-feeding could be a way to tempt your hermit crabs into eating. If your hermit crab has shed its claws, this will be essential. As discussed, hermit crabs cannot feed themselves without two functioning chelipeds.

Initially, try offering your hermit crab a small amount of food on a plastic spoon. Plastic is always better than metal; the latter material can provoke sensitivities in hermit crabs. Hold the food close to the antennae and see if it piques the interest of your hermit crabs.

Try handling your hermit crabs and encouraging them to eat from your hand. Apply a liquid food to your finger or leave the snack in the palm of your hand.

Only do this if your hermit crabs trust you and accept handling. If your hermit crabs are already stressed, this will aggravate the issue further, leading to pinching.

My Hermit Crab is Not Drinking

If your hermit crab suddenly avoids water, ensure you didn’t provide tap water. This is toxic to hermit crabs due to chlorine and copper.

Hermit crabs like tepid water. You may consider putting ice cubes in drinking water on a hot day to prevent overheating, but they’ll dislike this experience. Their body temperature may drop to uncomfortable levels.

Hermit crabs drink water and bathe in it. This means the water may be messy, containing traces of fecal matter or shed limbs. Not all hermit crabs care about this, but some are fussier than others.

Ensure that your hermit crabs can still get out of their water supply. Some hermit crabs drink by scooping water into their mouth using their claws, while others submerge in water.

Hermit crabs cannot hold their breath indefinitely. Left in water without a means of escape, hermit crabs will drown. They need ropes or ramps to get in and out of a water source. If the hermit crabs no longer trust these entry and exit points, they may avoid water altogether.