Any hermit crab that lives in a tank or enclosure may try to escape on occasion. These crustaceans are skilled climbers. One of your hermit crabs may have embarked on an unsanctioned adventure outside its habitat.
Escaped hermit crabs will rarely stroll brazenly around a house. Your pet is likelier to be hiding. Check warm, humid locations, such as under appliances, linen closets, and bathrooms. Lay some aluminum foil on the ground so you can hear the click-clack of a hermit crab’s walk. Set a food trap to tempt your hermit crab out of hiding.
If you’re careful, you will get your hermit crab back. Once you have done so, consider how and why it escaped in the first place. You may need to make some changes to the habitat and lifestyles of your hermit crabs.
Can Hermit Crabs Escape Their Tank?
Hermit crabs do sometimes escape an enclosure. There are several ways that this could have occurred:
- Working together to lift a tank lid while hanging upside down
- Scaling the walls of the tank and finding a gap to slip through
- Clinging to a toy that was removed for cleaning
Some hermit crabs do not cope with living in captivity. They start life in the wild. They are used to traveling and scavenging freely. Being locked in a comparatively small space is anathema to them.
Other common reasons for hermit crabs to seek escape – and solutions to prevent this – include:
|Low humidity, leading to trouble breathing||Use a misting spray and invest in a hygrometer to ensure humidity is at 80%|
|Not enough hiding places in the tank||Add more substrate and obstacles|
|Unsanitary living conditions causing stress||Perform a full clean of the tank|
|Hunger or diet boredom||Vary the diet of your hermit crabs and feed more often|
|Boredom and loneliness||Provide more toys, especially climbing apparatus, and hermit crabs for company|
|Excessive light causing distress and disorientation||Ensure your crab has a strict light-dark schedule – 12 hours of each|
|Curiosity/desire to explore||Get a larger tank with more obstacles|
|Bullying from hermit crabs||Rehouse it in another tank with a friend|
My Hermit Crab is Missing
You should conduct a headcount of your hermit crabs. Do this when the sun sets. This is usually when these nocturnal animals emerge from their slumber. If you offer food, your hermit crabs will likely come scurrying.
Count your hermit crabs and ensure that all of your pets are accounted for. If one is missing, consider why this may be. The hermit crab may still be sleeping, or it may have burrowed under the substrate to molt.
Hermit crabs typically display signs of an impending molt before they burrow and begin the process. If you noticed any of the following behaviors, your crab is likely molting:
- Sluggishness and lack of energy
- Digging more than usual
- Eating, drinking, or bathing to excess
- Glazed, milky expression in the eyes
- Color fading from its usual vibrancy to a dull gray
In these instances, the hermit crab will remain burrowed until it is ready to emerge. To be on the safe side, take precautions against a potential escape. As molting hermit crabs must never be disturbed, you cannot dig up the substrate to check.
Hermit crab store water in their shell and nourish themselves on almost anything. It will take weeks for your hermit crab to starve or struggle with thirst. You will need to track it down as soon as possible, though.
Where Do Hermit Crabs Hide in a House?
If your hermit crab got loose in the house, all is not lost. There are several steps to take first:
- Inform all house residents that a hermit crab is loose. Hermit crabs can get stuck in the carpet, so everybody must watch their step
- Close all doors and windows. If your hermit crab leaves the home, you’re unlikely to see it again
- Look at the tank and work out how your hermit crab escaped. Take steps to prevent others from escaping
- Lay aluminum foil on as many surfaces as possible. This will make a tell-tale sound if your hermit crab walks on it
You can either wait for your hermit crab to come to you or start searching for it. An escaped hermit crab is unlikely to stroll casually around the house. It will likely be hiding and will need to be sought out.
Other pets can be helpful here. Cats and dogs, for example, may show a particular interest in certain parts of the home. They likely smell the hermit crab as they give off a strong odor. If so, follow these animals. It not, keep them behind closed doors. They may hurt the hermit crab if they find it.
Now comes the time to start scouring your home for your escaped hermit crab. Grab a flashlight and check each of the following locations.
Around the Aquarium
Check the immediate vicinity of the tank. Hermit crabs do not move at speed. There is every possibility your pet has not traveled far. If you use heat lamps, check any trailing cables. Your escaped hermit crabs will be using these to climb to the ground.
If the floor is carpeted, look there too. As discussed, hermit crabs often get trapped on carpet fibers. Look under the bed if appropriate, as the hermit crab will look for a dark place to hide.
If this is the case, do not wrench your hermit crab from the floor by the shell. The crab will cling on, whether by accident or design. This will likely result in lost limbs. The hermit crab is afraid you are trying to steal its shell.
Instead, crouch behind the hermit crab and blow softly. Alternatively, use a hairdryer at the lowest temperature. This will get your hermit crab moving. Once free of carpet, you can scoop it up and return it to the tank.
Bathrooms, and equally humid locations like laundry rooms, will appeal to hermit crabs. They feel at home in the climate of such locations. If you have recently stepped out of the shower, a bathroom will be welcoming.
If your hermit crab is in the bathroom, it may end up trapping itself. If a hermit crab climbs into a bathtub, it may struggle to gain traction on the porcelain to get back out again.
Bathrooms are also filled with hazardous chemicals, though. Household cleaners like bleach are lethal to hermit crabs. Even air fresheners or spilled shower gels and shampoos may be toxic.
Hermit crabs will also likely find a water source in these rooms. This is another source of concern. Tap water is lethal to hermit crabs, due to the presence of chlorine and heavy metals.
Closets and Cupboards
If there is no sign of your hermit crab in the bathroom, try the linen closet. This is often the next best thing in terms of humidity.
A linen closet will also be warm for your hermit crab. It is likely to be comfortable here. It will nestle into towels and take a pleasant doze.
The same could also apply to closets in the bedroom. Your hermit crab is unlikely to experience as much humidity here, though. This makes it a dangerous place to dwell.
Under Electrical Appliances
Head into your kitchen and look under any electrical appliances. Beneath washing machines, dishwashers, ovens, and even fridge-freezers are all welcoming locations to hiding hermit crabs.
By getting under such an appliance, the hermit crab is safe from the attentions of other pets. It will likely find insects to eat. More importantly, it will be dark, humid, and warm. The constant hum of an electrical appliance will also block external stimulus.
This is a double-edged sword, though. As explained by Animal Behavior, white noise can distract a hermit crab from potential threats. This means you should get your crab out of this hiding place as quickly as possible.
Hermit crabs love to climb. As per the Journal of Crustacean Biology, this is an instinct of this species. In the wild, hermit crabs climb trees. This helps them survey sea level and avoid potential ground-dwelling predators.
This means that your hermit crabs may well be in an elevated position in your home. Check the tops of curtains and drapes. These fabrics are particularly easy for hermit crabs to climb. Your hermit crab may be watching you or dozing at this vantage point.
While hermit crabs are skilled climbers, they are less adept at getting down safely. This means you’ll need to be vigilant about protecting your hermit crab from falling. If you find it on-high, return it to its tank ASAP. A tumble from a height is likely to be fatal.
Think about the food sources in your home. Hermit crabs are natural scavengers. They will go where there is nourishment to be found. That means looking in food cupboards and fruit bowls.
Do not just look at the snacks that your hermit crab always gravitates to, though. As per Marine Ecology, hermit crabs like a varied diet. They may be seeking out an alternative food source.
If your hermit crab is feasting, handle with care. Let it continue its meal to avoid stress. Scoop up the hermit crab, alongside its snack. Place both the hermit crab and food back into the aquarium. The retention of this food acts as a consolation to the hermit crab after its capture.
How to Tempt Hermit Crabs Out of Hiding
If you cannot find your hermit crab in any conventional hiding places, lure it out of hiding. This involves laying bait and creating a trap for the hermit crab. In the case of hermit crabs, you may be better off creating multiple traps. The ideal hermit crab trap will involve the following:
- Two dishes of saltwater
- A strong-smelling, appealing food – fish is best if you can tolerate the smell yourself
- A plastic crate that can be climbed, lined with a substrate
- A heat source so the crate does not get too cold
The crate is the most critical element of your trap. Lay a significant amount of substrate within the crate. Apply more than the usual 6 inches. Place one bowl of saltwater outside the crate, and a small one inside. Add the food to the crate.
The aim is to convince the hermit crab to climb into the crate to eat the food. The saltwater makes this likelier. As explained by PLoS One, saltwater stimulates a hermit crab’s sense of smell. If you have a fan, use this at low power to increase the range of the saltwater.
This also means that you will need to help the hermit crab climb into the crate. Add steps or something the hermit crab can grip and clamber. Naturally, though, you won’t want it to climb out again. This is why you need plenty of substrate, to create a soft landing. You’ll also need to direct heat toward the crate to keep the hermit crab warm.
You’re welcome to stand vigil over the trap and see if your hermit crab emerges. Remember that these animals are nocturnal, though. The crab will likely emerge in the small hours. Get some rest and hope your hermit crab is in the crate come morning.
It can be worrying when a hermit crab escapes into your house. These are small and delicate animals. They are not equipped for roaming free outside of the seafront. Get your hermit crab back, then learn how and why it escaped. Take steps to prevent your hermit crab from getting loose again.