Sometimes a hermit crab does not move for a long time. Hermit crab not moving is a common aspect of worry for many hermit crab owners. There can be three reasons behind this stillness. The first reason is that the hermit crab is molting or shedding its exoskeleton. The second reasoning of hermit crab not moving may be that the hermit crab is wounded or prefers to stay more inside a sand burrow, rather than the shell. The final reason of such hermit crab behavior is that the hermit crab has died. It is important to have a detailed knowledge of all the reasons why a hermit crab is not moving because you do not want to mistake a living hermit crab for a dead one. If you misunderstand the molting crab as a dead crab and attempt to remove away the shell from the crab enclosure, the effect of that can be disastrous for the molting hermit crab as the crabs remain in a very sensitive physiological state while molting.
To understand whether a crab is molting or is dead, it is necessary to keep a keen eye on the crab and look for the symptoms of molting around the crab. The symptoms of molting and the symptoms of death are largely different and unique, and only by an observation of the symptoms the state of the crab can properly be understood. Since molting is a 4-8 weeks long process, so it is easy to mistake a molting crab as a dead one.
Molting is essentially the process of the crab gradually releasing its old exoskeleton from its body and then regenerating a new exoskeleton on the body. Molting is essential for every hermit crab and the frequency of molting varies according to crab species and crab nature. Wounds/loss of claws is also critical stimuli to molting because the crabs have their lost feet regenerated during the molting process.
During molting, the hermit crabs prefer isolation and a gentle substratum environment. That means that the hermit crab digs inside the sand floor of its enclosure and stays inside the sand for most of the time to let the new exoskeleton regenerate. Since the hermit crabs generally dig the sand floor that is directly beneath their snail-shell, so there is no external movement that is visible from the shell. Thus, if the hermit crab is not moving then look for track marks on the moist sand around the shell and near the water place of the enclosure. If you find them then that means the crab is coming out of its sand burrow occasionally. The crabs behave very privately during molting and they also become vulnerable to attacks from other crabs. It is for this reason, when you see that the hermit crab is not moving because it is molting, then construct a small isolation around the molting crab. Just place anything on the sand around the crab that guards it from other crabs. While placing the barrier it is important to be careful that the crab is not disturbed and supplies of food and freshwater are provided.
Molting is easy to mistake with death because during molting too, the legs droop and the crab appears lifeless. In such cases look for slight quivers on the body of the crab and keep a keen ear for any slight sound that the crab might make. If the hermit crab is not moving or not showing any signs of life, and you are getting an unusual ‘fishy’ smell from the crab cage, then it is a possibility that the hermit crab has died. The main reason of a hermit crab’s death is mishandling of the crab or the crab cage. These are delicate animals; any kinds of shock have grave effect on them.