Breeding hermit crabs in captivity were considered to be a mission impossible for many years. Until recently when there have been several successful cases of such amazing process reported.
Indeed, with lots of patience and with perfect mating conditions being provided, you may just manage to become the proud keeper of hundreds of baby hermits. If you dare! Here is the complete guide on hermit crabs laying eggs.
Where do Hermit Crabs Lay Their Eggs?
The hermit crab mother takes care of her eggs for about a month, carrying them around on the left side of her abdomen. Eggs are red or brown during such phase, and she does not release them until they are ready to hatch, becoming gray or dark gray.
Once this happens, she will head to the shore and release all of her eggs at one time in the ocean. She will immediately return to land, as unable to breathe in water, and her eggs will be left to hatch and mature across the ocean.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for baby hermit crabs to become delicious fish food or simply being unable of surviving on their own. Most of them get separated by ocean currents and waves, and they basically spend their first weeks hiding from predators across various algae.
What do Hermit Crab Eggs Look Like?
The eggs of hermit crabs go through various development phases, gradually changing their looks. At first, they are super-small and feature red or brownish colors.
As the mother keeps them safe in her shell, they are basically grouped-up into somewhat of a grape cluster. They constantly change their colors to gray variations.
Towards the third week, it is possible to even notice some tiny black dots- their eyes. After one more week, when they turn to a completely gray color, they are ready to hatch.
At this point, the mother will release them into water. Amazingly, the eggs hatch at the very moment of contact with ocean water. During this phase, they are zoaeas. They are still extremely small and vulnerable, and this is, unfortunately, the phase during which most of them do not manage to survive.
Actually, they need to go through at least 6 molting phases before they grow a small exoskeleton and tiny appendages. Once this happens, baby hermit crabs are ready to enter their next development phase, called glaucothoe.
Their eyes are now positioned on what seems to be ahead, and their appendages slowly develop into claws. Finally, once they grow their antennas, they are just one final molt away (in the sand) from heading to the shore in the research of their perfectly fitting shell.
After that final molt, these creatures modify their gills and become unable of breathing into the water anymore.
How Many Eggs do Hermit Crabs Lay?
Hermit crabs lay surprisingly enormous amounts of eggs. Smaller females usually lay around 800 eggs, while large specimens are reported to lay about 50,000 eggs sometimes.
Considering such fact, one would think that our planet is experiencing many ocean shores overcrowded by hermit crabs, but this actually never happens.
In fact, females lay that many eggs because of the super-low chances of survival of their babies. The majority of them, sadly, never get to reach the fully developed phase before becoming a meal.
On top of that, eggs are extremely fragile and can only hatch once that perfect hatching conditions are fully met. For instance, if water temporarily gets just a couple of degrees below the required levels, the eggs will never manage to hatch.
How Often do Hermit Crabs Lay Eggs?
The schedule of hermit crabs laying eggs has not been fully researched until now. However, it seems that these animals do not tend to breed very often. The conditions need to be perfect for this to happen- from environmental ones to encountering their partners spontaneously.
And often, the right mating atmosphere needs to be provided, too. Having your pets breed in captivity is extremely rare and difficult to achieve. However, if you feel up to the task, you may certainly give it a try.
Usually, these creatures tend to breathe and lay eggs during summertime. However, in captivity, they can decide to breed starting from February sometimes.
How do You Know if Hermit Crab Eggs Are Fertilized?
It is hard to confirm if your hermit crab eggs are fertilized unless you wait and monitor if they start developing eyes. This usually happens towards the third week.
Even if your breeding pets are separated for a while, please know that females can store male sperm for about a month. She can fertilize the eggs by simply passing them through the chamber where she keeps the male sperm.
How Long it Takes for Hermit Crab Eggs to Hatch?
It takes approximately one month for hermit crab eggs to hatch. The mother holds them on the left side of her abdomen, basically inside her shell, until they are ready to separate.
The eggs usually go through several color changes during such initial phase. Once they develop eyes and turn into a gray or dark gray color, the mother will release them into water.
At the very same moment during which they get into contact with ocean water, eggs will hatch.
Do Hermit Crabs Eat Their Eggs?
Sometimes, hermit crabs can decide to eat their eggs. That is why it is necessary to first divide the breeding male and female crabs from the rest of the colony.
Afterward, it is also required to separate the just-hatched eggs from their mother, as well as from any other hermit crab.
How to Hatch Hermit Crab Eggs?
Since hatching hermit crabs eggs is still quite rare, there are no exact parameters on how to do it in the best way possible. If you manage to get your hermit crabs breeding and the female develops eggs on her abdomen, you will have to wait for approximately a month before handling them in any way.
Once they are ready to hatch, there are two options available. One is to separate the eggs yourself and place them immediately into a saltwater pool. The other is actually waiting for the mother to do that on her own. Anyway, eggs must get into the water in order for being able to hatch.
Once they do, you will need to separate them from any other adult hermit crab, including the parents. Baby hermits need to constantly be into saltwater for about a month.
During such time, you can feed them with marine infusoria and powdered spirulina. Brine shrimp is also highly welcome for them to grow quicker and stronger.
After the initial two weeks from hatching, hermit crab babies need to be fed on a diet enriched with protein.
Therefore, you can offer your baby pets meals like copepods, frozen krill, marine crayfish or even a few drops of live plankton. This can all be purchased from a local breeder you trust or from larger pet stores.
Another extremely important thing is to design their transition tank in a way in which it can re-create a beach shore. They need to be able of getting outside the water very easily once they decide to.
This is where they will perform their final molting before deciding to accommodate a shell, so a 1- or 2-inch depth of substrate is more than enough here. Just as it would be on a beach area.
Finally, it is necessary to arm yourself with lots of patience and to be prepared of losing several baby hermits before they manage to reach their juvenile size and become stronger.
In fact, many young hermit crabs are reported to been eating their siblings during this phase. It is sadly something that cannot be stopped unless you decide to isolate every single baby crab.
Owning several males and female hermit crabs is no guarantee that you will eventually be faced with many baby pets around the enclosure. Actually, it is not likely this will ever happen, unless you really decide to put lots of effort into it.
In order for hermit crabs to breed in captivity, several conditions need to be perfectly met. To begin, you need to offer privacy and a mating atmosphere to those couples which you wish to match up.
Next, there has to be either a tank or an outside enclosure which imitates very well the presence of a beach and an entrance to the ocean. This is the only way to make the female release her eggs into the water once they are ready to hatch.
And when that happens, eggs will spectacularly hatch into zoaeas as soon as they touch the water! What is next to happen is for you to have lots of patience with feeding and taking care of the little ones, until they grow enough to adapt to land life.
Finally, the last step is placing all your juvenile hermit crabs, which were strong enough to survive, into their permanent living enclosure.