Many first-time hermit crab owners worry once they notice their pets are buried inside the substrate. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize if this is happening due to some health complication or because of unavoidable and perfectly natural reasons.
Molting is per se an entirely normal phase in any hermit crab’s life. But what if molting is mistaken with hibernation? And do hermit crabs hibernate at all?
Although hibernation is a normal process among many animal species, this is not the case with hermit crabs. Indeed, they can hibernate, but if that happens it means that something is not right.
The first step is to check your temperature levels. If these get under 68 °F (20 °C), your pets are basically being forced into hibernation and you need to react fast.
Hibernation in Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs always live under tropical temperatures. Their bodies are not able of creating warmth on their own, but they need to absorb it from their environment instead.
If the required temperature conditions are not met, these creatures will be forced into a state really similar to hibernation. However, their bodies are not designed to hibernate, so their life is fully endangered during such state.
Hermit crabs which are not able of absorbing enough warmth will sadly not be able to digest food or even perform some basic movement.
They become extremely lethargic when it gets too cold around them, and they will consequentially bury themselves into the substrate in a desperate attempt to warm themselves up. If this persists, affected pets will eventually die.
Hibernating or Molting
The simplest way to distinguish hibernation from molting is to first check the temperature levels across the tank. If these are normal and unchanged, your pet is probably molting and it should be fine.
Before the molting process begins, they will become quite active, digging their tunnels among the substrate or eating more than usual to create stocks of nutrients, or even spend time in the water much longer to hydrate their shells well. If you have noticed these signs among your pet, your mind can be at ease.
On the other side, if the temperature is below 68 °F (20 °C) your pet is most likely hibernating. Before heading to hibernation, it has probably been less active or even lethargic, avoiding food and water.
This can be really dangerous for your pet, so it is essential to gradually increase the temperature to the required levels.
How Long do Hermit Crabs Hibernate?
Sadly, it is impossible to predict how long will your hermit crabs hibernate. However, your pets should slowly resume their normal activities once those temperature levels are back to the appropriate ones (daily having to be between 75-85 °F).
If your crabs do not start feeding even after several days after you have adjusted their tank temperature, it may a good time to consult your vet for further guidance.
If they are not able of waking up from the hibernation they were forced into, this can become life-threatening for them. Once again, hermit crabs are not designed to naturally hibernate but they are simply not getting enough warmth to normally function.
Is your Hermit Crab Dead?
If you are suspecting your hermit crab is dead, please do not rush with pronouncing such a state. Indeed, they can often be mistaken for being dead when they are not.
This is especially common during their molting phases when they are buried under the substrate and not visible to their owners. If your pet is buried, you may need to wait for a bit longer to verify that it is alive (unless you are able to notice strong fishy odors around the tank).
If your pet is on the surface, you can check its skin color, which will become grayish once they die. Also, their bodies will become rigid but loose inside the shell, and there have to be strong odors coming out.
But again, if there are no visible signs which indicate that your pet may be dead and there is no distinctive smell around the enclosure, it may mean that it is still alive. Patience is, in such cases, the only thing you are left to cope with.
Can you Wake Up a Hermit Crab?
The golden rule is to never ever touch or disturb a molting hermit crab. However, if you are sure this is not the case, you can try to safely wake your pet up. Try with some misting activity first. If you are spraying around their enclosure during sleeping, this should wake them up soon.
If that does not work, you can place your pet on an open palm of your hand and gently call it to come outside. Another good wake-up option is to simply place them inside one of their water dishes. Room temperature water has to wake them, but without bringing them to a state of shock.
If none of that works, it, unfortunately, may mean that your pet has been into a hibernation state for too long and is now unable to come back from it. The best would be to consult your vet in such severe cases, although there is probably not much to be done anymore.
Now that we have cleared the hibernation myth out, we hope this will greatly help you with worrying less while your pets are molting.
As long as their environmental conditions are ideal and there are no visible signs that molting is about to occur, there is absolutely nothing to be worried about. Simply arm yourself with patience and wait for them to come out in one size larger.
Hibernation, on the other side, can be extremely dangerous to these creatures. Their bodies are not designed to naturally hibernate, but they are rather forced into such a state due to low temperatures.
If you noticed that this is your case, try gradually warming up their enclosures. If they are still not waking up, they might be experiencing trouble with coming back, so please do consult your vet in such severe cases.