How to Remove a Dead Hermit Crab From Its Shell

Dealing with a dead hermit crab can be an unpleasant experience, especially when it’s still inside its shell. While hermit crabs are known to change shells regularly, it’s not uncommon for them to pass away while still inside. Getting the deceased crab out of the shell can be tricky, but it’s an essential step in ensuring proper disposal and preventing any unpleasant odors.

In this article, I will share some tips and steps on how to get a dead hermit crab out of its shell safely and efficiently.

Identifying a Dead Hermit Crab

Before attempting to remove a hermit crab from its shell, you need to be sure that it’s actually dead. It’s not always easy to tell if a hermit crab is dead or just molting. Contrary to popular belief, hermit crabs don’t always leave their shells while molting, and they can appear lifeless for several weeks during molting. Here’s how to identify a dead hermit crab:

  • Check for smell: Dead hermit crabs tend to emit a pungent odor that’s unmistakable. If you notice a strong fishy or ammonia smell, then the crab is likely dead.
  • Check for movement: Gently touch the crab’s claws with a stick or your finger. If there is no reaction or movement, it’s a sign that the crab is dead.
  • Check the color of the body: A live hermit crab’s body is usually bright and colorful, while a dead one’s is pale and dull.
  • Check the shell opening: A dead crab’s body will often retract into its shell, blocking the opening. If you notice this, the crab is likely dead.

If you’re still unsure whether the crab is dead or not, observe its behavior for a few days. A live hermit crab will eventually emerge from its shell and move around, while a dead one will remain inside its shell indefinitely.

Removing a Dead Hermit Crab from its Shell

Once you’ve determined that the hermit crab is dead, it’s time to remove it from its shell. Here’s a step-by-step guide to removing a dead hermit crab from its shell:

  • Soften the hermit crab’s body: Soak the hermit crab in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes to soften its body.
  • Gently pull the body: Hold the hermit crab in one hand and twist and pull gently on the body with the other hand. Be careful not to damage the shell.
  • Use a tool: If you can’t remove the body by hand, use a pair of tweezers, a fork, or a similar tool to carefully extract the body from the shell.
  • Clean the shell: Once you’ve removed the body, wash the shell thoroughly with warm soapy water. This will help remove any remaining tissue or debris in the shell.
  • Disinfect the shell: After washing, disinfect the shell by soaking it in a bleach solution for 10 minutes. Rinse the shell with clean water and allow it to dry completely.

It’s important to dispose of the dead hermit crab and its shell properly. Place the crab in a plastic bag and discard it in the trash. Do not flush it down the toilet or bury it in the backyard. Hermit crab shells can be cleaned and reused, but it’s recommended that you discard the shell and get a new one for your live hermit crab.

Cleaning the Shell

After removing the dead hermit crab from its shell, cleaning the shell is a crucial step to prevent any odor or infection. Here’s how to clean a hermit crab shell:

  • Remove any remaining tissue: Use a small brush or toothbrush to gently remove any remaining tissue or debris inside the shell.
  • Soak the shell: Soak the shell in a bowl of warm water mixed with a mild detergent for at least half an hour. This will help loosen any remaining dirt or debris.
  • Scrub the shell: Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to scrub the inside and outside of the shell. Be gentle to avoid scratching the shell.
  • Rinse the shell: Rinse the shell thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  • Disinfect the shell: To disinfect the shell, soak it in a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water for ten minutes. Rinse the shell with clean water and dry it thoroughly.

It’s important to note that hermit crab shells are porous, which means that they soak up any chemical or residue from cleaning products. Always use mild, natural detergents and avoid harsh chemicals that can be harmful to the crab.

Reusing the Shell

Hermit crab shells can be reused, provided they are adequately cleaned and disinfected. However, it’s important to note that not all shells are suitable for all hermit crabs. Here are some tips for reusing a hermit crab shell:

  • Choose the right size: Hermit crabs need shells that are the proper size and shape for their body. A shell that’s too small can cause the crab to become stressed and eventually die. On the other hand, a shell that’s too big can be cumbersome and make it difficult for the crab to move around.
  • Match the species: Different species of hermit crabs prefer different types of shells. Some prefer shells with long, straight openings, while others prefer shells with a more round or oval opening. Be sure to research the type of hermit crab you have and provide it with a shell that matches its needs.
  • Clean and disinfect the shell: As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to clean and disinfect the shell thoroughly before reusing it. Soak the shell in warm water mixed with a mild detergent for at least 30 minutes. Scrub the shell with a soft-bristled brush or sponge, rinse it with clean water, and disinfect it in a bleach solution for 10 minutes. Rinse the shell again with clean water and let it dry completely before providing it to your hermit crab.
  • Introduce the shell gradually: Hermit crabs can be picky when it comes to shells, and they may take time to adjust to a new one. Introduce the shell gradually by placing it near the crab’s current shell and letting it explore and get used to it.

Caring for Your Live Hermit Crab

Proper care is essential to ensuring that your live hermit crab stays healthy and happy. Here are some tips for caring for your hermit crab:

  • Provide the right environment: Hermit crabs need a warm and humid environment to thrive. Keep the temperature between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity around 70-80%. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels.
  • Provide a proper diet: Hermit crabs are omnivores and need a varied diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein. Offer a mix of fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, spinach, and carrots, and provide protein in the form of freeze-dried shrimp or mealworms.
  • Offer clean water: Hermit crabs need access to clean freshwater at all times. Use a non-metal dish to prevent any harmful chemicals from leaching into the water.
  • Provide proper substrate: Hermit crabs need a substrate that’s deep enough for burrowing but not too deep to prevent any dangerous falls. Use a substrate that’s natural and free of chemicals, such as coconut fiber or sand.
  • Offer a suitable shell: As mentioned earlier, hermit crabs need suitable shells that fit their body and species. Provide a variety of shells to choose from, and monitor their behavior to ensure they are happy and comfortable.
  • Offer things to climb on: Hermit crabs love to climb and explore. Offer things like driftwood or rocks to climb on.
  • Keep your hermit crab away from any harmful substances: Hermit crabs are sensitive to chemicals, so keep them away from any harsh cleaning products, insecticides, or other harmful substances.


Dealing with a dead hermit crab can be an unpleasant experience, but it’s important to remove the body from the shell to ensure proper disposal and prevent any bad odors. By identifying whether the crab is dead or molting and following the steps to safely remove the body and clean the shell, you can manage the situation efficiently.

Moreover, caring for your live hermit crab is equally important and requires attention to its environment, diet, water, substrate, shells, and things to climb on. Proper care can help your hermit crab thrive and live a happy life. In summary, following these guidelines can help ensure a positive experience when it comes to caring for both live and deceased hermit crabs.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *