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Hermit Crab Lifespan: How Long Do Hermit Crabs Live?

Published: January 24, 2022

© Jacopo Werther / Creative Commons / Original

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Contrary to popular belief, hermit crabs have a long lifespan. Hermit crabs naturally live longer than pet hermit crabs bought from pet stores. Many crustaceans live surprisingly long lives. For example, did you know that the oldest lobster is said to live to be 140 years old? We'll take a deep dive into hermit crab lifespan and strategies for caring for hermit crabs to extend their lifespan!

How long do hermit crabs live?

Sand crab hermit crab from the Caribbean sea isolated on white background
Hermit crabs can live 30 years or more in the wild, but as pets, they usually die within a year.

© Alexander Sviridov/Shutterstock.com

If a wild hermit crab is allowed to remain in its native habitat, it has a life expectancy of 30 years. In fact, the longest-lived hermit crab in the world can live past 40 years old! A hermit crab in a Florida retirement community – named Jonathan Livingston – lived to an incredible 44 years before passing away in 2021. Aa As with other crustaceans such as lobsters, the energy required to molt becomes too great at advanced age, and it is older hermit crabs that die.

However, while we've just listed some of the advanced ages hermit crabs can reach—especially in the wild—most hermit crabs in captivity only live a few months to a few years. There are a variety of factors that come into play when comparing the lifespan of hermit crabs in the wild versus those in captivity. Read on to learn more.

Common Causes of Pet Hermit Crab Deaths

What Hermit Crabs Eat - Little Hermit Crabs
Mishandling hermit crabs can result in injury or death.

©iStock.com/Lisa5201

Careless handling of hermit crabs in captivity can lead to high mortality rates. When the crabs died after a few weeks, we didn't notice. Sadly, this is accepted practice. To properly understand the risks of keeping these crabs as pets, it is important to understand the factors that affect a hermit crab's lifespan as an owner.

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There are several potential causes of hermit crab mortality in captivity. The good news is they are avoidable.

Common causes of death for hermit crabs in captivity
pressure
Hermit crabs can die from the trauma of being relocated.
drowning
unable to leave the bathtub
toxicity
Ingesting paint chips, inhaling fumes, or drinking contaminated tap water
asphyxia
Insufficient humidity
Infect
Bacteria and fungi can thrive in unsanitary living conditions.
trauma/fall
Ascent and descent while climbing or being dumped while carrying
animal attack
Being attacked by crabs or similar animals while active
to dismember
Hermit crabs in the process of molting are sometimes mistaken by their owners for being dead and dismembered.

This is not a complete list. Captive hermit crabs can live as long as wild hermit crabs if cared for properly. This 44-year-old hermit crab has spent almost her entire life in captivity!

Common Causes of Hermit Crab Deaths in the Wild

hibernating animals in north america
Hermit crabs can start hibernating below 68 degrees. However, they did not evolve for true hibernation. If it stays below 62 for a long time, they may not be able to recover.

©iStock.com/MATTHIASRABBIONE

Hermit crabs can live for decades in the wild. According to research, hermit crabs can live up to 40 years. However, there are a few factors that can affect their lifespan in the wild.

wild hermit crab predator

Hermit crabs are low on the food chain. Fish and octopuses prey on hermit crabs. Adult hermit crabs spend more time on land. This reduces the risk of exposure to marine predators. Larger crabs often eat hermit crabs. Birds may also swoop in and pick off exposed hermit crabs

The best way for hermit crabs to protect themselves is to blend in with their surroundings. It will retreat into its protective shell, hoping no predators will get through. Hermit crabs may sacrifice limbs to escape. These limbs can grow back.

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Environmental factors of wild hermit crabs

Hermit crabs are susceptible to environmental variables and natural enemies. Drowning is possible during high tide. Hermit crabs will hide in their burrows to prevent this from happening. Hermit crabs, on the other hand, will pant if caught.

However, the problem of waste is far more serious. It's common for hermit crabs to find new homes. The Journal of Hazardous Materials reports that hermit crabs often find their way into plastic bottles. They died because they couldn't get out of these containers.

Is it cruel to keep hermit crabs as pets?

Hermit crabs are highly intelligent creatures that thrive most in nature.

© Jacopo Werther/Creative Commons

Hermit crabs are neither "starter pets" nor "decorations" and should not be purchased. If purchasing hermit crabs, keep them away from small children and pets. Crabs are highly intelligent and empathetic creatures that thrive in nature.

Anyone who buys crab is unlikely to provide them with the life they deserve, no matter how much they want it. Unless properly cared for, pet hermit crabs have a short lifespan as they struggle to adapt and survive.

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© Jacopo Werther / Creative Commons / Original


about the author


I have spent a large part of my life as a writer and artist with great respect for viewing nature analytically and metaphysically. After careful investigation, the natural world reveals truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of everything we have is embodied in our planet; the process of writing and creating art around this subject is an attempt to convey the wonder of it.

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