Hermit Crab Care: What To Do When Your Hermit Crab is Molting
by Karole Dolen-Proffit

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Hermit crabs have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. As your hermit crab grows bigger, the exoskeleton is shed in a process called molting. During this time, they are also able to regenerate any limbs that may have been previously lost. Molting is a very stressful process for him though, and can sometimes result in death.

Sometimes your hermit crab will display signs that they are getting ready to molt, but usually it is difficult to predict. There are some things you might take note of such as increased digging, burying themselves for extended periods of time, slowed or decreased activity, ashy or dull exoskeleton, and a sudden, increase in appetite. Some people mistake a molting crab for a dead one. A dead hermit crab will have a very strong "fishy" odor, while a molting one will not. Be very careful not to toss out what appears to be an empty shell either! They could very well be hiding inside, and going through a molt.

A hermit crab who is molting, or about to molt, should be placed inside a special isolation tank away from other crabs in the cage. An isolation tank is much simpler and smaller than their normal habitat, and only needs to have a few things. The best choice for substrate, or bedding, is damp sand. The sand should be wet enough to stick together, but not so wet that it's soaking or soggy. A food dish with calcium enriched food, and a water dish with dechlorinated water is also necessary. Cuttlebone is an easy way to add calcium to your hermit crab's food, and it is available in the bird section of your local pet store.

Once you've determined that your hermit crab is molting, place him in the isolation cage, in the middle of a pre-dug hole that is the same size as his shell. He will then probably dig all the way down until his shell is completely covered. Another way to protect him if he doesn't dig deep enough, is to place a clean 2 liter soda bottle on top of him. Cut the bottom portion of the bottle off, remove the lid, and wash and dry the upper portion thoroughly. Then push the bottle down around your hermit crab into the substrate, all the way to the floor of the cage.

Once your hermit crab finishes molting, he will rest for a couple days, and then he'll start eating the old exoskeleton. It contains much needed calcium, and a hardening ingredient called chitin. Your hermit crab will also want to choose a larger shell to live in. Place several different sizes and shapes in the cage with him so that he has plenty to chose from. An important thing to note, is that hermit crabs have been known to cannibalize their own kind. So, it's imperative that the molting crab be separated from other hermit crabs. The exoskeleton emits an irresistible scent, and the other hermit crabs will do anything and everything to reach it.

Remember that this is a very stressful time for your hermit crab, and he should be left mostly alone during the whole process. You will want to ensure that he stays moist with very light mistings, but do not attempt to bath him under any circumstance. A bath could kill him, and too much moisture can create an environment for harmful bacteria to grow.

Your hermit crab can be returned to his regular cage as soon as he's moving around and eating well again. Remember, they are not solitary creatures, and will be happiest when they are around all of their other hermit crab friends.

About The Author: Karole Dolen-Proffit is a website designer and freelance writer from Northern California. In addition to being a blessed member of a proud unschooling family, she runs several websites including http://unschoolers.com, Your Go 2 Girl, BaaadMedia!, and http://moonriverdesigns.com.

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