Are you planning to get a hermit crab as a pet? Do you already have a hermit crab? In any case, the popular belief about hermit crabs living for only a short time has many pet owners frightened.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, fear not because hermit crabs can live for decades. But, in some cases, their lifespan can be shortened to a few years. So, how long do hermit crabs live exactly?
In today’s post, we will answer this question in great detail. From average lifespan to factors affecting it, here is everything you need to know. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
How Long Do Hermit Crabs Live on Average?
Hermit crabs are delicate and sensitive creatures. Their lifespan greatly depends on the quality of life and external dangers. So, you shouldn’t expect them to thrive well on their own.
With that said, wild hermit crabs live up to 30 years on average. It’s because they dwell in large colonies and seek refuge in numbers. Most colonies have at least 100 hermit crabs, which keeps natural predators and enemies far away.
However, it’s worth noting that land hermit crabs live longer than marine hermit crabs. There are fewer predators and debris on land than in the sea. Plus, forming colonies is easier on a stable surface (i.e. land).
What Factors Affect the Lifespan of Wild Hermit Crabs?
As discussed, wild hermit crabs have a decades-long lifespan. However, there are several factors that may decrease or increase their life expectancy. These include:
1. Type of Hermit Crab
There are two types of wild hermit crabs; terrestrial and marine. Terrestrial hermit crabs live on both land and water. However, they spend most of their lives on beaches.
Every day, they will soak themselves in the seawater for a salt recharge. The salty sea water keeps their shell and gills wet. Plus, the minerals come into play during the molting time (when the hermit crab uses all its resources to grow a new exoskeleton).
If access to seawater is restricted by natural enemies, hermit crabs can temporarily pause the salt recharge for a few days. But, if they go too far into the water (maybe in an attempt to flee the predator), they will drown because land hermit crabs cannot breathe underwater.
Comparatively, marine hermit crabs spend their entire lives inside the sea. They don’t have to go for a salt recharge or anything, which means safety from accidental deaths.
The species of hermit crab affects their longevity too. On average, all hermit crabs live between 20 and 30 years. However, Coenobita Brevinmanus can survive up to 70 years!
It is a terrestrial hermit crab that is native to the southwest Pacific Ocean and the eastern coast of Africa. You can also find it in Japan, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines. A Coenobita Brevinmanus crab typically stays inland and comes occasionally near the water.
Perhaps, this explains why it is able to live much longer than other species. There are several other hermit crab species that demonstrate similar behavior.
3. Natural Enemies
Hermit crabs lie low on the food chain. This means that they are the easiest and simplest prey for natural predators. Their inability to fight enemies makes them more susceptible.
But marine hermit crabs are in more danger than land hermit crabs. It’s because the water is filled with predators and there are few places to hide. Most marine hermit crabs protect themselves with the help of sea anemones.
Anemones are marine invertebrates known for their colorful appearance and toxicity. While the hermit crab offers them their protective shell, the anemones keep the enemies away. The toxicity poses a danger to octopuses, fish, and other sea creatures.
Comparatively, land hermit crabs have to stay safe from large crabs and wandering birds. They do that by either retreating into the shell or burying themselves inside the sand.
4. Loss of Shell
The shell is the only protection hermit crabs have against dangers. Without it, hermit crabs cannot survive long. They will become a very easy target for predatory fishes, turtles, crabs, and birds.
In the case of marine hermit crabs, they become useless to sea anemones without shells. And so, they have no place to hide. Hermit crabs without their shells are also very prone to diseases and infections. Even harsh sunlight can dehydrate them and cause death.
Plastic pollution is a big threat to all living organisms, and hermit crabs are no different. There is an estimated 5.25-trillion plastic waste in the oceans and millions of waste items are collected from beaches every year.
Since hermit crabs have an instinctual attraction towards plastic, pollution means they will approach it and get injured. Many wild hermit crabs die every year due to land and water pollution.
Do Hermit Crabs Live Longer in Captivity?
Unfortunately, hermit crabs do not live long in captivity. They make delicate pets who need great vigilance and care to survive. You need to maintain the right environmental conditions for these crustaceans.
If you do that, expect an average lifespan of 15 years. But, if you are exceptional in your care and understand their needs properly, captive hermit crabs can live as long as the wild ones. In fact, the longest-living hermit crab was captive!
Jonathan Livingstone: The Oldest Hermit Crab in History!
Jonathan Livingstone holds the record of the oldest living hermit crab in the world. In 1976, he was bought from a pet shop in Delaware by Carol Ann Ormes. She kept him in captivity at her residence in Fort Myers, Florida.
Carol demonstrated an excellent understanding of hermit crabs. Due to her care, Jonathan survived for 44 years and died in 2021. No other hermit crab has broken his record yet!
Considering not everyone provides the same level of care as Carol, here is a more realistic life expectancy of different species of hermit crabs in captivity:
|Hermit Crab Type||Lifespan in Captivity|
|Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab||1 to 2 years|
|Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab||4 years|
|Cavipe||3 to 12 years|
|Caribbean Hermit Crab||Up to 20 years|
|Electric Orange Hermit Crab||Up to 20 years|
|Polka Dot Hermit Crab||3 to 5 years|
|Ruggie||Up to 10 years|
|Ecuadorian Hermit Crab||10 to 30 years|
|Strawberry Hermit Crab||25 to 30 years|
As you can see, some hermit crab species are tougher and more stress-resistant than others. If you are a complete beginner, we recommend getting these long-lasting species as pets.
How to Make Your Captive Hermit Crabs Live Longer?
The life of hermit crabs is greatly reduced in captivity. But if you want to cherish decades with your pet, make sure to take the following measures:
1. Create the Appropriate Environment
Hermit crabs are often considered to be easy, beginner-friendly pets. This is untrue because the requirements of hermit crabs are quite complex. You need to create the right environment for each species to thrive and survive.
- Aquarium – the living space should be large and simple. There should be at least 10 gallons of space for one crab. Increase it if you intend to keep more of them.
- Water Quality – you should provide bottled water to the hermit crabs. Never give tap water as it contains copper and other heavy metals. But, also make sure to maintain the right salinity in the water (especially for marine hermit crabs).
- Humidity Levels – it should be at least 80% to avoid suffocation.
- Temperature – it must be between 72–85 °F. It’s best to heat a single side of the aquarium so that hermit crabs can move to the cooler side if they feel like it.
- Diet – hermit crabs eat anything but lose interest in repetitive ones. Make sure to provide them with nutritious, high-quality food in different flavors.
- Substrate – keep it around 4 to 6 inches to let the hermit crabs bury themselves and rest.
It’s important to track the aquarium’s environment and make changes wherever needed. You may also want to consult an expert who will guide the exact requirements for your crab species.
2. Eliminate Stress
Stress is one of the most popular causes of death for captive hermit crabs. They are unable to process the trauma of being taken away from the colonies and forced to start a new life in aquariums.
You can reduce this stress by making sure another hermit crab or a mate is present in the new home. Or, if it’s alone, give it the space and time to recover. Most hermit crabs will bury themselves in the substrate for days.
3. Clean & Maintain it Regularly
As discussed, hermit crabs are sensitive and will fall sick easily. To maintain good health, hermit crab owners should clean the aquarium at least once in 2 to 3 days. You should change the water, remove feces, and check for any bacterial infections.
4. Place Climbing Toys & Extra Shells
Hermit crabs often hang from things or fight others to get their shell. All these acts can result in accidental injuries and even death. So, make sure to place a few climbing toys and extra shells.
All in all, captive hermit crabs live anywhere from 15 to 30 years. Their exact lifespan depends on how well you take care of them. Meanwhile, the average life span of wild hermit crabs is 30+.
We hope this article has resolved all your queries. If you’ve any confusion, let us know in the comments below!