CrabloverDon on Molting

This is a collection of posts from CLD from 1999. While not all of the information in these posts is still considered accurate it is worth reading as Don was a important part of hermit crab care development.

Archives from the Hermies Yahoo!Groups that Don once Co-moderated with Jennifer Borgesen and Vanessa Pike-Russell.

Hermies Yahoo!Groups MESSAGE 298
Date: Thu Nov 4, 1999 8:40pm
Subject: Molting worries…..wet/dry substrate

Folks may I suggest that you read up on all that you can find on molting…there are really no black and white ‘textbook procedures’… but some very enlightening observations out there. There are no set/exact time tables or time lines for the molting process. Molts are individually determined by the crabs need to regenerate appendages or for their natural ‘growth’ process… Here at Kritterlandusa, we have molters year round and each molt, while similar, cannot be determined as to how long the process may take… or how long the crab will take to’bounce’ back.

Some smaller crabs MAY molt often while the larger guys might not molt for a year or two. So please don’t sit with watch… waiting for it to happen…because you heard there is a ‘season’or that you had that crab for this or that period of time! Folks, it ‘ain’t’ that simple! Nature knows best and when the time comes, it comes! Nature by design of the shell as a home and the crabs ‘soft tissued underbelly’ has a purpose here. Prior to a molt, crabs store extra water within their shells to help with that extra hydration needed for them to shed their old exoskeleton in the molt process. Contrary to popular myth, most hermit crabs do not molt OUTSIDE of their shell and many do not go under the substrate to molt.


molting is very stressful for the crab at this time… their new exoskelton must harden as they are very vunerable at this point. As little disruption as possible is necessary, thus it is recommended that you isolate the molter from the others by blocking off an area of isolation for him or transporting others to another area so he is not disturbed. The more secure he feels the more readily he will be up and about quicker. Never dig a molter up … when isolating a molter have a small amount of food available and a small shell of water close by IF they so desire to partake. (I use a half-dollar size clam shell with a snip off a sea sponge for the water source ….) The worst thing you can do it start wetting the sand around him! Bacterial growths harm a molting crab as often as a ‘bad molt’… as they cause additional stress to the already stressed molter… a drier and warmer area of choice is usually better… If you have any questions about how to prepare FOR a molt, do it ahead of time. Call or e-mail FMR for other particulars…. READ comments on other sites… Before you decide that you HAVE to do this or that, CALL FMR for advice…PLEASE, do not take it upon yourself to decide to soak them,because you think….often, what one mightfeel is necessary is often not the best for your crabs, etc. …in cases that the unusual happens Kathy at FMR can help you determine what action to take.

Folks, if you have several ‘diggers’ at one time, it is possible that they are looking for a more desirable temperature….and are NOT ‘ready’ to molt.

Their crabitat may be too warm or cool. Remember the goal is to MAINTAIN a constant temperature range… not ‘jumping to a too warm to cold environment…(see heating tips, etc. that were previously posted as they can apply here…… Sorry, Cindy, I know you don’t like to have to go back through previous post, but there is some good advice there) There are tell-tale signs that usually signal an oncoming molt…. such as: less antennae activity, dull-look of their eyes (like a cataract on a human); behaviorial change…and seeing them in or near the water dish more than usual.

Crabs also love to burrow for this purpose. Some just dig to entertain themselves… ‘sneaking’ up at night… to eat and drink.

Hope some of this helps…..

Happy Crabbing!


Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 527
Date: Sat Nov 27, 1999 9:55pm
Subject: Re: my molting crab plus a little more…
…in this past week, I had four different people mail me saying that they lost their molters do to TOO MUCH moisture. The problem lies in the fact that people tend to do TOO MUCH after the molt begins.

By nature, a crab will store extra moisture/water inside of their shell PRIOR to their molt…in order to expand and explode the exo skeleton. Usually enough moisture is retained to allow their new exo to harden… too much moisture can cause their newly developing limbs to actually become too hydrated and in some cases fall off. Like in pre-natal care for women, pre-molt care is just as important in our guys… Those Stresscoat baths, extra calcium… and plenty of fresh dechlorinated drinking water… prepare and ‘set them up’ for a better and easier molt. That is often all that is needed… until ‘that time.’

Nature normally takes over and most of the time all goes very well. They do need a quiet,place to be left undisturbed and free from outside stress for a few days until THEY are ready to take on the world! We have had many great above the substrate molts here at

Kritterland with two hundred-fifty plus guys…. Eight are doing their ‘thing’ right now…. I do keep a slightly damp sponge (in a clam shell in the iso tank…) for the fact that one of the fellows might decide to visit for a ‘drink’ or some extra moisture.

The smaller guys often find solace in the entrance of a larger unoccupied shell… which makes a quick check easier… trying not to bother them anymore than necessary. I often use an eye-dropper to drop a drop or two of the ‘treated’ water in the larger shell.

Remember this is for ABOVE molters…. It is not a good thing to go digging up those guys who are UNDER the substrate… more than often people want to go this, but more harm is done than good. I do believe in allowing nature to take its course. I have to…

If I only had a couple of guys to care for, it might be different. I have never had any bacterial problems and few bad molts with my guys since using these methods and keeping the substrate dry. A bacterial outbreak would be disastrous for us.

Again, whenever I have a doubt, I call Kathy at FMR. There are situations that might call for special attention, but through updated info and research, the advice I try to pass along is from the heart and from ‘tried and true’ knowledge. When ever in doubt of doing something, do as I do…. CALL KATHY!!!!

(Remember it was pointed out that some of the info in the FMR FAQ section is outdated and because of some tech difficulties they have been unable to get into it to update some info. Hopefully, this will soon be updated and corrected….The care sheet and health tips are up to date.)

As one becomes a more seasoned crabber they will find methods, etc. that may work better for THEIR situation, but for the newer crabber I would rather present and share the basics with you…. and take a safer route so that your earlier days of crabbing might be smoother ‘sailing’ than full of heartache in trying out all that you may have heard.

You will soon ‘learn’ your crabs and realize those guys that want thta ‘extra’ attention and the ones who just want to be left alone… The more you handle them and let them get more accustom to your ‘smell’, ‘feel’ and ‘voice’ through this interaction the more apt you will be in learning their individual demeanor and ‘personalities’… Try ‘hand-feeding that little shy guy…. or a ‘spritz of a mist’ will often bring a fellow out…. there are those who are recalcitrant who will ‘out sit’ you…. but don’t give up… they, too, will come around!

Good Luck, Thanks and Happy Crabbing!


Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 592
Date: Sat Dec 4, 1999 1:20pm
Subject: Re: missing limb question

That little ‘dab’ of ‘gel’ is the ‘regeneration’ of his missing leg… before long that leg will be back!

The new leg will be smaller than the lost leg, but don’t worry later molts will allow a ‘catch-up’. As for the other fellow , he, too, will regenerate that feeder claw… in due time. Some crabs are said to be ‘thrown’ into a regrowth with the loss of a leg, others will regenerate the missing claw/leg when nature takes its course. Good Luck and Happy Crabbing! All will be well…. CLD

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 668
Date: Thu Dec 16, 1999 1:27pm
Subject: Re: Exo Question

Q. What do you-all do with the left over bits of exo?

A. I used to ‘save’ it… but no one really seemed to interested as you mentioned. So now I usually just ‘pitch’ it out… Have had a couple of thoe quick re-bounders, but I think that it might just be ‘in their constitution’… I was once told that the guys ignore the exo after a period of time as it dries out only ‘chowing down’ on it while still a freshly molted material… but with these little guys, who knows!

Happy Crabbing!


Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 670
Date: Thu Dec 16, 1999 2:40pm
Subject: Re: Question about exoskeleton…

Q. You stated that the crabs don’t like dried out exoskeletons. My crab molted overnight but has not eaten any of his old exoskeleton (at least as far as I can tell). Is this bad news for the molter? You have me really worried now. A little reassurance would be helpful right now. Should I pick up the molter’s shell and make sure he is still alive.

A. What I said was: “I was once told that the guys ignore the exo after a period of time as it dries out only ‘chowing down’ on it while still a freshly molted material…” This comment was made in reference of ‘saving’ old exoskeletons… a person mentioned they couldn’t understand why their crabs didn’t eat the others discarded exokeletons that she had been saving for a period of time. You have to remember that the old exo basically is shed from water pressure ‘popping’ the old away from the new… ‘freshly’ as opposed to dried out (which would take several days to dry out under normal conditions… not unlike the shell of a shrimp)

In a regular molt, it often takes days for a crab to regain the energy to eat away on his exo … most of mine do this… but there are those few exceptions ….like Jenn mentioned… I have had several of my “E’s” up and around before I realized that they had even molted. It depends on the individual crab. There is no need for you to worry. You have to be patient with a molt… few are exactly alike. The best advice I can offer to you is allow the fella to rest… Too much “handling and checking on” a new molter is quite stressful. Give him a few days… Many times, they are eating away on the softer parts of the exo and working their way out to the rest of it. Many of my guys eat ONLY what they want to eat… leaving the majority of the discarded claws and legs… and all have done very well. Just let nature takes its course

… I know that the desire/temptation to peek is overwhelming, but this is a great first and hopefully a new start for you and your guys… you don’t want to *jinx* it with worry! Good Luck and Happy Crabbing!


Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 678
Date: Fri Dec 17, 1999 9:50am
Subject: Re: My first moult

Q. My molter is has eaten his exoskeleton (after all my worrying!). He is now sitting with his legs showing outside his shell. Does this mean he is ready to rejoin the colony (means taking his iso unit off of him)?

A. It is usually a good idea to wait about a week or so before you reintroduce them back into the fold… if you are ‘familiar’ with the crabs ‘personality’ you can gauge their activity level pre and after molt… and determine when to return them. Again each crab does bounce back at their own rate of speed and nothing is writing in stone. The basic rule of thumb though is about a week to ten days after the molt… but that is only a guideline. How this helps some…
Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 717

Date: Thu Dec 23, 1999 11:02am
Subject: Re: Molting Question…

Q. Another one of my crabs has molted! He was missing one leg, which grew back to almost normal size. But now he’s missing another leg! I guess he lost it in the molt. Is this normal?

A. As far as losing legs during (or right after) a molt… It is not what I would call ‘normal’, but it often happens. There are probably many reasons for this additional loss… but many times, it appears that the little fella could not shed that ‘one little piece’ of their old exoskeleton… and they will damage leg or claw trying to get off completely…

Also, the ‘new’ exo is usually quite delicate and can break off easily… Another reason to allow them to rest as much as possible … Some guys will try to do more than they are capable of doing… others will take their time in recovery from a molt… another one of those nature/ personality things!

It seldom affects them… if this is the case. Those legs will regenerate and come back as did the one your guy previously lost. Now, if he continues to lose legs or a claw, this is the time to ‘worry’

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 774
Date: Sun Jan 2, 2000 6:06pm
Subject: Re: Moulting inactivity

Q. Is a total lack of movement normal for this length of time?

A. molt is extremely stressful to our guys…and the ‘rest’ that follows is to allow them to regain their ‘energy/strength’ and for their new exo to ‘harden’… Size usually plays a big role in the ‘bounceback’ period! For some smaller guys who molt more often, they as usually less stressed… but the larger guys who might be a year or two between molts, often have a rougher time. Of course, there are those many exceptions… the best advice is to allow nature to take its course at that point! If a crab had a good ‘storage’ of moisture already within his shell, and the exo to munch on, then he might not be ‘moving’ around too much. I have a friend who had a jumbo “E” that was down for over six weeks molting… and one person I know of had a fella down for two months! On an average a couple of weeks can be expected for a medium/large guy for a ‘normal’ molt… but that is a ‘ballpark’ figure. I have had teeny guys ready to rumble in a couple of days… and others a week or so… it really does depend on the individual conditions and demeanor of your fella.

Q. I am concerned about the lack of moisture and run a humidifier for an hour twice a day. There is NEVER condensation on the inside of the cage and the humidity level doesn’t seem to get above 40%. Does anyone ever run a humidifier under careful watch?

I’ve never thought of running a humidifier? The only concern I would see with running one would be what water to use in it.

Brenda is right, you would need to be concerned about the water… but personally, I would like to see you attempt to use the sponge in water/undertank heater method of creating humidity. There has been some ‘debate’ about using a regular humidifier with the guys. PLUS you really want to MAINTAIN a pretty good level of humidity at all times…. so your method would have its pitfalls. The humidity level, like the temp level really needs to be measured at the substrate level since that is where your guys spend most of their time… The sponge method has worked quite well for many folks… You might want to check out some of the posts in the message archives relating to it.

Q. On an unrelated item, I’ve noticed CLD talk about a 5 gallon ISO tank. How does one “move” a moulting crab to ISO?

A. Each bath day, I play with and ‘check out’ EACH of my babies! I look for various signs of molt or other possible problems. IF a fellow is sluggish or shows some indication of a molt, then he will be placed in one of the several heated iso tanks for closer observation. But, many of these fellas have surprised me and ‘up and molted’ without warning!

With these fellows I use dividers to build an area around then for a little protection. It is best not to disturb a molter… and if you must it should be kept to a minimum of time. Most of my guys have molted above the substrate… and a couple of times it was necessary for me to transport a fella to a separate iso unit…. I used a regular spoon and gently lifted the guy, exo and all, at one time…and gently placed him in the iso tank. I prefer to use a dividing area in the main tanks for this, but there are those times… and I always have at least one of the iso tanks set up, properly heated and with acceptable humidity… as a big fluctuation of temps might do more harm than good. If the main tank is already consistant heat wise you are far better off in using dividers for your fella (also, some great suggestions in the archives on this too!)

Q. I hate to disturb Spray , the little guy, but in changing his water yesterday accidently touched him and there was 0 response. I’m tempted to do something more drastic to see if he’s still alive. I picked up Hypie and checked on him evey other day. As long as you don’t bother him too much I don’t think it would hurt to check him. From what I gather if he had died you would know by a fishy smell. Hopefully he is alright. He may just need some extra time to rest up.

A. I fully agree… You will KNOW if he really passed on, from THAT SMELL! If you do decide to ‘check on SPRAY, do keep it to a bare minimum… A fella in this stage of molt is so vulnerable and really requires some time to regain energy…You really don’t want to create any further stress by picking him up and handling him too much… he might relate the intrusion as a possible predator or feel that you expect him to ‘show himself’ and entertain you… warmth, moisture and quiet are several keys to a better molt experience for most guys.

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 778
Date: Mon Jan 3, 2000 8:43am
Subject: Re: a molt

Q. — “Jad B. Johnson” Jad@a… wrote:

Well, I got back from a week long stint in Tampa Bay for the Outback Bowl (Go Dawgs!) around 2:00 am last night, and Red had molted. I’m very concerned and would appreciate advice and prayers. When I saw the bits strewn about I panicked. I didn’t know how long he had been like that. I have only had one successful molt, so I immediately thought that he was dead. I threw away the exo and pulled the body out of the shell. There was no “dead smell” but I thought that he maybe had just died and hadn’t developed it yet. It was then that I felt a tiny bit of movement. I got the 1 gal. ISO tank put shells and water in it and got the exo out of the trash (it was on top and still clean). Finally I draped a towel over it. I checked on him this morning and he was moving. I can’t tell you how happy I am, but I am also still quite worried. Do you all think that the time I held him in my hand and sprayed him with water “stressed” him out too much. Is ok it to dunk him in stress coat solution or is it too late, or maybe be better to mist him with SC? I have a 1 and 2 record with molts. Any reassurance will be appreciated. Thanks. Jad

A. The BEST thing you can do for him at this point is to leave him alone! No dips, no more mistings… He is probably already at the highest stress point and if he makes it through everything he needs to be left alone so he can start to regain some energy and to allow the new exo to harden. made sure the area you have him in is warm, and quiet…away from activity, etc. Place a dampen sponge close by incase he needs it. Check in on him PERIODICALLY by looking but I would refrain from anymore ‘handling’… this could cause him a great deal of damage and/or stress…that he might be unable to handle in his present condition.

By ‘pulling’ his little body out of his shell, there may have been some damage to his delicate exo… not to mentioned additional stress. The fact that he is showing a little movement is promising…. If you MUST transport him, carefully/gently use a spoon to ‘lift’ him, shell, exo and all to place him gently/carefully into the new place…

If you need to, e-mail me direct! Good Luck and keep us posted! CLD

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 831
Date: Sat Jan 15, 2000 1:15pm
Subject: Re: Kosh update

…My teeny and small guys usually bounce back very quickly! I do wait a couple of days after I notice the activity in the iso before returning them to the fold. With just getting the three new guys, it might be best to hold off a couple of days…

Intros at bathtime is also a great idea… neutral territory! Wish you luck with all your guys Delenn won’t know what to do with all the company! Congrats! To you as Crabmom and to KOSH the successful molter!

Happy Crabbing! Don

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 859
Date: Thu Jan 20, 2000 7:18pm
Subject: Re: Twins, Triplets and plexiglas…..

Vanessa and Christa:

We have several sets of twins too! Plus a set of triplets to boot! TWEEDLE DEE–TWEEDLE DUM, ME and (my) SHADOW… SPECK and SPOT… DASH and DOT… are a few of our little ‘twin’ sets! SAM and SAM TING and HIM TOO are the triplets….(S.T. in honor of Christa’s SAM TING) All of our multiples are little hyperactive Ecuadorians.

Christa… about the plexiglas thing! You already know that I use plexiglas for setting up my iso areas within a tank…and why I find it better for my molters. It really is easier in the cooler months to assure that the temperature and humidity levels are more consistent, just being able to set aside an area for a molter or two. May I offer a better alternative to a tank divider (which I bought, but seldom used) It is to buy a sheet of clear Plexiglas and have it cut so you can create the area that you want to cordon off. Most craft stores and many frame shops sell it… or you can get a sheet at a place like Home Depot… (they usually sell it to replace glass in windows…and most places will cut it to your specifications) Using some clear bookmakers tape or adhesive tape, you can connect these pieces to ‘fit’ corners, “free standing” areas… really any number of unlimited configurations…

Even though I have several iso tanks set up and ready to go I do prefer to have the guys ‘closer’ to their buddies during this time. Last week when my little BARNEY started to act odd, I ‘fixed’ him a corner of one of the main tanks just ‘in case’… then I actually saw him shimmy out of his exoskeleton! He was not himself at bath time, but other than that he showed little indication that he was about to molt..

However, a few minutes later, right before my eyes, that little guy popped his exo and like you or I might take a turtleneck sweater off… he slid ‘out of’ that old exo… he wagged his antennae and retreated back into his shell…staying pretty much ‘dormant’ for a couple of days… I had witnessed a few other molts, but none so quick and easy as he did it! He is up and around some… enjoying ‘his’ sponge…I had a small piece of sponge that I keep wet for the molters… his ‘exo’ long gone… his coloring is starting to come back some…at least it’s not Mary Kay pink anymore!

Several of his buddies sat outside the plexiglas wall looking in on him. As odd as it may sound, these guys seem to sense when one of their own is ‘down’… He had a ‘buddy’ in with him who also decided to ‘do the molt thing’ that same evening… LITTLE BUD was already ‘blocked’ off in another tank, but I decided to put he and BARNEY together… I used a mirror on one side (so I could observe them and not disturb them during this time… WORKS great!!!) and the plexiglas on the other sides. It was so cute to see their buddies and well-wishers looking in on their ‘downed comrades’! Several of them kept a vigil right there against the ‘wall’ looking in on their buddies. This was the second molt for “LITTLE BUD”, but the first for dear little “BARNEY”. … Both fella did well and are up and around but not quite ready to return to the ‘flock.’ Am anxious to have both of them out and about with the group real soon! “BARN” is one of the resident characters in his tank… Plus he loves Bath Day… Where he can play with/in the fresh fruit and then ‘swim’ and play!

Have six molters in various stages of molt as I type… What FUN! One of our big boys surprised us with a molt earlier in the week and he is doing great!
I am glad he just went on and surprised us… as I still worry when my larger fellas get ready to molt…
If you decide on the ‘section’ thing, let me know and I will be more than happy to explain it further…

Happy Crabbing!

Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 902
Date: Thu Feb 3, 2000 9:02am
Subject: Re: Jumbo Molt

Q. — tbean tbean@a… wrote:


A few days ago, our biggest –Hercules, molted without warning. He is a jumbo about the size of a fist. His eyes had been looking a litttle paler than usual, but I had no idea it would be so sudden (esp. after it took Neville 4 months to molt after his eyes went pale). He molted in one piece and is still alive. My concern is that he isn’t eating his exo. It has been about 5 days now, and he hasn’t moved or touched the exo. I am thinking he just needs to rest some more, but is it normal for a big guy to wait this long before eating? Thanks for the info., and I am really sorry to hear about all the crab deaths recently.

A. It has been my experience that the bigger guys do take a great deal longer to bounce back after shedding their exo. Give HERCULES a few more days to see if he starts eating his exo. Some of my bigger molters, have actually left some of the exo uneaten… especially the large claw which seems to be stronger and probably less tasty than the other parts! I would not worry unless you begin to smell THAT smell! Congrats to you and HERCULES!!!! Don’t you love those ‘unexpected’ molts… less tension on the caretaker… Wish all my guys would ‘surprise’ me! Good Luck and Happy Crabbing!


Hermies Yahoo!Groups Message 1085
Date: Wed Mar 8, 2000 11:55am
Subject: Re: about Molting/ …a tad to add…..

Just a little more insight into the process…. “Kritterland” uses tiny ‘riverrock’ substrate and most of my guys are ‘above molters’… and like Jenn’s mine do love those larger shell “molting shelters”!

The ‘process’ of molting does include that ‘water build-up’/’burst that exoskeleton thing’ as Jenn mentioned… The split begins around the abdomen, and those who have witnessed an actual molt in progress can tell you how fascinating it is to watch the crab ‘shimmy’ out of the old exoskeleton. I can only describe it as a person ‘pulling’ a turtleneck sweater over their head…

I have read and been told that there is a ‘natural’ secretion produced during this time that enables the fellas to shed their old exoskeleton more easily… leave it to nature! Too bad that all molts are not as successful as others allowing them to slip totally out of the old exo EACH time… While the ‘stresscoat baths’ have not ‘solved’ all the problems with often less successful molts of the Compressus, “E”, species, it does seem to have a positive effect on helping them get through more molts.

The new molter will look, actually is, smaller until the process of the hardening of the exo takes place… water and air will cause the body to swell… forcing it to grow larger in time.

More articles on molting:
What is molting
Is my hermit crab dead or molting?
Regulation of Crustacean Molting: A Multi-Hormonal System
On molting by Jad Johnson
All about molting by Lisa Loeske