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Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Keeping and Breeding Hermit Crabs by Stu Wools-Cobb

February 21, 2013 in Biology

This article is in PDF format, please click the link to view it.

Keeping And BreedingWM
Keeping And BreedingWM
1.1 MiB

Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Breeding Hermit Crabs

September 25, 2012 in FAQ

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

It was always thought that hermit crabs would not breed in captivity. Now, it seems, some have successfully bred with suitable conditions. While we are still working out what they are, it is obvious to all that if the hermit crabs are given enough room to move about in; both a fresh water bowl and a salt water pond; a balanced diet including carrion-type foods high in protein and calcium; humidity and temperature in the ideal range; and enough shells for growing and fussy bodies. While we are not sure what makes some hermit crabs breed and others not, it is important that their home meets all their needs, and yields a better chance of survival.

While hermit crabs have successfully bred, it is much harder to successfully hatch and raise the land hermit crabs. Since the first stage of development of land hermit crabs is an aquatic one, the eggs will need to be released into, or placed in, an aquatic environment to simulate the time spent in intertidal pools as part of plankton. Read about their lifecycle for more details.

Unless you have the time and ability to raise the zoea to juvenile (air-breathing) stages, there is little chance they will survive. At each stage of development within the aquatic stage, the zoea (free swimming larvae) need to be fed by hand and kept in conditions which may be difficult for most. However, if you are able to raise land hermit crabs to juvenile stage, there is a good chance that the health of these offspring will be optimal, depending on feeding and conditions.

Article on The Crab Street Journal by Stu Wools-Cobb who has successfully bred and raised land hermit crab within his home.

A hermit crab that is gravid (carrying eggs) will look like the drawing by Alcock, below. “A female crab attaches her eggs to the fine setae on her pleopods using a gluelike substance.” (Fox, S. 2000)

Helfman (1997a) described the copulatory behaviour of B. latro from observation of a single event. Both male and female crabs were in intermolt phase during copulation. The male approaches the female slowly, clasps the dorsal meri of the chelipeds, and quickly moves forward to turn the female onto her back. Abdomens are extended, the male deposits the spermataphore, and the pair disengages.

The copulatory behaviour of other coenobitids apparently lasts much longer than for Birgus. Hazlett(1966) and De Wilde (1973) depicted the migration and reproductive behaviours of Coenobita clypeatus, but no copulatory activity was recorded. Observations of mating of C. clypeatus in the field, confirmed by the presence of a spermataphore on the female, have been made (S. Gilchrist, unpub). Initiation begins by the male grasping the aperture of the female’s shell and moving her shell from side to side. A series of rocking and tapping motions either stimulates the female to extend from the shell, in which case mating proceeds ventral to ventral, or the female retracts father into the shell and the male releases the shell. Page and Willason (1982) noted copulatory behaviour in C. perlatus. Mating occurs during migration to the sea proceeding larval release. Mating is ventral to ventral with both crabs about three-quarters out of their shells. Males pass the spermataphore to the females using the modified pereiopods. Mating may occur before release of the developed egg mass.”

(Dunham, D. W., and S. L. Gilchrist. 1988. p. 119)

Here is a video compilation from a hermit crab owner whose crabs mated:

You can find more of her hermit crab videos on [url=http://www.youtube.com/user/farfinmosker#p/u/7/bk8IbaSwr4g]Youtube[/url]


Brodie, R.J. 1998. Movements of the terrestrial hermit crab, Coenobita clypeatus (Crustacea, Coenobitidae). Revista de Biologia Tropical 46 (Suppl. 4): 181–185.

DeWilde, P. A. W. J. 1973. On the ecology of Coenobita clypeatus in Curaçao. Stud. Fauna Curaçao Other Caribb. Isl.144:1–138.

Dunham, D. W., and S. L. Gilchrist. 1988. Behavior. Pp. 97-138 in Biology of the Land Crabs, W. W. Burggren and B. R. McMahon, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fletcher, W.J., Brown, I.W., Fielder, D.R., and Obed, A. 1991a.
Structure and dynamics of populations. Pp. 61–85 in: Brown, I.W.,
and Fielder, D.R. (eds), The coconut crab: aspects of Birgus latro
biology and ecology in Vanuatu. Canberra. Aciar Monographs 8.

Fletcher, W.J., Brown, I.W., Fielder, D.R., and Obed, A. 1991b. Moulting and growth characteristics. Pp. 35–60 in: Brown, I.W., and Fielder, D.R. (eds), The coconut crab: aspects of Birgus latro biology and ecology in Vanuatu. Canberra, Aciar Monographs 8.

Fox, S. Hermit Crabs: A Complete Owners Pet. Barron Books Pub.

Hazlett, B.A., 1966. Social behavior of the Paguridae and Diogenidae of Curaçao. Studies on the Fauna of Curaçao and other Caribbean Islands, 23: pp.1-143

Hazlett, B.A. 1981. The behavioral ecology of hermit crabs. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 12: 1–22.

Helfman, G. S. 1973. Ecology and Behaviour of the Coconut Crab, Birgus latro (L). Masters thesis, University of Hawaii, Honolulu.

Hicks, J., H. Rumpff, and H. Yorkston. 1990. Christmas Crabs., Golden Earth Design and Printing, Singapore.

Gray, H. S. 1995. Christmas Island Naturally., Scott Four Colour Print, Perth, Western Australia. Pp. 11–145.

Harvey, A. Text from a personal email to Vanessa Pike-Russell from Alan Harvey regarding determining the gender of a land hermit crab. Shared with permission. For more information about Alan Harvey and his research, please visit the link below

Jones, S. and Morgan, G.J. (1994) A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. Western Australian Museum. Chatswood, N.S.W. (Australia) : Reed Books, 1994. ISBN 0 7301 0403 6

Lowry, J.K. (1999 onwards). ‘Crustacea, the Higher Taxa: Description, Identification, and Information Retrieval.’ Version: 2 October 1999. http://crustacea.net/

Morgan, S. G., and J. H. Christy. 1995. Adaptive significance of the timing of larval release by crabs. Am. Nat.145:457–479.


Page, H.M., and Willason, 1982. Distribution Patterns of terrestrial hermit crabs at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands. Pacific Sci. 36:107-117

Vannini, M., and G. Chelazzi. 1981. Orientation of Coenobita rugosus (Crustacea: Anomura): A field study on Aldabra. Mar. Biol.64:135–140.


Vannini, M., and S. Cannicci. 1995. Homing behaviour and possible congitive maps in crustacean decapods. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.193:67–91.


Wolcott, T. G. 1988. Ecology. Pp. 55-96 in: Biology of Land Crabs (W. Burggren and B. McMahon, Eds.), Cambridge University Press, New York.

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