Why Do Hermit Crabs Burrow

Why Do Hermit Crabs Burrow ?

There are many reasons why do hermit crabs burrow. Hermit crabs burrow to get protection from predators. Also, they burrow to stay safe from harsh environmental conditions. It helps keep them safe from potential threats. Not only this, hermies need a moist environment to keep their gills moist and breathe properly.

Have you ever noticed your hermit crabs digging a “cave” in their home? Do you know why they do this? The new owners of hermit crabs need to know about the “hermit crabs burrowing” behavior. That’s why I have decided to make you understand what’s going on. Just follow the footprints of this article to know why do hermit crabs burrow.

Why do hermit crabs burrow?

There are many reasons why hermit crabs burrow. However, one of the most common reasons given by NCBI researchers includes the following:

1. Molting:

Molting is one of the most common reasons why hermit crabs burrowing in sand. This is a process in which the hermit crabs start shedding their exoskeletons.

As a result, they become one of the most vulnerable creatures due to the molting process. So, hermit crabs dig holes in their habitat. It is essential to secrete the molting hormone (MH) in darkness and insulation.

Basically, hermies stay silent and motionless while hiding themselves in the sand. They do this until their brand-new exoskeleton starts growing. Are you disturbed after knowing this fact? Don’t worry.

It’s a normal part of the life cycle of hermit crabs. But, stress could be another reason behind molding. Otherwise, it’s pretty common in hermies that they mold several times in their entire life.

You know hermit crabs get stronger after going through the molding process and emerging out of the sand. Whenever they start feeling mold, they start digging without any breaks.

They also eat and drink a lot in this process to get more fat and stay hydrated. Moreover, they take more baths and do fewer activities than before. Their eyes also start to cloud over.

2. Anxiety:

Do hermit crabs burrow with their shells? Yes, hermit crabs burrowing with their shells and all body parts is common, especially if they feel anxious.

Their coping mechanism starts when they feel anxiety in their environment. It’s pretty common when you put your hermie in a new habitat for the very first time.

The new environment is always scary and stressful for these crabs. However, it’s a common behavior that they like to keep them hidden for a longer time. They feel so safe when they bury themselves. It has a soothing effect on their bodies and minds. This is just their “ME TIME“.

Another reason for their anxiety is their fear of predators and humans. Also, they always try to avoid overstimulation.

They can easily get frightened by predators. That’s why if you are trying to pick up a hermit crab, grab it with utmost care. Grip their shells with one hand and place another underneath them.

3. Digging is Fun!

Hermit crabs dig holes because they think it’s fun. They enjoy doing it. Moreover, burrowing in their natural habitat is a common act. They always dig their holes in beach areas. You would have seen hermit crabs doing this if you hung out in beach areas.

Not just this, the hermit crab burrowing act has another reason – practical purposes. They dig deep holes to get around and move here and there.

The holes are just like tunnels for them to get from one side to another without getting caught in large habitats. They frequently do this in captivity because they have a constant urge to dig.

4. Finding Food:

When hermit crabs are looking for food items, they start burrowing themselves in the sand. Not all hermit crabs do this, but most of them start being fed right away.

However, there could be something wrong if you are feeding them but they are still digging. For example, hermit crabs do not eat everything, they like to eat dead animals and plants more than human food.

Similarly, they don’t like to eat the same food, like strawberries, again and again every day. Give them a variety of foods. You can also mix and match many food items.

They’ll be happy to eat various food choices and stop digging holes. If you want to learn do hermit crabs eat cantaloupe, click on the link.

5. Nocturnal Behavior:

Do you know hermit crabs are nocturnal? This means they are active at night and sleepy during the daytime. That’s why hermit crabs burrow.

As hermit crabs burrowing sand is a common act, they try to hide themselves during the daytime to take a rest. Furthermore, their nocturnal behavior does not change even in captivity.

Hermit crabs do not like brighter lights while sleeping during the daytime. That’s the reason why they come out more often when the lights go out.

They often come out in the daylight when they feel things are noisy outside the caves or holes. However, you can train your hermit crabs to stick out during daylight by giving them food at a specific time. Hermies know how to adjust quickly!

Related article: Do Hermit Crabs Smell Bad ? Explore Top 5 Reasons

How long do hermit crabs burrow?

According to various studies and observations, hermit crabs burrow themselves in the sand/ground for one or two days, several times a year.

They can also stay underground for more days, sometimes. If your hermit crab is burrowed for more than 3 days, it’s also not too long for them to stay there. Unfortunately, there is no rule here.

However, here are a few factors that determine how long hermit crabs burrow:

  • Molting Period: This process takes a few weeks to a couple of months. That’s why hermit crabs do not get out of their underground zone until this process is over. The molding period also depends on their size and growth rate.
  • Rest & Safety: This type of hermit crab burrowing lasts for a few hours to several days. Hermies stay there as long as they perceive a threat or need to recuperate.
  • Seasonal Changes: Unfavorable conditions, such as extreme temperatures or drought also decide how long hermit crabs burrow. Moreover, this burrowing can last until the external conditions start improving.
  • Reproduction: As we know hermit crabs’ burrowing behavior can be associated with reproductive activities. Mostly, female hermit crabs burrow for a few hours to days to lay eggs. The time is dependent on the species and environmental factors.

So, the duration of hermit crab burrowing varies! If you want to learn about do hermit crabs eat tomatoes, just read the article given on the link.

How deep do hermit crabs burrow?

According to various conservationists and reporters, hermit crabs can burrow 8 to 10 cm (3 to 5 inches). Only hermit crabs living in captivity can dig the sand around 8-10 cm. Wind hermit crabs can dig deeper. They can easily dig sand near beaches because this is wetter than usual.

Beach sand has a higher humidity and moisture content than the sand we give them in captivity. Moreover, hermit crabs can dig the ground or sand deeper if the outside environment is hot and sunny. That’s why they work hard to dig deeper holes to stay safe from the harsh environmental conditions. 


How do hermit crabs dig holes in the sand?

Hermit crabs have special claws that they use to dig holes in the sand. The size of their claws is disparate. Most often, they use chelipeds (larger claws) to dig holes. When they want to dig with finesse, they use their smaller claws.

Do hermit crabs burrow themselves to die?

No, hermit crabs do not intentionally burrow themselves to death. However, when they feel sick or are about to die, they burrow themselves. In this way, they die silently and secretly.

Do all hermit crabs burrow?

Yes, all hermit crabs do burrow. This is part of their natural behavior.

Can I see my hermit crabs when they burrow?

No. You cannot see your hermit crabs when they burrow. They remain hidden in their burrows. This makes them difficult to see when they are underground.

Do hermit crabs burrow to hibernate?

No, hermit crabs do not burrow to hibernate. In fact, they do not hibernate at all. However, they burrow deeper during the colder months to regulate their body temperature.

Do hermit crabs burrow together?

Yes. In some cases, multiple hermit crabs share a burrow. This happens especially if they have similar sizes and live close to each other.


So, why do hermit crabs burrow themselves into the ground? I have tried to disclose all the possible reasons behind this act. They may reside in their holes for a longer period, so don’t get worried about it. They could be going through a lot of stuff (like molding) and your curiosity can disturb them. You might wonder if your crab actually died while you were digging in their location. Don’t do this. If they die in the sand, you can feel a smell that is similar to the smell of rotten eggs. Hermit crabs smell very bad when they die.

I hope you enjoyed reading the mind-blowing facts about hermit crabs’ burrowing behavior. Thank you for reading.