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How to Get a Dead Hermit Crab Out of Shell

By Lori Lapierre | Updated October 19, 2017

Items you will need

  • Zip-lock bag

  • Tweezers or needle-nosed pliers

Hermit crabs are built with two legs and a soft, long abdomen that they can insert in any shell they find and decide to live in. While not exactly cuddly creatures, they like to be held and to interact with their owners and are considered easily tamed pets that are great for a family.

Hermit crabs need to change shells frequently, and they sometimes disappear within a new one for weeks, which may lead an owner to think the crab has died. In some cases this is true, which can be verified by a strong, fishy odor given off by a dead crab. Although it is easier to dispose of the entire shell, the crab's body can be removed so the shell can be safely reused by other crabs in the habitat.

Removing a Dead Hermit Crab Out ofShell

Remove the dead hermit crab from its habitat and place it in a plastic zip-lock bag. Freeze it for several hours. This will make the crab's body stiff, which should allow for easier grasping when trying to remove it from the shell.

Remove the frozen crab from the plastic bag. Using tweezers or needle-nosed pliers, gently tug on the crab's body. This may require several attempts, and unfortunately, the crab may not come out in one piece.

Dispose of the crab's body either in the garbage or by burying it.

It is important to clean the shell before allowing another hermit crab to use it. There are several ways to kill any lingering bacteria. You could soak the shell in a 50/50 mix of bleach and water for several days, and then rinse it thoroughly; soak the shell in a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water for several days, and then rinse it thoroughly; or boil the shell for five minutes and cool it completely before introducing it into the crab habitat.


Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."