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How to Get a Dead Hermit Crab Out of Shell

| Updated October 19, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Zip-lock bag

  • Tweezers or needle-nosed pliers


  • Do not flush the crab's body down the toilet, as it places bacteria in a water supply.

    Never attempt to pull a crab from its shell if there is any doubt if it is dead or alive. Doing so will kill a live crab.


  • A molting crab can also give off an odor; however, when the crab dies, the odor becomes very strong and noticeably different.

    Hermit crabs will often fall out of their shell when dead and usually remove easily as well.

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.