Give it a chance, molting hermits often have a different smell to them when molting and it is easy to mistake the molting crab for a dead crab when it is alive if it is in mid-molt and helpless, put in a quarentine tank or container. Let it eat its shell it molts.
Other visual signs for molting are: dull looking cloudy eyes and a chalky appearance to their exoskeleton. Also, crabs that have lost an appendage will have a pronounced “limb bud” just prior to molting. upon molting. Eventually the appendage will grow to normal size after 2-3 molts.
Throughout the life of a hermit crab life they periodically undergo a process called "Molting".A majority of a hermit crabs time is spent molting or preparing to molt so it is critical to have correct information.Animals in the Phylum Arthropoda will molt their exoskeletons unlike Invertebrates who process an interior skeleton. Crabs grow by shedding their exoskeleton.Crabs as they can loose limbs or fall prey to predation as the new exoskeleton is very soft.Aggressive Hermits seek out molting or newly molted tank mates to eat so isolate the molting Crab with its old cast exoskeleton until the process is complete.Crabs eat the molted exoskeleton to replenish lost calcium. To quarentine I use an inexpensive plastic pet tank with a lid, it is approx 6"wide X 10"long and 6 "deep with lid,in goes water a little food along with the molted exoskeleton to eat when their energy returns.Molting Crabs are very timid during this time and may cast off appendages due to stress so handle them as little as possible to avoid this.Excessive digging behavior will be noticed in enviroments withuot a deep enough substrate for the molting crab to bury itself in,a couple of inches or more of sand or coconut fiber is needed . In nature hermit crabs bury underground to molt. They need a period of extended darkness so the molting hormone will be secreted and digging will provide protection from predators and elements during this vulnerable and critical time. If crabs are not provided substrate (preferably sand,,sandy soil or coconut fiber) that is deep enough or moist enough to completely bury themselves in, they will attempt to molt a surface molt. Small crabs may be able to accomplish a surface molt, but danger lies in the possibility of other crabs scavenging the freshly molted crab who is unable to move until it regains muscle control and the shell hardens up.Freshly molteded crabs have an enticing smell to other crabs as a free and easy meal. Put the molted shell, food and water in the tank in close proximity to the crab so they can move as little as possible to eat. Until their new exoskeleton hardens they will be very weak from muscle tissue loss from the energy it takes to molt. Muscles pulling against the new soft exoskeleton before it hardens can possibly cause harmful complications to the new shell.
11.Calcium and Carotene
Cuttlebone is the hard structure in the head of the Squid ,you may purchase them in the bird section of your pet store, ground up they provide an excellent source of calcium as does ground up oyster and egg shells. Post molt Crabs crave cuttlebone and will stand at the dish of ground cuttlebone and eat to their hearts content. Sprinkle a bit in their water is another way to help them get their requirement of Calcium. Carotene keeps your Hermit Crabs color bright , you can get this through carrots and color enhancing fish flakes. Ecuadorian Hermit Crabs seem to suffer from Carotene deficiency more than other species of Hermits.
Written By Cheryl Millard (c) 2009