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Are Hermit Crabs Smart? 

Are hermit crabs smart

Hermit crabs are arguably pretty smart – they have all kinds of shell-keeping behaviors that are truly fascinating to watch. As a species, we appear to always be questioning the intelligence of other species. Be it out of a need to be superior, wondering whether certain animals have feelings or any proof of rational thinking, or simply out of curiosity. 

When it comes to hermit crabs, although many assume that they are not intelligent, there are plenty of arguments to prove that they are. They have proven to be able to communicate both with us (although on a limited level) and other species.

They are very good at adapting to different environments and temperatures. Moreover, they are simultaneously independent and very social creatures. Some owners believe that their hermit crabs recognize them, although that has yet to be proven.    

Sadly, many are of the opinion that these plucky creatures are not smart simply because they do not resemble our ways. The truth is that defining what is intelligent or not can be a very difficult question! Hermit crabs are intelligent or smart enough for their own needs and daily demands – and that tends to be enough!

Can hermit crabs breathe underwater? 

As you may know, there are multiple kinds of hermit crabs, some that live in water and some that live out of it. However, all of them have approximately the same breathing techniques. Both water and land hermit crabs breathe with their gills.

Their gills, therefore, need to remain wet at all times. That is why even land hermit crabs need access to water throughout the day. Aquatic hermit crabs tend to have larger gills. These gills specifically allow them to obtain the oxygen that they need in the water in order to be able to breathe. 

That being said, aquatic hermit crabs can breathe out of water as long as their gills are still wet. Although they will not like being out of water for too long, they can indeed breathe. 

However, land hermit crabs need humid air. That being said, they cannot breathe underwater. Therefore, if a land hermit crab is left for too long underwater, then it will drown. That is why an essential part of owning a hermit crab is ensuring that you know exactly what kind you have, and exactly what kind of environment it needs, no matter where you got it from. 

Can hermit crabs swim? 

When it comes to land hermit crabs, you may not be surprised to learn that they do not, in fact, swim. However, did you know that even aquatic hermit crabs avoid swimming? Since they are sea animals, we tend to assume that they can naturally swim underwater – however, that is not the case for these little crabs. 

Aquatic hermit crabs tend to be found on the ocean floor, walking in the sand. They also occasionally burrow in the sand, when they are hunting, molting, or trying to keep warm. However, you will not find them swimming about. In fact, if hermit crabs are in water that is too deep, and cannot get around on the floor, then they could easily drown. 

That is why you need to ensure that your tank, while large enough for them, is not so large that they could be hurt. Although you would indeed need a very big tank in order to achieve this, it is possible! 

Can hermit crabs live underwater? 

Whether a hermit crab can live underwater depends on its species. There are some hermit crabs that adapt to living out of the water, providing their gills are wet enough. However, yes, there are some that solely live beneath the waves. That said, believe it or not, this is where things can get even more involved!

Aquatic hermit crabs need to live underwater (hence their name) – however, you will need to know whether it needs saltwater or freshwater before putting it in your tank! Freshwater crabs cannot adapt to high salinity, just as sea or saltwater crabs can’t adapt to water without concentrated sodium.

On the other hand, land hermit crabs cannot live underwater. Their gills are simply not evolved enough to be able to extract the oxygen from the water, and will suffocate if left underwater for too long. That being said, it is important to remember that in order for certain hermit crabs to be able to survive, they will need access to both freshwater and saltwater. 

Are hermit crabs born with shells? 

No, hermit crabs are not born with shells. In fact, from the time that they are young to adulthood, they have to source shells from elsewhere. They are fantastic hunters – and there have been many photos taken of crabs adapting to all kinds of shells on the shore. Tragically, some even take up human refuse to hide in.

They have particular bodies that are made to be able to fit into various shells and are often found in shells that they have sourced from other shelled creatures, such as snails. They use the hook shape at the end of their tails as well as their legs to be able to hold onto their shells. 

When hermit crabs outgrow their shells, they quickly search for a bigger one, switching over. If they are too big for their shells, then they cannot completely retract into the shell, therefore leaving them vulnerable to predators and their environment. They scale up – and never down – if they can help it.

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scuba diving

Erik Miller

Passionate scuba diver

Hello, there. Welcome to my blog. I am Erik and I’m the main editor of Sealife Planet website.

My passion and hobby has always been scuba diving. My mission is to grow this website and help others with useful information about the sea world. Enjoy!

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