How Hermit Crabs Breathe: Ways to Help Them Survive

Unlike most other crab species, hermit crabs can breathe air. However, they also need water to do so. Hermit crabs store water in their shells, which they use to rid themselves of toxins and waste products. When it’s time to drink, the crab opens its shell and breathes in the air until all the water is gone. This breathing process helps to rid the hermit crab of toxins and waste products and keeps the crab hydrated.

Helping Hermit Crabs Breathe Better

Hermit crabs need some help when it comes to breathing. If you see any signs of respiratory problems, such as coughing, give them some humidified air or sea saltwater solution to lick up. 

PH Levels

Monitoring the pH levels in their tank is essential – if it drops too low, add baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate) until the level returns to normal. Hermit crabs need to breathe through their skins to stay calm, so ensure they have a humid area and plenty of fresh water.


A hermit crab needs high humidity levels to breathe correctly. The hermit crabs will suffocate if the humidity drops below 70% for an extended period. Make sure to keep your house humid by spraying a water sprayer or placing a wet towel on the windowsill. Also, be sure to mist them periodically with a watering can if necessary. Moreover, add a few inches of fresh water to their tank every day.

Signs That Hermit Crabs Are Suffocating

If you notice that your hermit crab is not moving around or looking healthy, it might suffocate. In this case, you need to do something about it as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help them: First, ensure their environment is airtight and moisture-free. Change their water regularly and provide them with a safe place where they can hide when the coast is clear. If the hermit crabs are still not active or show other signs of distress (such as heavy breathing), they most likely need professional assistance.

How Hermit Crabs Breathe Underwater

Hermit crabs can breathe underwater and have a variety of adaptations for doing so. They use gills to extract air from water and transport it to their lungs for breathing. They can also secrete a liquid that helps them breathe underwater – aragonite tissue. So, even though they may live in dark and damp environments, hermit crabs can still survive and breathe easily underwater.

How Long Can Hermit Crabs Stay Underwater?

The hermit crab needs to come up for air from time to time to survive. When they do, they will use their pincers and claws to catch water in their mouths. They can stay underwater for around 20 minutes before needing a breath of air.

Can Hermit Crabs Drown?

When a hermit crab is submerged in water, it will “breathe” through its foot pincers by sucking the air out of the surrounding water. So long as they are kept in an area with artificial humidity and submerged in water at least 4 inches deep, hermit crabs should be just fine. 

If you’re concerned your hermit crab may drown, take these steps to help: place it in an area where the top surface of the water is at least 4 inches deep; if possible, provide a hiding spot with artificial humidity; never leave your hermit crab unattended in stagnant or toxic waters.

How Hermit Crabs Breathe Under the Sand

When the tide goes out, hermit crabs can leave their sand burrows and exhale through their legs or antennae. This process is called ‘pulsing breathing.’ Instead of using air to get oxygen, hermit crabs use water and salt for breathing. 

This means they don’t need to breathe under the sand, as their respiratory system works differently than ours. Instead, they get their oxygen from the water and salt around them. This is why hermit crabs can stay submerged for long periods – their respiratory system can handle the salt levels in the water.

How Long a Hermit Crab Can Hold Its Breath

Hermit crabs can hold their breath for up to two minutes! When they need oxygen, they will expel water from their eyes and mouth and then use the mucous membranes in these areas to absorb the fresh air. Hermit crabs will also rest on land when they need to breathe, but they can always return to the sea if necessary. 

Can Hermit Crabs Breathe Out of the Saltwater?

Yes, they use a unique organ called the gills to extract oxygen from seawater. However, if your crab is breathing out of the water and not getting enough oxygen, it may become ill or die. In addition, a hermit crab that is breathing out of the water may be more vulnerable to predators, as they are harder to see and hear.

How Hermit Crabs Get Oxygen to Breathe

When they’re close to the water’s surface, hermit crabs can reach up and grab tiny bubbles of oxygen with their claws. This process is called “climbing.” Hermit crabs need to access air through their gills to breathe, just like other sea creatures. Climbing also helps hermit crabs move around more quickly as they search for food or a new shell home.