Can you Eat a Hermit Crab? (Q & A)

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Hermit crabs are not only the most popular pet in history, they are also one of the easiest to take care of. For those who have never seen a hermit crab before, you might be wondering if you can eat them or not.

While there is no definitive answer about whether or not it’s possible to eat a hermit crab, we do have some opinions on this topic and what you should know when considering these fascinating creatures as pets!

In this article, we will go over everything there is to know about hermit crabs and whether you can eat them.

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What is a Hermit Crab?

Hermit crabs (i.e Paguroidea) are invertebrates that typically live in their shells. They use these as homes to protect them when they molt and grow, while also using the shell for protection from predators like birds or other animals! 

There 800+ different types of hermit crabs. They are omnivores and eat a range of different food ranging from algae and clams to mussels and even fruits. 

The hermit crab differs from a normal crab in that it only has an exoskeleton on the front of its body whereas the back is bare (unless covered by a found shell). This differs from crab who form a shell on the bulk of their body.

While typically purchased as pets for kids, hermit crabs are more accustomed to living in group environments with other hermit crabs.

What Kind of Shells Do Hermit Crabs Live In?

Every type of hermit crab has a different preference for what kind of shell it wants to live in. Some larger species can even have two sets: one soft set to wear inside its house when molting and another hard set outside on land during dry periods. 

Types of Hermit Crabs

The most common types found today include coconut crabs, porcelain crabs, slipper crabs, and the humble common hermit crab.

Hermit crab in shell

Can You Eat A Hermit Crab?

Hermit crabs are edible but it is not advised as a food of first choice. They are not commonly used in recipes, or available for purchase at restaurants. This is due to the quality and amount of meat these crabs typically produce.

The hermit crab is a scavenger and eats from a diverse range of food sources that can often be toxic for a human to eat.

With that being said if you are looking to eat one, either out of curiosity or survival, and it isn’t regulated in your state or country, the process isn’t particularly hard.

Unlike a normal crab, you will want to begin with cooking the hermit crab. Hermit crabs are not edible without being cooked.

How Do You Cook a Hermit Crab?

You should cook a hermit crab just like you would a normal crab. You will want to thoroughly wash the creature to ensure it does not have any dirt or other materials left on its body.

Once it’s been cleaned you will want to prepare a pot of boiling water and season to taste. After the boil has reached a boil add the hermit crabs and wait approximately 4- 6 minutes.

The hermit crab can be eaten in a similar manner to a traditional crab by cracking the shell to reveal its meat.

It should be noted, you should never eat raw hermit crab or a dead hermit crab.

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What Type Of Hermit Crab is The Best To Eat?

In some regions the coconut crab, a species of the hermit crab is eaten regularly. This hermit crabs diet consists primarily of fruits, nuts and coconuts they source directly from the tree.

This type of hermit crab is considerably larger than the common hermit crab you generally envision, weighing in at approximately 8- 9 pounds as full adults.

Their meat is described as sweet and more similar in taste to that of a lobster than a traditional crab.

Why Are Hermit Crabs Not Popular to Eat?

Hermit crabs are not popular to eat for a number of reasons including their size, their diet, and their status as a pet in some areas.

Most hermit crabs are no more than 4 – 5 inches in size meaning they produce very little meat, and the quality of meat they typically do produce is subpar.

This is largely the result of their diet that consists of a range of dead things sourced from the land and sea including dead clams, algae, plants, and fruits.

Why Are Hermit Crabs Bad Pets?

Hermit crabs were never intended to be domesticated and as a result, the bulk of the hermit crabs sold in stores under the label of “pet” have been caught in the wild and transported for sale.

As a result of this upbringing and their lack of history as dedicated pets, their life span in captivity is often drastically shorter than if it were to be living in the wild. 

The hermit crabs’ life span in the wild can often go as high as 30 years, this contrasts starkly with their reported lifetime in captivity, which is often not much longer than a year.

In addition to their shortened lifetime, the hermit crab also faces a litany of other issues including an inability to breed in captivity, a poor environment often lacking correct moisture levels, and a lack of company, which greatly impacts the community natured creature.

Hermit crabs also often face the issue of being painted with toxic paints by pet dealers and suppliers who believe it makes the creature more attractive to buyers.

How Are Hermit Crabs Different from Other Crabs?

Hermit crabs are not the same as traditional crabs. They only have an exoskeleton on the front half of their body and rely on sourcing a shell to cover the back half, which consists of a muscular tail-looking body.

In addition to this unique aspect, hermit crabs also tend to be considerably smaller than normal crabs. Carrying more likeness to lobsters than they do most species of crabs.


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Ryan W

Ryan is the owner of Fisherman First and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He's fished his entire life and has been to locations across North America to catch a range of fish and crustacean from crabs and prawns to minnow and trout.