How Many Claws Do Hermit Crabs Have?

Hermit crabs have two pairs of claws and five pairs of legs. These claws perform different functions. The left claw is giant as compared to the right.

Hermit crabs use their claws for their safety and to capture prey. They use their giant claw to block the entrance of a shell when they are sleeping.

Hermit crab claws play an essential role in daily life. With the help of claws, they can climb, dig and protect themselves. The claws can be lost during molting, but they can regrow back. When this happens, the difference between the right and left claws remains the same.

What are hermit crab claws called?

What are hermit crab claws called?

The scientific name of a crab’s claw is “Chelipeds.” The chelipeds consist of two front legs, with additional pairs of legs behind. If they lose claws, they can regenerate in the next molting.

Marine Ecology has shown that males have more enormous claws than females, particularly after first molting. Left chelipeds are known as a desirable tarot in hermit crabs because females consider more enormous claws’ the best mating partners.

Why are hermit crab’s claws different sizes?

Hermit crabs are much different from other crab species. They can share one defining property; 10 legs with prominent claws and chelipeds.

One claw will be more noticeable than the other.

The more oversized claw is based on the hermit crabs’ species. The aquatic members of the family Paguridae are called “right-handed hermit crabs” because their right is significant.

While the crabs which belong to the Diogenidae family are doubled left-handed for contrasting reasons.

Terrestrial hermit crabs have a more oversized left claw. The giant claw is used for fighting if the food particles tear into small pieces that maxillipeds move into the mouth.

Why do hermit crabs have one giant claw?

Why do hermit crabs have one giant claw?

The hermit crab has a giant claw used for different purposes. Their chelipeds are multifunctional, and claws perform a range of functions.

Digging and climbing

Hermit crabs like to climb even if they are wild and captive. So if you want to keep hermit crabs in your aquarium, you should make a climbing toy to entertain your pets. Both chelipeds are essential for climbing.

When climbing, a hermit crab finds a small bump on the surface. Once recognized, the hermit crab enfolds its legs around the protrusion and holds itself up. Sometimes, the large solid cheliped is essential to attaining enough grip and traction to the limb. 

Another method of climbing for a crab is to dig and bury himself in the sand. This happens before molting and when they hide from predators.

Protecting shell

Hermit crabs are very serious about their shells. Once a shell is melted, it may be changed into others.

Like other animals, hermit crabs can be addicted to physical dominance. If a tinier hermit crab gets a giant shell, another crab can steal it. Sometimes, it includes reaching into the shell and dragging it out by force.

As a result, hermit crabs use their claws to block the shell’s opening. The use of the giant claw as a barrier keeps them safe if it wants to remain hidden.

Fighting and self-defense

Hermit crabs avoid physical fighting and are peaceful. However, wild hermit crabs live in colonies of almost 100 or more, so opinion differences arise mainly. In such situations, claws prove very useful and act as a weapon.

According to Behavioral ecology and sociology, chelipeds size is used for protection. Hermit crabs with big claws can frighten others. They bend these appendages to protect competitors from food and potential mating partners.

If you notice your hermit crab attacking each other, you must separate them.

They fight with claws to win. It means they use their chelipeds to sever limbs and eye stalks.

Eating and hydrating

Both chelipeds play an essential role in the feeding and hydrating process. Hermit crabs lack teeth which means that they cannot chew food. The giant claw is used to convert big particles into small particles. Hermit crabs are hunters, and they infrequently hunt live prey.

Once a giant claw converts food into tiny particles, then chelipeds shift towards the mouth and hermit crabs can digest food.


As discussed earlier, the Hermit crab’s claws play a vital role in mating. Females naturally attract giant claw crabs.

Marine biologists suggest that chelipeds of male hermit crabs care for the female and protect them from other rivals. The hermit crabs with larger chelipeds mostly triumph if forced to fight an enemy for the right to mate. 

Hermit crabs use large claws during mating to hold a female still. They do not leave their shell if it is unnecessary to leave and often mate within them.

A male hermit crab has a penis half of its whole body length, so it does not leave the shell, does not force females to do so, and can mate with the shell.

Why does the hermit crab’s claw come off?

Why does the hermit crab’s claw come off?

Your hermit crab may lose a claw for different reasons, as in too dry an environment. A crab can also lose its claw due to light effects. If you have more than one crab in one habitat, one may cut off the other’s claw during the fighting.

If your hermit crab loses his claw, don’t be depressed. It would be best if you adopted these measures.

Add a bowl of water to the habitat’s corner to keep humidity. Keep him at a distance from solid fumes. There is no specific treatment if a crab misses a claw. His body will regrow the claw after a time. You do not need to be worried.

Your crab can also lose other body parts like legs, but it’s a surprise that they can regrow these parts in the same way as claws.


Hermit crabs are observable when they grow. It is imposing to see the molting of a hermit crab while it regrows its lost claws. Hermit crab’s claws are very helpful in protecting and other life processes. They can regenerate their claws once lost.

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