It’s always a sad day when we lose one of our little ones, no matter what the pet. I’d love to proclaim that if you do everything right, get all the equipment, feed all the right foods, that it will never happen to you, but we all know that sadly, that just isn’t true. Even if it is just old age, eventually we will lose one.

I recently lost a hermit crab to PPS. I was really pulling for him but he just didn’t make it. The question then becomes, what do you do with a dead hermit crab.

Well, first and formost, be sure that he is dead. A hermit crab in the middle of a molt can look suspiciously like a dead crab. Even worse, an exoskeleton can look like a dead crab to a new owner and get the whole package thrown out, newly molted crab and all.

Simon sat near the water dish for over two weeks. Even while I was away on holiday he sat there and was alive, if very lethargic, when I returned. I kept a close eye on him when he stopped moving, hoping for a surface molt. At this point the best way to tell if the crab is dead is to use your nose. A dead crab smells like a dead fish and the smell gets progressively worse.

A molting crab can have an odor about it but it does not increase over time. Last night I detected a slightly fishy odor and this morning, it was much stronger and the crab had not moved for 3 days. Sadly, I knew it was time.

The next thing I did may seem strange and really is a personal decision but I placed Simon in a ziploc bag and put him in the freezer. This was to ensure that he was in fact dead. Now, I was already 99.99% sure that he was but if there was even the tiniest chance I would rather have him pass quickly then to wake up underground or in a trashbag. Like I said, this is my choice and something you might opt not to do.

The next issue that you must deal with is the shell. Often you will notice that a crab has died when it falls out of it’s shell completely or dies after leaving its shell on its own. Other crabs die in their shells. For crabs who die in their shells you must decide whether or not you wish to try to salvage the shell. This is totally a personal choice and there is no right answer. I personally do not have the heart to remove a crab from it’s shell after it has died, although the few that I have had the misfortune to lose all were small and the shell was not that valuable. Except one. Clancy, my first jumbo died in his big tapestry turbo. He was so special to me that I could not bear to “de-shell” him before I let him go.

De-shelling is about what you might think. I’m not going to give you a how-to because I’ve never done it but I’m sure that you get the idea. Using some sort of tool you manipulate the crab out of its shell.

Once you have gotten to this point you need to decide how to proceed. You only have a couple of options at your disposal. You can either place your crab into the garbage or bury him. Never flush dead pets down the toilet, you risk introducing bacteria into the water supply. It’s always better to dispose of it some other way. I usually place the dead crab in the garbage. I’ve never been much of a pet-burier.

Losing a pet is never easy, even the tiniest creature has value. How we take care of them in life and in death reflects upon us as caregivers and responsible pet owners.