How to Tell a Hermit Crab Type (with Pictures)

Whether you are planning to breed your hermit crabs or you are just trying to figure out what their names are, knowing what sex each of your crabs is can be very useful. Crabs don’t have pants that you can take off to see what’s inside, but there are some indicators you can use to determine the sex of your crab. We’ll cover those indicators so you can identify them in your crabs, but we’ll also talk about some of the myths around hermit crab gender and identification.


Hermit Crab Gender Identification Myth

hermit crab without shell

Since you can’t just look at a hermit crab and find out its gender, several myths have arisen around the sex of hermit crabs and how to identify them. This is clearly wrong, but you’ve probably heard of it somewhere before.

Myth 1: You can’t tell the sex of hermit crabs

You can definitely tell the sex of your hermit crab, and it’s actually quite easy. We’ll tell you how in a moment.

Myth 2: Gender Is Indicated By Claw Size

Size isn’t everything, and with hermit crabs, it doesn’t really matter. Each hermit crab has one small claw and one large claw, and the size of these claws is not an accurate indication of the sex of the crab.

hermit crab

Lesson About Hermit Crab Anatomy

If you want to be able to determine the sex of your crab, you must have a basic understanding of hermit crab anatomy. In total, hermit crabs have 10 legs. Two of these legs are claws. The hermit crab has one large claw and one small claw. Small claws are used for eating and drinking, larger claws for closing the shell when the crab is tucked in.

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Behind the claws are four walking legs. It is the longer legs that help attract the crab. If you peer into the shell of a crab, you will see four other legs inside the shell behind the walking legs. These hind legs hold the crab in its shell. Crabs also use these legs to pull themselves into their shells when they want to hide.

How to Tell the Gender of a Crab?

hermit crab in someone's hand

Once you understand the anatomy of hermit crabs, determining the sex is very easy. You’ll be looking for a set of gonopores, which are the two tiny dots on the underside of the crab. Only females have gonopores, so if you see these two dots on the underside of the crab, you can be pretty sure it’s a female.

To check your crab for gonopore, you’ll need to hold it upside down with its shell so that it starts to come out of the shell slightly. Identify the hind pair of walking legs. Where these hindwalking legs meet the body, the black dot on each side is what you’re looking for. These black dots are gonopore, which indicates that your crab is female.

fish bowl divider


Don’t believe the myths about the sex of hermit crabs. You can’t tell the sex of a hermit crab by the size of its claws, but there’s definitely a way to determine the sex of your crab and it’s not even that difficult. You just need to identify the gonopore, the two black dots located on the underside of the crab where the hind limbs meet the body; one on both sides. If the crab has these black dots, it’s a female, and if it doesn’t, it’s a male. As simple as that.

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Looking for more information about your hermit crab? Check:

  • Why Do Hermit Crabs Dig? 4 Possible Reasons
  • Is Your Hermit Crab Leaving Its Shell? Here’s What To Do!
  • Do Hermit Crabs Make Good Pets? (Honest Answer)

Featured Image Credit: davemhuntphotography, Shutterstock