Video Series: Black-Eyed Hermit Crab

We hope you enjoyed our video featuring the charismatic Black-eyed Hermit! We had a lot of fun creating this video and look forward to creating more! Scroll down to the end of this blog post for our drawing and acting activity!


Fun facts about Black-Eyed Hermits:


Where can I find Black-Eyed Hermits?


Unlike most hermit species that you might find in tide-pools, the Black-Eyed Hermits live subtidally, which means they are only rarely found in the intertidal zone. If you are tide pooling and you find a Black-Eyed Hermit, be sure to let us know, we would be interested to hear where you find one!

Black-Eyed Hermits likely aren’t found in the intertidal zone because their favorite habitats which include eel grass beds and sea pen gardens both occur in deeper water. Black-Eyed Hermits prefer these habitats because they offer protection from their predators.

These hermits have been quite frequently seen by scuba divers in Campbell River, Courtenay/Comox, and Nanoose. In the Discovery Passage, they have been spotted along Tyee Spit and at Willow Point.

To all of our non-scuba diving readers, Black-Eyed Hermits can be seen at the Discovery Passage Aquarium every year!


How large do Black-Eyed Hermits grow?


Black-Eyed Hermits grow to be about the size of a tennis ball when you include their seashell. This makes them the largest hermit crab on our coastline.

Hermit crabs as a species only grow as big as the seashells available in their habitat. If  hermits grew any bigger, they wouldn’t be able to fit in any seashells they could find and would be extremely vulnerable to threats!


What do Black-Eyed Hermits eat?


Like many crabs, Black-Eyed Hermits are scavengers, endlessly searching for dead plant and animal material to scarf down. They will also search the muddy seafloor for tiny creatures that live in the mud and sand. If you slow down and watch one of these hermits in their natural habitat or aquarium, you will notice that they often scoop up to ‘taste’ the sand. They likely do this to narrow down on potential food that is nearby or buried just beneath the surface.


How many legs do Black-Eyed Hermits have?


While only four typical legs are seen outside of the hermit’s shell, all hermit crabs actually have ten legs in total! Hermit crabs have an additional four tiny legs that they use to hold themselves into their shells. Hermit crab claws (like all crab claws) are also considered to be legs by biologists. With the four hidden legs, the four visible legs, and the two claws, this adds up to ten legs.


What local species are hermit crabs related to?


Despite their name, hermit crabs are not ‘true crabs’, but instead belong to a group of crustaceans called the ‘Anomurans’, which is Latin for ‘differently-tailed’. Other local species belonging to this group include the king crabs, such as the magnificent Puget Sound King Crab, who we will be learning about in the coming weeks!


Are Black-Eyed Hermits dangerous?


Despite those large threatening claws, this species is of no threat to humans. If you try to pick up one of these hermits, they will often try to pinch you in self defense. If you see one it is a good idea to leave them be and observe from a distance.


How do Black-Eyed Hermits find their shells?


Black-Eyed Hermits have a fascinating means of tracking down fresh seashells. When a sea snail is dying or decaying, they give off a very recognizable scent. Hermit crabs are very good at picking up on this smell, and use it to track down the snail. Black-Eyed Hermits are patient however, and will wait until a scavenger eats the snail and cleans out the shell. Sometimes this can take a while, and groups of 3-4 Black-Eyed Hermits have been seen patrolling moon snail carcasses as if they are playing a game of musical chairs.


Who are the Black-Eyed Hermit’s predators?


Thanks to their tough seashells, Black-Eyed Hermits likely have fewer predators than their ‘seashell-less’ relatives. The major predator of this species is possibly the Giant Pacific Octopus, who are likely able to figure out how to pull these hermits out of their shells. This is a lot of work however, and lucky for this hermit species, Giant Pacific Octopuses prefer to hunt down other species such as the Dungeness Crab or Red Rock Crab.


Weekly Video Series Activities!


Black-Eyed Hermit Drawing Activity:


Send us your drawing of a Black-Eyed Hermit this week and we will feature it on our Facebook page and Instagram accounts! Attached is a PDF worksheet to help younger participants. For the artistic folks out there, any medium is encouraged! Whiteboard art, painting, sculptures, you name it!

Send us your drawing by email at:

Or tag us in your Instagram Post: @DPAquarium #DPAquarium

Or send it to us in a message on Facebook: DiscoveryPassageAquarium

Be sure to do so before 10:00AM, Monday, April 13th so we can feature you on our Monday social media posts!

DPA Drawing Activity – Black-eyed hermit crab


Black-eyed Hermit Acting Activity:


Stuck indoors and going stir crazy? Pour some excess energy into your BEST Black-Eyed Hermit impression and send us a video to be featured on our Instagram! Costumes are encouraged!

Tag us in your instagram post: @DPAquarium #DPAquarium

Be sure to do so before 10:00AM, Monday, April 13th so we can feature you on our Monday social media posts!

Click here to learn about Green Sea Urchins!

Click here to learn about the DPA Video Series!

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