Marine Crab on Wrong Side of the World? + Care Help

Apologies in advance if this is the wrong place to post, please inform me if this should be moved/deleted.

I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Recently, I went to Lumut, Perak and collected some seashells. I am aware of the possibility of crabs, so I did what I normally do and checked the shell thoroughly. However, despite my best efforts, I did accidentally bring a crab home.

I frantically prepared a setup for the crab and proceeded to hunt for the species ID. That’s when I realised that something was not right. The crab I had accidentally crab-napped looks to be a Thinstriped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius vittatus), that lives half the world away near the Gulf of Mexico. Looking around I did see an observation that was believed to be a Thinstripe in Malaysia, but isn’t on closer inspection. How on Earth did the little guy get here!?

Then there’s the other issue of the crab’s wellbeing. I can’t afford to travel off-state to Lumut to bring them back until May, and I realised that this species would probably require a rather different vivarium compared to those I have previously seen.
The little due has already dropped their shell and is clinging onto a piece of coral skeleton hard. I put a larger shell over them to hopefully get them to get back in, but I know next to nothing on this particular species as they aren’t local.
I picked up the shell on the 31st last year. I only realised the crab on the 2nd (yesterday).

If the crab passes, I’m sorry, I did my best :((
Really hope not, but there’s little resources I can get on this species’ natural habitat and needs… If only I can bring them back. Oh goodness I fell EXTREMELY horrible… :sob:

However, this made me think, is this truly a Thinstriped Hermit or a new species? How is it possible that they have managed to somehow cross the entire Pacific Ocean?
Have any of you ever experienced something similar, wherein you find a wild species that is extremely displaced from their native range, wild? Are such occurrences a cause of concern? Is it normal that a shallow dwelling species such as this crab occasionally appear in totally different locations?


Have you tried looking up native species, like say Clibanarius padavensis?

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I was thinking so as well, but I admit I have minimal knowledge on marine crusteaceans besides the basics. There wasn’t much I could find on this genus.

What should I do with the little dude? Really feel bad for picking them up and taking them away.

Whenever you find a species somewhere else where it does not belong, you can bet all of your belongings that humans have something to do with it (because chances that this is true, are very high). With the transportation (of goods or people) species are transported from one place to another very quickly and it happens all the time. Especially marine animals often get relocated via the ballast water of big ships. Ships take up water in one region and release the water in another which moves organisms from one place to another. I don’t know how likely it would be that a ground-dwelling hermit crab gets transported via ballast water, though.

If you try to keep the crab and are unsure what to feed it, you could try Bamba/peanut flips/peanut chips. I heard that a research group kept hermit crabs on a peanut flip diet and apparently the crabs really liked that stuff. I can’t say if this would work only for particular species, though.


Hermit crabs are kept as pets (who knew?). I came across this website that might be helpful - Pet Hermit Crab Care, Information, Facts & Pictures (
@benjamin_fabian You are correct about the human involvement, especially for marine/aquatic life. Zebra Mussels were introduced to North America, likely through the means you describe. A lot of sea arthropods have a life stage or two that could be picked up in water, and then transported. I am not familiar with marine life - the nearest salt water is at least 600 km north of me (Hudson’s Bay), so can’t help with any identification or advice.


It is relatively easy to accidentally bring a hermit crab home when you believe that the shell is empty. I think all of who who pick up shells have done that by mistake at one time or another.

I suspect this is in fact a local species of hermit crab, not an introduced species from the Gulf of Mexico.

If you can, I would give the crab a selection of shells to choose from, all about the same size as the one he came home in.


There’s a recent meme out there that people have been putting on tiktok videos of pets I think and it goes like “You look at this animal and you realize that someone at some point decided ‘this looks cute and I wanna take it home’”.


Hermit carbs were popular as pets in the U.S. – maybe still are – and I had one or two many years ago. I think you can find captive care advice on the web, as noted above. Can’t advise on species ID but it’s most likely a species that is native (or perhaps, less likely, an established non-native) rather than a transplanted individual from half-way across the world.

I suppose one way to return it to its home could be to mail it to someone there for release.


I have a very similar story, except that it was a Clibanarius longitarsus that I inadvertedly brought back to France from New Caledonia. The poor guy spent 3 days away from water before I found out, but when I found out, I immediately put a message on social medias asking if anyone local with a saltwater aquarium would be willing to rescue him. A few hours later I gave the hermit crab to someone who answered the call and he has been living in his tank ever since.

Species of Clibanarius aren’t land dwellers like the Coenobita we usually find as pet. They can survive outside of water for quite a while but need saltwater.

If the crab left its shell, it means that it is extremely stressed, probably dehydrated.

Regarding its potential introduced status, I think you misidentified it, it is most likely a local species, many species of Clibanarius look very similar to each other.


If anything, what makes me feel the most bad is the fact I’m physically unable to bring them back. If I could, I’d be taking that 4 hour trip to send them back pronto.
It’s even more heart wrenching when people aren’t aware that I live inland and am uncapable of bringing them back;
I got some backlash lol ( :disappointed_relieved: )

Unfortunately, where I live, marine/saltwater fishkeepers are very rare, and refuse to take any other animals in. I sent a message to the local aquarium to see if they can be of any help.

I’m quite aware of this crab probably not being a Thinstripe;
On the main iNat I kept it at genus level (as far as I can identify). The current temporary setup is not a full tropical marine aquarium, rather more of a tide pool setup, I hope that does suffice.

The crab has re-entered their shell though, I suspected dehydration and found that the saltwater helps a ton.


That is interesting, hermits are kept as pets where I live, but it’s considered really hard and for professionals only. (For obvious reasons)

Searching up articles online made me realise how different it is in the US!


Man, didn’t think of the ballast tank thing! I don’t really notice it that often with marine species; mostly because there really isn’t much of that where I live. Even the lionfish threatening the coasts of Florida are native here.

The crab I found is probably a local species, but this definitely highlights some interesting things to me, as I have little knowledge of invasive marine species.
Thanks for the tip on the peanuts though! I’ve not heard of peanut flips but I’ll check them out.

Thanks. I feel bad because I did try to ensure the shells were vacant before bringing them back, especially since I rarely get the chance to leave for the ocean/beach. Someone suggested putting the shells in freshwater as it may cause the crabs to peek but I don’t know.

Thankfully I have quite a selection of shells that came from other trips (thankfully no accidental crabs) as well as some giant land snail shells.

Normally, I bring shells back as a hobby and for decorating crayfish aquariums (I only have freshwater experience) as they prefer hard water. Was hoping to post some of the shells for iNat when I went to collect that day.
Have to be honest, being thrown into the deep end (pun) with a marine hermit crab really stresses me out! The poor dude went through a lot and I feel like an animal abuser for having to keep them.

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I’ve never done that - perhaps because I’ve never been to the ocean. ;)


Different sides of the coin!
Must be quite interesting that you’ve not seen the ocean before, then again I’ve not seen snow.

The different experiences that the community has is astounding to say the least.


Yeah, I get lots of snow where I live!

Although, I have been to Lakes Michigan and Superior, which must look exactly like the ocean, right? Just endless expanses of water as far as you can see? The ocean can’t look that different.

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Great lakes definitely resemble ocean more than regular lakes. Salt water is different though, I think the biggest difference between lake and sea is more constant waves and currents (plus of course marine life and salt-loving plants), I know oceans should have even bigger water movements and that it’s harder to warm than a sea, I initially lived near a bay with quite low salt level (with quite big river ending in it) and it indeed resembles a lake a lot, maybe even more than a huge lake does.


Well, I hope you do post all the shells you found that day here on iNat. Those of us who like shells will be glad to see them.

I am not surprised you feel guilty about what happened, but just try to bear in mind that virtually everything we do as humans, and everything we use or consume, to some extent involves the death and destruction of other living beings, especially insects and other invertebrates.

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