One Day I Found a Giant Red Hermit Crab

One day while searching the islands at high tide, I came across the only red hermit crab I have ever seen. He was big, and living in a very broken crown conch shell.

Have you ever seen a giant red hermit crab? Me neither until, well, one day I did! I got some great photos, so read on.

giant red crab florida
Giant Red Hermit Crab found in the Indian River

The Story of the Big Red Hermit Crab

We went out on the boat yesterday, my son and I, and ended our day at Three Sisters, which is a group of three islands in the Indian River backwaters. The tide was coming in so there was no sand showing, but it was shallow enough to walk and search for shells.  We were the only ones there until a pontoon boat with a family aboard pulled up as we were leaving.

Three sisters saltwater islands at low tide on the Indian River.
High tide means no sand showing at Three Sisters

While walking the shallows, I came across this rather large shell.  It was moving so I figured a hermit crab was inside, but I could see something red and the hermits I see are never red.    The shallow water was very murky.  I didn’t have a clear view, so thought maybe it was a living mollusk. Horse conchs are this color.  I had to investigate.

seashell under water
Tiny bit of red on this underwater seashell – I’m curious

Some conchs can be brightly colored like the horse conch I once found.   That was my best guess … until I picked it up!

red crab underwater
I needed a closer look

The camera captured a clearer image because in reality I was dealing with moving water and the glare of sunlight.

It is seldom ever that I find an empty shell out on the river. Something is always inside. The ends of the shell are always the safest for grabbing so the crab won’t pinch me. And it’s a good thing I was careful because look what I pulled up from the sea!

In all my time out walking the shallows of the Indian River backwater I have never seen a red hermit crab.  I took a couple of quick photos and put him down.  Usually the hermit crabs I see retreat back into the shell when picked up.  Not this guy… he was bold.  I didn’t want to bother him, so I put him and his broken Crown Conch shell back down. In fact, if his shell hadn’t been broken, so I could see a little bit of his color, I may have passed it by assuming it was just another typical hermit crab.

I had to look this one up when I got home and found some info by a writer (who is from New Smyrna Beach) and says they are native to Florida but “not often seen”.

Then I checked my Florida’s Living Beaches book and found that these crabs live on reefs and are “beached after storms”.
There are no reefs in the Indian River and this red crab must have been far from his home.  His shell was pretty broken.  I’m thinking he must have been searching for a better shell to live in.

Anyway, that was my amazing find.  It was such a hot day, and the water had to be 90 degrees.  I’m looking forward to cooler weather.

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