Hermit crabs were never intended to live a life in captivity. So, they need time to feel safe and comfortable as pets. Only then will hermit crabs start to bond with humans.
Trust is key to bonding with hermit crabs, so you must prove that you aren’t a threat.
Provide a suitable environment, feed your hermit crabs, keep handling to a minimum, and allow hermit crabs to play. Hermit crabs need to see their owners as a source of food, safety, and comfort.
Never adopt hermit crabs expecting them to interact with your daily routine, as hermit crabs and humans are too different for that to happen.
Do Hermit Crabs Love Their Owners?
Love is too strong a word to describe the relationship between humans and hermit crabs. In reality, we can’t be certain about what hermit crabs feel.
Hermit crabs are governed by their survival instincts and are easily stressed. Whether in the wild or captivity, they spend much time hiding.
Hermit crabs are small and delicate, so they understand their place in the food chain.
Hermit crabs prefer the company of other hermit crabs over humans. Fellow hermit crabs are of similar size and communicate the same way. The intentions of a human will never be clear to hermit crabs.
With this in mind, keepers of hermit crabs should prioritize trust, quality of life, and tranquility over love. Unfortunately, hermit crabs will never display a dog’s unconditional love and affection.
Can Hermit Crabs Recognize Their Owners?
Hermit crabs have good memories. As per Ethology, hermit crabs will remember their tankmates and the social hierarchy within the habitat, which suggests the same will apply to human owners.
Hermit crabs are always listening to the world around them. They don’t have ears, so they hear by detecting vibrations. The timbre of your voice will create a unique vibration they come to recognize.
According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, your scent helps hermit crabs recognize you. Hermit crabs rely on their sense of smell to stay alive, recalling your scent when handled.
Place a hermit crab in the palm of your hand. If you have shown yourself to be trustworthy, it’ll be relaxed. It will recall the unique aroma of your skin and feel assured that you aren’t a threat. If not, the hermit crab is likely to retreat into its shell. Some hermit crabs may pinch or jump from your hand.
Hermit Crab Bonding Tips
You’ll need patience and understanding if you want to bond with hermit crabs.
You can’t buy the affection of a hermit crab, but you can ensure that hermit crabs have a sufficient quality of life. As hermit crabs initially struggle with life in captivity, this is essential.
Once you’ve kitted out a tank, you’ll need patience, as hermit crabs need time to adapt to life as a pet. Leave your hermit crabs alone to adjust to their new surroundings at their own pace.
After this, the fun can start. You can bring pleasure to the life of hermit crabs through food and lifestyle. This way, hermit crabs will enjoy your presence and won’t see you as a threat.
This is as good as love when assessing the dynamic between humans and hermit crabs. You’ll never get to enjoy a cuddle, but you can bring joy to each other’s lives.
Ensure your hermit crabs have the following in their home:
- Company – Hate living alone
- Cleanliness – Dislike squalor
- Warmth – Flourish in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Humidity – Need a humidity of around 80% to breathe
- Water – Provide salt water and fresh water bowls
- Hiding places – Need privacy and safety
- Climbing apparatus – Climb for recreation
- Spare shells – Grow quickly and need to change shells regularly
There’s much more to bonding with hermit crabs, as making the effort to create this habitat is just the bare minimum. Once this is in place, you can focus on forging a connection with your pet hermit crabs.
Wild hermit crabs are natural scavengers, spending their time traversing the beachfront and seeking various foods. This includes garbage, food left by humans, animal cadavers, feces, moss, and algae.
Food is important to hermit crabs, so they need to know they’ll not go hungry. Ensure that you meet the needs of hermit crabs in captivity by ensuring a plentiful supply of food.
Feed hermit crabs once daily by laying down food in a dish at around dusk. This is when hermit crabs will start to wake from their sleep. The scent of appealing food will ensure they are less agitated when they emerge.
Also, supply non-perishable snacks, such as cuttlebone. Hermit crabs don’t just enjoy the taste of cuttlebone, as they benefit from the calcium.
If you keep your hermit crabs well-fed, it’ll enhance your bond. Variety is equally important as hermit crabs dislike eating the same thing twice in 24 hours.
Eventually, your hermit crabs will see you as the bringer of food and a source of pleasure.
With hermit crabs, trust is as positive as being regarded with love. There will be key signs that hermit crabs aren’t afraid of you. Check for the signs of happy and comfortable hermit crabs:
- Periodically emerging from the shell to explore their surroundings.
- Healthy appetite
- Not spending prolonged time burrowed under the substrate unless molting.
- Deep, vibrant color and ten healthy limbs.
- Traditional day/night sleep cycle (sleeping by day, active after dark).
- Staying quiet and not chirping to excess.
- Lack of aggression toward other hermit crabs.
This could mean that hermit crabs have accepted their living situation. This is critical, but it doesn’t mean you’ve forged a personal bond. To be assured that hermit crabs trust you, look for these actions:
- Responding when you call their name.
- Not retreating into the shell when you approach.
- No pinching when handled.
- Remaining silent when approached.
Maintaining A Bond with Hermit Crabs
The trust of hermit crabs can be hard to gain and easy to lose. Place yourself in their metaphorical shoes and think about the experience of a typical captive hermit crab:
- Evolution through five larval stages and the megalopa phase. According to the Journal of Crustacean Biology, only the hardiest survive juvenile status.
- Emerging from their first molt, finding a shell, and seeking a colony of fellow decapods
- Seeking acceptance from this colony and not being bullied out of their shell.
- Surviving the elements and numerous predators of their wild environment.
- Being captured by a shop owner, frequently housed in an inappropriate environment until sold.
- Purchased by a consumer and taken to a new home.
- Housed with new hermit crabs or left completely alone – and starting over with social dynamics.
That’s a lot for any animal to go through in a small amount of time, so it’s hardly surprising that many hermit crabs struggle with life in captivity.
To get the trust of your hermit crabs, prove you have their best interests at heart by doing the following:
Leave Them Alone
Often, the best way to bond with hermit crabs is to leave them alone, which is vital when hermit crabs first arrive in your home. Your new pets need time to destress and overcome post-purchase syndrome.
Once the hermit crabs grow in confidence, it doesn’t mean they want to be constantly interacted with. Hermit crabs are more than capable of amusing themselves in the right habitat.
Hermit crabs must never be disturbed while hiding. Hermit crabs burrowed under the substrate are likely sleeping or molting.
Hermit crabs dislike being handled unless strictly necessary. Don’t force hermit crabs to interact with you because you’ll cause avoidable mental anguish.
Equally importantly, ensure that you handle hermit crabs properly. This table outlines the dos and don’ts of handling hermit crabs:
|Lift hermit crabs by the shell||Lift hermit crabs by the legs or shell|
|Return hermit crabs to solid ground ASAP||Leave hermit crabs dangling in mid-air|
|Stretch the skin of your hand tautly||Leave folds of skin that could be pinched|
|Guide hermit crabs so that they don’t fall||Allow hermit to drop from your hand|
|Move hermit crabs from A to B with minimal interaction||Prod, poke, and aggravate hermit crabs|
Following these steps will teach your hermit crabs to accept handling. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, such as moving hermit crabs out of an enclosure ahead of cleaning.
Once hermit crabs adapt to handling, they may enjoy being hand-fed.
Place something sweet on the tip of your finger, such as jam, and put a hermit crab in your hand. The smell of the jam will excite hermit crabs, which have a sweet tooth.
The hermit crab will crawl up your hand and eat the jam. This connects your scent with the pleasure of food. As a result, doing this with each of your hermit crabs creates a welcome association.
Play And Recreation
You can’t play catch, fetch, or traditional games with a hermit crab. However, providing appropriate recreation can be a great way to bond with hermit crabs. Examples include:
- Exploration – Hermit crabs are curious, so let them explore new terrain, indoors or outdoors.
- Climbing – Fill a habitat with hermit crab-safe wood and climbing apparatus.
- Toys – Hermit crabs like to interact with toys, especially things they can knock over or hide under.
Whatever way you play with hermit crabs, you need to do so in a fun and safe way.
According to Animal Behavior, hermit crabs remember painful experiences. If they recall pain, you will struggle to bond with hermit crabs in the future.