Hermit crabs have become quite popular pets in recent years, but they were never intended to live a life in captivity. This means that they need time, patience, and understanding to feel safe and become 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 your 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. Hermit crabs and humans are too different for that to happen. Providing a good quality of life can forge a mutual bond of trust.
Do Hermit Crabs Love Their Owners?
Love is too strong a word to describe the relationship between humans and hermit crabs. In reality, we cannot be certain about what hermit crabs feel. No studies have been conducted into hermit crab psychology.
What we do know is that hermit crabs are easily stressed and governed by their survival instincts. These animals, whether in the wild or captivity, spend a lot of their 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 equal size and communicate the same way. The intentions of a human will never be entirely 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 be able to display the unconditional love and affection of a dog.
Can Hermit Crabs Recognize Their Owners?
Hermit crabs have surprisingly good memories. As per Ethology, your hermit crabs will remember their tankmates and the social hierarchy within the habitat. This suggests the same will also apply to human owners.
Hermit crabs will not recognize humans by sight. What’s more, vision is not the primary sense that hermit crabs rely upon. Instead, it’s human voice cadence and scent that hermit crabs commit to memory.
Hermit crabs are always listening to the world around them. They don’t have ears. Instead, they hear by detecting vibrations. The timbre of your voice will create a unique vibration that hermit crabs come to recognize.
As per the Journal of Chemical Ecology, it’s your scent that helps hermit crabs recognize you. Hermit crabs are reliant on their sense of smell to stay alive. They’ll recall your scent when handled and respond appropriately.
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 are not 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
If you want to bond with hermit crabs, you’ll need patience, understanding, and some money. Despite what you may have heard, caring for a hermit crab isn’t cheap.
You cannot buy the affection of a hermit crab. You can, however, ensure that your 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 habitat, you’ll need to be patient. 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’ll be able to bring pleasure into the life of these animals through food and lifestyle. This way, your hermit crabs will enjoy your presence and not see you as a threat.
This is as good as love when assessing the dynamic between humans and hermit crabs. You may never get to enjoy a cuddle on the sofa, but you can bring joy to each other’s lives.
Provide a Quality Habitat
In an ideal world, this should be as close as possible to their natural habitat. Ensure your hermit crabs have the following in their home:
- Company – Hate living alone
- Cleanliness – Cannot tolerate squalor
- Warmth – Flourish in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Humidity – Need a humidity of around 80% to breathe
- Water – Provide saltwater and freshwater baths
- Hiding places – Need privacy and safety
- Climbing apparatus – Climb for recreation
- Spare shells – Young hermit crabs grow quickly and need to change shells regularly
There is much more to bonding with hermit crabs. Making the effort to create this habitat is just the bare minimum. Once this is in place, though, you can focus on forging a connection with your pets.
Feed Appropriate Foods
In the wild, hermit crabs are natural scavengers. They spend their waking time traversing the beachfront, seeking a variety of foods. This includes garbage, food left by humans, animal cadavers, feces, and moss or algae.
This means that food is important to hermit crabs. They need to know that they will not go hungry. Ensure that you meet the needs of your hermit crabs in captivity by ensuring a plentiful supply of food.
Feed your hermit crabs once a day. Lay down food in a dish at around dusk. This is the time that your 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. Cuttlebone is perhaps the best example. Hermit crabs don’t just enjoy the taste of cuttlebone. It is also packed with essential calcium, which boosts and bolsters health.
If you keep your hermit crabs well-fed, it will 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.
Show That You Can be Trusted
As discussed, hermit crabs will not be fulsome in their affection. There will be key signs that your hermit crabs are not afraid of you, though. With these animals, trust is as positive as being regarded with love. Look out for the signs of the behavior and appearance of happy and comfortable hermit crabs. These include:
- Periodically emerging from the shell to explore surroundings
- Healthy appetite
- Not spending prolonged time burrowed under the substrate (unless molting)
- Deep, vibrant color and 10 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 does not mean you have forged a personal bond. To be assured that your hermit crabs trust and like 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. Loud chirping is a sign of fear or agitation.
Maintaining a Bond with Hermit Crabs
The trust of hermit crabs can be hard to gain and easy to lose. Place yourself in the metaphorical shoes of these animals and think about the experience of a typical captive hermit crab.
- Evolution through five larval stages and the megalopa phase. As per the Journal of Crustacean Biology, only the hardiest survive to juvenile status.
- Emerge 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 even worse, completely alone – and starting over with social dynamics.
That’s a lot for any animal to go through in a short space of time. It’s hardly surprising that many hermit crabs struggle with captivity. To retain the trust of your hermit crabs, prove you have their best interests at heart. There are ways to achieve this.
Leave the Hermit Crabs Alone
Oftentimes, the best way to bond with hermit crabs is to leave them alone. This is especially vital when hermit crabs first arrive in your home. Your new pets need time to destress and overcome post-purchase syndrome.
Once your hermit crabs grow in confidence, it doesn’t mean they want to be constantly interacted with. In the right habitat, hermit crabs are more than capable of amusing themselves. They’ll likelier be happier doing so.
The key thing to know is that hermit crabs must never be disturbed while hiding. Hermit crabs burrowed under the substrate are likely sleeping or molting. Troubling hermit crabs at this point will never end well for you.
Hermit crabs do not like being handled unless strictly necessary. Do not force hermit crabs to interact because you’ll cause avoidable mental anguish.
Equally important is ensuring that you handle your 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|
If you stick with these steps, your hermit crabs will learn to accept handling. There will be times that it is unavoidable, such as moving hermit crabs out of an enclosure ahead of cleaning. Remember, only handle hermit crabs if there is no alternative.
One exception to the rule above is hand-feeding your hermit crabs. We mentioned previously that food is important to hermit crabs. Once they adapt to handling, your pets may enjoy being hand-fed.
Place something sweet on the tip of your finger, such as jam, and pop a hermit crab in your hand. The smell of the jam will excite the animal. Hermit crabs have a real sweet tooth.
The hermit crab will crawl up your hand and lick the jam from your finger. This connects your scent with the pleasure of food. As a result, doing this with each of your hermit crabs will create a welcome association.
If you prefer not to hand-feed this way, use a plastic spoon. This is best saved for fussy eaters, though. The point of hand-feeding is creating an association between your scent and food. Cutlery places a dividing barrier between you and your pets.
Play and Recreation
You cannot play catch, fetch, or other traditional games with a hermit crab. This does not mean that hermit crabs are lazy or dislike play, though. Providing appropriate recreation can be a great way to bond with hermit crabs. Examples of this include:
- Exploration – hermit crabs are curious. Let your pets safely explore new terrain, indoors or outside.
- Climbing – hermit crabs love to climb. Fill a habitat with hermit crab-safe wood and other climbing apparatus.
- Toys – hermit crabs like to interact with toys, especially things they can knock over or hide under.
Whatever way you play with your hermit crabs, keep them safe. As per Animal Behavior, hermit crabs remember painful experiences. If your hermit crabs recall you hurting them, you will struggle to bond in the future.
Hermit crabs do bond with owners in their way. Hermit crabs are not cuddly pets and will never interact like mammals.