As hermit crabs don’t have ears, they detect noise through vibrations. This means that loud, constant sounds can leave hermit crabs confused and disoriented.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that hermit crabs won’t enjoy music in their own way. While a hermit crab will never hear and recognize a song, some vibrations are more appealing than others.
If you’re going to play music around hermit crabs, choose something with a steady, repetitive bassline and beat. This means dance, rap, or pop music is best. Your hermit crabs can learn to enjoy a rhythmic set of vibrations, and you can even train them to react to music.
Keep the volume to an agreeable level, and avoid playing it while your hermit crabs sleep or eat. If in doubt, home your hermit crabs away from any room with a stereo or speaker.
Are Hermit Crabs Sensitive to Sound?
Compared to most animals, hermit crabs have poor hearing, which means that sound can be distressing.
Biology Letters explains how anthropogenic noise in the ocean tends to make hermit crabs panic and make poor choices surrounding shells.
This doesn’t mean that hermit crabs are intolerant of all noise. Hermit crabs ‘hear’ through vibrations, picking these up through tiny hairs on the legs, known as setae and the antennae. Setae are part of a hermit crab’s exoskeleton, so they’re particularly sensitive.
As a hermit crab needs to sense vibrations to hear, only deep and bass-heavy sounds will have an impact. In the wild, hermit crabs may hear the horn of a boat or the low, deep pulse of an idling truck.
What hermit crabs lack in hearing is made up for in scent. Evolutionary Ecology explains how hermit crabs rely on their sense of smell to understand their surroundings. It may be confusing and distressing for hermit crabs to hear a potential threat they can’t scent.
Can Hermit Crabs Hear Music?
Hermit crabs don’t hear music because they recognize a unique melody. They simply pick up on different vibrations, which are influenced by the volume of the music and the genre.
You can experiment with how hermit crabs react to music. Try setting your stereo to a moderate volume and play a song that revolves around an acoustic guitar and vocals. This is unlikely to elicit much bass, and the hermit crabs are unlikely to respond.
Now play the same song at a much higher volume. If you place your hand against the speaker, it’ll throb and pulsate. This creates vibrations, and the hermit crabs are likelier to notice it. You can turn down the bass if it is upsetting your hermit crabs, which may negatively impact your enjoyment of the music.
Some genres of music will involve more bass and thus create vibrations at even a moderate volume. Anything with a repetitive beat you can tap your foot to will likely penetrate a nearby hermit crab tank and elicit a reaction.
Is Loud Music Bad for Hermit Crabs?
Any loud noise is bad for hermit crabs, musical or otherwise, so you should avoid turning up the volume on your speakers if hermit crabs are nearby. If you’re a fan of loud music, station your tank a safe distance away.
Thankfully, hermit crabs have comparatively poor hearing. If you play music in a different room than their habitat, your hermit crabs are unlikely to detect it.
Watch how your hermit crabs respond when you play loud music. If they display the following behaviors, the music is distressing them:
- Retreating into the shell
- Digging and hiding under the substrate
- Showing aggression toward each other
- Refusing to eat
- Growing confused and losing motor function
- Losing balance while climbing or hanging from the ceiling of a habitat
In these instances, either get headphones to listen to your music or move your hermit crab habitat to another location, ideally on a different floor of your home.
When Is A Good Time to Play Music for Hermit Crabs?
There may be times when the distraction provided by music will be beneficial to your hermit crabs. Examples of this could include:
- Loud, external noises you can’t control would distress your hermit crabs – a steady beat of music could be a welcome distraction.
- You need to use a noisy household appliance that creates erratic vibrations, like a power tool, and wants to mask the din.
- Other pets that would distress hermit crabs, such as cats or birds, are roaming the house, and you wish to blunt your hermit crab’s senses.
You could also use music to train hermit crabs. They’ll expect the interaction if you play a particular song for a few minutes before you handle hermit crabs. This gives the hermit crabs time to prepare themselves and reduces the risk of being pinched.
There are also times when you should not play music around hermit crabs, including:
- While hermit crabs sleep during the day or while a hermit crab is molting.
- While your hermit crabs are eating – the noise will distract them.
- Whenever hermit crabs are involved in a vacancy chain to trade shells – Biology Open explains how hermit crabs are unlikely to change shells in a loud environment.
- While handling hermit crabs. They may flee from your hand and risk injury if they grow skittish.
What Kind of Music Do Hermit Crabs Like?
As discussed, it is impossible to state that hermit crabs enjoy one kind of music over another.
No hermit crab will have a favorite song or genre. However, if you wish to make a playlist to distract your hermit crabs, some styles of music are better than others.
Pop, Rap, and Dance Music
Mainstream chart music is arguably the best to play around hermit crabs if you’re trying to garner a reaction from them. Pop, rap, or dance songs could be considered relaxing music for hermit crabs.
These genres will provide the stable, repetitive beat that we have described. You’ll need to watch our hermit crabs and see how they respond. Some may find this consistency soothing, while others will grow increasingly agitated.
Remember the warning signs that hermit crabs aren’t enjoying music. If they start to hide or attack each other, switch off the music and separate the fighting animals.
Classical music is considered relaxing to humans and mammals, aiding insomnia and calming anxiety. The Journal of Integrative Agriculture also explains how classical music promotes growth in plant life.
This is relevant because, like hermit crabs, plants detect ground-level vibrations and respond accordingly. It could be argued that this means hermit crabs also benefit from classical music, but this is strictly theory.
Classical music that leans heavily into brass instruments, especially trumpets, will create the most bass. As always, you’ll need to watch how your hermit crabs react.
Classical music can be rhythmic, but a dramatic symphony with multiple time changes may be too much.
Jazz music has an erratic beat, which may be distressing for hermit crabs, who’ll not know where or when the next vibration is coming. It depends on the type of jazz that you are listening to.
A jam session with a significant amount of percussion is likeliest to cause upset to hermit crabs. A recording that revolves around instruments played in a treble clef, such as a piano or a saxophone, may not penetrate a hermit crab’s hearing unless played very loud.
If you find jazz music relaxing, you can theoretically play it around your hermit crabs at low- to moderate volume. Keep an eye on how your hermit crabs react, and be prepared to turn it down or switch it off.
In theory, hermit crabs will be indifferent to rock music. Even a heavy metal song defined by screeching guitars unfolds at a high pitch focusing more on treble than bass, so it shouldn’t penetrate a hermit crab’s hearing range.
The problem is that most rock music fans like to listen to songs at high volumes. If you’re playing music loud enough to shake the foundations of your home, hermit crabs will notice the vibrations, and a fast, erratic drum beat may be upsetting.
One exception to this is extreme music, such as death metal. Songs of this ilk are defined by deep, rumbling bass. If you’re an extreme metal fan, this may be a more palatable attempt to relax your hermit crabs than listening to the latest Billboard Hot 100.
Hermit crabs will never fully be able to appreciate music, so don’t play it exclusively for their benefit. You can use them for training if you notice a positive response to particular songs.