Part of the joy of owning a pet is forging a bond of love. You’ll need to be realistic about how much affection hermit crabs can show you, but they can grow attached to their owners.
If you want your hermit crab to like you, give it space. This is especially important when you first bring a hermit crab home, and it needs to overcome post-purchase stress.
Once a hermit crab is more settled, take steps to earn its trust. Offer the hermit crab company of its own kind, entertainment, conditions that mirror a natural environment, and a varied diet.
Hermit crabs learn to recognize humans over time, so be consistent with your behavior. If you avoid giving a hermit crab any reason to fear you and provide everything it needs, it’ll like your company.
Can Hermit Crabs Recognize Their Owners?
Hermit crabs have surprisingly good memories for such small creatures.
Social Recognition in Invertebrates explains how hermit crabs can remember a conspecific based on a single interaction, adjusting future behavior based on this.
Ethology takes this understanding a step further, claiming that hermit crabs assign a hierarchical structure to their memories. A hermit crab remembers if a tankmate is dominant or submissive, reacting with the appropriate level of reverence in the future.
This suggests that hermit crabs can also remember, and thus recognize, humans – most notably, their owners. In the wild, hermit crabs have little to do with humans. In captivity, they have to interact with us.
Naturally, a hermit crab will initially be afraid of you. This is to be expected, as it’s governed by survival instincts, and it has already been taken from its home and colony.
If you act consistently, your hermit crabs will start recognizing your scent and behavioral patterns. Show enough patience and stick to a reliable routine, and your hermit crabs may even consider you a source of pleasure rather than apprehension.
Are Hermit Crabs Affectionate?
Hermit crabs form strong and memorable bonds with each other in the wild. Typically living in colonies of up to a hundred, they protect each other from threats and enjoy play and interaction.
This suggests that hermit crabs are capable of forging strong bonds with conspecifics. Hermit crabs forced to live alone in captivity rarely flourish, often enduring short, unhappy lifespans.
Hermit crabs will never be cuddly pets that enjoy physical interaction. If you’re wondering, “do hermit crabs like to be held?” the answer is no. The best you can hope for is weary tolerance without pinching.
This doesn’t mean that hermit crabs remain indifferent to their owners. Over time, you can gain the trust of your hermit crabs, and this trust is the first step toward mutual affection.
How To Get Hermit Crabs To Like You
Seeking undisputed adoration from hermit crabs can be a tricky task destined to end in disappointment. After all, nobody can answer the question, “can hermit crabs feel love?” with authenticity.
What is beyond doubt is that you can improve your relationship with hermit crabs. With appropriate care, they’ll realize they don’t need to fear you and actively seek your attention.
Here are some ways you can gain the trust of a hermit crab:
Don’t Force Interaction
If you want your hermit crab to like you, show patience and give it space. Hermit crabs aren’t designed to live in captivity, and it’ll take a while to adjust to their new life.
Most hermit crabs bury themselves under substrate for the first few days or weeks of a new living arrangement. This is known as post-purchase stress (PPS). The hermit crab will be in significant distress, so don’t disturb it.
If a hermit crab survives PPS, it’ll emerge from the substrate and start to spend more time in the open of its habitat. When the hermit crab demonstrates more confidence, you can interact.
Hermit crabs are likelier to enjoy your company if they’re comfortable in their surroundings. You must replicate a hermit crab’s wild living conditions in a tank. Ways to achieve this include:
- Adopt numerous hermit crabs.
- Keep the tank’s temperature at around 80OF and a humidity level at 80%.
- Fill the tank with at least six inches of substrate for digging and burrowing.
- Provide recreation, most notably climbing apparatus and hiding places.
- Ensure your hermit crabs enjoy distinct periods of light and darkness.
- Keep external stimuli that may frighten the hermit crabs to a minimum.
Watch your hermit crabs going about their business within a habitat for a while. When they seem to have settled into their surroundings, take a hands-on approach to bonding with hermit crabs.
We have established that hermit crabs are unlikely to actively enjoy handling.
Perfect your technique to ensure that being picked up is not stressful for hermit crabs. If you tame a hermit crab, it’ll cease showing concern about short periods of handling.
The best way to handle hermit crabs is as follows:
- Approach slowly so the hermit crab knows you’re coming.
- Gently grip the back of the shell.
- Place your hand under the hermit crab, stretched tight so there’s no loose skin to pinch.
- Guide the hermit crab onto the palm of your hand and gently lift it.
- Keep the hermit crab in your palm the entire time. Never hold a hermit crab by the shell and leave its legs dangling midair.
The hermit crab may delicately pinch you while you handle it. This isn’t necessarily a move of self-defense, though that’s always possible. Many hermit crabs close a cheliped around a human hand to give themselves something to hold onto.
Once you have mastered handling, your hermit crabs will not fight you off when you move to pick them up. Some may even crawl up your arm and allow you to hold them a while.
The longer you hold a hermit crab in the air, the greater the risk of accidentally dropping it. This may frighten your hermit crab or cause damage based on impact with the ground.
Hermit crabs are omnivorous scavengers in the wild, so they eat almost anything in their natural habitat. Exotic pet stores sell specialist hermit crab pellets that provide all the nutrition they need but don’t feel these pellets alone.
Animal Behavior explains that hermit crabs prefer not to eat the same food twice in 24 hours. This means that if you’re going to gain the affection of hermit crabs, you’ll need to offer variety in their diet.
Mix and match different fruits and vegetables daily, and spice this up with occasional meat. The cornerstones of a hermit crab’s diet should always be protein and calcium, as this will ensure your crabs grow and maintain a robust and sturdy exoskeleton.
Once your hermit crabs have come to accept handling, you can try hand-feeding them. This is a great way to earn the affection of your hermit crabs, as they come to associate the scent of your skin with food – and, thus, pleasure.
If you’re nervous about hand-feeding hermit crabs, start by offering the food through another object. Use things thin with a round end, like a pen cap. Place some inside this pen cap, allow your hermit crabs to scent it, then place the pen cap in your hand.
The best way to enhance your bond is to allow hermit crabs to eat directly from your skin. Place something sweet and strong-smelling, like jam, on your fingertips.
The idea is to link the smells of yourself and food in the minds of your hermit crabs. Don’t try to hand feed every meal. Instead, offering treats occasionally will bolster your bond.
Once they feel comfortable in their surroundings, hermit crabs love to play. You’ll enjoy a stronger bond with your hermit crabs if you can facilitate this. As they love to explore, let them out of their habitat every once in a while.
It’s best to create a playpen on flat flooring so the hermit crabs don’t wander too far or get lost. Ensure no other animals are nearby to attack the hermit crabs. If you keep the recreation time safe, hermit crabs will grow in confidence and look forward to a repeat.
Keep an eye on how long hermit crabs are out of their tank. Your home’s temperature and humidity levels won’t match those of a tank, so return the hermit crabs before they place themselves in danger.
Expecting a hermit crab to bond with you on the level of a mammalian pet is unrealistic. You can still enjoy a rewarding relationship with your hermit crabs if you satisfy their instinctive needs.