Building a bond with a pet hermit crab is difficult because they’re hardwired to distrust the unknown. This means it’ll take time and patience before a hermit crab feels comfortable around you.
Whenever you go near a pet hermit crab, move slowly and predictably. Allow the hermit crab time to adjust to its surroundings (and you) before attempting to handle it.
Once a hermit crab’s more comfortable, pick it up 2-3 times a week, allowing it to adjust to your scent. Eventually, you can progress to hand-feeding, which indicates trust has been established.
Don’t be disheartened if a hermit crab retains a slight fear of you. Hermit crabs aren’t naturally tame animals, so apprehension and fearfulness of the unfamiliar are fundamental to their survival.
Can Hermit Crabs Build Bonds With Their Owners?
Hermit crabs have strong survival instincts and must protect themselves from harm. They’re small creatures and low on the food chain, making them instinctively wary of everything.
Ethology describes how hermit crabs can remember their tankmates, allowing them to build a social structure. Hermit crabs recognize humans by their scent, allowing you to establish trust.
How To Tame A Hermit Crab
Before trying to tame a hermit crab, remember they’re wild animals never intended for captivity.
This means they’ll never become cuddly pets and will retain their natural reclusivity throughout their lives, regardless of how often you handle them.
You can train hermit crab to be less scared of you. They prefer company over being alone, so you can enable a pet hermit crab to feel more comfortable around you with time and patience.
Allow Adjustment Time
No matter how well you replicate wild conditions for your hermit crab, a captive enclosure will never be like living in the wild.
So, you need to give a hermit crab time to adjust to its new surroundings before attempting to tame and handle it. The move is likely to be a stressful experience.
When you first introduce a hermit crab to its new home, it’ll do the following:
- Retreat into its shell.
- Bury into its substrate.
- Attempt to escape.
- Shed a limb due to stress.
- Refuse to eat or drink.
- Pee on you.
This means it’s scared or stressed. When you get your hermit crab home, give it time and space to get used to its new environment. It may never feel comfortable enough to trust you if you don’t.
Picking Up Hermit Crabs
Once you’re confident your hermit crab feels more settled and stops attempting to hide or escape, you can proceed to the next stage, which involves picking it up.
According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, the main benefit is that handling your hermit crab encourages it to learn and recognize your scent.
Eventually, your hermit crab will associate your smell with you and understand you’re not a threat.
When picking your hermit crab up, you must do so with confidence. Don’t make any sudden movements that may scare your hermit crab.
Instead, move slowly and gradually to avoid startling it. This will also prevent your hermit from pinching you, which is a natural fear instinct (that hurts).
To safely pick up a hermit crab, do the following:
- Lift the hermit crab by the shell.
- Stretch the skin of your hand tautly so it can’t pinch.
- Guide the hermit crab with your free hand so it can’t fall.
- Return the hermit crab to the ground once you’re done.
Only pick up and handle hermit crab 2-3 times a week, one at a time. It’s not something you should do too often. Eventually, it’ll learn to trust you to handle it for a short amount of time.
Hand-Feeding Hermit Crabs
Hand-feeding is usually only reserved for injured hermit crabs or those who’ve lost limbs and need a helping hand grabbing food.
However, hand feeding is also a good way to build trust with a hermit crab. Hermit crabs enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, and meat. There are a few ways to hand-feed hermit crabs, including:
- Give your hermit crab food while it’s in its enclosure.
- Take the hermit crab out of its enclosure and leave the food in your hand.
- Place your hermit crab on a safe surface.
You know you’ve gained its trust when your hermit crab readily accepts food from your fingers. Hermit crabs are vulnerable when they eat, so they wouldn’t accept food unless they feel comfortable.
Allow Free-Roaming Sessions
Another way to build trust and make your hermit crab feel more confident is to let it out of its enclosure for a free-roaming session. Hermit crabs enjoy exploring open spaces and benefit from getting to know their wider surroundings.
However, before you let your hermit crab run around, create a safe area free from stairs, animals, foot traffic, and furniture your hermit crab can hide behind or underneath. Find an area that has:
- Wooden floors.
Leave food and water out and supervise your hermit crab while it explores for about an hour or so.
Not only is this mentally and physically enriching, but it’ll get your pet hermit crab used to its environment, where it’ll start to recognize the unique smells of its home.
While hermit crabs don’t traditionally play with toys like other pets, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy some recreational time. Giving hermit crab fun things to do will help build a bond.
Hermit crabs constantly attempt to escape, so keep them occupied with fun climbing apparatus that satisfies their instincts. Hermit crabs enjoy climbing the following:
- Plastic canvas.
Hermit crabs also like having things within the enclosure, such as:
- Plastic plants.
- Building blocks, like Lego.
A mentally enriched hermit crab is a happy hermit crab, which is more open to trusting you.
How To Tell If Your Hermit Crab Likes You
Hermit crabs have various ways of telling their owners that they like them. You’ll notice these signs once you’ve begun building a bond with a hermit crab.
When your hermit crab likes you, it’ll:
- Emerge from its shell more frequently and for longer.
- Develop a healthy appetite.
- Spend more time above the substrate instead of burrowing under it.
- It’ll have a deep, vibrant color.
- Have all ten healthy limbs without shedding/removing them.
- Adopt a traditional sleep cycle, where it sleeps during the day and becomes active at night.
- Remain quiet without excessive vocalization, such as chirping.
- Won’t become aggressive toward other hermit crabs.
Similarly, once a hermit crab has started to trust you and knows who you are, it’ll:
- Recognize the sound of your voice and respond.
- Stop retreating into its shell when you go near.
- Remain relaxed whenever you pick it up.
- Stop pinching you.
- Remain silent when you approach.
You can build trust with a hermit crab if you manage your expectations regarding the type of relationship you can build.
You’ll never turn your hermit crab into a cuddly pet, but you can enjoy quality time together.