why is my hermit crab afraid of me?

Is My Hermit Crab Scared?

If you’re wondering, “why is my hermit crab scared of me?” there are several possible reasons. Hermit crabs are wild animals, so you must build a bond before they trust you. Until this happens, they’ll retain an element of fear.

A scared hermit crab is most likely to hide from you in its shell or substrate or pinch your hand as a warning whenever you pick it up. In extreme cases, it’ll shed its limbs when stressed. If your hermit crab refuses to eat or drink or tries to escape when you get too close, it likely sees you as a predator.

While hermit crabs will never be fully tame, you can help build a bond by hand feeding them and handling them every now and then. Be careful not to overdo it, though, or your hermit crab will become stressed and sick.

How To Tell If Your Hermit Crab Is Scared

It’s natural to worry that your hermit crab’s scared of you. After all, you want to provide a comfortable environment to make your pet feel safe and secure. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to tell whether your hermit crab’s scared of you. As we’ve touched upon, if your hermit crab becomes fearful every time you get too close, it will:

Be mindful of your hermit’s movements and behaviors whenever you approach the enclosure. You might think it’s carrying out its natural instincts, but there could be a more significant issue at play.

Why Is My Hermit Crab Afraid Of Me?

It’s normal for hermit crabs to be scared of you. Hermit crabs rarely come into contact with humans in the wild and were never intended to be captive animals. This means the interaction isn’t natural for them. However, there are several reasons they are afraid of you, including:

Prey Instincts

Hermit crabs see us as potential predators. Birds prey on hermits, plucking them off the ground and flying away with them in their beaks. So when you pick your hermit crab up, you’re likely triggering its survival instincts and causing a deep-rooted fear response to being eaten.

Similarly, you’re much bigger than your hermit crab, who doesn’t know you don’t mean any harm. As far as your hermit’s concerned, you’re about to eat it.

Lack of Handling

If you haven’t spent much time with your hermit crab or don’t handle it very frequently, it’s likely scared of you because you haven’t built up a bond. Hermit crabs prefer the company of other crabs instead of humans, but as the Journal of Chemical Ecology describes, handling your crab enables it to learn your scent and recognize you.

In time, it may also help it realize that you’re not a threat. Move slowly when handling your crab and give it the time and patience it needs to stop being fearful of you.

Too Much Handling

On the flip side, hermit crabs don’t like constant handling and will become afraid of you if you pick them up too frequently. Hermit crabs associate being picked up with being tossed around by heavy ocean currents or strong winds. They also get kicked out of their shells by other hermit crabs wanting a new home, which is a stressful experience that threatens their survival.

This doesn’t mean you can’t handle your hermit crab, but you must do so carefully. Introduce your hermit crab to being held slowly, only picking it up every 3-4 days and limiting the sessions to once a day.

hermit crab scared of me

Bullying and Aggression

Don’t be too quick to assume that your hermit crab’s scared of you. While it’ll display the same fear behaviors, your pet may be fearful of more dominant hermit crabs in the tank. Hermit crabs adopt a dominant and submissive hierarchy in their colonies. Therefore, it’s common for larger hermits to attack a smaller one.

To determine whether your fearful crab’s being bullied, keep an eye on how the colony interacts with one another. If you notice many hermit crabs surrounding one tankmate and the latter reacts by hiding in its shell, it’s being bullied. This is the reason why it’s scared.

Isolate the bullied hermit in a separate tank to keep it safe. However, it will need company, so place a couple of different hermit crabs in the tank to trial which ones get along the best.

Are Hermit Crabs Scared of Noise?

Hermit crabs don’t have ears, meaning they have a limited range of hearing. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to determine whether they’re scared of noise or not – or whether they can even hear it at all.

While more research is needed into hermit crabs and their ability to hear, it’s possible that they can’t hear loud noises in the same way we can. What bothers us doesn’t necessarily bother them – it all depends on the frequency and volume of the sound.

What we do know is that hermits are more affected by vibrations. If you were to tap on the glass of your crab’s enclosure, it would become scared and attempt to hide in its shell or substrate. According to Biology Letters, hermit crabs vibrate their shells to warn off predators, causing them to flee. 

As a result, we can assume that hermit crabs are indifferent to noise, but it’s best not to make too much sound or play loud music around your hermit crab in case it’s a source of fear. Likewise, be careful of causing vibrations by keeping stomping and clapping to a minimum whenever you pass the enclosure.

How Do I Make My Hermit Crab Not Scared of Me?

While hermit crabs will never be as tame as some other pets, you can help your hermit become more comfortable around you by getting it used to your scent and presence. The crucial thing to remember is not to overdo it. Giving your crab too much attention may have the opposite effect.

Safe Handling

Even though we’ve explained that hermits don’t enjoy being handled too frequently, don’t be afraid to play with your crab. When you’re ready to interact with your hermit, move your hand slowly around it so that it doesn’t become startled by any sudden movements.

Pick it up by the shell using your dominant hand and outstretch the other, letting the hermit crab’s legs walk over it. Keeping your hand taut prevents makes it difficult for the crab to pinch you.

Hand Feeding

Hermit crabs eat with their pincers (chelipeds), pick up food, and bring it to their mouths. They don’t have teeth, so they grind up their food with their small mouthparts until it’s small enough to swallow.

Hermit crabs shed their chelipeds due to fights, injury, and stress and need to be hand-fed to stay alive. While this is the case with incapacitated hermit crabs, you can also hand-feed your hermit to help build a bond, letting your pet know that you don’t mean it any harm.

You can feed small snacks from the palm of your hand or use a plastic spoon if they’re not a fan of being picked up. In time, you can progress to hand feeding. Hermit crabs enjoy eating:

  • Insects
  • Fish flakes
  • Cuttlebones
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Bitesize pieces of meat and fish
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, seeds, and grains
  • Peanut butter and fruity jam

Hand-feeding your hermit crab enables it to connect the pleasure of food with your scent, allowing it to build positive associations with you. This should help it drop its guard and become less scared of you.

Play and Recreation

Even though you can’t play with your hermit crab in a traditional sense, you can provide it with a happy environment for it to feel safe and comfortable. The most mentally enriching and stimulating enclosures include:

  • Climbing apparatus, such as hermit crab-safe wood
  • Toys that they can hide under and knock over
  • Space to roam and explore

While this doesn’t directly prevent your hermit crab from being scared of you, a suitable enclosure eliminates stress and provides it with plenty of hiding spots until it feels less fearful around you.

If you find that your hermit crab’s scared of you, it’s important to remember that this is normal and completely natural. Hermit crabs aren’t cuddly pets, and you must maintain your distance to replicate wild conditions. This will make your hermit crab feel more at ease.