Hermit crabs are beginning to become more common as pets in North America. The people who keep hermit crabs as pets often wind up becoming very attached to them.
While you don’t interact with hermit crabs the same way you do dogs or cats, they can still be rather entertaining. Many people say that hermit crabs have some of the most interesting personalities.
Is it possible to hold hermit crabs or will that be a poor idea? Will hermit crabs pinch you if you try to grab them?
Keep reading to learn about holding hermit crabs and how you should approach things. Once you have all of the information, you’ll feel more confident about handling hermit crabs.
Do Hermit Crabs Like to Be Held?
Whether hermit crabs like to be held or not is hard to say. They should be okay with a little bit of holding, but they don’t like to be handled constantly.
Also, until you’re able to build trust with your hermit crab, you should keep holding to a minimum. Hermit crabs won’t trust you as soon as you take them home from the pet store.
It takes time to build up the right level of trust. The first few times you attempt to handle the hermit crab, it’s very likely that you’ll get pinched.
When this happens, it could wind up hurting a good bit. You won’t get seriously injured or anything, but it’s certainly not something you want to have happen regularly.
It’s imperative to do things right when handling hermit crabs. If you do things wrong, you could hurt the hermit crab and you might even scare it.
This situation could cause the hermit crab to distrust you and it’ll take time to build that trust level back. Do things right or don’t handle your hermit crab at all.
How to Handle a Hermit Crab
Handling a hermit crab isn’t necessarily difficult. You just have to approach things the right way.
To start, you should literally approach the hermit crab slowly with your hand. Fast movements and attempting to grab the hermit crab suddenly will scare it.
Instead, you want to slowly reach for the hermit crab. Hermit crabs can detect movement quite well and might try to run away or pinch you if you move too fast.
When you’re ready, you should pick the hermit crab up from the back. You want to grab its shell firmly.
Never try to grab from the front because you will get pinched if you do this. Hermit crab pinches hurt quite a bit and you want to avoid them.
Always grab the hermit crab with your dominant hand. You want to make things as easy as possible and you certainly don’t want to drop the hermit crab since you might injure it.
Once you’ve picked the crab up, you want to open the palm of your non-dominant hand. The hermit crab can rest its legs on the palm of your hand now.
Giving the hermit crab a place to rest its legs will keep it from panicking. If you don’t do this, it might try to move and get out of your grasp.
If the hermit crab attempts to pinch you during this time, it’s best to raise the crab up slightly. A couple of inches should be enough to keep the crab from being able to reach your hand.
Try lower the crab again when it stops trying to pinch you. Eventually, the crab should get used to you doing this and it will simply accept it.
Do your best to be careful when handling the crab. If you drop it from a great height, you could seriously hurt it.
It’s best not to drop the crab unless it is only a few inches off the ground. Many enthusiasts suggest holding the hermit crab just above a small table or something similar.
You could also hold the crab a few inches above its terrarium. Doing this safely is for the best since you’d never want your pet to come to harm.
Once your hermit crab trusts you more, you can try to hold it without gripping its shell. You should always start as described above, though.
Once you reach the point where the hermit crab’s legs are touching your palm, you can try to let the hermit crab rest on your palm. Let go of the shell and allow the crab to move around on your hand.
While doing this, you should keep the hermit crab only a few inches above the ground. You don’t want the crab to fall from a great height.
The crab should feel more relaxed by being able to walk freely. If all goes well, it shouldn’t try to pinch you.
At this point, it’s a good idea to feed the crab. Feeding the crab while you’re holding it is a good way to get it used to the idea of being handled.
It can come to associate being held with getting food. Attempt to slowly hand the crab pieces of fruit or oats.
This might take a little practice, but you can get hermit crabs used to being fed by hand. If you get pinched the first few times, you can chalk it up to a learning experience.
There Are Bad Times to Attempt to Hold the Crab
Certain times are going to be inopportune when it comes to holding hermit crabs. You must learn to recognize when hermit crabs won’t want to be handled.
For example, you don’t want to try to handle a hermit crab when it’s resting. If the crab has retreated inside its shell or if it doesn’t appear to be active, it’ll be better to leave it alone.
Trying to force the crab to come out of its shell will be aggravating. Your crab isn’t going to respond well to being handled during this time.
Recognize when you have a good opportunity to handle the crab. You should only go for it when it seems like the crab is active.
Brush the Sand Off the Crab
Before holding the hermit crab, it might be wise to brush the sand off of its shell. The sand has the potential to make the crab somewhat slippery.
Take a brush and attempt to lightly brush away the sand if possible. This can make it easier to hold the crab.
Since you don’t want to drop the crab, it’s wise to take this step. You should be less likely to accidentally drop the crab if you don’t have to worry about sand as much.
It also makes it easier to see your hermit crab. Sometimes the sand will obscure the crab and you might approach it from the wrong angle.
Don’t Move When Holding a Hermit Crab
When holding a hermit crab, it’s not wise to start moving around. Holding the crab is going to be a largely stationary activity.
If you must move, it’s best to move slowly and deliberately. Sudden movements can startle the hermit crab and it might cause you to drop it.
Staying as still as you can will make it more likely that things will go well. Moving around might cause you to get pinched by the crab.
Try to think of things from the crab’s perspective. You’ll be able to understand why moving is something that would frighten the hermit crab while it’s being held.
What to Do When You Get Pinched
It’s very likely that you’re going to get pinched by the hermit crab at some point in time. You will likely have this happen the first several times when you attempt to handle the crab.
Even once the hermit crab gets used to you, it still might pinch you if certain things go wrong. This can happen and you shouldn’t get too scared when it does.
Yes, the pinch is going to be a bit painful. It shouldn’t cause you any serious harm, though.
When you get pinched, it’s important to remain calm. You don’t want to react strongly and drop the hermit crab.
You could easily scare the hermit crab even more and cause it to react even more negatively. Keep your composure and see if you can get the crab to walk in the opposite direction of where it pinched you.
It should let go of your hand and everything will be fine. If all else fails, you can attempt to lure the crab with some food to get it to release its grip.
The crab will also let go of your hand if you place it in its terrarium. You can lower your hand into the terrarium and the crab should walk off.
Can You Put Your Hermit Crab Down Outside of Its Terrarium?
Putting the hermit crab down outside of its terrarium is usually not a good idea. This is especially true if you have a carpeted home.
Carpeting is bad news for hermit crabs. There will likely be carpet fuzz and lint that will get stuck to the crab.
This could wind up causing health problems for the crab. As such, you’re supposed to prevent hermit crabs from walking around on carpets or rugs.
You need to be careful when letting crabs walk on any type of flooring, though. Surfaces that could have chemical traces or residues can be harmful to hermit crabs.
For instance, you might use cleaning products to keep your hardwood floors looking nice. That means that chemicals might be present on the flooring that will be harmful to the crab.
Drop dangers need to be considered as well. The hermit crab could start walking toward stairs or it could walk right off of a table.
You don’t want your hermit crab to be harmed. It’s truly easier to just not set the crab down outside of its terrarium.
Always Wash Your Hands After Handling a Hermit Crab
You should always remember to wash your hands after handling a hermit crab. Hermit crabs don’t carry salmonella or anything like that, but it’s still best to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
It’s likely a good idea to wash your hands before handling hermit crabs, too. Using natural soaps that don’t contain chemicals that are harmful to hermit crabs will be the best choice.
You Don’t Need to Handle Hermit Crabs
Understand that handling hermit crabs isn’t something that you need to do. In fact, it’s likely best to keep handling to a minimum.
You can feed hermit crabs without holding them. They can even learn to take food from your hands without you having to pick them up.
In some ways, holding a hermit crab creates unnecessary risk. Hermit crab owners do it simply because it’s something they want to do.
It isn’t something that the hermit crabs enjoy. At best, hermit crabs tolerate being held by humans.
You can understand that it’s sort of a scary experience for a hermit crab. It becomes a bit less scary as the hermit crab grows to trust you.
If you don’t want to risk getting pinched by the crab, it’s fine to simply not hold it. You can keep handling to a minimum and only pick the crab up when it needs to be removed from the habitat so that you can clean things up.
Learning more about hermit crabs and how to hold them should help you out. Now you understand that there’s a proper way to go about holding these pets.
If you hold a hermit crab the wrong way, it makes it more likely that the crab will get dropped. This can seriously harm the crab if you’re not careful.
You need to keep holding to a minimum since it can be stressful for these pets. They will learn to trust you and holding them will become less difficult over time.
Always be careful and don’t overreact if you get pinched. Keep in mind that you’re responsible for protecting the crab.
If you don’t want to hold the hermit crab, it isn’t necessary to do so. You only have to handle hermit crabs when you need to move them to a new habitat or when you’re transferring them to a temporary holding habitat while you do some cleaning.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.