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How to Clean Hermit Crab Shells the Right Way

How to Clean Hermit Crab Shells the Right Way

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Shells are so important to hermit crabs. You know that hermit crabs rarely come out of their shells.

Generally, they only come out of their shells to change into a new shell when they’ve grown. You won’t see hermit crabs outside of their shells too often.

Do you need to keep the hermit crab shells clean? You’re supposed to keep replacement shells of various sizes in the tank.

How should you go about cleaning these shells? Below, you’ll learn everything that you need to know about this topic and more.

Cleaning Hermit Crab Shells

You don’t need to clean the hermit crab shell that the hermit crab is currently using. This might seem obvious, but some people who are new to the world of hermit crabs might not know this.

Never try to remove a hermit crab from its shell. Doing so can be dangerous since hermit crabs don’t want to leave their shells.

They will get injured if you try to pull them out of their shells. Avoid situations like this since it’s not necessary to try to get a hermit crab out of its shell.

Hermit crabs will take semi-regular baths in the water dishes that you provide them. They keep their shells clean on their own.

You will need to clean the extra shells in the tank, though. There should be all sorts of extra shells in the tanks for the hermit crabs.

Cleaning them isn’t that tough, but you do need to approach things the right way. Luckily, you can get things done with just a little bit of effort.

Brush the Shells

Brushing the shells is the first thing that you’ll want to do. Over time, grime and debris will wind up getting onto the shells in the tank.

You can take an old toothbrush and scrub the grime away. Use a bit of dechlorinated water and a toothbrush to get the shells as clean as possible.

This shouldn’t take too much time, but when you have a lot of shells to clean, it might take several minutes. If you don’t have a spare toothbrush to use for this job, it’s fine to use any other type of small brush.

Rinse the Shells Well

Rinsing the shells well is another technique you can use when cleaning them. Just be sure to use dechlorinated water.

Hermit crabs are very sensitive to chemicals. So you can’t use standard tap water to rinse the shells out.

This is because tap water contains traces of chlorine and fluoride. Always make sure that you’re using dechlorination tablets or liquid if you plan to use tap water.

It’s a lot easier to just buy distilled water from the store, but not everyone wants to spend money on water. Take the necessary steps to protect your hermit crabs no matter what you do.

Boil the Shells

Boiling the shells is wise when you want to keep your hermit crabs safe. Every so often, it’s best to boil the extra shells in the tank.

This can get rid of bacteria and other potentially harmful things that might be stuck on the shell. You can boil the shells in some type of ceramic pan or a glass pan.

You’re not supposed to use metal pans due to how sensitive hermit crabs can be. So keep this in mind and choose an appropriate pan.

Simmering the shells in boiling water for fifteen to twenty minutes will get the job done. This will kill bacteria, pests such as mites, and various pathogens.

Dry the Shells

Drying the shells is a part of the process that you can’t ignore. You can’t just place the shells right back in the tank after boiling them.

Set the shells on top of paper towels to allow them to dry. You can wipe them down with paper towels to dry them faster.

Wait until the shells have cooled before starting, though. Eventually, the hermit crab shells will be fully dry and you can put them back in the tank.

This is how you’re meant to clean extra hermit crab shells. As you can see, there aren’t that many steps involved.

You can get the shells clean in a matter of minutes. Since there are likely many extra shells to clean, the whole process might take over an hour.

How Often Should You Clean Hermit Crab Shells?

Cleaning hermit crab shells isn’t something that you need to do too often. You simply need to do this every once in a while to keep things safe.

Experts recommend cleaning the extra shells in the tank every three months. So you can maintain a regular schedule and clean the shells like clockwork.

This is something that you do as a precaution. Failing to clean the shells might not cause any harm right away.

However, it’s a good idea to stick to a schedule and keep the extra shells clean. This ensures that they will be ready for the hermit crabs when they need them.

You’ll only be doing this four times per year if you stick to the recommended schedule. It isn’t that hard to do, and it’ll be better for your hermit crabs.

Can You Paint Hermit Crab Shells?

Can you paint hermit crab shells? Yes, you can do that if you want to, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Painting hermit crab shells is unnecessary and it’s not beneficial to hermit crabs. You’ll learn more about that later.

Sometimes you’ll find pet stores selling hermit crabs that have painted shells. Many people say that pet stores only do this as a justification for selling hermit crabs at a higher cost.

Generally, painting hermit crab shells is not seen as a good thing. Some go so far as to say that painting hermit crab shells is an inhumane action.

If you were to ask a passionate group of hermit crab enthusiasts whether you should paint hermit crab shells, everyone would tell you not to do it. So it’s likely easy to see that the opinion is generally negative about this topic when it comes to people who truly care about hermit crabs.

Are Painted Shells Bad for Hermit Crabs?

Yes, painted shells are potentially very bad for hermit crabs. The paint could even wind up causing the hermit crabs to die.

Hermit crabs are very sensitive to chemicals and toxins. The paint contains many types of chemicals that can be harmful to hermit crabs.

While it’s true that some types of paint are less harmful than others, it’s still not wise to paint hermit crab shells. You shouldn’t be doing this to your hermit crab if you care about it.

Why will a painted hermit crab shell harm a hermit crab? The toxins and chemicals can make the hermit crabs sick or kill them.

Hermit crabs live in humid environments, and this will often cause the paint to start peeling over time. Paint will chip off, and the hermit crabs might choose to eat the paint chips.

Even if hermit crabs are smart in some ways, they’re still simple creatures that lack complex brains. They don’t know any better and will eat paint chips.

When the hermit crab eats the paint chips, it’s likely that it will die. Even if it doesn’t die, it’ll get seriously ill.

Sometimes hermit crabs will get stuck inside painted shells, too. The wet paint will wind up clinging to the bodies of the crabs, and they won’t be able to get out.

So the hermit crab could die in the shell due to not being able to relocate to an appropriate shell. It’s truly a terrible thing to do to a pet hermit crab.

Don’t even consider painting a hermit crab’s shell. There is not a good reason to do so.

Are Glass Shells Bad for Hermit Crabs?

Have you seen hermit crabs that are using glass shells? You might think that the glass shells look really neat.

If you enjoy the look of these shells, you might want to buy some for your own hermit crabs. It isn’t a good idea to do this.

Glass shells aren’t toxic or anything like that. They’re still unsafe for hermit crabs, though.

There are several reasons why it isn’t wise to give your hermit crabs shells that are made out of glass. One of the most obvious is that it doesn’t provide protection from sunlight.

Hermit crabs are nocturnal creatures, and they’re also very sensitive to sunlight. These crabs can become very stressed when they’re exposed to light.

During the day, hermit crabs like to spend a lot of time sleeping. It’s said that hermit crabs sleep for around eight hours during the day.

They hide in their shells while they’re sleeping. This is done to stay away from the light.

A glass shell doesn’t block the light properly. So the hermit crab will still be exposed to light during the day.

This is going to be very stressful for the crab, and it’s likely that it won’t be able to rest very well. Even this alone is enough of a reason to avoid buying glass shells for hermit crabs.

Another reason is that glass shells can get rather hot. Instead of protecting the crab, glass shells might wind up endangering it instead.

Glass shells retain heat and they will get too hot for the crab. Hermit crabs can get sick and they might even die when exposed to extreme heat.

Hermit crabs have modified gills that can breathe oxygen. To be able to breathe oxygen, the hermit crab must keep its gills moist.

When the hermit crab gets very hot, it’s going to dry out. This puts the hermit crab’s ability to breathe in jeopardy.

Sadly, many people make the decision to buy these glass shells anyway. Doing so puts your hermit crab in a very vulnerable position.

If you see anyone thinking about buying these glass shells, let them know that they aren’t safe. It could help to save a hermit crab’s life.

Always Use Unpainted Natural Shells

You should always use unpainted and natural shells for your hermit crabs. These can be purchased at various pet stores.

Pet stores that sell hermit crabs will often sell hermit crab shells. You want to look to ensure that they aren’t painted in any way.

If you can’t find shells locally, you can go around looking for shells at the beach. This is something that some people do, but it’s not the best idea.

Some might even say that it isn’t right to deprive local hermit crabs of shells. Plus, it might be tough to find shells that are the size that you need.

A better idea is to order replacement shells online. You can easily find replacement hermit crab shells being sold at popular online marketplaces.

Also, online pet stores will sell these. You can get what you need shipped right to your home.

How Many Replacement Shells Do You Need?

You should have at least two or three extra shells in the hermit crab tank. This is assuming that you’re only keeping one crab.

If you’re keeping two or more crabs, you’ll need more shells. Generally, it’s best to keep multiple shells of different sizes in the tank.

You want to keep multiples of the same shell size in the tank, too. This is done to keep hermit crabs from fighting over shells.

Try to have hermit crab shells that are the right size for the crabs that you’re caring for. Then you can buy shells that are a step up in size and keep those in the tank as well.

Hermit crabs will grow as they continue to age. They’ll generally change shells after molting, and you’ll need to have a slightly larger shell than the current one that will be perfect for the crab.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning hermit crab shells isn’t too tough. You can brush them off with an old toothbrush, rinse them with dechlorinated water, and boil them for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Do this every three months to keep the hermit crabs safe. This helps to kill bacteria, pests, and pathogens.

Never buy painted hermit crabs shells. They’re toxic and can even kill your pets.

It’s also not wise to use glass hermit crab shells. Always buy natural hermit crab shells that haven’t been painted.

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