Handling your Hermit Crab

Originally written by Vanessa Pike-Russell

Whether your hermit crabs like to be handled a lot will depend on the nature of the crab’s personality, previous experience with handling and whether it trusts you or not. Whenever handling hermies you should make sure your hands are cleaned before and after interaction, both to prevent the chemicals, oils and perfumes to transfer from you to the hermit crabs, and the potential transfer of contaminated shell water (gunky with foodstuff, wastes etc). We always wash our hands after interactions with dogs, cats, rats, rabbits etc so it is only common sense to do the same with hermit crab.

Holding hermit crab

Holding hermit crab

If your crab trusts you he will come out of his shell and wander over your palm, investigating, smelling and tasting you with antennuelae. It is through their sense of smell that they can recognise you as their carer, their source of food, warmth and happiness.

When you are handling them it is better to do it sitting down in a comfortable position, with a plastic container or ‘play pen’ nearby. This container becomes very handy if you are called away from your hermit crabs but are not ready to put them back in the crabarium. If your crab does fall while handling, the chance of injury is greatly reduced if you are closer to the ground. I have had a hermit crab die because it was dropped from 4 feet up. It is not something that you want to happen, Even if your crab doesn’t perish from the fall, they can learn to distrust humans and dislike handling. Wouldn’t you if you were dropped on your head?

Another precaution to take with hermit crabs is to keep them away from carpet and chemicals. Carpet can dangerous to your hermit crab’s health! The lint, fluff, and wool in your carpet can hurt your crab, drying him out and irritating your crab with the dust mites and other things hidden in carpet, including insecticides and carpet sprinkle which you might put down before vacuuming. Also, hermit crabs tend to grip everything and it can be hard to get them to release their grip on your carpet. If your house has carpet and you want to exercise your crab, you could try using a piece of clean bed sheet or old, clean table cloth. The main thing is that they have some area to explore that is safe from nasties.

Holding hermit crab

Holding hermit crab

I find that it is best to handle my crabs individually, but you can have more than one crab on the sheet if you have quick reflexes. Lay out your palm flat, keep it steady and lower the hermit crab onto your palm. Make sure to put your other palm outstretched next to it in case your crab totters over the edge.

Their sense of sensory perception (being able to judge distances and height) is poor and they will often step out into thin air with more courage than daredevils. You need to keep your eyes on them at all time, as they are expert escape artists and will find the best hiding space in your home if given the chance!

Photo Credit: Travis Wease, Aimee Shuler