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Can You Hold Hermit Crabs? (Handling Tips)

Can You Hold Hermit Crabs? (Handling Tips)

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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Hermit crabs are great home pets that are fairly easy to care for. They don’t carry any known diseases and they don’t cause any allergies to people.

Pet owners, in general, like to interact with their pets and hold them if possible. It’s easy to say that some pets can’t be held like fish, for example. Can we say the same about Hermit crabs, though? Can you hold Hermit crabs?

You can safely hold Hermit crabs if you grab them by their shells using the correct manner. You may even place your Hermit crab on your hand if you’re comfortable with it but you should expect occasional pinches.

What’s the correct manner to hold Hermit crabs? How to take it to the next level and place them in the palm of your hand? How to reduce pinches? What to do if you get pinched?

We have this all covered.

What’s a Hermit Crab?

A Hermit crab is a crustacean aquatic creature that walks on 10 jointed legs. A crustacean is a creature that has its skeleton outside its body. In the case of Hermit crabs, it’s called an exoskeleton.

If you see a Hermit crab lying around, you’d mostly associate its appearance with the giant shell on its back. As iconic that shell is for Hermit crabs, it’s never actually theirs.

Unlike snails, Hermit crabs can’t grow their own shells. Instead, they scavenge old shells made by other animals like marine snails. That’s why you can see so many different variations of shells on Hermit crabs.

Without the shell, Hermit crabs have a soft, curved tail that resembles a shrimp or a lobster. That tail is often weaker than the rest of the crab’s body. Hermit crabs are aware of this and that’s the main reason why they seek those protective shells.

How to Hold a Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs can make great pets if you know how to handle them. They’re easy to look for and don’t require a lot of care to stay healthy. If you take care of them well enough, they can live up to 15 years.

A big part of taking care of your Hermit crab is holding it correctly. You will need to move your crab around from time to time. Handling your Hermit crab the right way doesn’t only prevent it from pinching you, it also prevents any stress on its little body.

Holding your pet Hermit crab involves gentle movement, gentle handling, and grabbing it from the right spot. Here’s how:

Step 1: Approaching Your Hermit Crab

Do you see those cute black pearls of eyes that Hermit crabs have? They provide them with a great view of visibility. Regardless of the direction you approach your crab from, it will see you coming.

For that, you need to approach your Hermit crab slowly and gently. Creatures who grab the shells of others for protection aren’t exactly brave. If you move too fast, your crab will either start running away from you or hide in its shell.

If your crab starts panicking even before you hold him, that’s your red flag. Wait for a while before you try to approach it again until it calms down.

Step 2: Picking Up Your Hermit Crab

You should hold your pet crab from the back of its shell. They often have different shapes and types of shells so you should select a point that won’t slip when you hold your crab.

Don’t hold your crab’s shell from the front part, it resembles holding someone from their neck and it’s quite stressful for the crab.

Additionally, you shouldn’t pick up your crab from its head, legs, or body. Not only may you stress the crab, but you also risk hurting it.

Once you hold the crab’s shell from the right spot, slowly and gently elevate it from the ground. Make sure not to place your crab over heights of 2–3 inches. Hermit crabs will start to panic if the ground is too far.

Step 3: Preparing the Hermit Crab to Land on Your Hand

While the correct way to pick your crab is through its shell, you shouldn’t keep it hanging around for long. Your goal is to place it on your other hand without getting pinched.

At this point, you need to let your crab know that it’s about to land on its feet again. Direct the palm of your other hand upwards and then tilt the crab forward slightly so it can see your other palm close.

This should let the crab know that it’s about to go back on solid ground again.

Now, gradually and slowly lift your other hand up while making sure that your Hermit crab is seeing it coming. Keep an eye on its reaction and the action of its claws. You’ll have one of two scenarios here:

Scenario One: It’s Time for a Successful Landing

If the legs and the claws of your pet crab are relaxed or moving slowly, then it’s anticipating your hand and waiting for you to place it there.

This is when you should gently bring your hand up until it touches the feet of your crab.

Scenario Two: Mission Failed. We’ll Get Him Next Time

If you notice the legs and the claws rapidly moving around, then you’re in for a good pinch if you keep going.

Keep moving your palm up and down while allowing the crab to see it. This might calm it down and switch you back to scenario one.

If not, then it’s time to place your Hermit pet down in its home and try again later.

Step 4: Putting the Hermit Crab on Your Hand

If everything goes nicely, then it’s time to put your pet crab on your hand. Keep your fingers touching each other to avoid having any spaces that the crab’s legs might fall into.

Slowly place your Hermit crab on your hand and once it starts moving around, let go of the shell. Keep an eye on the crab and allow it to move freely in your hand.

While Holding Your Pet Crab, Keep These Things in Mind:

  • Keep your hand at an acceptable height, preferably 2–3 inches from a table. Your crab might slip and fall from your hand so you should hold it at a safe height.
  • Relax your hand and keep it steady. Crabs in general like to walk on solid grounds.
  • Your crab will walk around when it’s comfortable, if it gets too close to falling, pick it up from its shell to redirect it. Alternatively, you can place your other hand in front of it to give it more room

Step 5 (Optional): Feed Your Hermit Crab While It’s on Your Hand

You don’t need to include this step in your handling of your pet crab. However, if you want your Hermit to look forward to the moment you pick it up, then consider this step.

While your crab is comfortable in your hand, place some slices of its favorite fruit in your hand and sit still as it eats.

Once it finishes its meal, you may slowly and gently place it back inside its home.

When to Avoid Holding a Hermit Crab

Would you appreciate a nice hug at home when it’s all nice and comfortable? We bet that you would. On the other hand, would you still want that hug if you’re in hot, sweaty weather?

Hermit crabs may accept it when you hold them and even look forward to it sometimes. However, not every time is suitable for cuddles. Here’s when you should refrain from picking up your pet crab:

When It’s Resting in Its Shell

Hermit crabs partially hide in their shells when they need to rest or sleep. This is how they display their ‘do not disturb’ mood.

If you try to force your crab out of its shell, it’ll be stressed and agitated.

When Your Hermit Doesn’t Feel Like It

This may sound odd but your pet crab will actually develop some habits. With time, you should be able to tell when it’s open to some cuddles and when it needs to be left alone.

When Your Crab Has Just Eaten

Don’t you hate it when you’re full of food and someone asks you to do something? Like humans, crabs prefer to relax after eating.

It’s different among crabs but generally speaking, it’s best to let your crab digest its food in peace before you decide to pick it up.

Why Do Hermit Crabs Pinch You?

To get straight to the point, your Hermit crab will pinch and will keep pinching. It’s not a question of ‘if’ it happens, it’s ‘when’ it happens.

A pinching Hermit crab is like a cat that bites. It’s relatively normal behavior that’s acceptable if your pet doesn’t overdo it. That’s pretty much what you should aim for; how to prevent your pet crab from excessively pinching you.

Hermit crabs aren’t hostile creatures and they rarely pinch aggressively. Here are the occasions when your Hermit crab might pinch you:

Your Hermit Crab Is Scared

A scared Hermit pet is the most common reason why you’d get pinched. These creatures easily panic and the simplest things like sudden movements or noise could scare them.

If your Hermit crab is in distress, you should avoid holding it unless necessary. A distressed crab has a much higher chance of pinching you.

Hand Feeding Accident

Your crab may accidentally pinch your hand while trying to grab its food. The food pinching accident often happens with foods that somewhat resemble your skin color.

Hermit crabs are omnivores and they can eat meat, fruits, and vegetables. There are many foods that could look like your hand and result in an accidental pinch.

Your Hermit Crab Is About to Fall

Your pet crab will walk on your hand comfortably if it’s used to you. On your hand, there are so many distractions for the crab to look at. Those distractions may overshadow the fact that your hands are only a few inches wide.

The crab may then approach the edge of your hand and start to tip over. When that happens, your crab will hold on for dear life by pinching whatever is around it; your hand.

This particular pinch is one of the more painful ones since the crab is literally scared for its life.

What to Do When Your Crab Pinches You?

As we mentioned earlier, the pinches are bound to happen, especially if you like to place your pet crab in the palm of your hand.

Some pet owners recommend against placing your crab on your hand and prefer handing it only through the back of the shell. We’re not leaning towards any of the holding techniques. However, placing your crab on your hand will definitely increase the risk of pinching.

When you get pinched, you need to do a few things:

Don’t Scream

Hermit crab pinches can be really painful especially if your crab is an adult. The first thing you need to do is to not scream or yell at it.

This will only stress your crab even more and may result in a harder pinch.

Take It to the Ground

Take the Hermit crab back to its home right away.

In most cases, the crab is just distressed or scared. Seeing the comfort of its home will quickly calm it down and it will often let go.

Try Food Distraction

How many times did you bribe your way out of a stressful situation between you and a loved one with a tasty meal?

Hermit crabs are no exception. When you get pinched and there’s food nearby, use it to shift the crab’s attention somewhere else.

Important tip: Don’t yell at your crab, hit it, or shake its shell. This will only make the situation far worse.

Final Thoughts

So, can you hold Hermit crabs? You can safely hold them without harming them or harming yourself if you use the correct method.

Hold your crab by its shell and keep it close to the ground. Be as slow and gentle as possible. If you do get pinched, then put your crab back down or try to distract it with food.

Be safe.

Bill Riechel

Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Hermit crabs are very social they will be much happier if you have more than one half a dozen would be ideal. They love to eat fresh coconut right out of the shell! In the Bahamas when I would put out a quarter of a coconut within a half an hour it would be completely covered with hermit crabs with ones waiting their turn when one would leave another one would get up to feed they're very non-confrontational except when it comes to finding a new shell then they might fight over who gets the new bigger shell. They can live up to 30 in the wild, but only about 15 as a pet.