Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Where we discuss the behavior of our hermit crabs, as in fights, pecking orders, shell swaps, etc. Please post all naked-crab posts in the Emergency forum.

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w h a l e b o n e
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Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:18 pm

I'm just really curious about this because I know a lot of people on here emphasize being hands-off for valid reasons such as concerns about their gills, stress, etc., but I'm also curious about the flip side because it worked for Carol Ormes and Jonathan Livingston Crab. I saw an older thread from October about this and everyone was talking about obvioussly humidity concerns but also how hermit crabs are prey animals.

I know this is fairly controversial, especially since most say hands-off, but I've wondered about that part because I've handled insects and invertebrates my whole life and I feel like sometimes I could tell if they were afraid but others were much calmer and not trying to hide or run away and didn't really see me as a threat. I've even held a few bees and one did try to sting me (I think it was already stressed as it wasn't doing well when I picked it up) but some seemed fine. With some small critters I've picked up it was almost like they treated me like part of their surroundings, like I was just a tree or something. They just crawled around on me normally.

I've always viewed it with the lens of how animals interpret biological movement, like how a heron stalking a lizard sways its head side to side to imitate the movement of grass. I bet that crabs can do the same thing as any other creature, identify what is a threat and what is not. They couldn't hide from everything or they'd never eat or breed, just maybe fast movements that look like a bird trying to peck at them or another predator. By this logic, some crabs may be more tolerant of handling than others. I've found that when I've handled my crab, he doesn't like sudden movements and will hide, much like a bird will fly away if you made a loud noise or a sudden movement. When I make slow, predictable movements, he will just crawl around and explore my hand and whatever's around him. I can't say that he necessarily likes it, as there may be bias on my end of misinterpreting or anthropomorphizng him, but I think hermit crabs probably can learn what is a threat and what isn't.

While this alone doesn't justify anything, I still think that this is something interesting to think about when debating about handling crabs. I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this for both arguments.

(Sorry for the incoherent rant lol it's hard for me to get out all my thoughts at once)

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Harry Wang
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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by Harry Wang » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:18 pm

I’ve heard some can be taught to associate handling with being fed, resulting in trust and a stronger bond.

My impression is if you try it, never force it on them. Start slow and let them come to ur outstretched spoon if they choose to (I got a free mini wooden spoon/shovel from hermies kitchen and plan to start trying it every now and then if they don’t run for cover when the lid comes up 😁).

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by aussieJJDude » Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:40 am

Some do, others don't. As long as its done in a safe manner, I think its fine.


The important thing is to keep it short and sweet, espeically while they are getting use to being held. Many also reccomend waiting until their first moult in captivity, as usually by then they have acclimatised well to being kept within a tank.

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by Hermiesguardian » Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:11 am

Great rant! Very logical. I'm glad they can be a hands off pet. To me they look like spiders when walking and I hate spiders.
raising son's dog, Dante. Husky/hound.
Raising daughter's hermit crabs, Shelder, Paras and Derek. Added 2 more of my own (of course) Pete and Stryper. Former mommy to 2 guinea pigs and beloved cat, Nissi


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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:08 am

Harry Wang wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:18 pm
I’ve heard some can be taught to associate handling with being fed, resulting in trust and a stronger bond.

My impression is if you try it, never force it on them. Start slow and let them come to ur outstretched spoon if they choose to (I got a free mini wooden spoon/shovel from hermies kitchen and plan to start trying it every now and then if they don’t run for cover when the lid comes up 😁).
Yeah, that's kinda what I've been doing! I figured they can be conditioned to associate being held with food, and every time I hold him he comes out because he thinks he's gonna get food. I definitely should have waited a bit, as now he is undergoing his first molt and I handled him before that (I am a pretty new, excited and constantly learning owner). I would definitely never force it, and if I got a crab that just didn't want it I would definitely stop and leave it alone. Every crab (and crab owner) is unique, so I think it's a case by case thing.
And the spoon thing's a good idea, I usually just gently grabbed him by the shell from behind, but the spoon definitely gives them a little more choice, which I want it to be pretty voluntary.


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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:11 am

Hermiesguardian wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:11 am
Great rant! Very logical. I'm glad they can be a hands off pet. To me they look like spiders when walking and I hate spiders.
:lol: They kinda do! Personally I'm a little weird and think spiders are kinda cute, so I love the way they walk, but I think that's really cool that you still have them and enjoy taking care of them but don't like holding them. For some reason I never thought that could be the case. There's a really diverse group of people on her and I love that!

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by DevilNDisguise » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:35 am

Some of my crabs I stay hands-off, while others I will handle. I've briefly handled all of my hermit crabs at one point or another for various reasons, whether to sex them or to do health checks, but otherwise I tend to leave my shyer ones alone.

My first one, Penny(wise), who is also my biggest, is actually very curious and doesn't shy away from interactions. I'll handle her more frequently than the others, though she's currently down at the moment. Even still, my interactions with my friendlier crabs are usually limited to monthly sessions.
1 Bearded Dragon, 1 Guinea Pig, 1 Mouse, 1 Lovebird, 1 Dog, 2 Cats, 2 Rabbits, 2 Frogs, 2 Cockatiels, 2 Budgies & Their 3 Babies, 3 Rats, 4 Hamsters, and Many Hermit Crabs!

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by Hermiesguardian » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:46 am

w h a l e b o n e wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:11 am
:lol: They kinda do! Personally I'm a little weird and think spiders are kinda cute, so I love the way they walk, but I think that's really cool that you still have them and enjoy taking care of them but don't like holding them. For some reason I never thought that could be the case. There's a really diverse group of people on her and I love that!
I kinda had no choice. They were my daughter's but she left for college. There were only 2. We didn't know what we were doing. But when I took over, I researched a bit. And then more. And the journey started. I have 8 (if all are alive) in a 90 gal. And 6 in a 40. They are really addictive.
raising son's dog, Dante. Husky/hound.
Raising daughter's hermit crabs, Shelder, Paras and Derek. Added 2 more of my own (of course) Pete and Stryper. Former mommy to 2 guinea pigs and beloved cat, Nissi


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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:51 am

Hermiesguardian wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:46 am
I kinda had no choice. They were my daughter's but she left for college. There were only 2. We didn't know what we were doing. But when I took over, I researched a bit. And then more. And the journey started. I have 8 (if all are alive) in a 90 gal. And 6 in a 40. They are really addictive.
They honestly are. I only started in October, and it's an obsession. I don't know what I'm going to do with mine when I go to college. Either smuggle them, foster them, or leave them with my mom as well... Who knows, maybe I'll hook her too... :lol:

Edit: (I wouldn't actualy though. She has enough to take care of with 6 kids)


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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Mon Jan 13, 2020 12:13 pm

DevilNDisguise wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:35 am
Some of my crabs I stay hands-off, while others I will handle. I've briefly handled all of my hermit crabs at one point or another for various reasons, whether to sex them or to do health checks, but otherwise I tend to leave my shyer ones alone.

My first one, Penny(wise), who is also my biggest, is actually very curious and doesn't shy away from interactions. I'll handle her more frequently than the others, though she's currently down at the moment. Even still, my interactions with my friendlier crabs are usually limited to monthly sessions.
That's cool as well. I like how many different approaches people have to some aspects of crabbing .Like I said I'm still very new, and so far it seems like hermit crabs take a lot of patience. But I suppose it gets easier to wait over time?
Also I love your hermit crab's name. What species is she?

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by DevilNDisguise » Mon Jan 13, 2020 12:29 pm

w h a l e b o n e wrote:
That's cool as well. I like how many different approaches people have to some aspects of crabbing .Like I said I'm still very new, and so far it seems like hermit crabs take a lot of patience. But I suppose it gets easier to wait over time?
Also I love your hermit crab's name. What species is she?
Thanks! My girlfriend and I named her that since she was our first hermit crab, and for our first date we went and saw IT, haha.

She is a Caribbean/purple pincher. :)ImageImage
1 Bearded Dragon, 1 Guinea Pig, 1 Mouse, 1 Lovebird, 1 Dog, 2 Cats, 2 Rabbits, 2 Frogs, 2 Cockatiels, 2 Budgies & Their 3 Babies, 3 Rats, 4 Hamsters, and Many Hermit Crabs!


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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by w h a l e b o n e » Mon Jan 13, 2020 12:48 pm

What a cutie! She's big, too, at least compared to mine. I don't have a teeny or micro, more like a small/medium. That's great, does she ever stare at you in the night? :lol:

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by DevilNDisguise » Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:55 pm

w h a l e b o n e wrote:What a cutie! She's big, too, at least compared to mine. I don't have a teeny or micro, more like a small/medium. That's great, does she ever stare at you in the night? Image
Where their tank is, they can't really see us during the night, haha. But I'll sit on the floor every once in awhile and watch them, and I'll usually find her creeping behind something, staring out.

Just like this picture... She's super curious. 😂Image
1 Bearded Dragon, 1 Guinea Pig, 1 Mouse, 1 Lovebird, 1 Dog, 2 Cats, 2 Rabbits, 2 Frogs, 2 Cockatiels, 2 Budgies & Their 3 Babies, 3 Rats, 4 Hamsters, and Many Hermit Crabs!

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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by wodesorel » Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:10 pm

Something to consider about Jonathon and Kate is that Carol was a microbiologist, so she considered a lot of things that most people would never think of. Their tank was always kept pristine so as to avoid bacterial and fungal contamination, but by being allowed to roam the house they we're still exposed to everyday contagions. I truly believe that what she did allowed for them to have robust immune systems, which is part of why they survived so long. There were also only the two of them so there was no introduction of new hermit crab specific pathogens, with separations during molts so there could be no attacks, and an extremely varied diet including vitamin fortified items most would never dream of feeding (fish flakes and hotdogs) to make sure their nutrition was as complete as possible.
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Re: Hands-off or hands-on? I'd like to bring a thought to the table

Post by curlysister » Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:08 pm

Whalebone - I think it does get easier to be patient over time. I have had my crabs for over 9 years, and it's easier and easier to wait out a molt. But I am a more casual owner than some - I seldom keep track of exactly when they go down, or exactly what their schedule is, and sometimes I only remember to change their food when I see it's moldy, LOL. I also am much more hands off now than I was at the start. I used to take them out of the tank occasionally. But now I only pick them up in order to move them if they are in my way for cleaning up or moving things around. I never take them out of the tank.
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